Book It or Look It: Shadow and Bone


Delaney Brenner, Staff Writer

Welcome to the first installment of “Book It or Look It!” In this column I will be outlining my opinions on TV shows or movies in comparison to the book(s) they were based on. And yes, this is definitely just an excuse to watch more television. This first edition will cover “Shadow and Bone” released on Netflix and the book series of the same name written by Leigh Bardugo. 

I first read Shadow and Bone in middle school, probably seventh grade. I fell in love with the Grishaverse and was obsessed with the series and the accompanying duology for a while. But I never reread them and they eventually faded out of my mind until the end of this past school year. I heard about the Netflix show coming out and, like many, was super excited to see some of my favorite characters come to life. My friend Kiley Sill, as well as our wonderful librarian Rachel Fiery, shared my enthusiasm for the coming show and told me about the newest duology in the Grishaverse. Despite being super anxious to read the new series, especially when hearing how much they loved it, I decided to watch the show before rereading any of the books so I could appreciate it for what it was: a solid television adaptation.

Overall, I adored the show. However, there were some aspects I was less than thrilled about. Firstly, the age of the characters was all sorts of wrong. One of the bits that made the book series so impactful was the young ages of the characters and this was totally lost in the show. Jessie Mei Li, who played the protagonist Alina Starkov, is 26 years old but was playing a character who was supposed to be 17. This trend continues with many of the main characters, not including Baghra, the Darkling, the Generals, and the King and Queen. A second issue I had with the show was the lack of world-building. As someone who had read the books, I understood the background but I kept having to pause and explain elements about the Grishaverse to my parents. Thirdly, I hated how easily the Darking told Alina his true name: Aleksander. In the books, it was a very significant moment that was very brushed over in the show. The character development of Alina was also lacking. She seemed to gain control over her power very quickly in the show whereas she relied a lot more on training in the books. Lastly, although more minor, there were some creative liberties that the show made that create plot holes or even blatant contradictions with events in the later books. 

Now for the parts I loved about the show. The actors were perfectly cast. Yes, yes, I know I already complained about their ages, but other than that these actors were made for these roles. They really did their research (shoutout to Freddy Carter who played Kaz Brekker) and it showed. I also loved the combination of Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows storylines that occurred. It allowed us to dive deeper into the background of Nina and Matthias that is only told second-hand in the books. While this combination of characters is what creates many of the future plot holes, it made the show more dramatic and entertaining. Additionally, the parts of the show that do come directly from the books are very well carried out and stay true to the original work. The use of direct quotes is wonderful because Leigh Bardugo does have such a way with words. I think having her as an executive producer on the show really helped keep the original magic in this adaptation. 

This discussion of book vs. show would not be complete without a comparison of Malyen Oretsev. Many readers found his character to be lacking dynamic in the books. Personally, I really enjoyed him as a character because he reminded me of some teenage boys that I have known. Sure he did not seem super emotional when he was reunited with Alina, but we only get the story from Alina’s point of view. To me, his reaction made sense because he was hurt, so he tried to act aloof in order to protect himself. In the show, he shows a lot more emotion which has made some fans much more connected to show Mal than book Mal. Personally, I don’t have a preference (shocking I know) but I do look forward to seeing his development in a second season of the show. 

All in all, both the book and the show have their merits, even if their paths do slightly differ. In a way I think that makes the show a bit better because it cuts off the opportunity for total comparison which allows the show to be its own art form. While I did love both, for Shadow and Bone my choice would be: book it! Bardugo’s writing is unmatched, plus there are seven books written in the universe compared to only one season of the show so far. Keep on the lookout for the next installment of “Book It or Look It!” where I will be discussing The Mysterious Benedict Society. If you have any suggestions for books and their cinematic counterparts I should write about in the future, let me know! Wow that’s just horrible you sound like a YouTuber. “Don’t forget to like, subscribe, and leave a comment down below! Okay, well I actually need the feedback because I only have two more books lined up. After that, who knows! My whole column may be dead before it even gets off the ground. It will completely crush the small band of loyal readers I am sure to garner. This whole process will have been futile! Small band of loyal followers, ha! You probably won’t have a single reader. In any case if you were so low on ideas maybe you shouldn’t have started this all up in the first place! You’re just wasting everyone’s time. You know what, I do not need your negativity right now. Goodbye. WAI