Let’s talk Shadow and Bone

Let’s discuss Shadow and Bone

It always creates nervousness within any reader when their favored book becomes a movie or TV show. Will the producers respect the characters and world we love so much?

I’m not one to care about how the character looks unless it is integral to the plot. If the heroine has blonde hair or brown, light skin or dark . . . whatever. It’s more important that they portray the character honorably to the way it is in the book.

I’m a huge fan of Leigh Bardugo as a writer and a person. I had the privilege of meeting her personally at a small conference in 2018. She is a lovely human. She’s also a fantastic writer.

When I heard her books were coming to Netflix, I had all the swirling mix of emotions. Especially when they blended the Shadow and Bone trilogy with the Six of Crows duology. I’m bigger of a fan of the duology, but I love them all.

The series has not disappointed.

The casting is superb—if you can’t appreciate Ben Barnes in any role he plays; I don’t know if we can be friends (just kidding, but . . . maybe not, lol). And, even better, the writers wove the plot lines so well that everything makes sense. Yes, some elements had to shift a little to make the compression work, but that has only enhanced the story, in my opinion. Are there a few places I’ve had minor issues with, sure. But what show ever has everything 100% perfect? What book?

I recently did a breakdown of every episode in season one with my editor. Since my books are in a similar genre, she thought it would be a fun exercise. She gave me a list of questions to answer as I re-watched season one.

One thing that really has me thinking is how well the characters and the world are developed without info dumps or “down” episodes that are just to explain something in order to move on in later episodes. Most of the time, we learn important information through the dialogue, but they do even that during action. 

I’m especially thinking of how well they showed us the world of Ketterdam when the crows were looking for a way across the fold. Each group or person they spoke to offered another piece of information about how the fold works, how each country works. We learned political and emotional reasons that crossing the fold was a dangerous thing to do. 

Each episode had emotional impact moments with a variety of characters. Some of my favorites are in episode one where we see Mal as a soft-hearted child saving a rabbit that then crosscuts to grown-up Mal in a fistfight. Which tells us he’s learned to take care of himself, but probably still has that softness inside. Inej has so many moments—looking for her parents’ names on the wall, her struggle to maintain her faith, her relationship with Kaz.

Every hero needs a good villain. The best opponents are the ones who truly believe they are doing the right thing. They are, or can be, terrible individuals, but when their actions are understandable, that’s the best. The Darkling is so well portrayed. He is so invested in protecting the Grisha, there is no boundary he won’t cross. When he determines Alina has betrayed him, and Mal becomes his number one enemy, vengeance consumes him—but it is believable. I love it.

As I went through the exercise of breaking down the show, I realized I have a soft spot for vulnerable characters. Especially so if they are a little gruff and prickly on the outside because of their internal insecurities. They are the people that are harder to like—in books and real life—but the ones I connect to the most. They are fighting for control of their world, their emotions, their lives, so hard, they don’t understand that their actions are causing some of their pain. But when they finally break down and change . . . “chef’s kiss.” That’s a character I never forget.

I know that is why I enjoy the Crows more than Mal & Alina. But, I’ll admit, the show did a fantastic job of showing how and why those two belong together. I like TV Alina better than book Alina. Thank you, Jessie Mei Li!

That line of prickly with likability can be a hard one to walk as an author. Leigh Bardugo does it wonderfully. 

In Rune of Secrets, Rowena is a character who is afraid to show her vulnerable side. She’s lost all she loves, made the wrong choice in who she trusted, and her actions have hurt others. And it’s all because of something she has no control over. To say that she has a lot of growing to do, would be an understatement.

But that’s why I love her.

She will not have a five-minute lesson and then perform perfectly. She was a teenager who didn’t expect to become queen until long into her future, when her life turned upside down in a single moment. Now she’s learned that she might have even bigger responsibilities. It’s going to take her some time to learn how to deal with all that.

In book 2, Rune of Thorns, she makes some big leaps forward. She has dealt with the shock of her world imploding, so now she’s more aware of trouble, learning, growing. Her environment is new, a place where nothing is familiar. She can’t pretend, not even to herself, that she’s able to traverse through it alone. Thankfully, she has Bram, Safi, and others to come alongside.

The Enchanted Shadows series is ongoing and scheduled to be completed with five books.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on Shadow and Bone—books and/or show. Who are your favorite characters and moments?

Have you read Rune of Secrets? Does anyone from Shadow and Bone remind you of Rowena?