SPOILERS FOR SHADOW AND BONE AND SIX OF CROWS AHEAD!
In all my coverage of Netflix’s upcoming Shadow And Bone adaptation, my one consistent concern has been how the series is going to juggle the various components of its sprawling story. While its title is borrowed from the fairly straightforward first book in the Grisha trilogy, Leigh Bardugo’s bestselling YA fantasy series, the Netflix adaptation is also drawing on material from Bardugo’s later (and, in my opinion, superior) Six Of Crows duology, set in the same fantasy world but in a different region, at a different time. To better link the two, Netflix is compressing the timeline and creating original storylines for the Six Of Crows characters that will bring them into contact with Grisha trilogy characters they never met in the books.
The task seems daunting. The Grisha trilogy takes place in the Russian-inspired country of Ravka, where an orphaned girl named Alina Starkov discovers that she’s the Sun-Summoner, a magical being capable of creating light – and thus powerful enough to save Ravka from the terrible Shadow Fold, an ocean of pure shadow that cuts an ugly rift through the country. The Six Of Crows duology, set years later in the Amsterdam-inspired city of Ketterdam, follows a ragtag band of criminals, nicknamed the Crows, who unite to kidnap a mage and score a hefty reward. Tonally, the two stories share little in common…and while a handful of characters overlap, they are both very much their own thing.
But the second full trailer for Netflix’s Shadow And Bone reveals the series’ solution to that problem…which, as far as solutions go, seems to me like one that comes with massive risks and the potential to completely derail the storyline of the books as time goes on. The Crows will simply unite to kidnap Alina Starkov herself.
We’ve known for a while now that we weren’t gonna get a literal adaptation of Six Of Crows in this first season of Shadow And Bone. The series is still focused on Alina and the events of her books. The Crows were always going to be playing secondary roles in this season, with the promise that their roles would be upgraded in season two, when their story could actually take off. But with this new development, I don’t understand the point in doing the actual Six Of Crows storyline anymore, even in season two…because they’re already basically using it as a season one subplot, heightening the stakes dramatically while recentering it around Alina.
I’d actually be very surprised if the story from Six Of Crows were to be adapted at this point, because I think I can begin to guess what Shadow And Bone is doing…and why, while I think it’s a gamble even Jesper Fahey would shy away from, it might just pay off.
Just as it feels like the Crows’ individual arcs are being reworked to fit into Alina’s story in season one, I believe the opposite might be true of season two…which, rather than following the events of Six Of Crows, may actually lift more heavily from the book’s sequel (and my favorite of Bardugo’s Grishaverse stories), Crooked Kingdom. In that book, the Crows return to Ketterdam with their kidnapped prize, only to be betrayed by their client and embroiled in a war of subterfuge and deceit in the city’s criminal underworld. If that’s the case, it’s unfair we wouldn’t see a more accurate adaptation of these stories – but it’s already unfair that Shadow And Bone still includes Mal, one of the worst love interests in literary history.
There’s evidence for this theory in the trailer. The Crows still receive their offer from a mustachioed older gentleman who appears to be Jan Van Eck, their backstabbing client from the books. Mal tells Alina at one point that he’ll find his way back to her if they’re ever separated, implying strongly that they will be (I see no issue with that, gotta be honest). And while the Crows don’t have much screentime in the trailer, it looks like they make it to Ravka: we see Inej Ghafa evading a jet of fire that could only have been cast by a Grisha magician, and moments later she appears to be in the Shadow-Fold itself, looking dashing while throwing knives at an unseen enemy – perhaps a Volcra demon?
We also know that Alina’s backstory in the series has been changed to make her biracial and half Shu Han (an East Asian-inspired region bordering Ravka), a change reflected in the decision to cast an actress of Chinese descent in the role. The showrunners have cited multiple reasons for this change, one of which being that it lends depth to her arc. But it could also make her taking over the role of Kuwei Yul-Bo – the Crows’ kidnapping victim, and the only prominent Shu Han character in the books – more plausible.
Obviously, the Crows kidnapping Alina and bringing her back to Ketterdam would have massive consequences…but if I’m being honest, I think Alina’s character would benefit a lot from the change. The Grisha trilogy gets kind of boring when it devolves into love-triangulations in book two, so it would be refreshing to see Alina separated from both her love interests for a minute and placed in a completely new scenario, before possibly returning to Ravka by way of the seafaring Prince Nikolai, who appears in the second books of both series’. And I won’t deny that the thought of her interacting with the Crows excites me greatly.
The only question is how the Crows would benefit from this change, from having Alina and the Darkling (and Mal, I guess) constantly barging in on their storylines – and, as someone with a Crows bias, that’s the question that gives me pause and makes me wonder if it’s actually worth it. I also would like to know why the Crows still only have three members, and why Nina Zenik and Matthias Helvar don’t even seem to have real storylines in this season (Nina does at least have a cut hat).
Shadow And Bone still looks very promising and well-produced, however, and I’m excited to see if anything can make me interested in the events of the Grisha trilogy. I’m not totally sold on Six Of Crows being used as a subplot in Alina Starkov’s story, but if it means Crooked Kingdom (or some version of that story) might be the focus of season two, you better believe I’m gonna grin and bear it.
Trailer Rating: 8/10