Show review: Shadow and Bone // a good adaptation, but was the racism necessary? (of course it wasn’t)

Like many others in the book community I was looking forward to Netflix adapting one of the series I can still name as one of my favorite YA series years later. To me personally, Shadow and Bone (the book trilogy) and most of all Six of Crows have their biggest nostalgic value in the fact that, while they’re definitely not the first books I read in English, they’re one of the series that I read just as I was starting to make friends in the book community and write reviews on Goodreads. I have reread both series a couple of times, and although it’s been at least a couple of years since my last reread, they definitely didn’t age badly, and in fact I think I was able to enjoy the original trilogy even more upon reread, even after (or because of?) developing my reading taste.

2016!me wouldn’t have believed that five years later I would be sitting on my couch watching a show based off of these books, talking to and reconnecting with friends over our mutual love of the books. And fortunately for both 2016!me and current!me, I overall really enjoyed the show, even though I won’t put it in the “perfection” category.

I want to start with the thing that scared me the most before going in and the reason why I was keeping my expectations low: the fact that both the Crows and Alina & co. would be in the same show at the same time. I…will admit I didn’t think it would work. And after having watched it I am so happy to say that it did, in fact, work. I think I could delve deep into whether it was necessary to have the Crows there but that would be a bit spoilery and ultimately not something I want to do here. I enjoyed them, loved them in fact, and I don’t think I’ve seen anyone else on twitter complain about them. They added a lot of fun, we got to see half the gang already formed and the Nina/Matthias couple have their first rocky meeting. It was delightful and the actors did such a great job, especially Kit Young was Jesper brought to life and I simply lived for it.

I don’t remember enough of the original plot to nitpick about what was done in this first season or to make predictions as to how the rest of the plot will be handled in the next seasons, but I think the foundations for all the elements that made the original book trilogy such an interesting story were there, which is what’s needed for a first season of this caliber. I also disagreed with some decisions that were taken, some of which I will talk about in a minute, and some of which I will mention in the spoiler section at the end of this review.

There are some sore spots that people have and will talk about better than I can. One is the fact that the actors chosen for Nina and Jesper don’t exactly mirror their characters’ representation. There is power in a book-canon Nina who is fat and there is power in a Jesper whose skin is dark, darker than the actor’s, and that will always be something that was taken away from people who have found comfort in the books because of that.

I love that Alina isn’t white in the show, but while I obviously can’t speak for POC and especially Asian people, I hated the fact that racism was used so casually and so randomly as a plot device to further mark Alina as an outcast. Especially since her Shu Han heritage isn’t even something we know much about from the first season. The Shu don’t play a role in this season at all and the there is something extremely…I was trying to find a fitting word but the only one that fits is racist, there is something extremely viciously racist in the fact that from the show alone, so far, the only fact that we know about the Shu is something about what they usually eat, and the fact that we only know this because of a slur Alina was called, a real-life slur used against Asian people. Moreover I don’t think (but I could be wrong because as I said it’s been a while since my reread) that was a thing in the books. The Shu weren’t loved because of their treatment of the Grisha but I don’t remember there being such a racist viewpoint (please correct me if I’m wrong, I also might have missed it because I’m white). The racism plotline seems to me to be a lazy and poor choice, especially in a world that seems to otherwise be casually and effortlessly diverse. 

In conclusion, if I were to give this show a star rating like I would with a book, I think this would be a solid 4 stars. It was enjoyable from start to end, only rarely I found that it could go a little faster or that some scenes could have been cut or made differently. I think if you loved the books, or even only loved one of the two book series (I know a lot of people who only loved SoC/CK lol) it’s definitely worth it to give it a watch, and hopefully there will be more seasons of this and more adaptations of fantasy books into shows. 

Bonus spoiler section in which I don’t hold back on the keysmashes – in no particular order (mild spoilers for both the show and the two book series)

  • I admit one of the lowest points of this season to me, the only one aside from the racism plot, was how casually the Darkling’s name was revealed. If you’ve read the original trilogy you know it was only mentioned at the end of book three, and for a reason. It was also one of the most emotional points in the books for me, and to have it revealed so randomly and anticlimactically made me so sad 😦
  • The Darkling is still one of the best villains and I think a villain plot in which Alina joins the Darkling and they do evil together would’ve been cool as fuck. But…seeing it on screen, even though Ben Barnes did a good job in the role, sometimes I was just bored with the Darkling FHDSFHSL maybe actually *seeing* shitty powerful men in action hits different than reading about them….much to think about 
  • Leigh Bardugo being the first Grisha to hug Alina when she was welcomed as the Sun Summoner!!! I didn’t even notice until I saw it pointed out on twitter, but WOW it made me emotional :’)
  • Inej meeting Alina is something I didn’t know I needed. I’m not religious but Inej’s religion means so much to her and I teared up at her meeting what she sees as a living Saint
  • I loved the Nina/Matthias backstory in the books and the fact that theirs is the plotline that stayed the most faithful so far in the show meant so much to me fhdsjlfhsdfh I really love them both SO much and their romance is so well developed [covers ears to not hear the voices pointing out the end of Crooked Kingdom]
  • I could just feel both the bisexuality and the ADHD radiating off Jesper (as it should be) and I’m LIVING for it
  • Inej is simply wonderful and Kaz should just embrace his simp life and worship her like she deserves
  • MILO THE GOAT SUPREMACY!!!
  • @ everyone surprised that they like Mal: I’ve been telling you he was never bad to begin with for years lmao

END OF SPOILERS

Have you watched Shadow and Bone? What did you think about it? Did you read the books? What other books do you want to see on Netflix (if any)? Let me know!

If you’re wondering why I’m suddenly back with a random post after almost 6 months of disappearing from wordpress without a comeback post or anything, it’s because I felt like writing a review while the show was still fresh in my mind and while people still want to read a review of it!!! Ideally I really wanted to write a comeback post first, but I will just ease myself into blogging again with this review for now. I hope to write a short comeback post this week so I can make my official return in May!

I hope everyone is doing well! If you have left a comment in the past and I haven’t replied yet as part of my unplanned hiatus, please be patient and don’t hate me for replying half a year later lmao, I will start to sort out comments this week ❤

15 thoughts on “Show review: Shadow and Bone // a good adaptation, but was the racism necessary? (of course it wasn’t)

  1. I haven’t seen the show yet, but that’s the general reaction I’ve seen about adding racism to the plot. I guess the writers were trying to be relevant or touch on real-world events or something, but I think keeping the fact that the country isn’t friendly to Grisha would have made its own point about Otherness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. exactly, the whole thing felt written for the white gaze (like it so often happens), it was completely unnecessary since the book canon already has those themes

      Like

  2. I can’t watch this right now (my Netflix account expired…) but it’s great that for once spoilers aren’t a concern at all and I can just read everyone’s reaction to the Current New Popular Thing dkkfhk

    What you said about seeing vs. reading about powerful evil men is my #1 worry – I have such a different reaction to things on a screen vs. on a page and I’d be so sad if I just found the Darkling boring! (And I’m already sad about the name thing. That’s just a waste.) But I’m glad to hear that the Six of Crows + S&B integration worked; maybe it helps that so much of SoC is actually backstory when compared to S&B, which is almost all in the present? I don’t know.
    And yeah, it’s a shame that every version of the Grishaverse keeps doing questionable things with the Shu Han worldbuilding in different ways.

    E: bentornata!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahhh I was wondering if you’d watch it!!! RIP to your netflix account but i hope you can get one soon fdshffds

      don’t get me wrong, the Darkling wasn’t exactly boring, but maybe it’s the *already knowing* that took away some of it? but he definitely had a lot of cool (and even…a cute one, can you believe it?) moments!

      Grazie ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have no idea how a cute Darkling moment would look like but now I want to Know djhfk

        (credo di essere riuscita a resuscitare l’account, domani mattina ho un compitino e poi vedo se riesco finalmente a guardarlo!)

        Liked by 1 person

        1. fdslsl it was a very small cute moment but cute nonetheless (i will leave you the pleasure of seeing it for yoursel fdhsjfs)

          ahhh in bocca al lupo per il compitino!!

          Liked by 1 person

    1. ahh yes, i find that if you go into it already knowing some of its flaws you will be able to enjoy the good parts! i hope you will like it!

      Like

    1. yeahhhhhhhhh it’s really a low point fdsfhs it’s still a great show worth watching tho!!! i hope you will love it ♥

      Like

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