‘Shadow and Bone’ Captivates with Echoes of Today’s World


Kelthie Truong

In the climax of the first season, Alina decides to stop hiding from the world and use her abilities to defend innocent Ravkans from the oppressive rule of General Kirigan, also known as the Darkling.

The war-torn landscape of the newly-released Netflix fantasy series “Shadow and Bone” is not as far off from today’s world as it might seem.

While we witness the current effects of anti-Asian violence, perpetuated racism and the cultural strife between Israel and Palestine, the fantasy world of “Shadow and Bone” expertly captures similarly-nuanced conflicts, except with fabricated cultures and nations interwoven with supernatural powers and towering kingdoms. 

Based on the fantasy trilogy of the same name and accompanying duology “Six of Crows” by author Leigh Bardugo, “Shadow and Bone” is full of different races, religions and cultures, not all of which get along. Alina Starkov is an orphan who is pulled from her ordinary life into a world of opulence and power when Ravkans discover that she is a Sun Summoner, making Alina the only person with the power to destroy the perilous Fold. that has split the country in two for centuries.

It is obvious as we are introduced to Alina that the actress, Jessie Mei Li, is of Asian heritage — she is actually Chinese-English. In fact, as the show unfolds, the diversity of the “Shadow and Bone” world reflects a conscious effort by the showrunners to make it look “a lot more like the world around us,” in the words of Bardugo in a Polygon article.

The effort paid off, as we are rewarded with a broad range of incredibly talented cast members who reflect the appearances of the people watching them and make for a more compelling and captivating story.

After we meet Alina in the first episode, the heist team Kaz, Inej and Jesper, known as the “Crows” are introduced, whose storyline takes place before Alina’s in the book series but now converges in the show. 

Although the respective characters of the two series never meet until the end of the Six of Crows duology, showrunner Eric Heisserer and executive producer Bardugo masterfully weave the two storylines together to create a seamless tale of what it takes to change the core of one’s values and beliefs. New fans will find it hard to imagine a “Shadow and Bone” in which these characters do not exist in the same storyline. 

This departure from both of Bardugo’s book series serves as a clever way to satisfy fans of the books with the show adaptation while keeping them invested in what will happen in the next episodes.