I wanted to review the newly released science fiction “Oxygen” this week. But given Nepal’s current battle with oxygen and my own experience with Covid-19, the movie about a woman fighting hypoxia in a confined space became a little too triggering for me to do. Now it becomes one of those movies I’ve left half-way despite being interesting. I also wanted to switch to a different OTT for once and review Salman Khan’s “Radhe” but by this time you probably know why I didn’t.
So, coming to my review for this week, I found solace in an entirely different universe of “Shadow and Bone”–an American fantasy streaming television series based on Leigh Bardugo’s “Grisha” novel trilogy. Directed by various directors, the eight-episode series is developed by Eric Heisserer and was released on Netflix mid-April.
The events in Shadow and Bone take place in Grishaverse where a war is raging between Ravka, Fjerda and Shu Han regions. Shadow Fold—a dark void created centuries ago by a wizard called the Black Heretic where sinister creatures called Volcra live—divides the world and creates problems for people in all regions. Shadow Fold divides families, villages and even nations.
Unbeknownst of her powers at the beginning, cartographer Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) is recruited to cross Shadow Fold from West Ravka to the East. Inside the Fold, the expedition is attacked by Volcras, who kill most of her team. In order to save herself and her childhood friend Malyen “Mal” Oretsev (Archie Renaux), Alina unknowingly unleashes the power of the ‘Sun Summoner.’
After Alina’s ability is discovered, different forces fight to capture her and harness her power, which could potentially destroy the Show Fold, for their own purposes. In search of the Sun Summoner across the Grishaverse are Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter), the leader of the Crows gang and General Kirigan (Ben Barnes), the General of the Second Army, the Shadow Summoner, among others.
A fantasy series it may be, but you would be wrong to compare Shadow and Bone with “Game of Thrones” or even the “Lord of the Rings” movie trilogy. But even if it might not have the captivating tenacity of Game of Thrones or the magnificent otherworldly visualizations of Lord of the Rings, Shadow and Bone’s story-telling and presentation make it one of the best fantasy series available on Netflix at present.
The most noticeable and appreciable feat of the production team behind Shadow and Bone has to be world-building. The writers, both of the original book and the adapted screenplay, create a universe similar to the world we live in, but with entirely different places and people. It’s like we are back at the start of the 20th century, but in a whole different world. Despite having to create entirely new situations and explain them so that the audience is not lost, Shadow and Bone barely has any lapse in storytelling.
The visualizations are also impeccable. Fantastical places and characters are presented realistically, as if they belong to the real world. Given the advancements in film production technology, this can be called pretty standard for a Netflix production. Still, Shadow and Bone has enough visual appeal to entertain you even if you don’t enjoy the storytelling.
Who should watch it?
Shadow and Bone is one of those screen adaptations that make you want to go read the original book. The series is a special treat for fantasy film lovers but might also interest anyone looking forward to a good pastime. The only disappointment is that the series leaves many conflicts unresolved, but that’s probably because the filmmakers are preparing for a few more seasons. Anyone who’s used to watching television series wouldn’t mind waiting.
Rating: 3.5 stars
Actors: Jessie Mei Li, Ben Barness, Freddy Carter
Director/s: Lee Toland Krieger, Dan Liu, Mairzee Almas, Jeremy Webb
Run time: 7hrs approx.