It’s been almost two years since the final episode of Game of Thrones aired, and we’re still on the hunt for something to fill that void, hopefully with equally lengthy, novel-based plots, with a healthy dose of fantasy darkness, but with a smidgen less incest. Enter: Shadow and Bone.
This new YA series from Netflix is based on the much-loved novel trilogy, “Grishaverse”, by Leigh Bardugo, and like all good fantasy stories, it has a pretty complex premise, so let us try and put it as simply as possible: it’s set in a fictional land called Ravka, based loosely on the later years of the Russian Empire, which is being taken over by The Shadow Fold, a force of darkness. Our heroine is Alina Starkov, a lonely orphan who is discovered to have magical powers which makes her one of Ravka’s “Grisha” – the kingdom’s elite magicians – and means she is sent to fight the evil forces at bay.
Namely, the Volcra, a winged, vampire-like monster that feeds on flesh and patrols the borders of The Shadow Fold. Luckily, she’s got her best mate Mal with her, at least, she does until he’s sent into the midst of the Fold. Now she feels even more pressure to hone her powers and free the kingdom from darkness – and there’s a running legend that only one person, a “sun-summoner” could ever master the power. You know where this is going, don’t you?
Ok, yes, it’s a bit predictable, and at first, unbelievably complicated. You are almost certain to spend the episode slightly dumfounded by this onslaught of characters, clans and places. But once that’s out the way, you can really get your teeth into a world at war, complex and diverse characters, and a story of state versus the individual.
For those particularly looking for the gore and shagging that Thrones brough to the table, this one isn’t for you – there’s no horny priestesses, and nobody gets fed to the pigs. But for those looking for a fantasy world that’s fit for your teenage kids, then Shadow and Bone is just the ticket.
The Telegraph’s Ed Power calls it “good clean fun with a vengeance,” saying it’s “pacy, brimming with twists and, at full pelt, great fun.” And, he says “the production values are impressive – Ketterdam, in particular, is as vividly rendered as King’s Landing or Winterfell.” Euan Ferguson in The Guardian thinks Bardugo’s books have been “gloriously realised” here, whilst Ed Cumming of the Independent says “between the silly names and mythology, this is a thorough, detailed production, with crisp special effects and likeable lead performances from a diverse bunch”
First shown April 2021. You can watch the trailer here: