Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo: Book vs. TV Show

Beware! This post contains spoilers.

Shadow and Bone book vs. Shadow and Bone TV series

In a world cleaved in two by a massive barrier of perpetual darkness, where unnatural creatures feast on human flesh, a young soldier uncovers a power that might finally unite her country. But as she struggles to hone her power, dangerous forces plot against her. Thugs, thieves, assassins and saints are at war now, and it will take more than magic to survive.

Content Warnings: racism, depictions of physical violence, mentions of sexual assault

(Note: In this book-to-TV comparison I’ll only be discussing the Shadow and Bone, and not the Six of Crows, storyline.)

At this point I’m pretty sure everyone in the bookish community has heard the words Shadow and Bone. Based on the super popular YA fantasy book series by the same name, the new Netflix show feels like it’s all anyone can talk about. So, of course, I decided I had to check it out.

And, I was honestly really excited? I hadn’t watched a good fantasy series in a while and Netflix usually does a surprisingly good job at their book-to-screen adaptations (see my The Haunting of Hill House: Book vs. TV show post for example). My partner on the other hand, was super hesitant. But I begged and she relented and we finally sat down to watch it. And we were both pleasantly surprised by how much we got into it!

Like, the minute they showed the volcra in episode 1 and we saw the quality of the animation we were sold on this series. And I can’t lie, a really big part of what made this TV show so good was the relationship between Alina and Mal. I was like, “wait, people don’t like Mal? How is Darklina so popular when Malina is right there?”

But then I read the books… and I got it.

Book Mal straight up SUCKS. SO FREAKING MUCH. Ugh, it was such a disappointment.

The cast and crew of Shadow and Bone deserve some sort of award, I swear, just for improving Mal so much in the show. 😂

Part of that I’m sure is the fact that the format of the show allowed us to follow Mal throughout the season, meanwhile the books are told from Alina’s POV, so our face-time with Mal is very limited. But even still, I think the show just did a better job at showing Mal and Alina’s feelings develop, and rounding out Mal as a character on his own. They also made it seem as though Mal and Alina always had feelings for each other, and not like in the book, where Mal took his relationship with Alina for granted until she was gone. 🙄

(Book Alina felt a lot more meek and insecure than TV show Alina too? In the books it feels like things just sort of happen to her, whereas in the show she has at least a little more intention behind her actions. ALSO, the reasoning behind the scar on her hand was so much deeper in the show?! When I got to the part in the book I scoffed out loud at how shallow it was in comparison.)

Mal and Alina aside though, the book was just a bit of a disappointment after watching the show? Like, I was hoping for even more time devoted to explaining the lore of the Grishaverse (as it’s usually the case that books have the opportunity to go further in depth regarding world building than shows do)… but, the book barely gave any more than the surface-level detail we got in the show? Like, the one part where Alina learns about Grisha abilities was so short and quick, I couldn’t help wanting more.

And, it has to be said, the book was just SO white.

Anyways, all this is to say that I didn’t hate the book (honestly Ravka and the Grisha are so interesting, I just wish they were better developed) and the TV show definitely isn’t without fault (see: how the show tackled Anti-Asian racism and the white stunt double in brownface debacle). Personally, as a white woman, I don’t think it’s my place to comment on these controversies, instead I’d prefer to elevate marginalized voices. So, all I will say is that I think it’s incredibly important for the show-runners to take into consideration what POC viewers are saying about how they perceive the show, especially if it’s granted a second season.

Have you seen the Shadow and Bone TV series? Read the books?

What did you think of the adaptation?

Let me know!

7 thoughts on “Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo: Book vs. TV Show

  1. I appreciated the comparison you offer here! Glad you enjoyed the show because I did too. I was really excited to read the books but hearing that Mal is different in the books makes me not want to read it. I like him in the show…don’t take that away from me!!!! I’ll probably still end up reading it though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not gonna lie, book Mal is such a disappointment. 😔 At least TV show Mal is wonderful??!! I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the novels when you get around to reading them!

      Liked by 1 person

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