SHADOW AND BONE on Netflix is a new fantasy series created by brilliant genre screenwriter Eric Heisserer. I was surprised at how well it worked for me after not being impressed by the trailer. Read our full Shadow and Bone season 1 review here!
SHADOW AND BONE is a new fantasy series on Netflix based on Leigh Bardugo’s novel, which I have not read. I essentially went into this new universe “cold”. However, it worked surprisingly well for me which was a pleasant surprise since I did not care for the trailer. At all. I found it to be very messy, which the series is not!
I can’t help but think Eric Heisserer being the creator plays a big part in making this series work so well. After all, he has already written some brilliant screenplays – including Arrival which earned him a much-deserved Academy Award nomination!
Continue reading our spoiler-free Shadow and Bone season 1 review below.
A whole new world
While Shadow and Bone was definitely a whole new world for me, it does also feel very familiar. Mostly because the look and feel are based on the world (or more specifically Russia) at the beginning of the 19th century. If you’ve ever seen movies – or read history books – from the era, then it won’t look so strange.
Then there’s the world of Shadow and Bone that includes magic and amazing abilities. This part is all fantasy while also being strangely reminiscent of comic book worlds such as X-Men. All I’m getting at is the fact that while it’s all very new, it also feels familiar in ways that make it easy to follow.
And the world in this new Netflix fantasy series does look absolutely amazing. Also, it features some very creepy creatures – and damn scary human beings – that should be appreciated by genre fans in general.
From the Shadow and Bone trailer that I did not care – or certainly didn’t make me want to watch this series – I didn’t know how I’d feel about the characters or actors. At all! After just one episode, I already feel very much at home with most characters. More surprisingly, I actually like most of them.
Either because they’re actually likable or because they’re damn entertaining.
At the heart of the story is Alina Starkov and Malyen “Mal” Oretsev. I was a bit nervous as to whether this would be a teen-focused series and pull out all the tropes, but it really doesn’t. The two are childhood friends and now that they’re older, there may be something more. Their friendship is still prevalent as the series opens though!
Jessie Mei Li plays Alina with all the heart and intensity necessary to make her work. And Archie Renaux is a classic good guy hero rivaling Captain America himself as Mal. We’ll soon see both actors again as Jessie Mei Li is in Edgar Wright‘s upcoming Last night in Soho (2021) and Archie Renaux is in Morbius (2022).
In other key roles, you’ll see Freddy Carter (Pennyworth), Kit Young, and Amita Suman (The Outpost). Also, Ben Barnes (Westworld) who already has plenty of fantasy genre experience from the Narnia franchise – he was Prince Caspian – plays General Kirigan. A key player in the plot!
Watch Season 1 of Shadow and Bone on Netflix!
As already mentioned, Eric Heisserer is the creator of this new Netflix series. Other than writing Arrival, he has built his career in the horror genre. At first, in doing reboots or sequels. From the 2010 A Nightmare on Elm Street reboot to Final Destination 5 and The Thing (both released in 2011).
Then came his screenplay for David F. Sandberg’s Lights Out feature film (based on Sandberg and Lotta Losten’s viral short film success). Also, Eric Heisserer did write the screenplay for the Netflix movie Bird Box (directed by Danish Susanne Bier), which broke all kinds of records when it was released.
Having seen what Eric Heisserer can create with the series format, I almost feel like saying we have a fantasy version of Mike Flanagan. Flanagan is a horror master (yes, I said it!) and also the creator of the Netflix mega-success The Haunting horror anthology series.
In other words, if you like fantasy, then do check out Shadow and Bone. And if you’re not really into fantasy, then I would still recommend that you give it a shot. It is a gorgeous production that has lots of very dark and sinister moments that should please any horror fan.
All episodes in Shadow and Bone season 1 are out on Netflix globally from April 23, 2021.
Stars: Jessie Mei Li, Ben Barnes, Archie Renaux, Freddy Carter, Amita Suman, Kit Young, Daisy Head, Sujaya Dasgupta, Simon Sears
Based on Leigh Bardugo’s worldwide bestselling Grishaverse novels, Shadow and Bone finds us in a war-torn world where lowly soldier and orphan Alina Starkov has just unleashed an extraordinary power that could be the key to setting her country free. With the monstrous threat of the Shadow Fold looming, Alina is torn from everything she knows to train as part of an elite army of magical soldiers known as Grisha. But as she struggles to hone her power, she finds that allies and enemies can be one and the same and that nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. There are dangerous forces at play, including a crew of charismatic criminals, and it will take more than magic to survive.