How Netflix’s Shadow and Bone Builds on Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse Novels

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This post discusses major plot points of the Netflix series Shadow and Bone.

Just like the books it’s based on, Netflix’s new fantasy series Shadow and Bone opens in a military camp on the outskirts of the Shadow Fold, a perilous swath of pure darkness that splits the fictional kingdom of Ravka in two.

It’s the eve of orphan-turned-soldier Alina Starkov’s (Jessie Mei Li) first crossing of the monster-filled void, a journey she will undertake alongside her best friend, fellow orphan Malyen “Mal” Oretsev (Archie Renaux). The pair expect the crossing to be dangerous, but they have no way of knowing that what happens on the Fold will awaken a long-dormant power inside Alina—the ability to summon and manipulate light—that will alter the course of their lives forever.

'Shadow and Bone': (l to r) Archie Renaux as Malyen Oretsev and Jessie Mei Li as Alina Starkov
'Shadow and Bone': (l to r) Archie Renaux as Malyen Oretsev and Jessie Mei Li as Alina StarkovDavid Appleby—Netflix

Fans of author Leigh Bardugo’s bestselling Grishaverse novels will recognize this as the basic premise of her Shadow and Bone trilogy, published beginning in 2012. But the first season of the Netflix series, executive produced by Bardugo and showrunner Eric Heisserer (Arrival, Bird Box), also incorporates characters and plot points from Six of Crows, the debut installment in a subsequent duology set in the same world.

Named for the elite magical soldiers known as Grisha who populate Bardugo’s books, the Grishaverse currently spans one trilogy, Shadow and Bone, two duologies, Six of Crows and King of Scars, and a collection of short stories, The Language of Thorns. The second and final entry in the King of Scars duology, Rule of Wolves, was released on March 30.

Here’s how the Netflix series draws on both the Six of Crows and Shadow and Bone books for its first eight-episode season, debuting on April 23.

How does Six of Crows fit into the Shadow and Bone timeline?

'Shadow and Bone': (l to r) Kit Young as Jesper Fahey, Amita Suman as Inej Ghafa and Freddy Carter as Kaz Brekker
'Shadow and Bone': (l to r) Kit Young as Jesper Fahey, Amita Suman as Inej Ghafa and Freddy Carter as Kaz BrekkerDavid Appleby—Netflix

While both the Six of Crows and King of Scars books take place following the events of the Shadow and Bone trilogy, the Netflix series thrusts some of the most popular Six of Crows characters, including criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter), acrobat-spy Inej Ghafa (Amita Suman) and sharpshooter Jesper Fahey (Kit Young), into the Shadow and Bone action. Instead of focusing solely on Alina, Mal and General Kirigan (Ben Barnes), known in the books as the Darkling, the show’s narrative switches back and forth between storylines until they finally converge.

Around 10 minutes into the first episode, viewers are transported to Ketterdam, a bustling port city on the island nation of Kerch that’s known for its dark underbelly of crime and corruption. It’s there that we meet Kaz, the leader of a gang called the Crows (known in the books as the Dregs), and his two most trusted accomplices, Inej and Jesper. It later comes to light that the scenes in Ketterdam take place two weeks after Alina has been revealed as a Sun Summoner while crossing the Fold.

In their very first scene together, we learn that Kaz is still in the process of paying off Inej’s debt to the Menagerie, a brothel where Inej was indentured against her will after being kidnapped by slavers. Inej also informs Kaz that a wealthy merchant is looking for a crew to cross the Fold into East Ravka and bring something back—and offering a reward of one million kruge (Kerch currency) in return.

Meanwhile in West Ravka, as shown in the third episode, Grisha spy Nina Zenik (Danielle Galligan) is captured by a unit of Drüskelle—elite soldiers from Fjerda, Ravka’s neighbor to the north, who hunt Grisha for trial and execution—and finds herself locked up onboard a ship under the watch of Matthias Helvar (Calahan Skogman). In the books, Nina is captured by Matthias’ band of Drüskelle while on a mission in the Wandering Isle with fellow Grisha Zoya Nazyalensky (played in the show by Sujaya Dasgupta).

With the exception of Kaz, Inej and Jesper’s mission across the Fold—which isn’t part of the books—the rest of these things have all already happened by the time Six of Crows begins.

What role do the Six of Crows characters play in Shadow and Bone?

'Shadow and Bone': (l to r) Danielle Galligan as Nina Zenik and Calahan Skogman as Matthias Helvar
'Shadow and Bone': (l to r) Danielle Galligan as Nina Zenik and Calahan Skogman as Matthias HelvarNetflix

As it turns out, the target that Kaz, Inej, and Jesper are tasked with acquiring is none other than Sum Summoner Alina Starkov—a mission that takes them across the Fold and all the way to the Little Palace, the residence of Ravka’s Second Army, i.e. the Grisha, in the Ravkan capital of Os Alta.

When the season ends, Alina is ultimately in the same position that she’s in at the end of the first Shadow and Bone book. But unlike in the book, the Crows cross paths with her along the way and even participate in the final battle against the Darkling on the Fold. It’s a crossover that adds some fitting backstory to the relationships between the main characters of Six of Crows.

The final episode of the season also brings Nina into the Crows’ fold after she accidentally gets Matthias sent to the notorious Hellgate prison in a botched attempt to keep him safe.

With all five of them on a ship bound for Ketterdam at the end of the eighth episode, the stage seems to be perfectly set for a second season that follows the main plot of Six of Crows: Kaz, Inej, Jesper, Nina and Matthias teaming up with yet-to-be-introduced engineer Wylan to pull off the heist of a lifetime by rescuing a scientist imprisoned in Fjerda’s supposedly impenetrable Ice Court. But until then, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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