If you were on the internet this week, you might have noticed that Netflix finally dropped the release date for Shadow and Bone, alongside promotional images for its TV series adaptation of Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse.
For fans of the book series, which includes the main trilogy, two additional duologies, and two short story collections, the April 23 release date feels like a windfall. Because Netflix is notoriously tightlipped about their upcoming shows and movies, fans have been left to speculate and pine for each additional detail. And though we were treated to a chilling and enticing teaser trailer in December, the titles of the episodes, and an exquisite casting image of our leads—there’s still so much that’s unclear. And if you haven’t gotten a chance to read the books—a lot is unclear.
If you’re not an avid reader of Young Adult fantasy or haven’t seen the many fan-casts for the Grishaverse on Tumblr, there’s a chance you’ve never heard of The Darkling or Kaz Brekker. Maybe you’re not filled with excitement to see these enigmatic characters on screen. But you should be. The books are bestselling, award-winning and fabulously brilliant. And I have a feeling the show will do them justice.
I know that it’s asking a lot for you to binge-read an entire series before April (though it is possible!), so to prepare you for the show and to put these images and the buzz into context, I’ve provided a brief explainer. Hopefully this will fill in the blanks until you manage to inhale the series or you’ve binged season one with the rest of us, whichever comes first!
Which books is Netflix’s Shadow and Bone based on?
Shadow and Bone is the first book in the Grishaverse and will serve as the basis of the Netflix series. At its heart, it is a fantasy epic about the battle between light and dark. It is centered on Alina Starkov, a girl discovering who she is and where she fits in the world.
Alina is an unaccomplished mapmaker and orphan who discovers she has a powerful gift that might be the key to saving her country, if she can escape the dangerous attention it attracts.
Characters from Six of Crows, a heist companion duology set in the same world but on a later timeline, will also appear. This grittier series expands the scope of the Grisha world that we first glimpsed in the Shadow of Bone trilogy, making it an ideal choice to adapt in the series.
Series creator Eric Heisserer explained in an interview that because the series would be combining two books set on different timelines, he and author Leigh Bardugo worked on establishing backstories for the Six of Crows characters, which appear later in the story. While we might not get a heist in this season, we will likely get the building blocks of the Six of Crows story, including the moments that led each character to Ketterdem and the Dregs.
What is the Grishaverse?
The world of the Grishaverse is broken into multiple countries: Ravka, Kerch, Fjerda, Shu Han, Novyi Zem, and the Wandering Isles. Bardugo drew heavily on Russian influences for Ravka and Dutch influences for Kerch. I personally cannot wait to see Ketterdemn, a city in Kerch that was as much as a character in Six of Crows as any of the crew. Throughout these nations, there are beings with remarkable powers called Grisha. They can heal, summon, and transform. In Ravka, Grisha are used as protectors but in other places countries, like Fjerda, they’re hunted and ostracized.
Who are the Shadow and Bone characters?
Based on casting and promotional images, we know which characters from the Grishaverse novels are going to play an important part in Shadow and Bone TV series. Here’s a brief rundown of the main players.
An orphan and mapmaker, Alina’s latent Grisha ability saves her best friend, Mal, and may be the salvation of Ravka. Her rare gift captures the attention of the leader of the Grisha. Newcomer Jessie Mei Li (Last Night in Soho) will play her in the show.
General Kirigan / The Darkling
General Kirigan is the powerful and mystifying leader of the Grisha army with the ability to summon shadows. Fans were happily surprised when Ben Barnes was chosen to play him. He’s definitely been a leading fan-cast selection since the books came out.
Malyen “Mal” Oretsev
Mal is Alina’s best friend; the two grew up together in an orphanage. He’s a skilled tracker and soldier in Ravka’s First Army, the contingent of humans that work alongside the Second Army, made up of Grishas. Archie Renaux (BBC’s Gold Digger) will play Mal.
The merciless leader and mastermind of the Dregs, a gang of misfits in Ketterdem. His cold and calculating mind sets him apart from the rest of the crew. Freddie Carter (Pennyworth) will depict him in the series.
A member of the Dregs known as “the wraith,” Inej has an unnatural ability with knives and acrobatics. She was kidnapped from her family as a young girl and sold to slavers where she met Kaz, who paid her contract in exchange for joining the Dregs. Amita Suman (The Outpost) was cast in the role.
Another member of the Dregs with a penchant for gambling and sharpshooting, there’s nothing that Jesper loves more than his guns and when he gets lucky at cards. Kit Young, who has appeared in A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream and Endeavor, will play him.
Nina is passionate and charming, a Dregs member who belongs to the Grisha Corporalki class, those with abilities that affect the body. She is a Heartrender. She can easily manipulate bodily functions and this, paired with her charm, makes her a valuable member of the crew. Danielle Galligan was cast in the role.
A Fjerdan Druskelle, a witchhunter, Matthias’ mission is to capture Grisha for trial and execution. Druskelles, like most Fjerdans, believe Grisha are demons and its their sacred right to rid the world of them. Calahan Skogman plays Matthais.
A commander of the Grisha army, Zoya is an Etherealki, someone who is able to manipulate the elements. Sujaya Dasgupta will portray Zoya in the series.
Like Zoya, Genya is a member of the Grisha Triumvirate and is also a Tailor. She has the ability to manipulate appearances. Daisy Head plays Genya in the series.
Shadow and Bone releases its eight-episode first season on April 23, 2021, streaming on Netflix.