Netflix's wave of fantasy titles has only just begun. The latest is an adaptation of Leigh Bardugo's Grishaverse trilogy called Shadow & Bone. Based on Russian folklore, the series follows a young orphan, Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li), who discovers she is a Grisha (a manipulator of the elements) who has a very rare ability. As fans count down the days until Netflix's Shadow & Bone release date (April 23), here's what we know about the series so far:
Like Netflix's runaway hit The Witcher, Shadow & Bone is inspired by Eastern European folklore; although this time, it's Russian-based instead of Polish. As author Bardugo put it in quotes shared via Netflix: "Think Imperial Russia, not Medieval England; repeating rifles instead of broadswords."
It's a story of magic and betrayal. In the book series, Alina's abilities make her a valuable asset to the Kingdom of Ravka, where she was raised, and a target of assassination from its enemies. She's taken under the wing of the head of the Grisha, known as the Darkling, but it turns out, not all her enemies are outsiders. Some are the people she trusts the most.
The first images of Shadow & Bone feature Alina's journey with those who want to help her — and those who want to use her for their own ends.
'Shadow & Bone' Photos
Released on Jan. 27, 2021, the first-look photos give viewers an overview of the main characters in Shadow & Bone. The top image is Alina Starkov hanging out with Malyen Oretsev, who everyone calls Mal. The two grew up together, having been raised in the same orphanage in Keramzin, and are fast friends when the story begins.
Below is a photo of two of Alina's fellow Grishas. On the left, there's Nina Zenik, a Grisha and former soldier who can control bodies. On the right, there's Matthias Helvar, a Grisha hunter known as a drüskelle. The two are significant characters in the second book of Bardugo's trilogy, Six of Crows.
These three below are also main characters from the Six of Crows book: Kaz "Dirtyhands" Brekker, Inej Ghafa, and Jesper Fahey. Kaz is a member of the Dregs gang, commissioned to kidnap Bo Yul-Bayur, the creator of a drug known as "jurda parem." The stuff is lethal to normal humans but addictive to the Grisha, as it enhances their powers tenfold. Inej and Jesper are two of the Grisha he hires to help him with this mission.
And finally, there's the Darkling, also called General Kirigan, the head of the Grisha. He rescues Alina and takes on the role of her mentor, but he also has a great many secrets he's not telling.
'Shadow & Bone' Teaser
On Dec. 17, 2020, Netflix announced the forthcoming adaption of Shadow & Bone. It gave little away in terms of plot, other than a voice saying, "You and I are going to change the world." That voice, fans now know, is that of the Darkling.
As for the creature in the trailer, that's what's known as a magic stag. The antlers of these creatures are also known to enhance Grisha powers.
'Shadow & Bone' Cast
Jessie Mei Li (All About Eve) leads the Shadow & Bone cast as Alina Starkov, whose special abilities set the plot in motion. Archie Renaux, last seen in Acorn TV's Gold Digger, plays her best friend, Mal. Ben Barnes, who fans will know from Westworld and Marvel's The Punisher, plays Alina's mentor, General Kirigan, aka the Darkling. Zoë Wanamaker (Mr. Selfridge) plays Baghra, another of Alina's tutors.
Meanwhile, in the show's other main plot, Freddy Carter (Pennyworth) plays Kaz Brekker, with Amita Suman (Doctor Who) as Inej and Kit Young (Endeavour) as Jesper Fahey. Danielle Galligan (Cold Courage) plays fellow Grisha Nina Zenik, and newcomer Calahan Skogman plays Matthias.
'Shadow & Bone' Plot
The series is called Shadow & Bone after the book trilogy's first novel. In keeping with that, the synopsis suggests the main plot will be from the first book:
Shadow & 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.
But even so, the series seems to be taking a more ensemble approach to the material. Nearly half of those pictured in the first look photos are lead characters from the second novel, Six of Crows.
Netflix has hinted the first season of the series would pull from both novels, but it seems more likely the plots will run somewhat concurrently. If so, Alina's story could overlap with Kaz's mission to find Bo Yul-Bayur.
'Shadow & Bone' Release Date
Shadow & Bone will arrive on Netflix on Friday, April 23, 2021, with eight episodes.