It’s been called Game of Thrones for teens: a new epic fantasy series, adapted from a worldwide best-selling series of books set in a detailed, extraordinary world, full of hand-over-mouth twists. Say hello to new Netflix must-watch, Shadow and Bone.
The YA Netflix drama is the streamer’s most anticipated fantasy show since The Witcher – and it’s easily as good. The show is set in a Russian-inspired, war-torn world, which has been ripped apart (literally) by a cursed void of darkness called the Shadow Fold, which is crawling with monsters. When orphan and low-ranking soldier Alina Starkov reveals magical powers which have the potential to save the world, she’s thrust into a new life as a Grisha – elite supernatural soldiers.
It’s an ambitious project, as the series isn’t just a straight-forward adaptation of the book Shadow and Bone, the first in the Grisha trilogy, but also adapts the other two novels and the Six of Crows duology. It’s all part of author Leigh Bardugo’s sprawling literary Grishaverse.
As Bardugo tells NME: “From the first time we started talking about the TV series, we wanted to bring these stories together, but finding the right mechanism to do that was a little bit of a mystery.”
Eric Heisserer, showrunner and writer of the TV adaptation explains: “It’s not a complete merging, because we really don’t get to the story of Six of Crows [in the first season]. What we have is a timeline, which is a bit offset, so I worked with Leigh to develop a prequel story which follows the Crows before we get to know them in the events of the first book.”
With a ton of new favourites to keep track of, NME sat down with the cast of Netflix’s huge new series for a much-needed introduction…
Super-powerful teen Grisha soldier and possible saviour of the world
Played by: Jessie Mei Li
What she says: “Alina has been pushed away by her society. She and her best friend Mal are orphans, but on top of that, Alina’s mother was from a country called Shu Han, which is one of the countries that their nation Ravka is at war with, so she has been told her whole life that she looks like the enemy, and has had to deal with all that racism and othering. When we first meet her, while she’s still very strong and has to stand up for herself. She’s super vulnerable and weak and skittish and wary of other people. Slowly, as she discovers that she has this power, she begins to understand where she belongs and learns to love herself.”
Alina’s best friend and gifted tracker
Played by: Archie Renaux
What he says: “Mal is a gifted tracker in the First Army, which is made up of ‘normal people’ who are known as Otkazat’sya in the Ravkan language. He’s also Alina’s childhood best friend, as they grew up in an orphanage together. His world spirals out of control when they’re ambushed in the Shadow Fold by creatures called the Volcra. He has a lot of courage, a lot of heart and will do whatever it takes to see that Alina is safe.”
Leader of the Second Army and manipulator of darkness
Played by: Ben Barnes
What he says: “General Kirigan is the leader of the Second Army. He’s mysterious, slightly brooding and the most powerful Grisha that we can meet in the universe, with the grandest status. He’s a man who is feared and revered, because he’s made it his life’s goal to protect the Grisha – and the way he’s been doing that recently has been to make sure that they are feared. He also has the weight of the Shadow Fold on his shoulders, because his power is to summon the darkness and people believe that his ancestors are responsible for creating the Fold. So, he’s quite an isolated man. It’s lonely at the top.”
Menacing leader of the Dregs, a criminal gang in the city of Ketterdam
Played by: Freddy Carter
What he says: “Kaz Brekker is this rising star in the criminal underworld of Ketterdam, the city that the Crows live in. He’s ruthless and will stop at nothing to get what he wants – and hungry for vengeance. But, I think underneath all of that, he has a heart of gold. He’s a sociopath with a heart.”
Member of the Dregs, also known as “The Wraith”
Played by: Amita Suman
What she says: “Inej is an assassin with a conscience. She has impeccable knife skills (she carries 14) and she’s definitely not afraid to use them. She has a great heart and strongly believes in her faith, and she tries to do good whenever she can. Unfortunately, living in Ketterdam means you have to make some difficult decisions. She’s one of my all time favourite characters I’ve ever read in a book.”
Member of the Dregs and skilled sharpshooter
Played by: Kit Young
What he says: “Jesper is the handsome, charming and all-round wonderful member of the Crows. I like to say he’s Kaz’s left-hand man – he’s not focused enough to be the right-hand man. He’s a gunslinger, a gambler, a sharpshooter and low-key, always the fly-est dressed person in the room.”