Why Shadow and Bone Netflix Show Is Better Than Book? One of the truths of this world is that most successful young adult book series are followed by two-screen adaptations. There have been a lot of mediocre to outright bad book adaptations also.
When Netflix announced they were going to adapt the well-loved books in the Grisha verse. People were skeptical and didn’t want to get their hopes up too much.
The first season was aired on 23 April 2021. It follows the story of Shadow and Bones and the characters from Six of Crows. I must say it would be one of the best Netflix series as it’s already #2 on Nielsen rating.
The show takes a lot of creative liberties and deviates from the source material in quite some instances. It usually isn’t very appreciated by fans but actually worked out really well.
Shadow and Bone the show is very well received by fans and critics alike. As someone who enjoyed shadow and bones as a book but did have a lot of gripes myself. It was as if the showrunners looked into our heads and said hey! we’re going to take all the things you didn’t like about the book and just get rid of them. To make them better and thus fans ended up absolutely loving the Shadow and Bone show.
The whole Cast performances were phenomenal, the sets were great and the plot was exciting. I liked almost everything that deviated from the original story. Usually, the saying goes “the book is always better than the movie” but I’m gonna be honest; I think the shadow and bone show is better than the shadow and bone book.
First, let’s make it clear that the show is based on two books Shadow and Bone (#1 of Grisha Trilogy) and the other one being Six of Crows. It follows the storyline of Shadow and Bone very closely. But with Six of Crows, it just takes a few characters and the plot comes out to be completely different.
Six Of Crows
I will just rapid-fire share my opinions. Kit Young’s (Jesper Fahey) performance of jasper is like the best performance out of everyone in the show. Amita Suman (Inej Ghafa) is still my favorite character. Her meeting with Sankta Alina was the most emotional moment in the show.
I didn’t quite feel the tension between Inej Ghafa and Kaz Brekker (role played by Freddy Carter) like in books. I think that’s because most of their pining comes from their internal monologues which works really well in the books but doesn’t really translate to the screenplay. Suddenly, I’m a fan of Danielle Galligan (Nina Matthias) and Calahan Skogman (Matthias Helvar) relationship. Although I think that their relationship progressed a little bit too quickly on the screen; a little glimpse you get from six of crows parts.
Reasons for why the show was better when it came to adapting the Shadow and Bone Storyline:
For those unfamiliar with the shadow and bone storyline (spoilers included)—
In imperial Russian-inspired fantasy, we follow map maker Alina Starkov ( Jessi Mei Li). She later finds out that she is the chosen one. She is the sun summoner who can destroy the shadow fold; a large swath of darkness full of monsters that cleaves the country in two. She’s taken away from her best friend Malyen Oretsev (Archie Renaux) to train with the other Grisha people with elemental powers in the little palace.
Here she develops feelings for her only equal in terms of power General Kirigan (Ben Barnes) who can summon darkness but ends up betraying her. It turns out he only wanted to use her for her powers.
There is a magical stag whose antlers enhance Alina’s powers rest of the plot follows below:-For now, let’s get into the List about how the show did better adaptation than the book;
1. Alina (Jessi Mei Li) :
With the book was that I never really felt Alina was as developed as she could be in the show. Alena gets a lot more depth in the show. I really love Jessie Mei Li’s performance of Alina. They really embodied the character of Alina so well and also the writing really gave Alina a lot more depth. We get a few more flashbacks that flesh out her character a little bit more. She also actually takes action too.
At the beginning of the story, she sets the maps on fire so she could board the ship with Mal; never really happens in the books. A lot of things happen to her in the books whereas in the show she takes way more action herself.
Also because this is a show; we don’t really get a lot of Alina’s monologue which in my opinion was spiritless in the book. Sometimes, there was just a lot of teenage pining about who to sit with at lunch and how she didn’t like the mean girls and the gorgeous girls. It was just a little bit outdated in the monologue that we didn’t get to see in the show.
Very importantly I really feel like the show absolutely doubled down on the character essence of Alina which is her having to make choices between her home and thereby suppressing her powers or accepting who she is – A Grisha.
In the end, she is accepting her powers but also possibly estranging her from her home and her best friend Mal. I feel the show really puts a lot more focus on this slow character progression that we see in Alina, whereas in the book it was a little bit more subtle.
Through the show, you can see her take up more space in the king-size bed. At first, she doesn’t know what to do with all the space she got. But later as she gets more comfortable in the little palace, you can see her take more space. There is a scene where she wants Genya Safin ( Daisy Head ) to take away the scar that reminds her of the home which is a pivotal moment for her character development.
In the book, there’s a scene where the darkling kisses her whereas in the show they changed it. Alina actually kisses General Kirigin (Ben Barnes) which really shows that she is actively making this decision herself to take on this new life. I really adored her as a main character in the show because of these reasons.
2. Malyen Oretsev ( Archie Renaux):
When it came to the books, many people are a huge fan of him and a huge group of people who just didn’t like Mal even though he’s the primary love interest.
If you ask people why they don’t like him there are usually two answers. The first one is that people find him very unsupportive of Alina’s discovered powers. The second being that people just find him boring. It’s not really an interesting character which both things are true following the book. Whereas, if you’ve been on Twitter you’ve probably seen people talking about how the show suddenly made them “Malina” shippers. It suddenly made them like Mal character. I think that’s because the show just made a few decisions made by the show. That just aided massively in making Mal a more interesting and less annoying and unsupportive character.
The first thing is that he just gets more depth to his character. It’s similar to Alina for whom we have the time for a few more flashbacks.
We get an opening scene with him doing the boxing match which just sets up his character a little bit more. I think the most important thing is that we actually get to see Mal’s pov in the show. The book is just a first-person perspective from Alina’s point of view so we never really get to see what Mal is doing if he’s not with Alina and I guess the show really kind of showed that very perfectly. Adding Mal’s point of view was a fantastic choice indeed.
Book Mal Versus Show Mal:
Basically in the book we see Mal, in the beginning, we have no clue about what he thinks about Alina. We know that Alina really cares about him because we’re in her head from her monologues but also because we’re in her head we kind of think that Mal doesn’t care about her at all. When Alina gets taken away and like there’s 75 % of the story she’s in the little palace we don’t get any idea about what Mal is doing.
Then about 75% of the way in we have the famous scene where Mal and Alina have finally reunited again. They just fight Mal’s angry at her for being a Grisha, for being with the darkling. He acts very jealously, very unsupportive which doesn’t really make him look very great. Given the fact that it’s like few scenes where we’ve seen with him throughout the book so far. They then bond when they go into the snowy fields looking for the magical stag and suddenly they realize that they love each other and they kiss which is very abrupt.
Only if you happen to have a Hardcover book edition with extra material at the end you can read the letters that Mal sent to Alina. Nevertheless only if you can read the extra material and it’s like all the way at the end of the book when you’ve already finished the story.
Just by looking at it, you can probably understand why a lot of readers didn’t really find Mal to be a sympathetic character. But here’s how the same story is shown in a way that makes Mal a lot more likable. So first of all, we get a very strong opening of him fighting. We get more moments that show that he really has a bond with Alina. Such that it’s actually mutual coming from both sides, we get more flashbacks which show that he cares about Alina.
In the scene, in the bar where he punches someone down so he will be thrown into the prison so he can be with Alina, that doesn’t happen in a book we actually see him actively running after Alina when she gets taken away in the carriage to go to the palace.
So a lot of things really show us that he cares about her whereas in the book we don’t. Then in this large portion where Alina is separated from him instead of not knowing what he’s up to we actually get to see what he’s doing. Mainly we get his point of view– we see him struggling in the snow, going out of his way to find Alina, and see him losing friends.
In the show, we are actually shown how Mal is going through all this just to find her. Therefore he really does care deeply about Alina.
So you know how the letters that Mal writes to Alina are like bonus material at the end of the book; in the show, we actually get to see them writing these letters in real-time. Throughout the show we see them developing their feelings realizing their feelings for each other through these letters in real-time. So it’s much better this way and then of course when they finally meet and they do fight.
You understand Mal’s perspective a lot more and he’s also just a lot more supportive in their fight like he’s not annoying about it and he doesn’t actually get jealous or angry at Alina, it’s just a fight where they kind of have to relieve tension and it makes more sense and throughout the entire show they don’t kiss, which I think is a very good choice because I think the kiss in the book fell a little bit forced and now in the show they just have more time to let their relationship heal and then develop further.
I noticed that there are some changes in the dialogue. They made that again seem very small which made such a big difference.
For example :
In the scene where they confront each other again in the little palace after being separated for a long time. In the book, Mal gets pretty jealous of the darkling. It’s kind of been turned into a big deal in the book but in the show. Alina explains what has happened with the darkling and Mal just says “you don’t have to justify it for me.” (Small change huge difference).
The same thing at the end of the story when two have escaped from the darkling fold; Alina concludes that she can still use the amplifier, so that she will destroy the fold and use her powers to save the world and in the book, Mal is like– No Alina! take the amplifier off you’re not going to use your powers anymore let’s just go, whereas in the show Mal is actually supportive of Alina using her powers for good he doesn’t ask her to take off the amplifier, and in reality,
she couldn’t because in the show it’s like ingrained into her flesh collarbone which I thought was super cool by the way and he just tells her “you will destroy the fold just not today.” small difference huge huge impact on how I perceive their relationship I think that kind of sums up why I think a lot of people including me like show Mal a lot more than book Mal.
3. General Kirigan ( Ben Barnes): Darkling
I legit have mixed feelings on this one. I like that Ben Barnes is so clearly a lot older and taller than Jessie Mei Li. They also put a lot of emphasis on how much taller the darkling is than Alina with the camera work. I really like that because these visual changes emphasize the power imbalance between the darkling and sun summoner.
Also in the show, it’s a lot clearer that Alina really wants to be with the darkling and she actively chooses that life. In the book, we know that Alina wants it, but it’s basically just the darkling pursuing her if you just look at it objectively. This is just a better representation of Alina’s character arc of choosing the Grisha life and not being seduced into it.
Now they added some consent in the making out room scene but there’s one big thing that I really don’t like that they changed in the show in comparison to the book and that also has to do with this war make out the scene– they only made one little change to that scene but it’s a small change that in my opinion really impacts the way the darkling’s character will be perceived by the viewers and that is they removed the dialogue out of that scene in the show they’re just having a cute little make-out session.
In the book, the darkling holds this whole speech about how he wants her but he knows that he shouldn’t. At this, he utters that I think the pretty famous quote “the problem with wanting is that it makes us weak .”
Exception On which I Question
Why is it wrong for him to want her isn’t this all great and that little bit of initiation was at least for me as a reader super important to understand how the rest of his character progresses throughout the rest of the books while later we get the big plot twist. You come to know that darkling betrays Alina and he actually didn’t care for her at all.
He was just pretending to like her so that he could use her for his power but because of this small scene in the book where he’s like “the problem with wanting is that it makes us weak” and that actually he feels bad about liking her so much.
Now after the plot twist, you understand as a reader why that was a bad thing? why did he see that as a bad thing? That’s because it wasn’t supposed to happen. You understand now that he was supposed to just seduce her and then betray her but in the process. Instead he kind of fell in love with her but the show doesn’t really have this extra layer of interest. He just betrays her and there’s like no implication that actually in the process he came to care about her for real which in my opinion is like the whole essence of the darkling as a character. It’s like the whole reason that makes him interesting as a villain because he kind of becomes obsessed with Alina.
He falls in love not with her but with what she stands for the sun summoner his equal the only person in the world that could understand him that he’s actually very lonely. This is why he becomes kind of obsessed with her throughout the entire trilogy.
That little bit of dialogue I think they just immediately left out like the thing that gave him layers as a villain. Also, I’m a little bit bitter about the fact that they revealed his name Alexander in episode three or something. In the book, it’s like a huge deal when at the end of the trilogy he tells Alina his real name and in the show, it’s just like a throwaway.
I notice that they incorporated more action scenes and more in-depth action scenes, which was fun and exciting. I really liked that they showed so many side characters in depth; that’s something which I really missed in the book. For example – Genya Safin ( Daisy Head ) later turns out to be a spy in west Ravka. It later starts a revolution as they wanted to be independent was super interesting.
Mal’s friends Dubrov (Andy Burse) and Mikhael (Angus Castle-Doughty) hell had been turned into funny comic relief characters. I thought that Fedyor (Julian Kostov) and Ivan (Simon Sears) made just like a way more fun duo. Of course, we also have Milo the goat, the absolute best addition to the show.
All the mean girl-on-girl hate permeates the book quite a lot. Like yes, Zoya is still a mean girl character but in the book, there’s really a lot more hate on Zoya (Sujaya Dasgupta) just because Mal’s interested in her. More obnoxious thoughts just because they’re pretty and gorgeous, which happens in Alina’s inner monologue which they got rid of in the show, made me very happy.
That’s it- A list of all the things why I think that the show actually did a better job at telling the shadow and bone storyline than the book did (except for the darkling thing that’s like the one exception). Why the shadow and bone show is better than the book, so I hope you got the answer.
Written by: Tulsi Sharma, Edited by: Keshav Batheja