Shadow and Bone
- Brian Donaldson
- 23 April 2021
New fantasy series has a vast gallery of characters and action blitzes which are sadly underwhelming
A teenage orphan with a little scar on the forehead attempts to harness magical powers for good in a world that is under attack from often unseen dark forces. That might all sound a little Pottery, but Shadow and Bone, adapted from Leigh Bardugo's fantasy novel series which commenced in 2012, is really the latest instalment of one particular long-running saga: where is the next Game of Thrones coming from?
Those who grew sick of the violence and misogyny within HBO's biggest ever show should be comforted to learn that the 'blood and boobs' count is dialled down dramatically for Shadow and Bone. But it is also devoid of the sly wit and genuine heart-pumping thrills which elevated Game of Thrones above the usual small-screen fantasy fare.
Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) is our central character, the parentless girl who discovers she has the ability to summon light and channel the sun. These skills bring her the title of Sun Summoner, and which make her valuable to diverse interests, both fair and foul. Seems that only she can save the land of Ravka (a sort-of Tsarist Russia meets Westeros) from the Shadow Fold (the vast area of sea and darkness which splits the country in half) and the terrifying ogre-dragons called volcra which populate this zone.
The vast number of gangs and sects we are introduced to makes matters a little difficult to follow at times, but we do know that Alina remains smitten by her pal from childhood, Mal (Archie Renaux), who is an able sidekick while being understandably in awe of her powers. But once you get into the swing of it all, there's little doubt about the people you should be rooting for across this Grishaverse. While Shadow and Bone has plenty of bells and whistles being rung and blown at full pelt, a lot of the high-octane action is a little underwhelming. And it's hard to get fully on board with a show that gives this line to an actor: 'never make decisions out of fear, Jesper. Only out of spite.'
All episodes available now on Netflix.