Author Leigh Bardugo seems to have won the lottery when it comes to her career’s success; from her book Shadow and Bone (2012) hitting the bestseller list nearly immediately after publishing, to winning the Goodreads Choice Award for best fantasy novel for her book Ninth House (2019), to getting her two most popular book series (Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows) turned into a Netflix series which is scheduled to come out on April 23rd of this year. The show is planned, if renewed, to have three seasons, the first of which runs eight episodes long. Then again, winning the lottery really is only down to luck. And perhaps Bardugo had a certain amount of luck when it came to literary agents, marketing or whatever else goes into publishing a book, but when it comes down to it, Ms. Bardugo only got this far on pure talent.
Her debut novel Shadow and Bone tells the story of a young girl, Alina Starkov, as she discovers she possesses a never before seen in her world power, and is swept away by the mysterious Darkling to train with the rest of the Grisha, people who similarly possess magic powers. As cliché and familiar as this premise may sound, I promise that Bardugo’s enchanting way with words, her strong narrative abilities and beautifully constructed world will leave you in awe. There really is no mystery to why the series has been picked up by Netflix. Even viewers who haven’t read the novels are sure to enjoy the amazing world Bardugo created nearly a decade ago.
Alina Starkov, played by Jessie Mei Li, is not your ordinary 2010’s teen fantasy protagonist. She has actual character depth, unlike many of her counterparts written by other authors. More than just providing the bare minimum, Alina is relatable, interesting, and fun to follow along. Her story, set in what can only be described as pre-revolutionary Russia, involves magic, betrayal, romance, and a charming villain who you’ll hate to love.
The Netflix show combines the two stories of Shadow and Bone (Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising) and Six of Crows (Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom) to create a wonderfully nuanced and dynamic narrative. Although the two series don’t have much in common in terms of plot, the parallel development of their worlds is sure to enthrall audiences. While Alina’s journey takes place in Ravka, a magical Tsarist Russia, the six protagonists of Six of Crows call Ketterdam their home two years after the events of Ruin and Rising. Ketterdam, a city in the far-off country of Kerch, is riddled with gamblers, brothels, and most notably, thieves. So notably, actually, that our six main characters come together to do just that; theft. A rag-tag band of misfit teenagers made up of one of Ketterdam’s most feared gang leaders, Kaz Brekker (played by Freddy Carter) the gymnast-turned-spy Inej Ghafa (Amita Suman), a college dropout with a gambling addiction named Jepser Fahey (Kit Younger), the Grisha Nina Zenik (Danielle Galligan) and Mathias Helvar and Wylan van Eck, who will be appearing in the second season of the show. Six of Crows, unlike Shadow and Bone, is told from six different perspectives, each revealing an interesting and traumatic past over the course of the series. But, as the Crow’s story is only two books long, the narrative shown in the books will only begin in the second season of the show, while the first season will depict the backstories of our favorite characters. For fans of the books, this means new content, including scenes that had only been briefly and retrospectively mentioned in the books.
The Grishaverse, the universe in which both these stories take place, is named after the unique magic system centered around specific powers wielded by the Grisha. The interesting take on magic, its connection to science and technology along with the human body is unlike anything seen before. The world itself, the different languages and cultures, are so well written that one might swear there was a country named Fjerda where the land is icy as the people are kind of racist. Bardugo’s talent for seamlessly weaving the real world into her fictional one has let her create such a realistic setting for her novels that one feels reluctant to put them down, and nostalgic when the last pages begin thinning. After the recent release of a few short trailers from the show, fans of the books can only hope the series is as well executed as it looks.
Hana Kanter, 11b