Shadow and Bone: 10 Differences Between The Show and The Books
Shadow And Bone presents a world literally and figuratively split in two by dark magic. The books the new Netflix series is based on are also divided into two distinct storylines, but, in one of the major changes, the series made from the original source material, the show has brought both plotlines together.
This melding of the various pieces of the greater Grishaverse by author Leigh Bardugo isn’t the only change the live-action series has made. Many changes to the original books both big and small feature throughout the first eight episodes of the new series run, likely setting off more changes in season two of the hit series.
The Crows Weren’t Part Of The First Book
By far the biggest structural change in the series from the books was the inclusion of The Crows. This gang from the city of Ketterdam, including Kaz, Inej, and Jesper, are not part of the original Shadow And Bone novel or even the original trilogy
They first appear in the Six Of Crows duology which follows. Showrunner Eric Heisserer insisted on including the characters, though it meant introducing them in the greater narrative far sooner. Their entire plotline in the series is invented and functionally a prequel to their novels.
The Darkling is the major antagonist of the books and the streaming series, but one notable difference between them is in his name. In the show, he is known as General Kirigan, the leader of Ravka’s forces.
This isn’t the case in the books, where he is simply The Darkling. It remains the case in both that his true nature isn’t known to the reader or Alina Starkov until late in the game. In both mediums, he is revealed as the Black Heretic and the person behind the creation of The Fold which divides the country of Ravka.
The Darkling’s Origin
One significant change in the series from the books regarding the Darkling is his origin. The timeline of events in Shadow And Bone isn’t immediately obvious in the series, but, several hundred years before the present of the series, Kirigan is a soldier in the king’s army trying to his part.
Soldiers murder his lover, a Grisha named Luda, and, in his anger, he creates The Shadow Fold and creates the Volcra who inhabit it. In the original books, none of these details are present and he seems to create The Fold just because he wants to.
The Darkling Actually Loves Alina
In the books, The Darkling’s interest in Alina Starkov, romantic and otherwise, is simply a means to an end. He only wants her for her power and for the way she can amplify his. His affection for her seems more sincere in the Netflix series, however.
In the show, he believes she is his equal, and, given his new backstory, it’s easier to read his affection for her as genuine. In the books, it’s all a ruse as he manipulates her into being a pawn in his scheme to amplify his powers.
Alina Is Part Shu
Another major change to the show is Alina’s background. In the books, she hails from a border town in Ravka, with no details about her background. In the show, she is explicitly half-Shu-Hen, a people from beyond Ravka generally regarded with prejudice.
The Shu in the books and in the series are an analog for Asian people, as the Ravka are an analog for Slavic peoples. This change helped add dimension both to the world of the show and to the character of Alina, played by actress Jessica Mei Li.
More Depth For Mal
Alina’s childhood best friend Mal also gets a lot more development in the show. More of his character arc and quest to find the mythical stag in the story are depicted in the show. None of it is in the books, primarily as a result of the novel being entirely from Alina’s point of view.
This has the effect of making him more prominent in the story, but also adding depth and dimension to the character. The books present him mostly as a romantic rival to The Darkling, but the series leans heavily on the deep friendship between Mal and Alina.
The character of the Conductor is entirely original to the series. Arken Visser is introduced in Ketterdam as part of the Crows’ storyline in the early episodes, smuggling people across The Shadow Fold in a specialized locomotive for a very high price.
He didn’t exist in the original books at all, nor was an amalgamation of other characters. His role in the story was a product of introducing the Crows into the narrative of the first novel and necessitating a way for the gang to get across the Fold to The Little Palace.
The Ravkan Civil War
The series allows the story of the books to broaden out about and so fans get a more complex sense of politics in Ravka. Ravka is divided in two by The Shadow Fold and West Ravka, cut off from the rest of the country is now seeking independence. General Zlatan leads the region into civil war.
In the book, this leads to the dramatic increase of The Fold at the end of the series by The Darkling, consuming even more of the already beleaguered country. This change in the dynamic of the story is likely to further impact season two of the show and beyond.
The Winter Fete
The Winter Fete is a grand ball at the heart of both the novel and the first season of the Netflix series, but the screen version features some changes from the source material. The biggest change is the death of Marie, one of Alina’s attendants. She serves as a decoy during the party and is murdered by the Conductor.
In the books, she does die, but the circumstances are completely different. The sequence also features a lot more action and intrigue than the books, which was pretty uneventful except for Alina’s public debut as the Sun Summoner.
In the novel, The Darkling uses the antlers of the stag to control Alina and amplify his own magic. But, in the book, the antlers are more of a literal collar around her neck. The show presents the scene in a much more horrific way.
The antlers fuse magically into her collar bone, making for a frightening moment of body horror, and another piece fuses into The Darkling’s hand. The change signifies the power and price of using mystical animals to amplify the powers of the Grisha.