What lurks in the vast darkness? As one of the most-anticipated series of the year, Shadow And Bone efforts to explore our deepest fears of the dark.
The eight-episode Netflix series premieres globally on April 23 and the fans cannot wait. Based on Leigh Bardugo’s worldwide bestselling Grishaverse trilogy and the Six of Crows duology, Shadow and Bone finds us in a war-torn world where lowly soldier and orphan Alina Starkov has just unleashed an extraordinary power that could be the key to setting her country free. With the monstrous threat of the Shadow Fold looming, Alina is torn from everything she knows to train as part of an elite army of magical soldiers known as Grisha. As she struggles to hone her power she discovers that allies and enemies can be one and the same and that nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. There are dangerous forces at play, including a crew of charismatic criminals and creatures, and it will take more than magic to survive.
Bardugo’s novels have been published in 115 countries and garnered multiple awards. The Grishaverse is already being compared to the magical worlds created by George R.R. Martin and J.K. Rowling in Game of Thrones and Harry Potter.
In a recent joint phone interview with Bardugo and series co-creator Eric Heisserer, she remained humble when asked how she felt about this. “I am definitely grateful and I feel very lucky but this is not as big. I think of this world as the little fandom that could.”
As for the massive exposure of a Netflix series and the streamer’s 200 million-plus subscribers, Bardugo adds how delighted she is for these stories to reach as many people as possible. “You just have no idea what will catch fire.”
She added how lucky she is to have Heisserer on her side. “He brought a lot of ingenuity and excitement to this project. I was very blessed with the people I partnered with.”
When asked how the idea for this world came to her, Bardugo says it happened one very dark night. “Ideas can be mysterious but I can trace the origin of this world to a night I spent at a friends’ house in the mountains. They went to dinner and I fell asleep reading a book. I woke up alone and it was pitch black. This was the type of dark where you cannot see your hand in front of your face. I just couldn’t shake the idea that despite how old we get, there’s this fear of darkness that never really goes away. All those questions about the Shadow Fold and the Grishaverse came from this. I had so many questions about the dark and its mysteries. This story is really about the primal fear of the dark.”
Heisserer, an admitted fan of Bardugo’s novels, says this project didn’t ever feel like a work assignment. “I became addicted to Leigh’s characters and this world and I just kept plowing through her books.”
Netflix, he came to learn, had the rights and a phone conversation between Heisserer and the streaming giant solidified his hunch that this could make for great television. Together, he and Bardugo combined the two book series which take place in the same universe but on different timelines.
“The books are all set chronologically, so we technically don’t get to events in the Six of Crows books until after the Shadow and Bone books have ended,” says Heisserer. “So, what Leigh and I had to do was essentially invent prequel stories for the key Six of Crows characters this season to fit alongside what is happening in the Shadow and Bone storyline.”
He acknowledged this was no easy task. “We were very careful. It was a lot of conversation early on where we would delve into the origins of the characters and their behaviors and beliefs from the Six of Crows book and how to have these characters bump up against the characters of the Shadow and Bone world. This was the exciting part of the world-building.”
Though this show combines two of her book series, Bardugo says they really built something entirely new here that still stays true to the characters and the heart of the stories. “Eric took two fantasy series, with powers and creatures and horrors and heists, and molded them into this cohesive, incredible thing.”
Back to those comparisons to Game of Thrones and whether she thinks this series might scratch the itch for fans of the HBO hit, Bardugo thanks Martin for paving the way. “That show really got people to open their minds in a way they weren’t open before.”
This type of storytelling, she adds, is expensive to tell and a gamble. “Will the audience go on this adventure? This is a different world and the stakes are very different for the characters in Shadow & Bone. If the audience is hungry for adventure, magic, great fight scenes and dangerous villains, then yes, I do hope we can fill that void.”
Bardugo has a new book out this year entitled Rule of Wolves, which is the sequel to King of Scars, a duology set in the Grishaverse that is set to be the explosive finale that will change the Grishaverse forever.
Will this really be the end? When asked, Bardugo clarified that nothing is set in stone. “I have a lot of stories I’d like to tell in the Grishaverse but I’d like to take a little step back at this time. So, it’s more of a goodbye for now.”
Shadow and Bone comes from 21 Laps Entertainment and stars Jessie Mei Li (Alina Starkov), Archie Renaux (Malyen Oretsev), Freddy Carter (Kaz Brekker), Amita Suman (Inej), Kit Young (Jesper Fahey) and Ben Barnes (General Kirigan).
Can fans look forward to additional seasons? “We’d love to tell you if we knew,” answers Heisserer. “We have a lot of grand ideas and plans if we’re given another season.”