A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Among storylines about power and magic are positive messages about friendship, loyalty, duty to one's country and culture. An unwise romance sends a message about caution and how emotion can wreak havoc with logic.
Positive Role Models
Women and men compete on equal terms, and women play a central role, especially Alina, whose story is complicated by her multiracial status. She endures microagressions and outright racism; show makes a point of displaying this. Cast is diverse, with many people of color in strong roles. Many characters behave in questionable ways, but Alina is a powerful, albeit imperfect, character and a relatively rare example of a strong female character with agency in a fantasy epic.
Violence & Scariness
Fantasy violence can be brutal: winged monsters fly in the dark and pick up characters as they scream; a man is dropped to a ship's deck, convulsing, with gory, bloody wounds; characters can wield fire, wind, other forces that send everyone tumbling or blow them to bits. A begging, injured man we sympathize with is shot point-blank in the head and killed; we see him lying on the ground as blood spreads in a pool. Characters frequently in mortal danger. Subplots take place in a criminal underground, with many threats of elaborate torture and death: "I'll carve you up and leave you for the rats." Characters are also killed gangland-style: bludgeoned, shot.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Romantic complications play a part. Characters kiss and make references to sex -- e.g., talking about taking a "tumble." Scenes take place at a brothel, though we don't see any sex work taking place.
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Cursing and language include "s--t," "bastard," "damn," "hell." In-show racial slurs refer to multiracial status of characters: "half-breed," "rice-eater," "mutt."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Scenes take place in bars, with characters drinking liquor; no one acts drunk. A character holds, but doesn't smoke, a cigarette.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Shadow and Bone is a fantasy series based on Leigh Bardugo's book series about a young woman with supernatural powers who's thrust into a world of political and magical intrigue. Fantasy violence can be intense: Characters are killed suddenly and bloodily by flying winged monsters, soldiers with arrows, villains with guns, and fire, wind, and other elemental forces wielded by magicians. Characters are also frequently in mortal danger from many sides. Images include dead bodies, dismembered limbs, and characters dying in pools of blood or with gory wounds. Sexual content is less intense, mostly flirting and kissing, although some scenes take place at a brothel (no sex work shown). Other scenes are set in bars, with characters drinking liquor but no one drunk. A minor villainous character holds, but doesn't smoke, a cigarette. Language is infrequent but includes "s--t," "bastard," "damn," and "hell." Characters also use slurs to refer to others' multiracial status: "half-breed," "rice-eater," "mutt." Racism and ethnicity are themes of the show; a main character is multiracial, and viewers see the contempt she endures due to her heritage. Women compete on an equal footing with men, and women have strong, central roles with agency. The cast is diverse.
Is It Any Good?
Stunningly gorgeous and mesmerizing, this enchanting series is the rightful heir to the Game of Thrones throne, and solid proof that TV adaptations can improve on their source material. Because as readers of fantasy novelist Leigh Bardugo's work know, the first book in the "Grishaverse" trilogy, also named Shadow and Bone, was dinged by critics for being a bit of a Twilight riff: A young woman passively waits as two powerful fellas fight over her against a supernatural background. Maybe so, maybe not, but few could accuse this TV series of that stale old trope, because this Alina Starkov is no distressed damsel. At every turn of the story, she acts with agency and makes decisions that show that despite being beset by forces both magical and malevolent, she's the one driving her own story.
The costuming cleverly communicates Shadow and Bone's fresh feminist take on fantasy, too. This is a story set in a military world, with men and women in equal number, all dressed in clothing that's utilitarian and comfortable, and with women and men in positions of power. Magical power, too, is distributed equally among women and men, and when the show's narrative drops into the world of the magic-wielding Grisha, we get a fascinating look at how these powers shape the politics of Shadow and Bone's universe. Too many fantasy shows more or less ignore the quotidian details of everyday life, the way characters eat, work, socialize, and so on, in favor of great big plot points. Shadow and Bone scores by slowing down enough so that we start to grasp the rhythms of its characters' existence, which make the great big plot points land all the harder. With its spectacular world-building and compelling characters within, plus a whole lot of book-laid plot at the ready, Shadow and Bone is the most promising series in quite a while.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.