Shadow and Bone

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Shadow and Bone TV Poster Image
Popular with kids
Magic, monsters, strong women in fresh but violent fantasy.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 17 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

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 & Representations

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. 


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. 


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. 


Cursing and language include "s--t," "bastard," "damn," "hell." In-show racial slurs refer to multiracial status of characters: "half-breed," "rice-eater," "mutt." 

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. 

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byisoldebrooks April 23, 2021

Shadow and Bone is an amazing, fast-paced show

Shadow and Bone is a great TV fantasy adaptation!
There's a diverse group of interesting and well-developed characters, and an engaging and well-constructe... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byKRLUKE April 23, 2021

Finally, a faithful adaption to an awesome book.

I really liked the Shadow and Bone book and predicted that this would be just another Netflix show that changed the whole story and characters.

Thankfully I b... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byGigantamind April 23, 2021

I LOVE IT SO MUCH (ignore the bad typing. i was very sleep deprived after staying up all night to watch this)

this is literally one of the best book to show adaptations ive seen. it doesnt completely follow the grishaverse books but the SoC and SaB timeline tie in perf... Continue reading

What's the story?

Based on the series of books by Leigh Bardugo, SHADOW AND BONE picks up in the fantasy country of Ravka, which was cut in half hundreds of years ago by a region of pure darkness known as the Fold. Created by a malevolent Grisha -- the magical folk of this universe -- the Fold is inhabited by terrifying monsters, and has claimed the lives of countless people, including the parents of Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li). Growing up in the orphanage, her best friend and solace was Mal Oretsev (Archie Renaux), and even now that the two are grown and serving in Ravka's military, they still share a special bond. But when Mal and Alina are forced by circumstance to take on perilous roles in a mysterious quest, Alina learns that she has untapped supernatural powers, powers that launch her into the treacherously political and magical world of the Grisha. 

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. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why adaptations of fantasy book series are so popular. What is it about worlds with supernatural or fantastic elements that's compelling to viewers and to readers? What's the dramatic potential in narratives about magic and epic quests? What shows or movies can you name that are based on fantasy novels? How is Shadow and Bone similar to or different from these movies or TV shows? 

  • Have you read the original books that this show is based on? How does Shadow and Bone, the series, compare? What elements of the book have been changed? Do you think the changes are for the better, or not? People say that "the books are always better." Is that true in this case? In every case? 

  • What are women's roles in this series? Are they important players, or accessories? What about people of color? Where do they fit in? Do you appreciate the show's diversity? Are fantasy epics known for being diverse? 

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate