A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
I LOVE IT SO MUCH (ignore the bad typing. i was very sleep deprived after staying up all night to watch this)
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?
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Themes & Topics
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