10 Differences Between Netflix’s ‘Shadow And Bone’ & The Books It’s Based On

CGI has made it so fantasy series can create magic that was once limited to the page or animation. But even so, sticking faithfully to the novel isn’t easy. Case in point: Netflix’s new Shadow and Bone adaptation, which starts changing things up from the first scene. In fact, the differences between Netflix’s Shadow and Bone and the book series (written by author Leigh Bardugo) are so vast, fans who haven’t read the novels will be stunned.

Warning: Spoilers for Netflix’s Shadow and Bone Season 1, plus the novel series Shadow and Bone and Six Of Crows, follow. The parameters of the Netflix show necessitated some changes. Showrunner Eric Heisserer said Netflix gave him a set amount of money and told him he could make eight or 10 episodes, but the budget would be the same. So obviously, he went with fewer episodes so he could spend more per installment. That means some of the book sections, like Alina’s experiences in the Little Palace, are heavily condensed for expediency’s sake.

Then there’s the addition of Kaz, Jesper, Inej, Nina, and Matthias, all of whom are from a completely different series by Bardugo (but set in the same universe as Shadow and Bone), Six of Crows. To say the characters’ experiences have changed from the book to the show is an understatement. In the books, Kaz, Inej, and Jesper never cross paths with Alina, Mal, or anyone else from Shadow and Bone. There’s no mission to kidnap Alina, no trips across the Fold, etc. Instead, the threesome team up with Nina, who is working on getting Matthias out of prison. In essence, their adventure on the show is an invented prequel to their story from the books.

What are some of the other changes? Here’s a rundown.

1. Alina’s History & Heritage

The series makes massive changes to Alina throughout. But the most significant changes begin at home, by making her half Shu instead of being full Ravkan. The series also changes her history. In the books, her parents and Mal’s parents die as civilian casualties in a previous war and the two are taken in by an orphanage run by a local duke.

In the Netflix version, the orphanage stays, but the duke doesn’t. Moreover, their parents’ deaths are now directly linked to the Fold. Both sets die while crossing, making the Unsea a more personal enemy.

2. The Crows’ Mission

As noted above, the story of Kaz, Jesper, and Inej is a prequel invented for the Netflix series. That said, there are a surprising amount of similarities to Six Of Crows’ adventures. The life-changing amount of money on offer from a wealthy Kerch merchant to the Mission: Impossible nature of their assignment makes the stories surprisingly similar. The difference is that instead of going north to Fjerda, crossing the permafrost, and breaking into the Ice Court, they’re going east to Ravka, crossing the Fold, and breaking into the Little Palace.

3. Nina’s Backstory

Unlike the rest of the Crows, Nina’s prequel is pulled from the books. Her relationship with Matthias, and his imprisonment, is drawn directly from conversations they have in Six of Crows. But there is one significant change the show makes: Nina’s location.

When Nina is arrested in the book, she’s up in the far north on the Wandering Isle. The Netflix series instead places her in Kerch to connect her to the Crows gang and bring her into their story.

4. The Conductor

As for the Conductor, the Netflix series fully invents Arken. Everything — from the secret train that goes across the Fold to Milo to the double-cross revealing he’s an assassin for the West Ravkan revolution — is new.

It’s all brilliant, mind you. The ride across the Fold is a series highlight. The whole heist to get into the Palace, the double-double cross by Kaz, and, of course, Chekov’s goat, are borderline genius additions. But yeah, none of it comes from the books.

5. The Apparat

Another point of improvement: The Apparat. In the novels, Ravka is based on Tsarist Russia and this guy is basically Rasputin. Alina is deeply creeped out by his mere presence. It’s also not clear whose side he’s on, if he’s working to bring down Alina or trying to help her. (Alina assumes the latter until Baghra reveals Kirigan’s true identity. In light of that information, it seems like he was trying to warn her.)

The show gives the Apparat a more sympathetic edit, allowing Alina to trust and learn from him before deciding he’s a creep. Even so, The Apparat’s fate does stick to the books, handing him the throne after Kirigan has Genya remove Nikolai.

6. The Politics Of Ravka

When a first-person POV novel is adapted to screen, one of the benefits is the scripts can show what’s happening outside that single viewpoint. Upgrades here include Shadow and Bone showing what happens to Mal after Alina is taken away and during the stag chase, instead of having him tell Alina about it later.

It also gets to dive more heavily into the politics, starting with having Alexei survive the volcra attack and make it out of the Fold alive. The series also adds First Army General Zlatan of West Ravka as a significant figure. It ups the book’s implied danger of assassination into reality, including the added assassination attempt that kills Marie.

Also, fans get to see diplomats discussing who to side with, making the power plays outside the Little Palace more enjoyable as well.

7. Jesper’s Abilities

Most of the choices made around Jesper, Kaz, and Inej seem to be an attempt to give viewers stories to follow while also saving the big stuff for when the show (hopefully) gets to the actual mission from Six Of Crows. The series declines to reveal why Kaz wears gloves, for instance. Inej gets a better balance, with some of her reveals held back while her backstory is expanded.

But the most curious choice concerns Jesper. As fans note, he is practically magical with his sharpshooter skills… almost like he’s a Grisha.

That’s because he *is* a Grisha in the books. But unlike Alina, Jesper has not repressed his abilities. He knows who and what he is. He was born on a continent where going to the Little Palace was viewed as imprisonment while Grisha hunters roam the countryside.

The series drops a few hints toward this reveal. But, interestingly, it never makes it clear Jesper actually knows about his abilities and just keeps it a secret.

8. The Crows Gang & The Darkling

The Crows never attempt to kidnap Alina or meet her in the books. They also never find themselves going up against the Darkling and his goons.

But that doesn’t stop the series from imagining just how well they’d fare in taking down Kirigan. It’s all made up for the show, but it was certainly fun to watch.

9. Mal & Alina’s Reunion

By inserting the Six Of Crows gang into Alina’s escape, the series cuts Alina and Mal’s initial meeting after not seeing each other since her removal from the camp. In the book, it comes right after Alina’s successful demonstration with Kirigan in the main hall, which Mal also witnessed, as she crosses the quad to change for dinner.

Mal was already in a bad headspace. After going north, hunting the stag, he sees she’s moved on. Meanwhile, Alina is angry he never responded to a single letter she sent him and never came to visit. When he accuses her of changing and forgetting who she is, she’s hurt and heartbroken. Their friendship seems to have ended.

Said fight makes Mal coming after her post-escape all the more romantic and gives them a reason to make up. But the series does just fine without it.

10. The Crows, Zoya, & Mal Teaming Up

The last change brings the Six Of Crows gang, Zoya, Mal, Alina, and the Darkling all on the same sandskiff for the season’s big denouement. In the books, the demonstration of the Darkling’s power and Alina’s pushback after he’s killed millions in Novokribirsk go as they do in the show. But the addition of Zoya aiding Alina is new. (Zoya does get a redemption arc later in the books, just not like this.) And of course, the Crows gang isn’t here in the books, nor do they adopt Mal into their crew for a hot minute.

Alina and Mal do leave on a boat at the end of the novel. But the Crows crew don’t see her go. Like everyone else, they believe the Sun Summoner is dead, as is hope for the end of the Fold.

Shadow and Bone Season 1 is on Netflix now.

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