Jessie Mei Li stars as Alina Starkov, a cartographer in the First Army of Ravka. [credit: Netflix ]
A lowly orphan and military cartographer in a war-torn world discovers she may be the key to her country’s survival in Shadow and Bone, a new Netflix series based on young adult author Leigh Bardugo’s bestselling “Grishaverse” novels. Those YA roots are mostly hidden in this lavish, entertaining adaptation, which boasts strong performances, terrific production design, and compelling mythical storytelling. Think Cursed meets The X-Men, with embellishments from Doctor Zhivago.
(Some spoilers below, but no major reveals.)
As we’ve reported previously, Bardugo published Shadow and Bone, the first of a trilogy, in June 2012, followed by Siege and Storm in 2013 and Ruin and Rising in 2014. She told Entertainment Weekly in 2012 that she deliberately avoided the usual medieval fantasy motifs and drew inspiration for her fictional kingdom of Ravka from the Russian Empire in the early 1800s. In 2015, Bardugo published Six of Crows, followed by a sequel, Crooked Kingdom, the following year. This duology is set in the 17th-century equivalent of the Dutch Republic, a town called Ketterdam. Ravka is also bordered to the north by the Scandinavian-inspired Fjerda and to the south by Shu Han (inspired by Chinese and Mongolian cultures).