The Differences between the “Shadow and Bone” Adaptations – Op/Ed

By: Amy Morrison

PLACENTIA, CA – The “Shadow and Bone” trilogy, published in 2010 and written by young adult fantasy novelist Leigh Bardugo, has become a much more widespread phenomenon due to its new adaptation as a Netflix TV show. Bardugo and Eric Heisserer, the show’s creator and executive producer, worked together to bring the world of Shadow and Bone to the big screen. However, fans of the original book series may be either slightly disappointed or even more enthralled with the series because of changes made in the adaptation, according to USA Today’s article “Review: Netflix’s ‘Shadow and Bone’ is a good fantasy adaptation that could have been so much better.”

One of the biggest changes made in the TV show is the inclusion of five characters, Kaz Brekker, Jasper Fahey, Inej Ghafa, Nina Zenik, and Matthias Helvar, who are not originally part of the “Shadow and Bone” series, but are originally introduced in the sequel series called “Six of Crows.” The addition of these characters to the original plotline of “Shadow and Bone” caused a long list of differences between the book and the show; however, Bardugo and Heisserer stood by their decision to include them. The “Six of Crows” duology is more loved by fans than the “Shadow and Bone” trilogy with a rating 0.46 higher on GoodReads, leading to Heisserer and Bardugo Ultimately adding them to the show. Despite the plethora of discrepancies this new plotline caused, the story as a whole remained consistent.

Another large difference between the books and the TV show was the characterization of one of the love interests and childhood best friend of the protagonist, Mal Oretsev. As stated in a Bazaar article “Netflix’s Shadow and Bone Gives Leigh Bardugo’s Books a Glittering Upgrade” Mal was not a very likable character and was not very well received by the fans of the book. The same article mentions that in the adaptation, Bardugo and Heisserer wanted to give more of Mal’s story and motivations and were able to do so when they found Archie Renaux, the actor who landed the role of Mal. Heisserer even goes so far as to say in a Nerdist’s article “How Shadow and Bone Built a Romance You Can Root For” that the character was reinvented into the perfect boyfriend.

One of the last large discrepancies between the “Shadow and Bone” books and the new series is one character, known to book readers as the Darkling and to show watchers as General Kirigan. Aside from the obvious name change, which Bardugo told the Los Angeles Times was for convenience on screen, the characterization of the Darkling was greatly changed in the adaptation. In the books, the Darkling is characterized as a revered and feared general as well as a master manipulator. He is very clearly the villain. In the show, General Kirigan is characterized as a regular man and someone who was merely seeking the love of the protagonist. While Kirigan may turn into the show’s antagonist, he is by no means characterized as a villain and instead portrayed as a misunderstood soul. In an interview with Collider Bardugo and Ben Barnes, the actor who plays General Kirigan, were quoted in the article “‘Shadow and Bone’ Author Breaks Down the Darkling and His Complicated Feelings Toward Alina” saying that part of the goal in characterizing both Kirigan and the Darkling was to make the viewers sympathize with him while still being able to see that he was abusing his power, and ultimately in the wrong.

In Vanity Fair’s article “Shadow and Bone Creators Break Down Those Big Book Changes”, Bardugo and Heisserer are mentioned as having to tweak many different aspects of the book, including the Darkling’s name, to make the storyline make sense in a TV show. As mentioned in multiple of the aforementioned articles including Bazaar’s and Vanity Fair’s, Leigh Bardugo had control over the changes made to her world of characters and even endorsed a majority of the changes.