It is not often that we say this, but we believe that the series “Shadow and Bone” was a far better telling of the story than the book it was adapted from. It stayed mostly faithful to the original, with some deviations that make more sense when you know what to expect from Season 2. We are talking about Kaz, Inej, and Jesper. The three characters are a part of the “Six of Crows” duology that we will see adapted in Season 2. Basically, the series added a drama to the story that had been lacking in the book, especially in the scene where Alina chooses to save the white stag. There was also a slight rearrangement of the scenes, and we wouldn’t have minded them if we didn’t feel like they took something from the story. Let us see how different the series is from the book.
Throughout the books, Alina struggles with finding a sense of belonging. It defines a lot of her decisions, including her love for Mal and her initial attraction toward the Darkling. In the series, this has been represented through the lens of race. While the books implied that Alina was an orphan from Ravka, she actually belonged to the Shu Han province in the series. Alina was never as openly ostracized in the books as she was in the series. Her sense of being other came from her limited abilities, before she discovered that she was Grisha, and her love for Mal, who was almost always the jack of all trades in any situation. It is true that she suppressed her powers to stay by Mal’s side as a child, but she did not do that by cutting her hand.
When she enters the Little Palace, and a kefta must be made for her, she requests the color blue instead of the black that the Darkling orders for her. This scene was present in the series, but in a manner that excluded the Darkling from the decision-making process. It might look like a very slight aberration, but it shows that Alina was a lot more confident about her place in the scheme of things than she actually was, and that does not sit right with the character. Additionally, she has more chemistry with the Darkling in the books than in the series, but we believe that it is up to the actors and not the writers of the script. We were also miffed about Alina’s fight with Zoya. It played out exactly as in the books, except that it happens after Alina has had some training within the palace rather than right off the bat.
Another difference is that Alina learns about amplifiers and the stag from the Darkling instead of finding it out for herself. When she escapes, unlike in the series, it is not Alina who comes up with the idea of hunting the stag. It is Mal, as he believes that Alina cannot run from the Darkling forever. Finally, the last difference is the conjoining of the piece of the stag’s antlers with the Darkling’s hand to establish the connection with the collar around Alina’s neck. That does not happen in the books. The Darkling could control Alina’s power because he had killed the stag; that is until Alina realized that she had greater power because she had saved the stag.
Other than these minor differences, one of the most defining traits of Alina is her constant self-doubt regarding her looks. Alina has always been sickly and in poor health because she keeps suppressing her powers. In fact, when she finally learns to use her power, her appearance starts changing. As she emerges from the shell of the person she used to be, she starts feeling a sense of belonging, both with the Grisha and with the Darkling. Alina has never been good at much, and that might not have mattered to her if she had not fallen in love with Mal. Alina’s constant comparison of her physical appearance with others is a huge part of her character development, and we wish it had been explored in some way, both in the books and in the series.
Frankly, it was nice to see Mal’s journey throughout the series rather than just in the final few chapters, like in the book. There is not a lot of change in his character either way, except that in the book, he was a bit of a ladies’ man, but in the series, he seems devoted to Alina from the beginning, even though he doesn’t call it love yet. He also does not run after her every chance he gets. While his journey tracking down the stag is an exact adaptation, we don’t believe we see the change in him as we should. When Alina meets him at the Little Palace months later, she constantly thinks to herself that he has changed, that Mal has become a hardened version of himself. We do not sense that change in the series. Mal was a proud man in the books, as he is in the series “Shadow and Bone.” But he was also prone to petty jealousies, which we did not witness on screen. Maybe Season 2 will give us a glimpse of that.
He is not given a name throughout the books, but in the series, he is called General Kirigan. In the books, he is much more involved in Alina’s progress than he is in the series, where he makes the occasional appearance. The character did not change much in the adaptation except for the introduction of his backstory and his conversation with Mal. Honestly, these were welcome additions. However, in the books, we can tell that Kirigan’s ambition stands above his feelings for Alina. But in the series, he desperately wants her by his side as he conquers the world.
Other events and characters
The crows were never part of the “Shadow and Bone” trilogy, but the series has brought them together. Additionally, Zoya ends up on good terms with Alina at the end of the season, which never happens in the books. Also, the jewelry on Alina’s hair is used by her and Mal to pay their way across the sea while escaping from the Darkling. In the series, they hand it over to Kaz to buy his silence. Some more notable differences are that Alina and Mal were supposed to cross the Fold together right from the beginning instead of Alina scheming to do so by burning the maps. Even in the finale, Alina realises her control over her power in her desperation to save Mal. That is different from the series.
Overall, the series is a very faithful adaptation of the books, yet they have successfully managed to add some drama to the text-to-screen translation. We expect the coming seasons to be along similar lines and cannot wait to see what is in store for us.