It is hard to create a fictional world, and harder to make it truthful in its essence. Often books provide a solid foundation to explore these fantastical worlds because of the depth of the material. What George R.R. Martin did with Game of Thrones was spectacular. American Television Series, Shadow and Bone tries to reap the same benefit and sets similar grounds.
Based on the world created by a marvelous fantasy author Leigh Bardugo, Shadow and Bone is an original Netflix series. The first season is narrated in 8 episodes of approximately 50 minutes each. Narratively, Season 1 acts as a premise setter for the upcoming adventures of a teenage girl named Alina Starkov who is the protagonist of the entire realm. Let’s explore her story further.
‘Shadow and Bone’ Season 1 Summary
The fantastical world of Shadow and Bone holds a country dear to its heart. The country is called the Kingdom of Ravka. The territory is divided into two parts, East Ravka, and West Ravka. The division between these two lands is a massive wall called “The Fold,” which is filled with black magic. Inside this shadow fold, there are carnivorous winged creatures termed Volcra who prey on anyone that tries to cross the fold. However, to reach from East to West or vice versa, there is only one way, “through the fold itself.”
The Kingdom of Ravka is managed by a Kind who reigns Ravkan’s capital, Os Alta. The king has employed two armies, the first army includes common soldiers who fight with blades and guns but the Second Army holds supernatural soldiers who use various forms of power to fight. The main purpose of the second army is to figure out the secret to end the fold.
The narrative begins when a teenage orphan Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) is employed in the army along with his childhood best friend, Malyen “Mal” Oretsev (Archie Renaux). Mal is called for a voyage through the Unsea (riverside of the fold) for the purpose of delivering goods to another side. Alina doesn’t want to part away with Mal and therefore she burns down the maps creating an urgent vacancy for a mapmaker. Mal and Alina cross the fold together but in between the voyage, Volcra attacks them. In the heat of the moment, to save Mal, Alina unleashes a ray of light, a power that is going to make her the limelight of the entire series.
On the other side of the fold, General of the king’s army, General Kirigan (Ben Barnes) informs Alina that she is a special kind of Gresha with an ancient ability called Sun Summoning. She is the hope for the entire world and with her power, she can end the fold.
Alina is sent to the Ravkan capital by force and she parts with her best friend Mal. In the capital, Alina is treated as a saint because of her special ability. She is trained to use her power to her full potential so that one day she can destroy the fold. In the meantime, she also falls in love with General Kirigan without the knowledge of his dark past.
The news of Alina’s power travel like a forest fire. Every enemy of the kingdom and Gresha is out to hunt for her. They want to own her so that they can use her power for their own reasons. In the far-off land of Ketterdam, a wealthy merchant, Dreesen is offering 1 million kruge to bring Aline to him. A crew of criminals called the Crows or Dregs includes a bar owner, their leader Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter), an acrobatic assassin, Inej Ghafa (Amita Suman), and sharpshooter, Jesper Fahey (Kit Young). Fighting all the odds and potential mercenaries, Kaz takes over the job of bringing back Alina at the cost of his bar, because the payout of 1 million kruge would solve all his problems. He hires a smuggler called the conductor to reach the Ravkan capital.
A group of bandits and Ravka’s sworn enemy called Fjerdan drüskelle is on the hunt too. Alina is surrounded by enemies from all sides, and there is only one man she can trust, Mal. The narrative further explores Mal’s journey to reach Alina again and protect her from the vile of the Ravkan world.
Major Spoilers Ahead
Who created The Fold?
According to Alina’s tutor Baghra, the woman who taught her to control her power reveals that she is General Kirigan. According to her, Kirigan is the darkling who created the fold with the help of dark magic. He is using Alina to expand the fold and take control of the Ravkan Kingdom.
In episode 7 of Shadow and Bone Season 1, it was revealed that some centuries back, Kirigan had a lover who was his healer too. The king at that time conducted a mission to wipe all the Gresha from the world due to fear of their supernatural power. At that time, Gresha weren’t warriors just mere creators who converted matter from one thing to another using their small science.
The king’s order led to the death of Kirigan’s healer and he was burning off the thought of revenge. Kirigan used the black magic of merzost, his ancestor who once used black magic to take over the world. His journals were lying where the remaining Grisha were hiding and Kirigan read a spell from one of his books to amplify his power.
Later, it was seen that with the black magic, Kirigan was able to create an army of his own, the black army like Morozova. He becomes The Black Heretic. But with the unleash of black powers, he not only controls the army but also creates a shadow fold unknowingly. Something that is going to haunt the coming generations of the Ravkan World.
Who are Gresha?
The first Gresha recorded in history was a man named The Bonesmith. He had the power to create creatures from the bones of his fingers and thus attained the name. In scientific terms, Gresha were the people who could transform one form of matter into another with power vested in them. Simply by touching with their hands, they could initiate this small science, as they called it.
But the bonesmith foresees an upcoming danger. He knew that one-day humans would turn against them because they would fear the Gresha power. He came up with a technique to amplify the Gresha power. By melding a piece of mythical creature into their body, a Gresha could amplify his/her power. Kirigan’s ancestor, Morozova, the black heretic was the first one to use it for his own power. And now following his steps, Kirigan is on the hunt for a stag that would amplify his power to expand the fold further. Through it, the kingdom of the world would need him even more and that is how he will rule over them.
‘Shadow and Bone’ Season 1 Ending Explained
Alina and Mal try to find the stag before Kirigan. However, in the hunt, Kirigan not only kills the stag but also finds a way to control Alina’s power. He melds the horn of the stag into Alina’s collar bone and uses Gresha magic to control Alina’s sun summoning power. He takes Mal as a hostage.
They travel to the Unsea, wherewith the help of Alina, Kirigan could carry out his intentions which were to expand the fold further. . Meanwhile, the crow gang led by Kaz Brekker tries to abduct Alina but for her own safety this time.
Inside the fold, a battle unfolds between the crow and Kirigan. Mal joins the fight as well but all these humans are of no match against Kirigan’s Gresha force.
Alina realizes that when she was hunting for the stag, she didn’t actually kill it, but in turn, tried to save it from Kirigan. Her act of mercy impressed the mythical creature’s soul. Kirigan thought that killing the mythical creature would amplify his power but the real reasons were kept hidden. In those final moments, Alina grasps the full potential of her power and rips off the coin from Kirigan’s hand that was controlling her. Her illuminating powers save Mal and the crow gang.
In a ferocious battle, Kirigan and Mal leap out from the ship into the darkness of the fold. Mal tricks Kirigan into the fold’s darkness when suddenly a Volcra takes him away.
With the help of the Zoya, a Squaller, Alina, and others reach the deserted west side of the fold. Kaz Brekker decides to let Alina go and drops the hunt for her. However, the crow gang later becomes Alina’s ally. Inej Ghafa pledges her royalty to Alina.
Alina decides to destroy the fold but after the battle with Kirigan, she has become too weak. Mal suggests that she should recover and regain her power’s full potential and come back to destroy the fold. Before leaving, Zoya warns Alina that the acts done by Kirigan had made the world a sworn enemy of the Gresha. The world will turn against Gresha again, and thus they will come for her too. She needs to be safe and alive and she can’t stay in Ravka for the same reason. She should travel to far off land and keep herself alive.
Everyone leaves the Ravkan land pledging to come back again for the purpose of destroying the fold when the right time shall arrive. In the ending scene, we see Kirigan coming out of the fold but he isn’t alone. He has awakened the Volcra army, similar to something he did in episode 7 by controlling a human army. He is coming for the world and Alina, more powerful this time.
Season 2 of Shadow and Bone will explore the wrath of Kirigan and his new army of dangerous creatures. The world is no longer a peaceful place for Gresha and thus Alina and others would become the target of the humans. Season 2 will ponder more into the chaos of the Ravkan world and try to follow the heroes of the story who will try their best to stay alive and solve the crucial issue of the expanded fold.
With its complex fantastical world, Shadow and Bone keeps your attention hooked. Though there isn’t much story arc or character development in the entire series, their only savior is the deep mythical giveaways. With overly commercialized cliffhangers and fancy creatures, the narrative never becomes dull or slow. It’s the best part that without the tools of storytelling, the story keeps you invested.
Shadow and Bone is a 2021 fantasy drama television series developed by Eric Heisserer. Season 1 with its 8 episodes is streaming on Netflix.
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