Netflix’s Shadow and Bone Review, fantasy web series is better than the book

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Jessie Mei Li as Alina Starkov. Shadow and Bone hits Netflix April 23.
Jessie Mei Li as Alina Starkov. Shadow and Bone hits Netflix April 23.

When it comes to fantasy movies, Netflix has a mixed track record, but the most recent one has been a critical success.

Shadow and Bone is set in a war-torn world that has been broken in half by a valley of darkness known as The Fold, with only a young woman named Alina able to save it. It is based on Leigh Bardugo’s bestselling Grishaverse novels.

The series, which stars Jessie Mei Lei and Ben Barnes, has drawn unavoidable comparisons to Game of Thrones and The Witcher, but critics believe it stands out from the crowd – after all, it already has a 92 percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Here’s what reviewers have been saying:

The Daily Telegraph

“Those who watched Game of Thrones for the nudity and cruelty may find it lacking that spicy kick, but this is fantasy with heart, a towering imagination and a genuine new take on the genre. It could be a real phenomenon for Netflix.”

Variety

“It didn’t take long for me to become fully enveloped in it, lured in by clever choices, engrossing acting and costuming and production design that dances on the knife’s edge of lush and camp. And even if it never gets quite as explicitly gory as the book’s events might suggest, this Shadow and Bone still has its genuinely startling moments, especially when bracing for what lurks inside the seemingly endless darkness of the Fold.”

Den of Geek

“It’s a propulsive story with great characters set in a fascinating, fully realized fantasy world. But it’s also something of a statement: That this sort of fiction – and the women who both champion and most frequently star in it – have an important place in the world of genre storytelling. And, thankfully, this is a series that more than lives up to the pre-release hype.”

The Hollywood Reporter

“Viewers coming into Shadow and Bone without any of the background from Leigh Bardugo’s novels are likely to feel at least somewhat thrust into darkness by all of series creator Eric Heisserer’s attempted world-building […] The eight-episode first season definitely feels like it’s a smushing of two not-particularly-synchronous books, resulting in some desired Game of Thrones epic scope at the expense of one story’s full emotional momentum and the other’s sense of fun.”

Radio Times

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a fairly high-budget genre show in possession of any fantasy elements must be referred to at least once as the ‘next Game of Thrones – and so it’s been for Netflix’s long-awaited adaptation of Shadow and Bone. Overall, as a series Shadow and Bone looks set to intrigue and satisfy fans – though it may be a little confusing for outsiders.”

Cast: Jessie Mei Li, Archie Renaux, Freddy Carter, Amita Suman, Kit Young, Ben Barnes, Sujaya Dasgupta, Danielle Galligan, Daisy Head, Simon Sears, Calahan Skogman, Zoë Wanamaker, Kevin Eldon, Julian Kostov, Luke Pasqualino, Jasmine Blackborow, Gabrielle Brooks

Shadow and Bone premieres on April 23 on Netflix.

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