Yes, Shadow and Bone is based on a young adult novel, but it's not the cheesy, awkward show of our childhoods. In fact, one could even say that it's accomplished what Twilight was never able to do, and that's create a storyline that doesn't take you entirely out of the moment—sorry, Stephenie Meyer.
From episode one, there's a bit of catching up to do, since viewers are truly introduced to an entirely new world. There are the Grisha, who are people born with the ability to influence the world's elements, kind of like Avatar. Then, there are the every day people, whose normality makes them inferior to the Grisha.
Whether or not you're a Grisha is determined by a test done in your childhood, one that Alina (Jessie Mei Li) did and didn't entirely go through. So, she grew up not knowing that she's basically a saint.
All of these people are united against the Shadow Fold, a dark region created by the Darkling and inhabited by monsters named colcra. It divides the country of Ravka in half, creating a treacherous journey for anyone wishing to travel through enemy territories in the north or south.
But... Alina's status as the Sun Summoner gives Ravka the hope that one day they will destroy the Fold and unite the country.
We won't spoil too much more for you, but here are the other details you need to know:
There's a red-hot love triangle between Alina, Malyen "Mal" Oretsev (Archie Renaux) and General Kirigan/The Darkling (Ben Barnes): Unlike your typical YA novel, the Netflix series builds an intense chemistry between the stars, to the point where you can actually understand where Alina's feelings are coming from. There isn't any magic or soulmates—it's simply good writing.
And then there's the fact that these actors are all truly attractive, with no makeup or wigs to help them. They really are that pretty to look at.
The fight scenes in the Shadow Fold and between the stars are Game of Thrones good: Thanks to Netflix's impressive budget, the scary moments when they're fighting beasts and evading capture are interesting and creepily realistic. Alina can basically shoot the sun out of her palms, while the Darkling is capable of turning shadows into physical blades that slice people in half.
Regarding the normies, there's Inej Ghafa (Amita Suman) who wields knives, arrows and her own fists like no other. She moves swiftly and quietly, making for some of the more exciting fight sequences.
She's partnered with Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter) and Jesper Fahey (Kit Young), the latter whom is an expert marksman.
It's one of the more diverse shows we've seen in a while: As Hollywood strives to increase representation across the board, this show is a step in the right direction. There are queer relationships portrayed in a positive light, and people of all backgrounds have been cast in lead roles, which is something worth celebrating and supporting.
Shadow and Bone is streaming now on Netflix.