Shadow and Bone: Plot Vs. Character Writing

By Liv Johnston

Recently, Netflix released season two of Shadow and Bone, a combined adaptation of Leigh Bardugo’s YA novel series, the eponymous Shadow and Bone, and its semi-sequel duology, Six of Crows. 

Originally, the plots of these two series were almost entirely separate, the only things linking them together being the world they were set in and a few guest appearances or mentions. However, the show blends these two stories together, shifting timelines and plot points in order to make it possible for the different characters to interact. 

The audience, mostly fans of Bardugo’s novels, has seemingly had mixed opinions on the result of this sometimes awkward and confusing conglomeration, as it has left many plot holes and messy timelines. 

Fans speculate as to why this decision was made, some landing on the belief that Shadow and Bone would not have survived without the addition of the Six of Crows characters, as the success of Bardugo’s second series outweighs her first. 

Yet despite this often confusing and overpacked dual plot, fans continue vying for a renewal of the show, and a potential separate spinoff for Six of Crows. In Netflix’s recent tendency to mass cancellation, fans are more than willing to overlook the downsides of this show in order to portray overwhelming support in hopes of seeing a continuation of their favorite characters’ stories.

Although Netflix’s Shadow and Bone is not, in any regard, the most faithful book-to-screen adaptation that has ever been made, it certainly has its strong points. Bardugo’s novels, especially the Six of Crows duology, are often praised for their compelling plots and rich fight scenes. 

However, it is undoubtedly true to say that her skilled and loveable characterization is what has always made her stories shine. 

With their sharp wit and complex relationships, readers easily fall for and begin to root for Bardugo’s characters––especially the morally gray group of outlaw thieves and rogues, an even further testament to Bardugo’s characterization prowess. 

These strong characters, although not given quite enough time to be fully represented, are still undeniably present at the show’s core. 

Despite the many changes to the plots, and the very fundamental alterations to the two series’ timelines, the characters remain loveable. Bardugo’s witty humor and love for complexity in both romance and friendship remains strong from book to screen. 

This, I believe, is what keeps Netflix’s Shadow and Bone strong. It is likely that Bardugo fought hard for her characters to remain true to her original plans for them, and to not succumb to Netflix’s tendency towards flat characterization that prioritizes drama over growth. 

Instead, Bardugo insists on the importance of fleshing out her characters, giving them backstories, individual substance, and chemistry; it is like a breath of fresh air in a world of easily-consumable Netflix shallowness. 

Thus, regardless of the lack of sustainable plot writing in Netflix’s Shadow and Bone, the stability in strong characterization through adaptation is what keeps faithful readers watching and fighting for a renewal. 

In other words, what Shadow and Bone lacks in plot, it makes up for in its loveable and mostly book-accurate characters.