Like any other person within the book community, I was ecstatic about the news of Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse books being adapted into a tv series, though I always did have my apprehensions about any book series being adapted into the screens. However, I need to disclose that I am not the biggest fan of The Grisha Trilogy, and have not reread the books since Crooked Kingdom was released. I love the world and magic system of the Grishaverse books, and my preferences lean more towards the Six of Crows duology and the King of Scars duology.
I don’t normally do reviews for any book-to-movie/show adaptations, since I feel like I’m not sure on how to proceed to write a review for it. But because of popular demand, especially over at my Bookstagram, I finally decided to do one, and I hope I do some justice to it. I had divided my review into two parts: things I liked and didn’t like, since I’m not sure how to properly proceed into writing a proper tv series review.
The fantasy lover in me was drawn to check out this series out, and I entered it without any form of expectation at all. I have learned over the years to get into adaptations without or little expectations so I wouldn’t end up disappointed, hence that is also what I did for this show.
THINGS I LIKE
Characters: Casting Choices & Dynamics
Even before the show premiered, the only cast member that was announced that I absolutely got excited over was Ben Barnes as the Darkling. I always had a huge crush on him when I was a kid when he played Prince Caspian, and it was always him that I pictured to play the role of the Darkling when I was still very big in the Tumblr community when I was around 17 years old. So for my Tumblr fancast to come true, let’s just say I was in cloud-nine and had such high hopes that he will deliver an amazing job – and he killed it (literally and figuratively). He just exuded the Darkling’s personality, control, power, and enigma to the core. There is nothing more satisfying to see than an actor portraying a beloved book character at amazing lengths – and Ben Barnes nailed it.
Speaking of satisfying actors giving life to their characters, hats off to the actors who played the Dregs from Six of Crows. They were all given an assignment, and they all delivered with an A+ result, and even topped it off with an extra credit work! I’ve always been attached more to the Six of Crows characters, especially the dynamics in their group, so to see it brought to life was so satisfying and enjoyable. Even all their little nuisances were so spot-on that it was just beautiful. Despite the show splitting up their stories until the very last episode, they were just marvelous.
I may be getting a lot of thrown stones for this, but I have never been the biggest fan of Alina and Mal in the books. I always had a big problem towards them in the entire book series (for many reasons *coughs* red flags *coughs*), hence my attachment to them wouldn’t be as strong as other fans would be. One great thing that the show was able to do really was make both of them very likeable and less whiny, needy, and manipulative. Kudos for also for Jessie Mei Li and Archie Renaux for giving me a version of Malina that I would get behind on.
Aside from the main protagonists of the story, it’s very evident on the screen the importance of character dynamics and chemistry in this show. It wasn’t just also shown within the main leads’ circles, but also their interactions with the other smaller characters. It’s been really great to see that other characters were also given the chance to shine, especially as how they were vital in the protagonists’ stories.
Spectacular Grishaverse World-Building
The Russian-inspired world of Ravka and the various blend of multiple cultures of all the nations are depicted very vividly in the books, so I was really happy to see everything come to life on screen. Any fan will be glad to finally have concrete visions of all the things from the book like the locations, how the magic systems are played out, and up to the small details such the Grishas’ keftas. I may not be knowledgeable with the technical aspects of graphic design and special effects, I do believe that the production staff did a splendid job in the effects in a very massive scale, despite it’s limited budget and filming time. The show would obviously be hopping on one foot badly if it weren’t for the amazing visuals.
THINGS I DID NOT LIKE
It Could Have Been A Tad Bit Longer – and Deleted Some Scenes
Eight 1-hour episodes seem like a good premiere season, but I feel like it would have been slightly better if it got 2 more extra episodes. The pacing and storyline of the show had obviously received creative liberties from the source materials, however, I felt like there were more important scenes that deserve more air time (such as Alina’s training), and less of the unnecessary scenes that really didn’t contribute much to the over-all story but just ended up being a repetitive explanation to an idea (e.g. Alina and Mal’s childhood). I would have definitely appreciated it more if certain scenes were expounded further that can explain in a much broader scope that even those who haven’t read the books yet would get a better grasp on the story’s purpose better.
While I am a huge Helnik shipper and I adored finally seeing these adorable creatures on television, I felt like this was a subplot that totally didn’t have any connection to the other two until the very last episode. Their story would have made the same amount of sense as what happened in the show if they had one full episode to themselves in the next season wherein their roles will fit in more snugly and effortlessly. But I am still on the Helnik ship until the very end.
The Injustice of Zoya Nazyalensky
One of my most absolute favorite characters within the entire Grishaverse is Zoya Nazyalensky. Sujaya Dasgupta, the actress who played Zoya, did a good job in bringing the Squaller to life and I’m looking forward to seeing more of her in the upcoming seasons. However, I’m going to blame the show’s writers for portraying her in the way she was presented in the show. It’s definitely not the actress’ fault. Zoya’s character and personality has always stemmed from her want of power and recognition, and that she knows she herself alone can achieve all those goals – that’s it. Never did she undermined or took advantage of people for her personal gain (such as her racist comment towards Alina, and her “proposition” to Mal), nor did she begged for a mighty position and showed her insecurities for everyone to see. I accept that Zoya is an unlikeable character from the start, but the way she was colored in the show just to make her even more unlikeable than what was necessary. It was even painful to see her use racial slurs when in the books she is portrayed as half-Suli and have been subjected to a lot of awful things while growing up.
The show just really did her dirty, and she doesn’t deserve it. Book Zoya will punch Show Zoya so hard, tbh.
The “Discussion” of Race. Period
Speaking of show Zoya spouting racial slurs, my head was literally hurting every time an anti-Asian comment was directed towards Alina, and if I took a shot every time it happened, I’d end up drunk (and I have a high alcohol tolerance). I understand that the show’s premiere coincided within the campaign to stop all forms of Asian hate, but the way the show handled this issue was a pure hot mess. I probably would have let go the first comment in the pilot episode go at first, but it just started to pile up so much after that it was really discomforting and hard to stomach – and it was just only the first episode! While I may not remember the finer details of the original book trilogy, I do recall that Alina’s race was not sullied awfully that it almost hindered her to be a normal person living in Ravka. The heated situation between Ravka and Shu Han was mostly due to warfare, politics, and the Shu’s experimentation on Grisha, and Alina’s struggles were mostly due to her upbringing and circumstances – not because of her race.
I highly recommend reading this post written by Kate about The Weird Anti-Asian Racism in Shadow and Bone, because she discussed it so much better than I did.
To add more insult to this injury, it was just recently revealed and caused a lot of uproar within the community that the show did another dirty on a very well-beloved character – Inej Ghafa. It had been broadcasted that her stunt double for Inej’s aerial stunts is a white woman brownfaced. Unofficial reports claim that it might have been an oversight in the casting team and there was nothing wrong about it. Even Amita Suman praised her stunt double’s efforts for playing Inej’s skills. Regardless of reason, it was a really bad decision for the show to do that, and was it really that hard to look and cast a stunt double actor of color?
You can read more about this issue in this article.
My Over-All Rating
Have you seen the show? Let me know your thoughts about it!