‘Shadow and Bone’: What Are the Biggest Differences Between the Books and the TV Show?

Netflix‘s Shadow and Bone just debuted on the streaming service, and it’s already garnering rave reviews. The series follows Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) – an orphan turned map-maker who discovers some untapped magical powers that might be the key to releasing her country from the horror of The Fold.

In addition to Lei, Ben Barnes, Amita Suman, Freddy Carter, Archie Renaux, and Kit Young also star. While many of us know that Shadow and Bone is based on a beloved book series, what are the biggest differences between the novels and the TV show?

Ben Barnes and Jessica Mei Li in Netflix's 'Shadow and Bone'
Ben Barnes and Jessica Mei Li in Netflix’s ‘Shadow and Bone’ | Netflix

[Spoiler alert: This article contains MAJOR spoilers from Netflix’s Shadow and Bone Season 1. Read at your own risk.]

‘Shadow and Bone’ is based on Leigh Bardugo’s books

Shadow and Bone is based on Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha series. The Grisha in this world are an elite army of magical soldiers that Alina finds herself a part of. The first trilogy in Bardugo’s series are Shadow and Bone (2012), Siege and Storm (2013), and Ruin and Rising (2014). 

She also has several other novels that exist in this same world. They are, Six of Crows (2015), Crooked Kingdom (2016), King of Scars (2019), and Rule of Wolves (2021).

RELATED: ‘Shadow and Bone’: Ben Barnes Initially Turned Down the Role of General Kirigan

How did Leigh Bardugo’s books become Netflix’s ‘Shadow and Bone’?

Bardugo had been on Netflix’s radar for a while, so she extended her hand to Bird Box screenwriter Eric Heisserer when the streaming service reached out to adapt her books. She knew the Oscar nominee was a fan of her work.

Once Heisserer was on board, he agreed to blend all three books of the trilogy together while keeping Bardugo on as an expert. “He kept me involved, and when I was frustrated or upset about something, we would talk it out,” Bardugo told Winter Is Coming. “I did not always get my way. That is not what collaboration is about — Sometimes, neither of you gets what you want, and the thing you get is better than what both of you were envisioning.”

While Shadow and Bone certainly draws its inspiration from the books, there are some major differences.

What are the biggest differences between the ‘Shadow and Bone’ books and the TV show?

One of the major changes in the show is Kaz, Jesper, Inej, Nina, and Matthias’ plot to kidnap Alina. In the books, the Crows never cross paths with the Sunbringer. In fact, they exist in two very different series.

Another major change in Shadow in Bone is Alina’s heritage. She is now her half Shu instead of being full Ravkan.

In the show, the Crows’ ride across The Fold is one of its greatest moments. But it never happens in the book. In fact, Arken, aka The Conductor who operates the secret train, doesn’t even exist in Bardugo’s novels. Also, in the show, Jesper’s shooting skills are almost magical, that’s because, in the books, he is, in fact, a Grisha.

In the end, though, Shadow and Bone does end in the same place of the novel. Alina and Mal go off on their own at the end, and everyone thinks the Sun Summoner is dead.