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Shadow and Bone release date: Cast, trailer, plot and how to watch Netflix adaptation

Everything you need to know about Netflix's adaptation of Leigh Bardugo's Shadow and Bone novel series.

Shadow and Bone
Published: Thursday, 22nd April 2021 at 12:43 pm

It's almost time for big new fantasy series Shadow and Bone to debut on Netflix – with the series in a good place to become a huge worldwide phenomenon.

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Based on Leigh Bardugo's book series, the show sees a diverse cast of young stars including newcomer Jessie Mei Li take on major roles, and contains all the magic and charm fans will be hoping for.

Set in a dystopian world, the series follows orphaned mapmaker Alina Starkov as she's recruited and trained by Grisha, an elite army of magical soldiers, in their fight against the flesh-eating creatures that rule their land of Ravka.

Netflix has teased us with various first-look clips and sneak-peaks over the past few months, including a full-length trailer and a short mini-documentary titled Building The World.

The trailer opens up with Alina using her undiscovered powers to fight off the beasts attacking her ship, before the Darkling – renamed General Kirigan for the show and played by Ben Barnes – takes her in, telling her: "Our enemies are threatened by your mere existence."

With lots of dimly-lit action, supernatural explosions and maritime magic teased in the trailer, this eight-part adaptation is set to become your next fantasy obsession.

Here's everything we know so far about Shadow and Bone and when it'll be arriving on Netflix.

Shadow and Bone release date

Shadow and Bone's confirmed release date is 23rd April 2021 – so not too long now!

Production on the series, which started in October 2019 on-location in Budapest, wrapped in February 2020 according to a Tweet by series star Amita Suman, who plays Inej Ghafa.

"That's a wrap on Shadow and Bone! It's been an incredibly journey and I've met the most wonderful people along the way. It's been an honour to play Inej," she wrote.

Shadow and Bone cast

Shadow and Bone

The upcoming Netflix show officially introduced the Shadow and Bone cast in a short clip on Instagram, with the show's key players welcoming viewers to the "Grishaverse".

Up-and-comer Jessie Mei Li (Last Night in Soho) will star as Alina Starkov in the series, while Dorian Gray and Westworld star Ben Barnes will play General Kirigan/The Darkling.

Pennyworth's Freddy Carter will play Kaz Brekker in the series, alongside Amira Suman (Doctor Who) as Inej Ghafa, Kit Young (Endeavour) as Jesper Fahey and Archie Renaux (Gold Diggers) as Malyen 'Mal' Oretsev.

Also joining the cast are Daniele Galligan (Nina Zenik), Calahan Skogman (Matthias Helvar), Sujaya Dasgupta (Zoya Nazyalensky), Daisy Head (Genya Safin), Simon Sears (Ivan), Zoë Wanamaker (Baghra), Kevin Eldon (the Apparat), Luke Pasqualino (David), Julian Kostov (Fedyor) and Jasmine Blackborow (Marie) among many others.

In April 2021, author Leigh Bardugo explained why Alina's race had been changed for the show, telling Entertainment Weekly that the decision to make the main character mixed race was intended to "shed a different kind of light."

"I'm very proud of Shadow and Bone, but I'm also conscious of its shortcomings," she said.

"I wrote this very white, very straight 'chosen one' story that was rooted in echoes of what I had grown up reading in terms of fantasy, but certainly didn't reflect the world around me or the world that I live in. We knew we wanted to make some changes there, and it made a lot of sense for us to write Alina as half Shu."

Shadow and Bone trailer

Netflix dropped a brand new full-length trailer in March for Shadow and Bone ahead of its release the following month, introducing Jessie Mei Li as Alina Starkov, the orphan soldier whose undiscovered power to manipulate light makes her a crucial weapon to General Kirigan (Ben Barnes) and his army in their fight against the human-eating monsters.

The trailer follows another clip, released in February, which teased the Grishaverse world, as well as a teaser last week, in which Baghra (Zoe Wanamaker) teaches Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) to "bring the light".

Previously, the show's Twitter account posted a teaser clip for the series in December, featuring a white deer standing in a snowy landscape. The screen turns black before an ominous voice is heard saying: "You and I are going to change the world."

And in April, a behind-the-scenes mini-documentary titled Building The World was uploaded to YouTube, with cast and creatives explaining how the fantasy world was brought to life.

What is Shadow and Bone about?

Shadow and Bone

Based on Leigh Bardugo's Shadow and Bone novel trilogy, Netflix's upcoming fantasy series will follow a young soldier in "a world cleaved in two by a massive barrier of perpetual darkness where unnatural creatures feast on human flesh" as she uncovers a power that might finally unite her country.

However as the teenage orphan – Alina Starkov – struggles to hone her power, she comes up against dangerous forces. "Thugs, thieves, assassins and saints are at war now, and it will take more than magic to survive," Netflix teases.

While Netflix has not revealed much more about the show's plot, Bardugo's first novel in the trilogy – Shadow and Bone – Alina and her fellow orphan friend Mal are journeying to the Unsea – a dark strip of land cutting the Kingdom of Ravka off from the sea. When they're attacked by volcra, a type of monster, Alina discovers that she has abilities associated with the Grisha, who are people able to manipulate the elements.

Shadow and Bone

And it's been confirmed that the series will also include elements from Bardugo's follow-up Six of Crows novel, which is set in a different time period and geographical area in the source material.

"The books are all set chronologically, so we technically don’t get to events in the Six of Crows books until after the Shadow and Bone books have ended,” showrunner Eric Heisserer said in a statement.

"So what Leigh and I had to do was essentially invent prequel stories for the key Six of Crows characters this season—Kaz, Inej, and Jesper—to fit alongside what is happening in the Shadow and Bone storyline. That’s been the heavy lifting."

There's one huge difference from the books however and it's the name of Ben Barnes's character, who is exclusively referred to as The Darkling in the series of novels but called General Kirigan in the Netflix adaptation.

Showrunner Eric Heisserer and author Leigh Bardugo recently told RadioTimes.com their reasoning behind the name change, revealing that they wanted him to have name that people "could call him outside of the General".

"This is one of those changes where it works really well on the page, it doesn’t really bother you, but then the moment you get actors in a room and you have [the actors] speaking to Ben Barnes it starts to get weird," Heisserer said. "Like, is it General Darkling? Mr. Darkling? The? Do we just start with The as his first name? It got weirder and weirder as we went into it."

Shadow and Bone arrives on Netflix on 23rd April 2021 – you can buy the Shadow and Bone book trilogy now on Amazon. Want more show content? Read our breakdown of the Shadow and Bone map.

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Looking for something else to watch? Check out our guide to the best series on Netflix and best movies on Netflix, or visit our TV Guide.

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