A Quick Guide to Netflix’s Shadow and Bone 

In less than one month we will be crossing the Fold into the Grishaverse as Netflix’s highly anticipated series Shadow and Bone premieres on April 23. Based on Leigh Bardugo’s bestselling Grisha trilogy and Six of Crows duology, the eight-episode season is set to make fantasy fans very happy. 

Now, you might be wondering if you need to read the books before you watch the series. Rest assured that you will not have to speed-read through the series over the next month to enjoy it. In fact, the series explains everything thoroughly and left me with very few unanswered questions. 

A Quick Guide to Netflix’s Shadow and Bone 

If you are looking for a few key pieces of information before you dive into the Grishaverse, you’re in luck because we have compiled a quick primer to help get you up-to-speed with the universe! 

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SHADOW AND BONE Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2021

The Setting 

Shadow and Bone is heavily influenced by the early 19th century Russian Empire and other Eastern European folklore. This means that there are a lot of things that feel familiar, but the series is set in an entirely unfamiliar setting. 

The series largely set in Ravka and West Ravka, but there are other locations like Ketch, Fjerda, and Shu Han. Within Ketch, one of the central locations is the city of Ketterdam where the Crows are located. While they aren’t perfect copies, it is clear that Ravka is influenced by Russia, Fjerda is inspired by the Vikings, and the Shu Han people are East Asian. 

As with any world expect prejudice, discrimination, and political tension between people from different regions. Some groups discriminate against the Shu, others see the Grisha as witches they have to kill, and others are just profiteering off the struggle between Ravka and West Ravka. 

And right down the middle of Ravka is the dangerous Shadow Fold, a place that very few people make it through alive. 

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SHADOW AND BONE (L to R) BEN BARNES as THE DARKLING / GENERAL KIRIGAN and JESSIE MEI LI as ALINA STARKOV in SHADOW AND BONE Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2021

Grishas 

It wouldn’t be a fantasy if there weren’t magical beings, now would it? In the world of Shadow and Bone, Grishas are humans that practice “Small Science” and have the ability to manipulate the world around them in different ways. There are three different categories of Grisha — Corporalki, Etheralki, and Materialki. 

Within each of these categories, there are different kinds of abilities. Some Grisha are tailors who can mend things, some Grisha can manipulate the human heart, and some can control fire, metal, or wind. Grishas wear specially fabricated keftas and the colors of these keftas indicate what their abilities are. 

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SHADOW AND BONE (L to R) JASMINE BLACKBOROW as MARIE, JESSIE MEI LI as ALINA STARKOV and GABRIELLE BROOKS as NADIA in SHADOW AND BONE Cr. DAVID APPLEBY/NETFLIX © 2021

Because of their abilities, Grishas are tested as children and taken to train as an elite military force. Their history is long and storeyed, and depending on where you are in the world some people really do not like Grishas. 

The Characters

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SHADOW AND BONE (L to R) ARCHIE RENAUX as MALYEN ORETSEV and JESSIE MEI LI as ALINA STARKOV of SHADOW AND BONE Cr. DAVID APPLEBY/NETFLIX © 2021

Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) is the central driving force of Shadow and Bone. She is a mapmaker who, if you’ve seen the trailer, is more than meets the eye. Her story revolves mostly around her childhood best friend Malyen Oretsev (Archie Renaux) and General Kirigan (Ben Barnes). 

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SHADOW AND BONE (L to R) FREDDY CARTER as KAZ BREKKER, AMITA SUMAN as INEJ GHAFA and KIT YOUNG as JESPER FAHEY in SHADOW AND BONE Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2021

The Crows are comprised of Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter), Inej Ghafa (Amita Suman), and Jesper Fahey (Kit Young). They’re a group of very lovable con-artists that will stop at nothing to succeed and protect one another. This group was not originally part of the Shadow and Bone books, but were brought over from the Six of Crows duology. 

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SHADOW AND BONE (L to R) DANIELLE GALLIGAN as NINA ZENIK and CALAHAN SKOGMAN as MATTHAIS of SHADOW AND BONE Cr. ATTILA SZVACSEK/NETFLIX © 2021

Another pair of characters you’ll want to know is Nina Zenik (Danielle Galligan) and Matthias Helvar (Calahan Skogman). Nina is a Grisha and Matthias is a Drüskelle, which is essentially a witch hunter from Fjerda. 

Romance 

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SHADOW AND BONE (L to R) JESSIE MEI LI as ALINA STARKOV and BEN BARNES as THE DARKLING / GENERAL KIRIGAN in SHADOW AND BONE Cr. DAVID APPLEBY/NETFLIX © 2021

As with any fandom, fans of the Grishaverse are no strangers to shipping characters together. There are a lot of high-quality relationships and friendships between both the Grisha trilogy and Six of Crows.

Some of the most popular ships in the series are “Darklina” (General Kirigan and Alina), “Malina” (Mal and Alina), “Kanej” (Kaz and Inej), and “Helnik” (Nina and Matthias). And because the books have been out for awhile, we all know how these ships pan out, but one of the top questions everyone seems to have about Shadow and Bone is about which ships will happen and which won’t. 

I guess we’ll all just have to wait and see what happens on April 23rd when Shadow and Bone premiers on Netflix. 

Managing Editor of Entertainment at Your Money Geek | Website | + posts

Maggie Lovitt is the Managing Editor of Entertainment at Your Money Geek, where she covers her favorite topics: Star Wars and pop culture nerdery. She is also a freelance writer and a contributor at Collider and Dorkside of the Force.

When she is not covering entertainment news, she can be found on one of her numerous podcasts or her YouTube channel. In her free time, she is also a novelist, screenwriter, actor, and a member of the Screen Actors Guild.