It has been almost two years since Netflix’s epic fantasy series Shadow and Bone captured 55 million viewers in its first month, hitting #1 in 79 countries around the world, including Australia, Brazil, Germany, Russia, Spain, South Africa, and the U.S. The much-anticipated second season finally arrives Thursday, March 16th, and fans can hardly wait.
But with so much time between seasons, many viewers — and the first-time viewers who would like to join them — will need a refresher before jumping back into the Grishaverse, novelist Leigh Bardugo’s fantasy world, which is loosely based on 19th century Russia and 100% based on her New York Times bestsellers.
The challenge is that a quick Google search will turn up significant spoilers, and will likely take you down some endless rabbit holes. So we’ve created a quick need-to-know guide to help you jump back in to Season 2.
What’s the premise?
Shadow and Bone is about two childhood best friends, Alina (Jessie Mei Li) and Mal (Archie Renaux), whose country of Ravka is divided by something known as the Shadow Fold, a kind of Bermuda Triangle of treacherous geography filled with terrifying, murderous creatures. The Fold prevents food and supplies from reaching half of the population, which has led to a war fought by Grishas, people identified at a young age to have the ability to manipulate energy and matter.
When Alina is revealed to be the Sun Summoner, a Grisha who can potentially destroy the Shadow Fold and unite her country, she is thrust into an elite world and groomed by the seductive Darkling (Ben Barnes), the military leader of the Grishas. But this separates her from Mal, and they promised they’d never leave each other behind.
On the other side of the Fold is Kaz (Freddy Carter), who leads a small gang of thieves known as the Dregs. They are after something that promises to change all of their lives forever — if they can survive traversing the Fold.
For a recap on the Season 1 adaptation free of spoilers, check out my article here.
How is Shadow & Bone different from other fantasy series?
While Shadow and Bone gets compared to everything from Hunger Games to Game of Thrones, the PG-13 series — adapted from a a series of novels by Leigh — features characters that are more grounded, and the storyline is not anywhere near as violent or as sprawling as GoT. As the author has explained, the world building in Grishaverse was inspired by tsarist Russia, and a lot of the mythology, language, and political and cultural themes can be traced to Russian influences — which gives the series some resonance. The emotional core of the series also sets it apart, with its focus on the bond between childhood friends Alina and Mal, the question of will-they-or-won’t-they become more, and the sudden, unlikely catapulting of a young woman into the seat of power.
How closely does does the series follow the book(s) its based on?
Author Bardugo was brought on as an executive producer by the show’s creators to help keep the
adaptation faithful, so readers recognize the characters and their stories. Showrunners Eric Heisserer and Daegan Fryklind have done their best to follow the original trilogy (Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, Run and Rising) while weaving in characters from the world of Six of Crows, a separate story about Kaz and the five outcasts he teams up with to pull off a wildly ambitious heist.
The most notable difference is that in the series, Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows are told on the same timeline (in the books, Six of Crows happens three years after Alina’s story).
Can you get into it if you haven’t read the novels?
The series was written to stand on its own, with enough exposition (readers of the novels might say too much exposition) to draw in newcomers.
What can we expect from Season 2?
More stories. More characters. More action.
“If you thought Alina and Darkling’s relationship in season 1 was interesting, you just have to wait,” actress Jessie Mei Le (who plays Alina) said in an IGN interview. “The way the characters are entwined and the things that they show are pretty interesting.”
(Skip below if you want to watch Season 1)
At the end of season one…
Alina and Mal believed the Darkling was killed in the Fold. However, audiences witnessed him stumbling from the darkness, looking more menacing than ever. Season 2 will likely begin with the opening of Siege and Storm, the second book in the trilogy, where Alina and Mal are living incognito in Novyi Zem, a distant colony where Grishas seek out anonymity and freedom from the conflicts of Ravka. But they are unaware that their nemesis is on their trail, and with an invincible shadow army under his command.
Which characters are returning, and who are the new ones?
Among the fan favorites from Season 1 were The Crows: Kaz, Jesper and Inej. They’re the “elite” members of The Dregs, a young criminal gang located in the trading hub city of Ketterdam. They were assembled in Season 1 to infiltrate a foreign nation and kidnap an important figure. For their day jobs, they run Crow Club headquarters, which is part gambling house, part dance hall.
Matthias (Calahan Skogman) is also expected to be back. To refresh, he’s a “holy soldier” (known as Druskelles) from Fjerda, trained to hunt the “demonic” Grisha and return them to their Ice Court for trial and execution. But after he captured the Grisha Nina (Danielle Galligan, The Great) in Season 1, the two ended up surviving a shipwreck together and saved each other’s lives, which led to an unlikely relationship. Matthias vowed to return his captor safely to Ravka, but once they arrived, Nina mentioned to a trader that Matthias was a slaver. On a boat back to Ketterdam, Nina meets the Crows. Matthias ends up in jail once they arrive at the trading city.
Season 2 of Shadow and Bone expands with characters introduced in the books Siege and Storm and Six of Crows. The most important to keep track of:
Wyland (Jack Wolfe, The Witcher) – He’s the son of wealthy aristocratic businessman Jan Van Eck, a key villain in the book Six of Crows. Wyland wasn’t treated well growing up, and now he’s ready to join the Crows and take on his father. Withdrawn at first, he’s a talented musician, chemist, and explosives expert.
Sturmhond (Patrick Gibson, Tolkien) — A roguish charmer who becomes very important to Alina’s journey, Sturmhond has secrets he keeps close to the vest.
Tolya and Tamar — A brother and sister who were originally crew on Sturmhond’s ship, they are skilled fighters and “Heartrenders” — capable of slowing heart rates or taking the air from lungs. The twins become members of the Soldat Sol, a military branch responsible for keeping the Sun Summoner (Alina) safe.
What are the creators, the cast, and fans saying about the new season?
Author Bardugo has dropped some subtle hints as to what we’ll see as Season 2 unfolds. “There are so many places we’ve barely gotten to visit and I can’t wait to introduce our audience to more of the saints, soldiers, thugs, thieves, princes, and privateers who make this world so much fun to explore,” she said in an interview. “It’s going to be real magic to see our brilliant, talented cast expand.”
Fan reactions to the Shadow and Bone Season 2 trailer and teasers have been overwhelmingly positive. YouTuber Andrie Reads said that it looks “epic” and “better than season 1.” She also confirmed that the new season will combine the novels Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising.
Showrunners Heisserer said in an interview with EW, “We touch on a few others in Leigh’s catalog [of novels]. There’s a piece that’s integral to the story that was [fellow showrunner] Fryklind’s idea that I’m particularly excited about. I don’t think the fans are gonna see that one coming ’cause it’s a pretty deep cut.” To which Fryklind added, “I don’t even think that [author] Leigh saw it coming.”
In an interview with IGN, the cast weighed in on their own reactions to Season 2. Jessie Mei Li said of Alina and the Darkling’s arc, “If you thought their relationship in season 1 was interesting, you just have to wait,” referring to the controversial pairing. “The way the characters are entwined and the things that they show are pretty interesting.”
The actor who plays newcomer Wyland (Jack Wolfe) also touched on the fact that due to the alternate timeline that the show is creating, characters from one set of books interact with characters they never met in Bardugo’s world. “Surprising friendships are being made,” he said, hoping fans of the books will find joy in these new connections.
For fans demanding the Six of Crows duology take center stage in season 2, prepare for disappointment … but only temporarily. As Heisserer explains, “We aren’t actually using the plot of Six of Crows in season 2. That is a beefy and robust story that requires its own land. We have a bigger ambition for it.”
Reading between the lines, it sounds like Kaz and his crew will continue with their alternate timeline for this show, but Heisserer has clear intentions for a Six of Crows spin off. Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait two more years for it!
Where to find Shadow and Bone: Netflix