TV review: Shadow And Bone
The realm of young adult (YA) fantasy adaptations can be a minefield. The hits are few and those that fall through are many.
On the surface, Netflix has a hit in Shadow And Bone. Since its release two weeks ago, it has been in the top half of the Top 10.
It is not hard to see why. Money has been thrown at this production, and the costumes – riffing on the poverty and opulence of imperial Russia – are stunning.
It is also perfectly cast.
Young leads Jessie Mei Li and Archie Renaux are very watchable, as are the rest of the (mostly) newcomers.
Li's Alina Starkov is a classic YA lead – an orphan secretly harbouring special powers who leaves the boy (Renaux) we all know she would be better off with if only they had admitted their feelings (eye rolls abound).
But of course, she is also part of a prophecy and gets whisked away to do "destiny" things and starts to have her head turned by men you know are wrong uns from the off.
Li really sells that reflex smile flashed upon seeing a crush.
And while Ben Barnes - whom you wouldn't take for someone with over a million followers on Instagram - as General Kirigan could have been less obvious, he makes for a good lupine interloper for Alina's affections. He is sure to give viewers with a taste for bad boys some stirrings.
But while the attractions are clear, there is still the sense that this adaptation of the Grisha novel trilogy could have been so much more.
It is confusing in places and in an ironic twist for a show about a cartographer, seriously needs an accompanying map. Geography matters, folks.
Plot-wise, it tends to meander before the final crescendo of episodes.
This could be the result of bingeing.
The eight episodes blend into each other, which can lead to lost bearings.
If it was put out weekly, it might lend itself to appointment TV or that mythical title, the next Game Of Thrones.
The common issue with YA is it either tries to squeeze too much into a film, or loses pace when spread out and stretched over a series.
The pacing could be fixed for the inevitable next season, but Shadow And Bone could have been a dynamite four-episode show.
Score : 3/5
SERIES: Shadow And Bone
STARRING: Jessie Mei Li, Ben Barnes, Archie Renaux
THE SKINNY: Orphaned cartographer Alina Starkov (Li) is assigned to go with her military unit into the dangerous Shadow Fold, a vast black fog that divides the country of Ravka. But while under attack, she displays an amazing power and is believed to be the mythical Sun Summoner.
SHOWING ON: Netflix