“Radically different”: Why did the ending of “Shadow and Bone” deviate enormously from the books?

The ending of “Shadow and Bone” season 2 differs greatly from the books, and now the showrunners are explaining the reasons for the drastic changes in the finale.

© Netflix Shadow and Bone

After a two-year wait, the new episodes of “Shadow and Bone” began streaming on Netflix on March 16, 2023. In season 1 of the popular fantasy series, which was released in April 2021 and based on the novels by Leigh Bardugo, the basic storyline and character portrayal stayed close to the book, but there were also a few deviations, such as the inclusion of the crows through a prequel invented especially for the series.

In season 2, the changes are even more drastic, and various storylines and elements from the so-called Grishaverse are remixed in unexpected ways, especially for die-hard book fans. Now, series creators Eric Heisserer and Daegan Fryklind explain why they designed the course and ending of season 2 so differently from the book template.

Season 2 ties the storyline of the books even more closely together. Season 1 followed the plot of the first novel in Leigh Bardugo’s Legends of Grisha trilogy called “Golden Flames,” apart from the fictional backstory of the crows. In contrast, in the second season, the show deviated decisively from volume 2 of the book template, “Icy Waves,” and not only preferred the final showdown between Alina and the Dark One from volume 3 (“Blazing Wings”), but also changed and mixed up other details and elements from other Grishaverse books, like the Glory or Grave dilogy and the King of Scars dilogy.

Prince Nikolai’s shadow transformation caused by the infection of the Nichevo’ya also occurs in the books, but readers will only find out about the consequences in subsequent volumes of the “King of Scars” series. The drug Jurda Parem, which plays an important role in the crow dilogy, also does not appear in the main story of Alina and Mal’s fight against the Dark One.

“In addition to these changes, the show also creates a completely new story arc in Journey to Shu Han that does not appear in any of the novels. The sword Neshyenyer of Sankta Neyar only appears in the form of a legend in Leigh Bardugo’s companion book, The Lives of the Saints. However, in the series, the sword becomes the ultimate weapon against the Dark One, and Alina saves Mal using Merzost magic, becoming a shadow summoner of sorts and potentially taking her story in a completely different direction.

Daegan Fryklind spoke to Entertainment Weekly about the series changes, explaining, “We wanted to keep something but make it radically different than expected.”

As the showrunners explained, the changes in Season 2 were both substantive and practical. Eric Heisserer revealed in an interview with Polygon that they aimed to stay true to the original but had to make a few changes for the adaptation: “We try our best to maintain aesthetic fidelity to the books and give the source material our deepest respect and love. Plus, in the adaptation, you stumble upon things that don’t work as they should in the film but worked well in the books.”

The inclusion of the crows and Alina in the series was a high priority for Netflix, according to the series creators. A finale in Season 2 based on the book would have also meant the end of Alina and Mal’s story and the departure of the main actors, Jessie Mei Li and Archie Renaux. The series creators wanted to please the cast with their changes and ensure that the popular actors could continue to play an important role in the series in the future.

The changes made in Season 2 have created enough room for maneuver and creative freedom for possible continuations of the series. Whether and how the story about Alina, Mal, Nikolai, the crows, and Co. will continue in Season 3 of “Shadow and Bone” is not yet certain. However, there is always enough material for further storylines in the Grishaverse books.”

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