“Shadow and Bone” wasn’t adapted in a vacuum. Leigh Bardugo is credited as an executive producer on the series, and her involvement in Season 1 in particular was pretty significant. Though she told Collider that, if the show made it to a second season, “I was going to take a step back from the adaptation process and be a little bit less hands-on” for Season 2, she led the charge on many of the show’s big initial changes.
“I am very proud of ‘Shadow and Bone’ but it is laden with tropes,” the author told The Guardian in 2021, referring to the first book in the series. “I felt I could reflect our world more authentically. I look back and see mistakes that I wish I could alter.” Many of these changes meant making the Netflix series less, in her words, “straight, white and homogenous.” However, Bardugo wanted to improve more than just the representation. She entered the adaptation process looking to make something new, not to simply recreate what she had already written. The intention, from the outset, was never to faithfully adapt her prior work.
And it has been a new beast, indeed. Thank the Saints for that. For too long, screen adaptations have been hindered by the pressure to simply recreate their source material. They’re expected to merely be moving illustrations in some special-edition, leatherbound tome. What a wasted opportunity for expansion and iteration that is — especially in the realm of fantasy.