Based on Leigh Bardugo’s worldwide bestselling Grishaverse novels, Shadow and Bone finds us in a war-torn world where lowly soldier and orphan Alina Starkov has just unleashed an extraordinary power that could be the key to setting her country free. With the monstrous threat of the Shadow Fold looming, Alina is torn from everything she knows to train as part of an elite army of magical soldiers known as Grisha. But as she struggles to hone her power, she finds that allies and enemies can be one and the same and that nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. There are dangerous forces at play, including a crew of charismatic criminals, and it will take more than magic to survive.

Shadow and Bone is a Netflix production from 21 Laps Entertainment, which premiered on 23 April 2021.

What’s the plot of Shadow and Bone? Who’s in the cast? Where was the TV show shot? What is a Grishaverse? What powers do Grisha have? Discover 27 Facts About Shadow and Bone Season 1.


Alina is a First Army cartographer who grew up in an orphanage with her best friend Mal.

Shadow and Bone takes place in a world very much inspired by tsarist Russia in the early 18000s. Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, and as a result has been at constant war and has failed to industrialize.

The show was filmed in Budapest, Hungary. One of the filming locations was the Buda Castle, a palace complex which was the main residence of the Hungarian Kings.

Shadow and Bone was directed by four film directors. Each of them directed two episodes: Lee Toland Krieger (The Age of Adaline), Dan Liu (The Walking Dead), Mairzee Almas (Outlander) and Jeremy Webb (The Umbrella Academy).

General Kirigan introduces Alina to the King and Queen.

Eric Heisserer, executive producer, writer and showrunner of Shadow and Bone, combined both the Shadow and Bone trilogy and The Six of Crows duology – which take place in the same universe, but on different timelines. Given the fact that the Six of Crows books begin after the Shadow and Bone books, Eric Heisserer and author Leigh Bardugo invented prequel stories for the key Six of Crows characters – Kaz, Inej and Jesper – to fit the plot of the Shadow and Bone series.

General Kirigan is very protective of Alina. He says that she’s a Sun Sumoner who can destroy the Shadow Fold.

Leigh Bardugo (46), the Israeli-American authour of the Grishaverse novels, has a cameo in the series. In episode 103, after Alina demonstrates her Sun Summoner powers for the King and Queen of Ravka, Bardugo is the first Grisha to hug her. The author chose to dress in a purple Durast Fabrikator kefta.

Bardugo has osteonecrosis, a degenerative condition that makes it painful for her to walk. She, like the character Kaz Brekker, uses a cane.

One of the big changes between the series and the book is that Alina is now part Shu Han.

Genya, a healer, helps Alina to get aquainted with her role as Sun Summoner at the palace.

What is a Grisha? Grisha are soldiers of the Second Army and masters of the small science. They are divided in three specialized orders that are signified by the fabric color of their kefta, their traditional garment. Each order has a specific kefta color, and the color of the embroidery indicates the Grisha’s designation within that order.

In the show, each Grisha has three varieties of kefta: bullettproof for battle, velvet for everyday wear, and silk for social occasions like the Winter Fete. In total, costume Wdesigner Wendy Partridge created 250 kefta for the show.

The core colour palette of Ravka and the Grisha is red, blue and purple, whereas the primary colour palette for Ketterdam and the Crows features a contrasting spectrum of orange, green and brown.

General Kirigan and his soldiers are searching for Alina. Each Grisha order has a specific color.

The actors worked closely with the fight coordinators on set, and primarily trained in a style of Russian martial art called Systema.

Heisserer worked with David Peterson – the same linguist who created the Dothraki language for Game of Thrones – to create original languages for the show: Ravka, Kerch, Fjerdan, and sign language for the three Crows.

Alina was born in Shu Han, a vast and prosperous country.

Alina Starkov is an orphan and soldier in the First Army whose latent power may be the key to setting her troubled country free.

Jessie Mei Li, who plays Alina Starkov, is a 25-year-old British actress who grew up in Brighton. Her mother is British, her father Chinese. She speaks English, Cantonese, Chinese, French, Mandarin and Spanish. She began studying languages at university, but dropped out. In 2015, she joined the National Youth Theater. From 2016 to 2017, she trained part-time at an acting school. She had a minor role in a horror movie and in three TV films.

Jessie, who has has 68’000 followers on Instagram, has martial arts skills in Tae Kwon Do and Wing Chun. She’s a vegan.

Even though Jessie Mei Li is very beautiful and her facial expressions are quite convincing, her voice and especially her articulation and her oral skills lack of professionalism. Non-native English speakers will often have to read the subtitles when she mumbles certain dialogues.

Mal is searching for a mysterious animal in the woods.

Malyen Oretsev is Alina’s childhood friend and a gifted tracker in the First Army whose world unravels after a brutal ambush in the Shadow Fold.

Archie Renaux, who plays Malyen Oretsev, is a 23-year-old British actor and model. He grew up in Kingston upon Thames in Greater London. He attended a drama school in London and had a minor role als Leo Day in Gold Digger, a BBC One miniseries in which he starred alongside Ben Barnes, who plays General Kirigan in Shadow and Bone.

Archie Renaux, who has 34’900 followers on Instagram, welcomed his first daughter Iris in October 2020. He recently landed a minor role in the movie Voyagers starring Lily-Rose Depp and Colin Farrell.

General Kirigan is a descendant from the Black Heredic’s bloodline.

General Kirigan, also know as the Darkling to his ennemies, is the head of the Second Army, the kingdom’s magical military elite of Grisha soldiers. He is determined to see his nation freed from the Shadow Fold, no matter the cost.

Ben Barnes, who plays General Kirigan, is a 39-year-old British actor. He grew up in London and holds a BA in drama and English literature. Barnes is best known for his role as Prince Caspian in The Chronicles of Narnia film series and as Billy Russo in Marvel’s The Punisher. He also starred in The Words alongside Bradley Cooper and in The Big Wedding alongside Amanda Seyfried, Diane Keaton and Robert DeNiro.

Ben Barnes has 991’000 followers on Instagram.

Inej Ghafa is a key member of Kaz’s gang. Known as the Wraith, she is a dangerous spy with a troubled past and impeccable knife skills.

Amita Suman, who plays Inej Ghafa, is a 23-year-old British-Nepalese actress. She was born in Nepal, where she spent the first seven years of her childhood. Afterwards, she moved to Brighton with her family. She graduated from the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts in London in 2018. She had minor roles in the British series Casualty, Ackley Bridge and Doctor Who as well as in the US fantasy-adventure series The Outpost. Amita has 81’400 followers on Instagram.

Kaz Brekker is a rising star in the criminal underworld and leader of the Crows with a gift for unlikely schemes and a thirst for vengeance.

Freddy Carter, who plays Kaz Brekker, is a 28-year-old British actor. In 2017, he had a minor role in Wonder Woman and his first major role in the Netflix teenie series Free Rein. In 2019, she starred in the TV series Pennyworth. Freddy has 278’000 followers on Instagram.

Jesper Fahey is a gambler and sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager – even one as risky as runing with Kaz.

Kit Young, who plays Jesper Fahey, is a 26-year-old British actor of Scottish and Ugandan descent. He trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and graduated with a BA in Acting in 2017. He will play the role of Rafal in the Netflix adaptation of The School for Good and Evil, a fantasy fairytale hexalogy of books by Soman Chainani. Kit has 58’200 followers on Instagram.

Nina Zenik is a joyful, pleasure-loving heartrender and spy who can kill without ever laying a finger on you.

Danielle Galligan, who plays Nina Zenik, is a 28-year-old Irish actress. She studied drama and theatre studies at Trinity College Dublin and Acting at The Lir Academy, graduating with a bacherlor’s degree in 2015. She played in numerous theatre productions and co-founded Chaos Factory, an experimental theatre company.

In 2019, Danielle had a guest role in Game of Thrones and Krypton. She has 37’700 followers on Instagram.

Genya Safin is a rare kind of Grisha known as Tailor. She is able to manipulate physical appearance. She is an outsider at the royal court, forced to serve Ravka’s queen.

(This article was first published on 23 April 2021 and updated recently.)

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Photos: Courtesy of David Appleby / Netflix © 2021

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