I’m fairly certain this is the hundredth or so review popping up about this Netflix series that came out almost two weeks ago, but I’m getting this out there anyway, because rarely is the case where I’m so ecstatic about a series I’ve loved for years becoming a show. To have it done well and then have me binge it in a day, then repeat the episodes within the week? All the extra lauded praise in any case.
So if you’re looking for major critiques or disappointment, this is definitely not the place. Just expect this to be a puff piece.
But if you really want something broody and dramatic…
I read the Shadow and Bone trilogy by Leigh Bardugo when it had been completed, some years back. At the time, the Six of Crows duology was just completed with the release of Crooked Kingdom, and because of my initial love for SaB, Bardugo became an auto-buy for me. It didn’t even matter that my initial thinking was “I’ll eventually read Six of Crows…I just have so many others I need to read, too!” And the duology got pushed to the side.
Flash forward a year later, and I’m hearing news about a SaB show to be released in Netflix, and like many people enamored by the Grishaverse, I was hella excited. I wanted to see the Grisha in action. I wanted to see the Darkling for chrissakes.
And when the initial cast of characters were announced? Seriously, two Asian actresses as main characters?! I just about died with glee. It was at this point that I was really curious about the Crows, because Alina’s casting was great, but WHO IS INEJ I MUST KNOW HER. So I read SoC. And now I’m even more of a fan of Bardugo’s Grishaverse.
I can only imagine Leigh Bardugo’s initial reactions to seeing her Grishas and Crows come to life, because Saints, the imagery in the Netflix series is on-point. Everything from the keftas to the image of the Little Palace, to the portrayal of Ravka, to the Fold, all the way to the gambling dens of Ketterdam, there was so much to show! I loved how there was so much open space in the Ravkan lands, how everything was so far removed from civilization. I loved how the series then panned the setting to Ketterdam, a place where almost everywhere you look, there were people mashed in together in the narrow streets and darkened alleyways.
Mostly, I just loved how the characters were portrayed. Not going to lie, I was a little apprehensive about who they could possibly cast as the Darkling–he’s such an iconic villain in the trilogy–but Ben Barnes models him to a T. Jessie Mei Li herself is charming, and honestly, I kind of liked Alina a bit more because of how she was portrayed in the Netflix show. Reading the books, I started liking her in Siege and Storm (book 2) because of her increasing assertiveness to things. I love that Alina shows this early on in the show.
Also, she’s half-Shu Han, and I love how this implication brings more political worldbuilding into the story. The divides between Shu Han and Ravka, between Fjerdan druskelle and Ravkan Grisha, between slavers and smugglers and thieves, is often uncomfortable, but is addressed and integrated into the story well. After all, even in the real world, there will always be assholes. And then there’s Genya, who doesn’t care if Alina is part-Shu. And that is everything.
But let’s be clear here. I totally am writing this review because I one hundred percent agree with a majority of the Grishaverse fans that the Crows stole it all, including the damn show. I guess it makes sense, them being a band of thieves, so it’s no surprise that I’m seeing their ultimate heist is not through stolen DeKappels or Sun Summoners, but through hearts (hah, Persona 5 reference there…) and overall popularity. I mean, I love you Alina! But come on.
This is where the perfect casting truly came to be. When I read SoC some months back, I was already smitten by Kaz’s Ice Court crew. I loved stepping into each POV and wished Wylan was also highlighted (but I get that wish in CK, so all is forgiven!). I loved each character for their quirks and affectations. I’ve pretty much squeed about them already, so I won’t overdo it here again. However, seeing them come to life?
Honestly, I was already screaming the minute Kaz’s cane preceded his gloriously diabolical presence.
And OH EM GEE, that playful banter between Nina and Matthias?!
And JESPER FAHEY HIMSELF?!
Okay, okay, I’ll stop. But LET US NOT FORGET THE ICONIC SHIP OF ALL SHIPS.
Sigh. So you can see where I stand when it comes to this series. I know it’s too soon to jump the gun, but I really want a season two, like. Now. I’m curious how they’re going to play with the Crows’ timeline, because a lot of the SoC events that happen occur two years later. Also, the fact that the Crows show up here, and not looking 15 (because Kaz is supposed to be 15 if we’re going by book timelines) is a plus. Besides Mal’s one-dimensional obsession with Alina in the original trilogy, the whole YA age-thing was the only jarring information I found about the narrative of the Grishaverse: I never really saw the Crows as teenagers, especially with what they went through. To me, they’re hardened 20-somethings, and it makes more sense that they look their parts in the show.
From the reviews, I hope it’s a given that SaB will have a second season. If only so we can get introduced to Nikolai and see the Darkling break bad even more. But seriously, I want more Crows. I want more heists. And dammit, I want more goats!