What are the differences between the Shadow and Bone book and the Netflix TV show?

We’ve investigated the Shadow and Bone book and spotted all the differences...

ARCHIE RENAUX as MALYEN ORETSEV and JESSIE MEI LI as ALINA STARKOV in SHADOW AND BONE
(Image credit: COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2021)

The first season of Shadow and Bone recently dropped on Netflix and it has been a hit. It’s had people bingeing the series in one sitting, desperate to see what happens to their new favorite characters (and check out the Shadow and Bone filming locations). 

The series, which is based on the Grisha novel trilogy (the first of which is Shadow and Bone) by bestselling author Leigh Bardugo, also features material from her spin-off series the Six of Crows duology. Showrunner Eric Heisserer thought weaving the stories together would create a great show—and how right he was. 

While Netflix’s Shadow and Bone has remained pretty faithful to the book in terms of main events, there are some changes that had to be made to unify the two series and really bring the story to life on screen. 

So, what are some of those changes? 

Warning: Major spoilers for Shadow and Bone season 1 ahead!

1. The adding of the Six of Crows narrative 

SHADOW AND BONE (L to R) KIT YOUNG as JESPER FAHEY, AMITA SUMAN as INEJ GHAFA and FREDDY CARTER as KAZ BREKKER

(Image credit: Netflix)

In the Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows books, Kaz Brekker’s gang never actually has any interaction with Alina Starkhov and doesn’t go to Ravka in hope of capturing her. 

However, Inej, Jesper, and Kaz’s storylines in the show are perfect for character development. For example, at the beginning of the show, Inej is reluctant to kill anyone but as fans of the books know, by the time Six of Crows takes place, she has no problems making the necessary kill—making Netflix’s Shadow and Bone series the perfect prequel for the Six of Crows.   

2. In the books, General Kirigan just goes by his title The Darkling from the very beginning

BEN BARNES as THE DARKLING / GENERAL KIRIGAN in SHADOW & BONE

(Image credit: David Appleby/Netflix © 2021)

In the show, the Darkling goes by General Kirigan at the beginning and then tells Alina his name, Aleksander, in episode four. While he does go by all these names in the books as well, he doesn’t reveal his real name until book three, Ruin and Rising.

In the show, Alina likes calling General Kirigan Aleksander. However, in the books, she doesn’t enjoy saying his name, because it’s a reminder of their connection.

3. The differences in Mal

ARCHIE RENAUX as MALYEN ORETSEV in SHADOW AND BONE

(Image credit: Netflix)

In the book, we only hear Mal’s story through what he tells Alina. However, in the series we get to see it in much more detail as flashbacks. Fans of the show say that Mal is made much more likable in the Netflix series as the series has allowed viewers to form their own opinions of him through the storyline’s development. 

A big difference that is made in Mal’s character from the beginning of the series is that Mal doesn’t sleep with Zoya when they first meet, whereas in the book we are told that he does. 

4. The change in Nina’s runaway beginning 

DANIELLE GALLIGAN as NINA ZENIK in SHADOW AND BONE

(Image credit: COURTESY OF NETFLIX)

In the series, Arken says Nina helps him smuggle Grisha out of Ravka because she’s a radical who despises involuntary military service.

However, at this time in the books, Nina would have been a young Grisha training at the Little Palace to become a soldier in the Second Army. 

5. Milo the goat

SHADOW AND BONE (L to R) KIT YOUNG as JESPER FAHEY in episode 104 of SHADOW AND BONE

(Image credit: COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2021)

One of the best things about the series and a major character people have been obsessed with is the casting of Milo the goat. It’s always the highlight of the episode whenever he shows up. In the series, Jesper quickly becomes attached to Milo during his nearly fatal journey through the Fold and we get to see many great moments between the two.

In the books, Milo isn’t a goat but instead the name of a member of the Dregs (Kaz’s gang) who turns against Kaz in favor of Per Haskell.

6. Alina never gets her scar removed

In episode four of the show, Alina eventually asks Genya to remove the scar on her palm after not hearing back from Mal. However, in the books Alina never asks for the scar to be removed but instead keeps it to remind her of who she is.

7. Alina and the Darkling’s first kiss

JESSIE MEI LI as ALINA STARKOV and BEN BARNES as THE DARKLING / GENERAL KIRIGAN in SHADOW AND BONE

(Image credit: DAVID APPLEBY/NETFLIX)

In episode five of Shadow and Bone Alina goes to the Darkling’s (Kirigan’s) room and kisses him. In the book, the Darkling kisses Alina as they’re walking back to the Little Palace and they’re talking about Alina’s contribution to the Grisha cause.

The difference in who initiated the kiss shows that Alina is much more confident in the series, rather than at the Darkling’s mercy. The change makes for a much better scene.

8. The difference in Mal and Alina’s relationship

KAYLAN TEAGUE as YOUNG ALINA and CODY MOLKO as YOUNG MAL in SHADOW AND BONE

(Image credit: Netflix)

In the Shadow and Bone book, Alina is clearly in love with her childhood friend Mal. In Leigh Bardugo’s novel, we witness Alina crushing hard on Mal for a solid portion of the book and she's clearly driven by her love for him and keeping him alive.

In both the book and TV series, there is some clear jealousy and tension between Mal and the Darkling due to them both having feelings for Alina. But, in the Netflix series, Mal is much more balanced as a love interest and a friend.

9. There’s A Deeper Connection Between The Darkling And Alina

In the book, Alina is attracted to the Darkling and the pair begin to get physically involved before she learns of his plans to control her, after which she escapes him.

However, in the Netflix series, the Darkling and Alina feelings seem to be mutual before the Darkling starts controlling Alina’s powers for his own plans.

10. The finale

BEN BARNES as THE DARKLING / GENERAL KIRIGAN and JESSIE MEI LI as ALINA STARKOV in SHADOW AND BONE

(Image credit: COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2021)

One last difference between the book and TV show is how Alina comes into her power in the ending of Shadow and Bone.

In the novel, it takes Mal falling off the ship into the Shadow Fold for her to realize that she has control of her powers, even with the collar around her neck, which she uses to save Mal and defeat the Darkling (or that’s what she thinks!).

In the show, Alina gaining control of her powers is part of her empowering journey as the Sun Summoner. She and Mal then work together to get rid of the Darkling, throwing him into the Fold.

Liv Facey
Liv Facey

Liv is a freelance journalist who is currently studying English at university. She has previously written for The Times, The Resident and The Bookseller.