The Key Differences Between ‘Shadow and Bone’ Season 2 and the Books

·6 min read
shadow and bone jessie mei li as alina starkov in episode 201 of shadow and bone cr dávid lukács netflix © 2023
‘Shadow and Bone’ S2 Changed A Lot From the BooksDávid Lukács/Netflix - Netflix

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The Netflix series Shadow and Bone is an adaptation of Leigh Bardugo's Grishaverse novels in the truest sense of the word "adaptation" – and IMHO, that's a good thing! Fans get to see the characters they love but still get to be surprised by what happens. The series condenses, rearranges, and adapts the Grishaverse's trilogy and two duologies to fit the medium of television. Here are some of the major changes from the books in Shadow and Bone season 2. This is kinda obvi but spoilers ahead for Shadow and Bone season 2 and several books in the Grishaverse.

Basically, Shadow and Bone season 2 covers the second and third book in the trilogy: Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising. It also folds (no pun intended)in details from the two Six of Crows books, King of Scars, Rule of Wolves, and The Lives of Saints. This means that characters that never interacted in the books now work together in the show. But overall, there's MORE story in the three Shadow and Bones books than in the two seasons of the show. Listing every little thing that the show doesn't include would take forever, so let's focus on what the show does differently, and touch on a few other major changes here and there.

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First, here are some rapid-fire things that happen in season 2 and don't happen in the books

  • Mal becomes the next Sturmhond.

  • Alina accesses a darker side by using merzost and can summon shadows.

  • Alina and Nikolai get married.

  • David dies in the battle against the Darkling. *sob*

  • Baghra dies because the Darkling's out-of-control nichevo’ya attacks her, not by suicide.

  • Matthias refuses to kill the puppies wolves in the fighting ring.

shadow and bone calahan skogman as matthias in episode 208 of shadow and bone cr courtesy of netflix © 2023

The Darkling's doing his own thing in season 2

In the second book, after he survives the Volcra, the Darkling tracks Mal and Alina pretty easily. He's the one who takes them to the Sturmhond's ship. On the show, he uses the weird connection to magically FaceTime Alina, and rules Ravka by building his army rather than trying to capture her right off the bat. Actually, this storyline is basically what happens to him in the third book... so he kind of just skipped ahead.

shadow and bone l to r ben barnes as the darkling, jessie mei li as alina starkov in episode 202 of shadow and bone cr courtesy of netflix © 2023

Alina's story ends differently in the books

In the books, Alina creates new Sun Summoners, loses her powers, and fakes her death before defeating the Darkling. None of that happens in season 2 even though it ends in relatively the same place as the third book. She also has white hair at one point. At the end of the Shadow and Bone trilogy, Alina and Mal get married and run an orphanage together. That doesn't happen on the show, but I think that's smart. If Shadow and Bone is renewed for season 3, it is set to adapt Grishaverse stories that don't really involve Alina or Mal. Since the show didn't get them all the way to their happy ending, there's a reason for them to be in future seasons. It will be like what the show has done with the Six of Crows characters in the first two seasons (more on that below).

shadow and bone l to r jessie mei li as alina starkov, danielle galligan as nina zenik, archie renaux as malyen oretsev in episode 208 of shadow and bone cr courtesy of netflix © 2023

Zoya lucked out of multiple love triangles in season 2

This poor girl is, in the books, cursed with having a crush on every boy that has a crush on Alina. That has to suck. She's into Mal, the Darkling, and Nikolai. The show avoids this in season 2, but that does kind of mean that on the show she has no love interests at all. Can we get Miss Straight Across Bangs some TLC in season 3? If she's into it, that is. Ultimately Zoya ends up with Nikolai in the books, and since Alina still kind of seems uninterested there's a chance. And they seemed to have gotten close as Alina chose to give him an update on Zoya's whereabouts in the finale so...

shadow and bone l to r amita suman as inej ghafa, sujaya dasgupta as zoya nazyalensky in episode 205 of shadow and bone cr dávid lukácsnetflix © 2023
Dávid Lukács - Netflix

The Crows storyline in season 2 is (mostly) made up

Both seasons of Shadow and Bone take place prior to the events of the book about the six characters who make up the Crows: Kaz, Jesper, Inej, Wylan, Nina, and Matthias. However, several of the things we see in season 2–like Kaz's tragic backstory regarding his brother's death–are ripped right from the books. The Pekka Rollins storyline is actually from the second Crows book. The Neshyenyer sword heist, however, is a show invention, and it's not until the King of Scars duology that Bardugo's books actually go to Shu Han, but the sword is mentioned in the Grishaverse.

shadow and bone l to r danielle galligan as nina zenik, freddy carter as kaz brekker, amita suman as inej ghafa, kit young as jesper fahey, jack wolfe as wylan in episode 201 of shadow and bone cr courtesy of netflix © 2022

Season 2 ends with the start of Six of Crows, actually

At the end of the season, Kaz gathers his associates to take on their most lucrative mission yet. It is the same mission that begins the book Six of Crows. The mission involves the drug jurda parem that we see a Fjerdan Grisha use in that cliffhanger at Nikolai's coronation. That specific attack does not happen in the books, but war with Fjerda does. Matthias is in Hellgate prison at the start of Six of Crows. Also, Wylan's dad is kind of important to this heist. I'm assuming he will be cast in either season 3 or the alleged Six of Crows spin-off.

But Inej is not off-hunting slavers with Mal and the twins at the start of Six of Crows. Also, what was up with Tolya maybe having a thing for her? He's aromantic and possibly also asexual in the books, so that would be a major change. If that ends up being the case on the show, I really hope Inej doesn't misinterpret anything. I'd be devastated if she tried to get over her Kaz feelings with another boy who can't give her what she wants.

shadow and bone l to r freddy carter as kaz brekker, amita suman as inej ghafa in episode 208 of shadow and bone cr courtesy of netflix © 2023

Season 2 also sets up King of Scars, with some changes

Nikolai's story in the books is pretty much how we see it on Netflix. He meets Alina as the privateer Sturmhond, turns out to be the Ravkan prince, and defends Alina's pal Genya after learning that his father the King raped her. (However, in the book the King abdicates after his son threatens to put him on trial... on the show, he's already dead.)

But Nikolai's shadow-y secret is straight from the books too. King of Scars and Rule of Wolves continue the story of Ravka as the former privateer grabbles with ruling his country at war and turning into a monster he can't control. The biggest difference, of course, is that he didn't have Alina at his side.

shadow and bone patrick gibson as nikolai in episode 208 of shadow and bone cr courtesy of netflix © 2023

Can Netflix shine a green light on season 3 now please? There's so much more story to tell, and the changes mean not even the savviest book readers know what's going to happen next.

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