[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the first season of Shadow and Bone as well as book spoilers for the Shadow & Bone and Six of Crows novels by Leigh Bardugo. Read at your own risk!]
Shadow and Bone, the Netflix adaptation of Leigh Bardugo's first Grishaverse novel, is finally here, and anxious readers get to see Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) and the Six of Crows characters brought to life on screen. But as with all adaptations, there are some big changes from Bardugo's best-selling fantasy novels. TV Guide has compiled a list of those changes for those who are curious after they've watched, or for die-hard book fans who want to know what to expect before they dive in.
The first major change is that Six of Crows characters Kaz (Freddy Carter), Jesper (Kit Young), Inej (Amita Suman), Nina (Danielle Galligan), and Matthias (Calahan Skogman) are woven into the Shadow and Bone story. The Six of Crows novel is set two years after the main Shadow and Bone trilogy, but the Netflix series brings its characters into the story earlier so the audience can get to know them before the events of the Six of Crows duology are hopefully adapted in later seasons. Any event involving Kaz, Jesper, and Inej in Season 1 of Netflix's Shadow and Bone was created specifically for the show, so to save time, we'll only point out events with these characters that contradict what we were told in the books.
As for Nina and Matthias, Season 1 of Shadow and Bone incorporates their meeting, shipwreck, and sojourn through Fjerda together as if it had happened while Alina was being trained at The Little Palace. Other than the timing of Nina and Matthias' meeting, what happens in the series is a pretty spot-on retelling of what was revealed as backstory in Six of Crows, with just a handful of changes.
Below, we've broken the series down by episode so you can avoid spoilers for episodes you haven't watched yet, or in case you want to look up specific events and how they went down in the books.
Mal is selected to go across The Fold: The first chapter of the Shadow & Bone novel has Mal (Archie Renaux) and Alina walking with their unit to Kribirsk, already knowing that they both have to cross The Fold the next day. There's no lottery or announcement about it, and Alina doesn't have to burn any maps to get a place on the skiff. All of that was added to the series to help portray how dangerous it is to cross The Fold.
Alina is targeted because she's half Shu: In the book, Alina and Mal are both from a small village near Shu Han, but they are never described as being half Shu. This was a change the series made to help shape Alina's journey and make her feel like more of an outsider before her Sun Summoner powers are discovered.
A lamp is lit on the skiff: In the books, the skiff is attacked, but no one needed to light a lamp to draw the volcra in. They come out of nowhere, with Alina hearing only the faint beating of wings before they attacked the ship. In the series, lighting the lamp makes the attack more dramatic and allows the audience to see just how terrifying the volcra are. The nasty creatures match up to their description in the book.
Alexei survives the volcra attack: Alexei, the cartographer who is one of the first people killed on the skiff in the novel, survives in the series. He not only makes it off the skiff but runs through the Shadow Fold to Novokribirsk and then on to Ketterdam. Everything about his journey after the skiff was created for the show in order to bring Kaz and the Six of Crows crew into Alina's story. They are present when Alexei tells a Ketterdam merchant about the existence of the Sun Summoner, and then Kaz, Jesper, and Inej take the job to try and kidnap Alina for a bounty of one million Kruge. Alexei is shot in the head as soon as he spills the beans.
Mal is not in the tent when The Darkling tests Alina: The series decided to make The Darkling (Ben Barnes) testing Alina's powers a more intimate affair. The book version had a lot more people present, including Mal who was still so shaken up by the volcra attack that he barely did anything when The Darkling confirmed Alina as the Sun Summoner and then immediately sent her to be taken to the Little Palace. In the show, Mal is outside being healed when he sees Alina's sunbeam shoot out of The Darkling's tent. He attempts to go to her, but gets stopped before he can do anything about her being taken away.
Jesper knows about Kaz and Pekka Rollins' feud: Pekka Rollins does make a brief appearance in the show and is every bit as nasty as we expect him to be from the Six of Crows novels. The series also drops the Easter egg that Kaz has a long-standing grudge against this man that Pekka doesn't fully understand. In the books, Pekka is responsible for Kaz and his brother Jordie getting swindled out of everything they had when they first arrived as orphans in Ketterdam years before. It's a secret that Kaz only tells Inej in Six of Crows, but in the series, it's Jesper who seems to know the backstory. This is a significant change because the fact that Kaz never fully trusts Jesper is a big source of tension in the novels, and it appears they are closer in the series.
Kaz is making installment payments for Inej's freedom: By the time we meet Kaz and Inej in the Six of Crows novel, Inej has been working for him for several months with no more ties to The Menajarie, the brothel where she was forced to work after being trafficked by slavers. Kaz convinced his boss, Per Haskell, to pay off Inej's indenture so she could be inducted into his crew. There's no sign of Per Haskell in the Netflix series, and Kaz isn't a big enough deal in Ketterdam to pay off Inej's debt in one lump sum, so he's paying in installments over time. This puts more pressure on them in the show to pull off the Alina job because Inej's freedom depends on their success.
Mal finds out about the Fjerdans attacking Alina: The Shadow and Bone book trilogy is told entirely from Alina's perspective, so we don't hear much about what Mal was thinking or doing between the time Alina gets taken away to The Little Palace and Mal winds up there a bit later. In the show, Mal finds out that Alina was attacked by Fjerdan Grisha hunters (Drüskelle) on the way to the palace. Luckily, he's stopped from going on a suicide mission and convinced to find a better way to get back to her, which eventually leads him on the hunt for Morozova's stag.
The conductor and his way across The Fold: The conductor is a character completely made up for the show. In the books, skiffs are the only way across the Fold until Alina and her powers are discovered. Everything involving the conductor, his train, and his motives for helping Kaz, Inej, and Jesper are all made up for the show.
Alina dreams of the stag: This is also a show invention. In the books, Alina only knows of the mystical stag from stories she heard as a child. The series really dramatizes her connection to the mythical creature, which actually makes her hesitance to hurt the beast later in the show more understandable.
Nina is captured by Drüskelle in West Novokribirsk: This change was inevitable given the decision to alter the Six of Crows timeline for the series. The series sees Nina being captured by the Drüskelle in a hotel while she's waiting to hear from the conductor about crossing The Fold. In the books, she's kidnapped in the woods after wandering too far from her Grisha party (headed up by Zoya!).
West Ravka wants independence: The Netflix series overall makes a much bigger point out of the fact that Ravka is fighting two wars at the same time, against Fjerda and Shu Han. But it also introduces the idea that West Ravka -- the side of the country west of The Fold that retained access to the True Sea and trade -- wants to separate from the eastern side of the country, which is struggling because little trade can make it through The Fold. The disparity between the haves and have-nots is a consistent theme throughout both the Shadow and Bone trilogy as well as the Six of Crows books, but the threat of a Ravkan civil war is more about whether Grisha should have power or not, rather than about the divide between East and West Ravka. Introducing this element in the show puts a lot more pressure on The Darkling to figure out a way to handle The Fold or risk losing all power.
There's little debate about Alina's kefta: The color of Alina's kefta is a bit of a debate in the books as The Darkling wants her to wear black to show she's like him. Just like the books, Alina picks a blue kefta so she can fit in with the other Etherealki, but there's relatively no pushback from The Darkling about it when she makes her choice.
The Apparat explains amplifiers to Alina: This is a small change from the books, but the series has The Apparat (Kevin Eldon) give Alina the information she needs about amplifiers, whereas in the novels, it is The Darkling who tells her about amplifiers during their talk on the road to The Little Palace after the Fjerdan attack.
The Darkling reveals his real name: Book readers' eyes probably bulged at this one. The Aleksander reveal doesn't come until Book 3 -- Ruin and Rising -- when The Darkling makes a last-ditch effort to prove that he and Alina are a match. He tells her his real name to show how much he trusts her and prove how important she is to him. In the series, he clearly reveals the name for similar reasons, but he does it casually as they go for a horseback ride around The Little Palace. It brings the two of them closer, but it is nowhere near the powerful reveal that it is in the books.
Nina is a spy for The Darkling: Twist! Since Six of Crows takes place two years after the Shadow and Bone trilogy, Nina would have been training at The Little Palace when the events of Shadow and Bone took place. In the books, we don't know that she ever had much interaction with The Darkling, and she definitely wasn't on a level to be his trusted spy. In the series, Nina is aged up, and her spying for The Darkling creates another tie between what's happening with Alina in Ravka and with the Six of Crows characters.
Inej does aerial tricks: As The Wraith in the Six of Crows books, Inej has a lot of handy skills, like squeezing into tight places and climbing with ease; her specialty in the circus before she was kidnapped and enslaved was walking the tight-rope. Her circus skill on display in the Shadow and Bone series is aerial tricks, which still involve her fearlessness when it comes to heights.
Mal punches the quartermaster to get to spend time with Alina: This flashback in the series wasn't in the books, but it goes to show how deep the connection between Alina and Mal really went before they were separated and that he cared about her, perhaps more than she perceived. For most of the first novel, Alina is convinced that Mal has no romantic feelings for her.
Alina and Genya go to the carnival: Alina and Genya (Daisy Head) sneaking out of the palace to see the carnival set up before the Winter Fête is a made-up subplot for the show in order for Jesper to get eyes on Alina so that Kaz and the Six of Crows crew can make a plan to kidnap her.
Alina kisses The Darkling first: This is a big shift from the books and was done purposefully by the showrunners in order to even out the power dynamics in The Darkling and Alina's relationship. In the novel, The Darkling surprises Alina with a kiss after an evening training session with Baghra (Zoe Wanamaker). It comes out of nowhere, and then he doesn't talk to her for several days, leaving Alina to ponder what it all means. Alina has more agency in the relationship on the show, and she comes to his war room of her own accord and makes the first move.
Fedyor and Ivan are a thing: Now here was a really fun change! In the books, Fedyor (Julian Kostov) and Ivan (Simon Sears) barely interact outside of getting Alina to The Little Palace at the beginning of Shadow and Bone, and they're a little contentious because they are such opposites. The series made them a couple, and their good-cop-bad-cop vibe makes the relationship pretty cute.
Marie is murdered: The whole sequence of Alina having a body double at the fête is made up for the series. Marie survives the first Shadow and Bone novel unscathed. She doesn't make it through the entire trilogy, but her death has different repercussions in the book series. Her death in the show led The Darkling to the conductor and then put him on the same path as Kaz, Inej, and Jesper, so this was another change made to incorporate the Six of Crows characters.
Mal is attacked by Baghra's guard: The series changed a lot about what happens when Mal gets to The Little Palace to report that he found the stag. In the books, we get a brief exchange with Mal and Alina before she has to run away. The show keeps them separated with a number of obstacles, including Mal being attacked in Baghra's hovel in order to stop him from telling him The Darkling the stag exists at all. Mal also never overhears The Darkling and Baghra talking in the books, but his eavesdropping in the series expedites him finding Alina after she disappears from the palace.
Inej's first kill happens in Ravka: This is another really big change. Inej's first kill is relayed via flashback in Six of Crows, but there aren't a lot of details. We know that it happens during a job for Kaz while they are both in Ketterdam, and she sobs about it in her room afterward. Kaz hears her crying and contemplates going to comfort her but decides not to out of fear it will make him look weak (and he's in denial that he loves her). In the series, Inej kills an Inferni to save Kaz's life. The fact that she took a life still shocks her, but the series dilutes Kaz's role in the whole thing. Nonetheless, the fact that she was willing to kill to save Kaz still makes for a solid brick in the foundation of their developing relationship.
The Darkling sends Fedyor after Nina: Nina didn't work for The Darkling in the novel, and Fedyor is never sent after her. This change for the show leads to more changes in Episode 8 as well.
Zoya and The Darkling's relationship is confirmed: It is rumored within the books that Zoya and The Darkling had a physical relationship, but it is straight-up confirmed in the series, which helps to validate why Zoya feels threaten by Alina and The Darkling's growing connection.
Kaz and The Darkling showdown: Honestly, everything that was changed to incorporate the Six of Crows characters into Shadow and Bone was worth it for this scene, which does not occur in the books. The show made good use of having these two intimidating characters in the same space. Even if their exchange was short-lived, it was exhilarating to see the two meet face-to-face.
David uses the ring to track Alina: The series allows David (Luke Pasqualino) to use a ring from the palace to track Alina after she escapes. In the books, The Darkling figures out that Alina and Mal are going for the stag and just meets them there.
The Darkling's backstory is almost all new: Since the Shadow and Bone books are told from Alina's perspective, everything we learn about The Darkling, his age, and how he created The Fold is based on what Alina is told. The series took advantage of the medium to allow us to go back in time to see what drove Aleksander to create The Fold, so there's a lot more detail about that time period and what happened. The books don't have anything about his wife being murdered or him hiding underground with other Grisha. Actually getting to see the creation of The Fold was part of why we wanted a TV adaptation of the novels in the first place.
The amplifier works a bit differently: The show decided to make Alina getting Morozova's stag's horns as an amplifier more graphic than it is in the book. The antlers were turned into a necklace that Alina couldn't take off in the novel, but the series shows The Darkling fuse the antlers into her collar bone, which is way more invasive. The show also changed how The Darkling taps into Alina's power. The books allowed him access to Alina's power because he was the one who killed the stag, but the show has him fuse a piece of the stag antlers into his own skin.
Mal escapes The Darkling's custody: In the book, Mal does not escape before The Darkling takes Alina into The Fold because The Darkling's plan is to execute Mal on the skiff to further isolate Alina and push her into accepting life with The Darkling. The show has Mal escape and then sneak onto the skiff anyway so that he can try to save Alina.
Fedyor is the one who finds Nina in Fjerda: About mid-way through Six of Crows, we find out why Nina accused Matthias of being a slaver and gets him sent to prison. She chose to betray him because she ran into Grisha in Fjerda, and it was the only way to keep Matthias alive without being considered a traitor by her friends. The Netflix series actually shows Nina meeting the Grisha, led by Fedyor, and he declares she's a traitor anyway. Still, the only way to get Matthias out of Fjerda and away from Fedyor is to accuse him of being a slaver, which puts them on a one-way ship to Ketterdam.
Zoya is on the skiff when The Darkling destroys Novokribirsk: Zoya isn't present on the skiff in the book and hears about the genocide afterward. The series has her watch the town being destroyed, knowing that she has family there. Watching the genocide convinces her to help Kaz, Inej, and Jesper attack The Darkling on the skiff, giving Alina time to save everyone. The entire episode also forces Zoya to join Alina's cause a lot sooner; in the books, Zoya doesn't warm up to Alina until quite a bit later.
Alina absorbs the collar: This is mostly an aesthetic change, but the series allows Alina to absorb the stag's antlers into her skin. In the books, she's stuck wearing the collar around her neck and it becomes a problem at multiple points in the trilogy for her to keep the collar hidden so people don't recognize her as the Sun Summoner.
The Darkling and Mal get into a giant fight the skiff: There is a fight between The Darkling and Mal in the books, but it's a brief scuffle onboard the skiff before Mal is thrown overboard and Alina goes to save him in The Fold. Alina then blows up the skiff, along with The Darkling and everyone else on it, in hopes of destroying her wayward mentor and giving her and Mal enough time to escape to safety. The series amps up the confrontation and has Mal and The Darkling really get into it, with both of them stuck off the ship. The series has Mal get back on the skiff as The Darkling is left alone in The Fold to fend off the volcra as Alina and Zoya guide the skiff back to safety.
Alina gives Inej the knife Inej will name after her: Inej has a knife in the Six of Crows novel named Sankta Alina, but readers are led to believe it's because Alina is one of the saints Inej prays to. The series allowed Inej and Alina to meet, and Alina gives her a knife that we can believe will be named Sankta Alina thereafter.
The Darkling walks out of The Fold with nichevo'ya: There is no confirmation in the book trilogy that The Darkling survived the blow-up in The Fold until the beginning of the second novel, Siege and Storm. That is also when we first meet his new creatures, nichyvo'ya, which he creates using merzost (Grisha dark magic). To create a more dramatic cliffhanger, the series confirms The Darkling makes it out of The Fold and gives us our first peek at these terrifying creatures that will become very formidable enemies for Alina and those who support her in Season 2.
Shadow and Bone is now streaming on Netflix.