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Netflix’s adaptation of YA fantasy series Shadow and Bone finds its leads

The Grishaverse comes to life with a bunch of newcomers and also Prince Caspian

Petrana Radulovic is an entertainment reporter specializing in animation, fandom culture, theme parks, Disney, and young adult fantasy franchises.

Netflix’s Grishaverse adaptation has found its core cast. Shadow and Bone, a television reimagining of Leigh Bardugo’s best-selling Grisha trilogy and Six of Crows duology, was announced back in January. The YA fantasy series started off with one trilogy, focusing on a war torn fantasy land reminiscent of Imperial Russia populated with magic users known as Grisha, where an entity of darkness known as the Shadowfold splits the nation in two. A spin-off duology, the Six of Crows books, took place in the same world but focused on a gang of thieves in the Amsterdam-inspired city-state of Ketterdam.

Pulling from both series means that a wide assortment of characters makes up this first round of casting news. Considering that the Six of Crows books take place two years after the main Grisha series, in an entirely different country, with entirely different motivations and goals, mashing the two together will be interesting to see.

Let’s break it down:

headshots of Jessie Mei Li, Archie Renaux, and Ben Barnes
Jessie Mei Li, Archie Renaux, and Ben Barnes

Newcomer Jessie Mei Li will play the lead role of Alina Starkov. Though Alina’s race had never been specified in the books, Bardugo and showrunner Eric Heisserer had announced that they would be seeking actresses who were half-Asian for the role. Alina is the center character of the Grisha trilogy, who discovers she has the rare Grisha ability to summon sunlight.

Archie Renaux (Voyager) plays Mal, Alina’s best friend growing up, expert tracker, and designated childhood-friend-to-romantic-interest. He’s pretty boring, honestly, but his mundane life starts to spiral after an a military mission gone wrong reveals Alina’s powers.

Ben Barnes — aka Prince Caspian from the Narnia movies — will play General Kirigan, a name unfamiliar to the book. But as Bardugo reminded her Twitter followers, the central antagonist — The Darkling — has gone by many names in the past. Initially set up to be the leader of the Second Army, the Ravkan force comprised of Grisha, he’s determined to see his country free from the Shadowfold. The Netflix press release reveals that in the show, General Kirigan is only known as The Darkling to his enemies.

Freddy Carter, Amita Suman, and Kit Young, who will play Kaz, Inej, and Jesper respectively
Freddy Carter, Amita Suman, and Kit Young

Pivoting to the Crows characters, Freddy Carter (Pennyworth) plays criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker, who leads a gang known as the Dregs. Orphaned and alone at a young age, Kaz has crawled his way up to notoriety in the criminal underbelly of Ketterdam. A master thief and a formidable leader, Kaz only cares about making a profit.

Amita Suman (Doctor Who) plays Inej Gafta, a key member of Kaz’s gang. She’s basically his right-hand woman, a dangerous spy known as the Wraith, who slips into shadows and can get anywhere without anyone noticing her.

Kit Young (Endeavour) plays Jesper Fahrley, a sharpshooter with a gambling addiction, who joined the Dregs in order to fund his debts.

In minor roles, Sujaya Dasgupta (Press) will play Zoya, a powerful and arrogant soldier who can manipulate weather; Daisy Head (Harlots) will play Genya, a Grisha who can manipulate physical appearance and serves as the Queen’s servant; and Danielle Galligan (Game of Thrones) will play Nina, who first appeared in the Crows series, but hails from Ravka originally.

No casting news is set for other important series characters like Prince Nikolai of Ravka, a key player in the second and third books of the Grisha trilogy, and Matthias and Wylan, the remaining two members of the Six of Crows. Considering these characters all appear later in the collective timeline, they may appear in a future season.

Production for the show begins in Budapest. There is no set release date yet.

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