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This ‘Shadow and Bone’ Character Change Is Perfect, No Notes

I just can't believe those are teenagers. I'm sorry. I can't.

Three of the six Crows, Kaz Brekker, Jesper Fahey and Inej Ghafa, reminding me that they mean everything to me in Netflix's Shadow and Bone

Grishaverse fans everywhere are still making their way through the second season of Shadow and Bone, which dropped on Netflix on March 16. 

Those who have loved the seven Leigh Bardugo novels that make up the entire saga might find the story somewhat altered from what it was on the page—as it had already happened in season one—and of course, there’s a wide range of opinions already circulating about the storytelling decisions in season 2.

Still, I think there’s one change that was made that we can all agree was for the best: the characters’ ages. The Grishaverse books firmly fall within the realm of young adult literature—particularly the first three, detailing Alina’s story, and the next two, which follow the Crows—meaning that the characters all need to be somewhere in their teenage years.

During my many re-reads of the saga, this single fact has proved time and again a major task for my suspension of disbelief—more than wondrous Grisha powers and Shadow Folds that swallow entire cities in darkness. That’s especially true when it comes to the Crows; there’s no way in hell that I can believe Kaz Brekker is a teenager. Considering that Jesper Fahey is supposed to be attending university in Ketterdam in the Six of Crows duology, apparently Leigh Bardugo herself didn’t much like the idea of sticking with the ages she initially gave her characters, either.

So all of this considered, let’s get into a quick recap of how old the Shadow and Bone characters are meant to be in the books and how much they were aged up for the Netflix series—something that was actually pretty nicely done.

The Ravkan Grisha and their allies

The first one up is, of course, Alina Starkov, the Sun Summoner. When the story opens in Shadow and Bone and we first meet our primary point-of-view character, Alina is 17—which positions her perfectly to fit into the mold of the standard young adult protagonist. By contrast, Alina in the show is somewhere in her mid-twenties, which tracks since Jessie Mei Li was born in 1995.

Similarly, Malyen Oretsev is meant to be just a year older than Alina and is 18 when the story starts. He’s the same age as Alina in the show—twenty-something—and around the same age as the actor who plays him, Archie Renaux.

Among the Grisha that Alina meets while at the Little Palace and who return time and time again as her story continues, three stand out among the others: Zoya Nazyalensky, Genya Safin, and David Kostyk. All three of them are meant to be a bit older than Alina and aged somewhere around 19 and 20 when the story starts. In the show, however, they’re all in their early thirties by virtue of the actors portraying them: Sujata Dasgupta, Daisy Head, and Luke Pasqualino.

The Darkling is the one whose age changes most dramatically from the book to show—even though we’re only talking about physical appearance since the character is, like any good villain, hundreds of years old. When Alina first meets the Darkling, she immediately thinks he seems too young for the legend he inspired throughout Ravka, and says he looks “[not] much older than [she] did”—meaning that he could look like someone the same age as Zoya, Genya, or David. By contrast, Ben Barnes is in his early forties, and yet this helps him immensely in bringing a whole new gravitas to the character and making the Darkling’s relationship with Alina much more complex.

Ben Barnes being too intense for my own good as the Darkling in Netflix's Shadow and Bone
You will NOT see me mad about this casting, not now and not ever (Netflix)

The Crows

The Crows are definitely the ones that benefit the most from being aged up, and the story still holds up equally well with all of them being in their twenties rather than teenagers. I think it helps in making the whole thing a tad more realistic.

In the books, all the Crows are somewhere between 16 and 18. Inej and Wylan are the youngest at 16; Kaz, Jesper and Nina are 17 when the story starts in Six of Crows; and Matthias is the oldest of the gang at 18.

Five out of six Crows together in the second season of Shadow and Bone on Netflix
Whatever their age, though, I’m forever screaming-crying-shaking over the Crows I just love them so much (Netflix)

By contrast, the actors and actresses portraying them in the show are all between 27 and 30. Amita Suman (Inej), Jack Wolfe (Wylan), and Kit Young (Jesper), were born in 1997, 1995, and 1994, respectively. Matthias isn’t the oldest of the gang in the on-screen version, since Calahan Skogman was born in 1993 and both Freddy Carter, who plays Kaz, and Danielle Galligan, who plays Nina, were born in 1992.

Sturmhond and his crew

Finally, there are the new characters who debuted in Shadow and Bone season 2 and who book readers were waiting for like water in a desert. It’s me, I’m book readers.

Sturmhond—no spoilers here!—is around 20 or 21 when he makes his appearance on the page in Siege and Storm. The actor who portrays him, Patrick Gibson, is in his late twenties, which puts the show’s version of Sturmhond perfectly in line with the other characters.

Twins Tamar Kir-Bataar and Tolya Yul-Bataar, the most prominent members of Sturmhond’s crew, are around 18 or 19 when the story starts. The date of birth of actress Anna Leong Brophy, who plays Tamar, isn’t known on the internet, but Lewis Tan, who has taken on the role of Tolya, is in his mid-thirties—making the twins quite a bit older in the show than their book counterparts.

(featured image: Netflix)

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Benedetta (she/her) lives in Italy and has been writing about pop culture and entertainment since 2015. She has considered being in fandom a defining character trait since she was in middle school and wasn't old enough to read the fanfiction she was definitely reading and loves dragons, complex magic systems, unhinged female characters, tragic villains and good queer representation. You’ll find her covering everything genre fiction, especially if it’s fantasy-adjacent and even more especially if it’s about ASOIAF. In this Bangtan Sonyeondan sh*t for life.