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Why We Didn't See The Novel's Darkest Scene In Netflix's Shadow And Bone

Young adult fantasy novels really had a heyday in the late 2000s and early 2010s. You had the likes of "Harry Potter" allowing kids to believe in magic, while "The Hunger Games" showed how you're never too young to start making a better world. "Shadow and Bone," which was first released in 2012, follows in that rich tradition by depicting a young girl who learns she's been imbued with mystical gifts. 

While these stories are always filled with magic and romance, they also have a tendency to be fairly dark. Since they're meant for teenagers, it almost feels as though these books want to prepare youngsters for the horrors of the real world, like when "The Hunger Games" series ended with the death of Katniss' sister. No punches are pulled, which gives these stories an extra level of maturity that allows them to be enjoyed by teens and adults alike. 

"Shadow and Bone" is no different, and when the show received a Netflix adaptation, fans were undoubtedly waiting for one major moment from the first book to show up. After all, the series does a decent job of sticking fairly closely to the source material, but arguably the darkest moment from the novel receives a pretty substantial change-up, and now, we have answers as to why it didn't play out like people were originally planning. 

Spoilers ahead for the ending of the "Shadow and Bone" Netflix series!

Alina's final act in the book is made a bit more palatable for the Netflix series

The "Shadow and Bone" novel ends with Alina mastering her powers and taking General Kirigan (Ben Barnes) and other members of the Grisha Royalty to the skiff where she abandons them to die after her manipulation. This is summarized with Kirigan begging for her help, stating, "You begged me for clemency once... Is this your idea of mercy?" She then answers back with one of the coldest lines in any YA property: "Yes... the mercy you taught me."

Having a protagonist leave a bunch of people to die is a pretty big move, and according to showrunner Eric Heisserer, it was one they really grappled with to get right. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Heisserer mentions, "We had a number of characters on the skiff with Alina in the finale, including ones not from the original book, and we all felt that their collaboration against the many enemies there is what would save them. Their teamwork made it all possible. So the empathy for one another led to them saving each other and escaping as an allied group."

Heisserer goes on to discuss how they wanted to soften Kirigan's edge a little bit by granting him moments where the audience can actually empathize with him. This resulted in other changes from the source material in the season finale, as he states, "Since we had seen him commit some terrible deeds in the episode already, he needed room to breathe as someone carrying old emotional wounds (and with it, old biases and assumptions)." While it may be a slight departure from the novel, fans of the book should find it at least stays within the spirit of the moment and still showcases how Alina is willing to make tough decisions, even if they aren't so all-encompassingly grim. Plus, if you haven't read the book, it still makes for an impactful closing of Alina's character arc.