This article contains spoilers from the Grishaverse books.
The cancellation of Netflix’s Shadow and Bone is upsetting for many reasons. The series’ second season ends with several major cliffhangers. The fates of multiple characters are now eternally left up in the air. But mostly it’s because the world of Shadow and Bone has such potential, and it doesn’t feel like we were (or ought to have been) done with it yet. An excellent example of how to do a YA fantasy adaptation right, the series managed to stay remarkably faithful to the spirit of author Leigh Bardugo’s “Grishaverse” series of novels even as it made big changes from the source material.
Combining characters and storylines from multiple books was always going to be an unwieldy task—and the show admittedly did stumble under the weight of its many competing plots in its second season, which wasn’t as good as its first—but the series’ unapologetic embrace of both high fantasy elements and the complex emotional stakes of young adulthood is something that should be embraced and celebrated. It deserved a chance to go out on its own terms and finish the story it started to tell.
But the cancellation of Shadow and Bone is particularly devastating for fans because it means we’re never going to get to see the best thing that happens in Bardugo’s story play out on screen: The Ice Court heist.
Fans of the Grishaverse already know exactly what I’m talking about—and they’ve been counting down to this moment ever since it was announced that Shadow and Bone would also incorporate characters from Barduo’s Six of Crows series. The Ice Court heist is one of the most iconic storylines in the entire Grishaverse, the major plot that drives much of the book Six of Crows, and just a wildly entertaining ride from start to finish. The scope of this subplot is such a big deal that Shadow and Bone showrunner Eric Heisserer was basically already prepping a Six of Crows spinoff in order to tell it properly, and it honestly would have made a great show in its own right. But whether the story took place on the flagship series or a companion show, it’s a shame that none of us will get to see this moment play out onscreen, which represents some of the best moments of Bardugo’s entire fictional universe.
A perfectly executed high-stakes mission impossible style fantasy quest, the Ice Court heist is what initially brings the titular team of Crows together in the first place, as Kaz Brekker builds the ultimate team of Grisha to help him pull off the impossible (and score the biggest payday he’s ever seen in the process). To do it, they first have to find a way to break Mattias Helvar out of Hellgate, a prison on a tiny island outside of Kerch, where he’s been imprisoned on suspicion of being a slave trader. (If that sounds familiar, it’s because in the world of the show, Matthias is already imprisoned, just one of many hints that Shadow and Bone dropped that it—or a potential Six of Crows spinoff—was absolutely already building to this key moment.) The six members of the group (get it, *Six* of Crows?) must then find a way into the kingdom of Fjerda’s supposedly impenetrable Ice Court, a literal ice dungeon where Grisha are tortured and imprisoned and from which no one has ever escaped.
Their mission? To find and basically steal the well-known scientist named Bo Yul-Bayur, the creator of a powerful drug known as jurda parem that greatly enhances Grisha abilities and makes those who take it more than a little dangerous and unstable. (See also: the would-be assassin who showed up at Nikolai’s coronation drugged out of her mind on the stuff and nearly massacres everyone.) They need to rescue the scientist before Fjerda—a kingdom that notoriously hates Grisha—can replicate the formula. What follows is a fast-paced, incredibly twisty adventure with huge action setpieces and brutal stakes that forges the titular Crows into something greater than the sum of their parts.
The story is exciting enough on the page, but thanks to several changes in the Shadow & Bone series, the onscreen version of the Ice Court heist had the potential to be something even greater. After all, in the books, we’re only just getting to know the Crows and their stories as the setup for this adventure begins. On the show, Six of Crows characters like Kaz, Inez, Nina, and Jesper have been around since the very first episode. We’re already attached to them, we’ve already gotten the chance to see many of the character dynamics and relationships that will play such important roles in this story. And the very real threat this quest poses to their lives suddenly seems a lot more immediate.
We’ve watched Matthew and Nina’s relationship develop from the very beginning, and we know exactly how much they’re both suffering over his imprisonment in Hellgate because we’ve seen her regret and his despair. Viewers are already fully invested in Kaz and Inej’s complicated bond—now possibly even messier than in the books—and understand all the reasons that the pair think they can’t be together at the moment. And Jesper and Wylan’s relationship has already taken a turn for the romantic. (Plus, we already know the truth of Jesper’s Grisha power.)
The show has methodically heightened many of the key emotional elements of the original story, meaning that the stakes for this adventure automatically feel a great deal higher. What happens to these characters matters to us, and it’s clear that no one going into the Ice Court will come out the same. (Provided they come out at all.) What would that version of this story have looked like? It’s so disappointing that we’ll never be able to find out.