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Welcome to the world of Tsarpunk5 min read

May 8, 2021 4 min read

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Welcome to the world of Tsarpunk5 min read

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Aishwarya Sivaraman

Name of the Show: Shadow and Bone

Where to stream: Netflix

Rating: 4/5

One of the greatest things about the Game of Thrones series was the audience it created for the fantasy genre. Shadow & Bone, a new Netflix show, is based on a hugely popular series of books by Leigh Bardugo and takes you on a journey to a distant world that’s quite like our own. The theme of these novels is ‘Tsarpunk’, a term the author coined to describe the mashup of fantasy with mid 18th-19th century Russian culture. It is a unique world, different from the ones in traditional young adult novels that are populated with werewolves, vampires or ghosts (To be entirely fair, if you get far enough in the series, there may be…err… ghosts).

The story follows Alina Starkov and her friend Mal, a boy she grew up with in an orphanage, as they work in the First Army of the Kingdom of Ravka. The story opens with a planned trip to West Ravka, a region of the country separated by something called the Shadow Fold. Even looking at that image tells you that things are not going to go well! And they don’t. But that trip reveals a secret that changes the course of Alina and Mal’s lives and the future of Ravka itself.

Owliver’s Fact Check (if these were indeed ‘facts’): The Shadow fold is an incredible cloud of darkness where a host of shadow creatures, called the Volcra, live. They eat human beings. The fold is also called the Unsea.

The other half of the story follows club owner and part time thief, Kaz Brekker and his sensational sidekicks Inej and Jesper. 

Kaz and his team live on the other side of the fold, in Ketterdam, West Ravka. They land a job that requires them to find a safe way across the Fold. Then, they have to complete a heist, receive a million kruge (i.e. money), and get rich! All of this while Inej’s freedom (she is bound by contract to an evil woman) and Kaz’s club (the Six of Crows) are at stake.

But one of the most interesting characters, who is also at the center of this show, is General Kirrigan or The Darkling. He brings a dark and mysterious authority to the story that propels it along a course that you won’t quite predict.  You will be suitably surprised when it does pan out!

All these characters converge to create an exciting plot that is fueled by a revelation of Alina’s secret; one that she’s been burying since childhood. Netflix’s adaptation adds a theatric punch with a feminist perspective that is sorely lacking in the main novels, making the characters more engaging on the screen. Alina and Mal’s relationship builds beautifully over the course of the season. Kaz and Inej have a great bond that is heartwarming and their action-packed scenes make their storyline exciting to watch. Jesper provides the much-needed comic relief to a dark story and earns the love he receives in the fandom.

What is Feminism?

Feminism is a political and social movement that believes in women’s rights and the equality of male and female sex.

Why is feminism important?

To put it simply, feminism has helped women:

  • Achieve the write to vote
  • Receive an education
  • Become financially independent
  • Choose a career of their choice and excel in it
  • Buy a home
  • Fight for equal pay in the workplace

This is only a few of the things feminism has helped achieve. Find out how else feminism has helped achieve equality of the sexes.


(The Sci-Borg is a bi-monthly column on science fiction and fantasy)

Author’s Note: Aishwarya has lived in books since she was an eight-year-old pretending to be Nancy Drew. She suffered a great disappointment when told that Hogwarts didn’t send her any letters at age 11, the backs of wardrobes lead to nowhere (no matter how long she sat inside one) and that it is impossible to speak to animals (although she thinks her dogs come closer to human speech with every passing day).

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