Reading the Shadow and Bone books to prep for season 2? Skip the first

If you’re super excited about season 2 of Netflix’s Shadow and Bone series and you’ve never read the Leigh Bardugo books it’s based on, you might be thinking about trying the main trilogy the show adapts.

Here’s some unsolicited advice: Don’t start with the first novel, Shadow and Bone. You can even start the first trilogy.

Wait, are you asking yourself, but isn’t that book also the basis of the show? Isn’t it the first book of the series? It’s the one that set the scene for all others. It’s the one that introduced the Grisha and Sun Summoner Alina Sternkov. The one that also revealed the sentient darkness that ripped Ravka in two. Isn’t season 2 going to adapt the second book?

Well, yes. However, Star Wars fans often recommend watching movies in an unconventional order. I’m about to suggest a similar strategy for diving into the Grishaverse books. It isn’t a particularly controversial method, by any means, but for those unfamiliar with the books, I am here to be your Grisha guide.

Let’s get started. Six of Crows

But… why?

jesper, inej, and kaz, along with an older woman, in shadows

Image courtesy of Netflix

Six of Crows is the first book in Bardugo’s spinoff duology. The book is about a group led by Kaz Brekker, a cunning criminal who pulls off an elaborate heist. The duology takes place two years after the events of the first trilogy, but the first book doesn’t really contain any spoilers for what happens to Shadow and Bone’s Alina, the Darkling, and the rest of the Ravka crew. This is something I do not have hard evidence for, however I will guess. Six of CrowsThe main trilogy is much more loved than this one. Why else would the Crows characters be roped into the show, even though they don’t canonically appear in the first books?

For the first time, a newbie can start to read the series Six of Crows after watching the show won’t be lost, since out of the six “Crows,” five of them — Kaz, his right-hand knife-wielding spy Inej, sharpshooter Jesper, Ravkan spy Nina, and Fjerdan soldier (and hunter of Grisha) Matthias — appeared in season 1 of the TV series. The background to the books will help make their characters more logical, while the possibility of seeing their future adventures makes the storyline more compelling. Additionally, Six of CrowsStep out of Ravka and into the wider world. Shadow and Bone It is mostly concerned with Ravkan politics, and what it means for a Grisha to be one. This is fascinating on its own but Six of Crows expands on the universe, and Bardugo’s world-building gets a chance to shine.

However, it is important to start with Six of CrowsIt also makes sense, as the Crows duology has objectively superior writing. Shadow and Bone It has all of the trappings that a debut novel should have. It does a disservice to the characters and follows a traditional Chosen One format. Even Bardugo admits there are things she wishes she’d done differently, like including more character diversity and fleshing out Mal’s character. The main trilogy gets better with each subsequent book, as Bardugo grows into her own world’s potential. If you are looking to get pulled in right away, Six of CrowsIt is your best option.

nina and matthias in the snow

Photo: Attila Szvacsek/Netflix

My recommended order — even if you haven’t watched the show — is to start with Six of CrowsThe book is a captivating introduction to a whole new world with a host of vibrant, lively characters. Six of CrowsWhile the ending is a bit abrupt, the stakes that it creates are going to be a great deal more interesting than the one in the original series.

If curiosity is your thing, then you can switch to the main trilogy.Shadow and Bone, Storm and SiegeAnd Ruin and Rising(since the second Crows’ book. Crooked KingdomThis chapter contains spoilers to the main Grishaverse plot. It also features appearances from some characters that appeared in the first trilogy. Move on. Crooked Kingdom. You can then jump into the next series.King of ScarsAnd Rule of WolvesThe film features Nina, Squaller Zoya Nazyalensky and Prince Nikolai Lantsov, who deal with Ravka’s aftermath.

Wait — I just finished the second season and there is a plot I don’t recognize

[Ed. note: This section onwards contains some big spoilers for season 2 of Shadow and Bone]

inej wielding a sword in a desert. next to her, zoya looks up

Photo: Dávid Lukács/Netflix

This is the second season, just released Shadow and Bone You can adapt to more than one. TwoThe original trilogy is completed with the addition of books. In order to preserve the momentum, certain plotlines were sanded. The second season also features a Six of Crows storyline. Crooked Kingdom and then tosses the Crows on a quest to Shu Han to fetch a legendary sword capable of cutting through shadow — the perfect weapon for Alina to use against Kirigan.

It’s that last plotline that doesn’t seem to have any book precedence. The Crows books, with the exception of flashbacks, keep them in Ketterdam for the most part. But they’ve already made their way to Ravka, so what’s one more journey?

While the heist itself doesn’t come from a book, the story behind the sword is featured in Bardugo’s collection of Grishaverse-set short stories called Saints Lives. It’s a fully illustrated companion to the main books, detailing the tales behind some of the legendary Grisha who’ve basically become mythical figures. This sword is also known as NeshyenyerThis is the legend of Sankt Kho and Sankta Nyar. Neyar, who was a Durast made a sword for the battle with Kho’s clockwork soldiers. It’s not more Crows, but it does expand upon that storyline.

inej battles a woman in chinese-inspired clothes in an open courtyard

Photo: Dávid Lukács/Netflix

Saints Lives isn’t the only companion book in the Grishaverse. Language of ThornsThis collection contains fairy tales from the Grishaverse. Darkling Prequel Graphic Novel is available. Demon in Wood.

Grishaverse novels are a fantasy series featuring exciting characters. They have ushered a new era in high-fantasy youth fiction that goes beyond medieval England. If you haven’t paid much attention to the young-adult genre since it stopped dominating culture with series like the Twilight and Hunger Games novels, you may not realize the impact that Bardugo’s series has had on the genre since then. The world is rich, but the dynamic characters are what capture fans’ hearts. And judging by season 2, the Netflix series isn’t just drawing from the main books anymore — it’s expanding the story rapidly, changing the order of events, and diving into the greater Grishaverse.

Both the winter and summer Shadow and BoneNetflix allows you to stream videos.

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