With the recent release of Netflix’s Shadow and Bone, hordes of viewers are falling in love with the series based on Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse. This isn’t Leigh’s only universe. She’s written the DC Icon’s novel about the legendary Amazon, Wonder Woman: Warbringer, as well as the adult dark academia hit, Ninth House. But, newcomers may not know where to begin when it comes to the Grishaverse books. Well, you’ve come to the right place. Allow me to be your archivist-tour-guide type from Ravka to Ketterdam to the dreaded Shadow Fold.
Hold on to your fur hats, we’re going to Ravka!
If you’re new to the Grishaverse: The Shadow and Bone trilogy (2012)
The Shadow and Bone adaptation is incredibly faithful to the books, even with the addition of a new timeline. Season one follows the events of the first book: Ravka is a country at war, landlocked between two enemy nations to the north and south. To its west is the Shadow Fold, a sea of darkness full of monsters that splits Ravka from its coast line and ports. It was created by a Grisha, a class of elite warriors who can manipulate the elements, hundreds of years before and nothing has been able to destroy it. During a crossing of the Shadow Fold, Alina Starkov—an orphan and a cartographer in the Ravkan army—and her BFF, Malyen Oretsev, are attacked by one of the monsters, and Alina discovers her awesome power to summon sunlight. As the legendary Sun Summoner, she might be the only chance to save her war-torn country. But first she must train and learn to control her power under the watchful eye of the Grisha commander, known in the books as the Darkling. It’s got romance, action, and above all, a powerful girl who can change the world.
Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising close out Alina’s story. Now’s the perfect time to get ahead of the show and marathon the book trilogy that started it all.
If you fell in love with the Crows: Six of Crows duology (2015)
The show pulls in the criminals from Ketterdamn a little sooner than in the timeline of the novels; Six of Crows takes place about three years after the events of Ruin and Rising, and Crows assumes the reader has an understanding of the world and what Grisha are. Kerch is a country smack in the middle of the True Sea, and one of its major cities, Ketterdam, is a bustling hub of international trade. No one knows it better than Kaz Brekker. In the novel, Kaz takes on a deadly heist that would give him the money and power to be a king of thieves. To pull off the job, he needs some help. He’s got a sharp shooter who never says no to a gamble, a runaway with an affinity for demolition, a girl known as the Wraith, a Grisha Heartrender with a score to settle, and a Drüskelle (Grisha hunter) who has betrayed his country for a girl he loves. They are the Crows, and they’ve taken on a heist bigger than any of them expected. They might just kill each other first.
In the adaption, we get to meet most of them, but they haven’t all met each other quite yet. The dramatic irony is killing me, but in a good way. Though the timeline has changed, this is a perfect prequel to some of the baddest bitches of Ketterdam. This is my favorite of Bardugo’s books. The complex plot is amazing, but the attention to craft is genius.
If you can’t get enough of General Kirigan (AKA The Darkling): “Demon in the Wood” (2015)
“Demon in the Wood” is a prequel about the Darkling. Before he ruled Ravka and led the Second Army of Grisha soldiers, he was just a boy with a unique ability to summon shadows. The novelette explores his past as he changes names and countries, and lives on the run with other Grisha fugitives. Some of this is pulled into General Kirigan’s backstory of Shadow & Bone. One of the greatest feats of the show is that it turned me into a Darkling apologist. The short story is 99 cents on e-retailers and worth every penny.
If you love short stories: The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic (2017)
The Language of Thorns is perfect for anyone who loves myth and magical prose. Illustrated by Sara Kipin, these stories are fairy tales and fables. They’re the kinds of stories two orphans from Keramzin might have grown up hearing. There are stories about love, revenge, too-clever foxes, golems, mermaids, and hungry woods. You don’t need to have watched the show or read the books to enjoy this one, but it is an addition to the Grishaverse that adds texture to Bardugo’s intricate fantasy world.
If you want to know more about the saints: The Lives of Saints (2020)
Ravka is a country that takes its saints seriously. But who were the saints? Were they people who performed miracles and martyred themselves, or were they Grisha living in a time before the Small Science could explain their gifts? This collection of short stories is illustrated by Daniel J. Zollinger, and features some iconic characters including Sankta Alina and the Starless Saint.
If you want to get ahead of the show: King of Scars duology (2019)
The Shadow & Bone adaptation is only getting started, but I think I echo the fandom when I say we need more seasons. There are so many questions I want explored, and favorite characters I want to meet. I keep calling the show a love letter to Bardugo’s work and I mean it. There is one character I’m so excited to see on the screen.
Without spoiling anything, Shadow and Bone makes mention of one of the Ravkan princes, Nikolai Lantsov. The King of Scars duology belongs to him and his journey. There is more action, more Nikolai Lantsoving, more Grisha, and I’m dying to read the second volume. It is a miracle I haven’t been spoiled yet, as the second book, Rule of Wolves, published last month, but the saints are looking out for me.
Zoraida Córdova is the acclaimed author of more than a dozen novels and short stories, including the Brooklyn Brujas series, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge: A Crash of Fate, and The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina. In addition to writing novels, she serves on the Board of We Need Diverse Books, and is the co-editor of the bestselling anthology Vampires Never Get Old, as well as the cohost of the writing podcast, Deadline City. Zoraida was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, and calls New York City home. When she’s not working, she’s roaming the world in search of magical stories.