Why You Should Read The 'Shadow and Bone' Books Before the Release of Netflix’s Adaptation

Shadow and Bone is a worldwide bestselling series written by author Leigh Bardugo. This young adult fantasy series follows the world of 17-year-old Alina Starkov, an orphan and mapmaker who finds she is more powerful than she believed. The books explore the wonders of Grisha power, set in the Kingdom of Ravka as Alina strives to set this war-ravaged country free. Netflix’s upcoming TV show Shadow and Bone explores both the events of the Grisha Trilogy, as well as the duology Six of Crows. This series, set after the events of the trilogy, follows a new set of 6 diverse characters on an impossible heist. Shadow and Bone the TV series will be combining all the books in the Grishaverse into one spectacular on-screen adaptation, and here’s why you should read the books first. 

Starting off from a logistical viewpoint, the terminology used in this fantasy world is extremely complex, and the books do a beautiful job with world building. While the setting is based on modern day Russia, all of the countries have new, unique, and diverse groups associated with them. The front of the books provides a map to help you follow along from one location to the next, swiftly teaching you the new geography. Mastering all the countries is just the beginning, now it’s time to learn all the Orders of The Grisha. This includes 3 main categories, with multiple sub categories in each and colored clothing to accompany. Personally, it took me until at least the second or third book to be comfortable and confident I knew each of the Orders and their powers, without flipping back to the title page cheat-sheet. Reading about the powers and constantly hearing about their action was a great introduction and world building aspect of the Grishaverse, and it is hard to imagine there will be as great of an introduction in just 8 episodes. Without having the background knowledge of these Orders provided from the books, I can almost guarantee you will be utterly lost trying to follow the show. 

Another important aspect of these books is the incredible writing of Leigh Bardugo. Throughout all of the books there are quite a lot of characters to keep track of, however Leigh’s writing gives the reader a chance to connect to each and every one of them. These characters all have extraordinary backstories that largely shape the people they are today, all the little idiosyncrasies of each person can pinpoint back to an exact moment in time. The depth that comes from learning about these characters through words is what truly makes these books as much of a success as they have been, and the reason it was great enough to be adapted to the screen in the first place. Of course you will get to know the characters in the show, but it will be a very 2-dimensional view, only a fraction of the heart wrenching truth that defines them. These books are known for their diversity, more importantly the fact that an author gave so many young readers a chance to find one character they can truly connect with both personally and culturally. I am absolutely thrilled with how beyond perfect the casting is to represent these characters, but they existed in pages first and will always be authentically what is written in words. 

All of these books hold a special place in my heart, they were something that gave life meaning again during the depths of this pandemic. I am more excited for this show than anything ever before, and follow it with eyes like a hawk, just waiting for a new picture or trailer. With that said, I cannot stress enough the pure and raw emotions that come from reading these books, they will leave you speechless and filled with emotion beyond control. It may sound old school to say that “the book is always better than the movie,” well in this case show, but I urge you to have the opportunity to see for yourself before the release of Netflix's Shadow and Bone on April 23. And as for the characters us readers love so dearly, well let’s just say we are not afraid to gatekeep them from people who only know them as deep as a TV screen.