Looking To Read The Shadow and Bone Books? Here’s Where To Start

A quick guide to navigating Leigh Bardugo’s expansive Grishaverse.

by Katherine J. Igoe
Grishaverse books, including the Shadow and Bone trilogy and the Six of Crows duology.

If you’re not familiar with Leigh Bardugo and her absolutely sprawling Grishaverse, there’s never been a better time to dive in. Netflix’s Shadow and Bone, based on Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows series, weaves together two sets of storylines and characters — and it just brushes the surface of the author’s fictional world. But the Grishaverse be a lot to take in if you’re unfamiliar (and if you start with the wrong book, it might be confusing — not to mention filled with spoilers for previous novels).

In sum, the Grishaverse comprises one trilogy (the Shadow and Bone series), two duologies (the Six of Crows and King of Scars sets) — as well as a number of miscellaneous supplemental books, which can be read at any time. And that likely won’t be all: although Leigh Bardugo has said that she’s taking a break from her famed fantasy world, she’s left the door open to return. As the author recently told Bustle, “I will admit there are Grishaverse stories I really want to tell, there's a very big door open at the end of Rule of Wolves, but there are a lot of other characters who I found very fascinating, who stepped onto the page in this book and that I would love to see get more developed stories of their own.”

So here’s the exact defining order of the series, set forth by the author herself, and a brief idea of what each series covers. No major spoilers, but if you’d rather not know anything, be sure to read the full books first.

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The Shadow and Bone Trilogy

This is the trilogy that started it all — so it’s perfect to start here. It centers on Alina Starkov, an orphan from a Ravkan border town, who discovers her previously dormant magical powers — special, never-before-seen powers, which just might help her save the world.

Shadow and Bone introduces Alina Starkov and her childhood best friend, Mal — though they’re soon separated, after Alina’s nascent Grisha powers are discovered. The Darkling, the leader of the country’s Grisha-only Second Army, tells her that her special gift might help destroy the country’s 400-year-old scourge: the Shadow Fold, a swath of monster-filled darkness.

Alina, now known as the Sun Summoner, is pursued for her power — while she pursues a powerful amplifier of her own. And after a compatriot reveals his hidden identity, she finds herself thrust back into Ravkan politics.

The Sun Summoner and her allies face off against the Darkling and his forces in an epic battle for the entire nation.

The Six of Crows Duology

Though set in a different country with an all-new cast of characters, this duology is set after the conclusion of Ruin and Rising and contains spoilers for the end of the previous trilogy.

Criminal Kaz Brekker leads a crew of misfits to pull off a difficult, deadly heist. Six of Crows offers both adventure and epic tale of survival.

No spoilers, but Brekker and crew must fight desperately to stay alive and stay together, with epic consequences.

The King of Scars Duology

This series starts a year after the end of the last duology — so, again, it’s best to tackle it after the previous Grishaverse books.

This novel picks up the story of Nikolai Lantsov, Alina’s onetime comrade-in-arms. The young ruler is tasked with rebuilding his nation following its civil war — and finds that to do so, he’ll have to face his demons within, as well those without.

Lantsov, Zoya Nazyalensky, and Nina Zenik must band together to fight for the future — and face themselves — if they are to beat their enemies.

Other Grishaverse Books

These can be read without some (or any) knowledge of the series, but are best suited to those who are already invested in Bardugo’s fictional world, and are hungry for more.

A collection of dark, compelling fairytales set in the Grishaverse, The Language of Thorns is enjoyable if you’ve never read another Bardugo book or if you’ve read all of them.

An illustrated collection of (you guessed it) stories about the saints from the Grishaverse. This one also can be read without context, but it helps to know the world first.

This is a year-long, 365-day journal with quotes and prompts inspired by the Bardugo’s world. Again, no context is strictly needed (since you’re the one doing the writing), but it can be helpful to know where the quotes come from if you’re hoping to be inspired.