Updated: Dec 19, 2021
Shadow and Bone is currently one of the most popular series out there...for good reason. It can be incredibly hard to get a hold of but my recommendation is to go through the effort. This series is 100% worth it.
Let me be really honest with you for a second here, ok? Reading this series took me a total of 9 days (but I think I read only a few pages of Shadow and Bone on that first day so that doesn't really count).
Still, It feels as though it has been forever since I started this series. It was months (and months) ago that I first won the giveaway for Lives of Saints (you can find my review of the book here) which first put me on the track of wanting to read the series (now that's good marketing if I ever saw it!). But I couldn't quite figure out which series to read first at a glance and all of the books had at least one hold on them in the library so I decided not to pursue them at the time.
Then I heard that Shadow and Bone was coming to Netflix. That, of course, prompted me to look further into the series (discovering that Shadow and Bone is the first series in the "Grishaverse" followed by Six of Crows and finally, King of Scars). Still, the holds on the books were enough to make me not want to pursue reading the books. I didn't want to wait that long for them (not to mention, drop everything to read them once I got them).
Then I watched the TV series.
(Actually, I waited on the edge of my seat for it to come out because I didn't really have anything to watch at the time and was excited to see what all the hype was about. Then I watched it)
The series was amazing. I think I mentioned it in my review of Lives of Saints so I won't go on and on about how much I enjoyed it but I loved the characters and fell for the plot. Once the show was over, I wanted more. In fact, halfway through, I put a hold on the first book of the Shadow and Bone series.
Now Shadow and Bone the TV show came out on the 23 of April. I watched it in about a week and placed a hold on the books halfway through that time period. Once I got my hands on the books, I read them in 8-9 days. (Ruin and Rising was a little bit harder to get so there was a break of a day or two between books). That just gives you an idea of how much these books are loved (they have that many holds on them at our little library in Redding!)
Throughout the time I spent reading the books, I was asked one question by my sister about a bazillion times. "Are they good?"
I have one answer to that question: "YES!"
I have read a hundred books that have been made into TV shows or movies that simply are not worth the hype. These are.
I will admit, the books surprised me at first as they didn't have the depth of worldbuilding I was expecting find in them given the way that I experienced the TV show. The TV show is very well built and explains the Grisha powers and the world that they live in very well and thus I expected to find that in the books. There were a few places where I thought, oh, how does that work then?
I do think, though, given that the author spent so much time on the set of the TV show, that she likely lent to the worldbuilding of the show and answered questions that were not answered in the books which led to the show being more full (for lack of a better term).
Outside of that, I loved the books. I thought there was great character development, great plot, and a good narration (simple and easy to follow style chosen by the author). I also enjoyed the world that the author created that was centered around Ravka, a nation with clear Russian/eastern European roots but with pieces of the other nations (Fjerda and Shu Han) that seemed to have Asian (China??) and Scandanavian roots. I felt that Bardugo (author) included some great pieces in the second and third books that were hilarious and I loved some of the characters like Nickoli and Harshaw. I wasn't a fan of the ending but that was more my opinion than anything else (it wasn't a bad ending, I would perhaps have just ended it differently as a writer and as a fan of certain characters and elements).
The other thing that should be mentioned is how great the show was in comparison to the book!
Having read the series in its entirety, I can now say two things.
The series (season 1) was amazing. I was incredibly impressed with how close they stayed to the plot of the first book. They not only started and ended the book in the right place (which many TV shows of books do not do) they also included every major plot point I can recall. Most of the deviations from the book were minor deviations which, in my opinion, could be credited to artistic license. I have always felt that readers should know a book being transferred to a screen will change here and there. However, readers (and writers) are perfectly within their rights to get angry when large elements of the books are changed, characters are portrayed wrong, or the book starts/ends in entirely the wrong places (or other huge errors). I felt, however, that Shadow and Bone (the TV show) did not have any of these kinds of errors. The most impressive thing? The artists decided to include characters from the second series (Six of Crows) in this series seeking to complete a heist to capture the Sun Summoner. The most impressive thing about the TV show was that it stuck to the original plot almost perfectly (as perfectly as could be hoped for in a book-TV show adaption) while also seamlessly including these characters (Who were awesome! I cannot wait to read further into Six of Crows and get to know them better!)
After reading the rest of the series, I did have some concerns about how the writers of the show would continue the series. There were some places where they did a great job of the show for the first season and where the plot point that they forgot to include (or changed slightly) was unimportant in the first book but where it was important in the following books. I could see a few places where the writers might struggle to connect the dots and continue the series in the same well-written, well-played-out fashion as before because of their choices. I also was unsure (because of the ending in the first season) whether they planned to continue to include the crows and Nina or not. What is their plan for mashing the series together? Do they plan to finish the Shadow and Bone series and then continue with a Six of Crows series? I wonder...
All thoughts about the TV show aside, the Shadow and Bone books were truly amazing and I would absolutely recommend them to anybody. They were a great fantasy series and there was almost a little bit of dystopian in there. I would almost suggest them to fans of war books or historical fiction except that they are written in a more simplistic style Perhaps if you enjoy those kinds of books but want to give something new a try you could check them out. They have a lot of different cultural references and fun magic (labeled as "small science"). I finished Ruin and Rising yesterday and am already beginning to read Six of Crows (lookout for a review of that series coming soon) Leigh Bardugo is just that good.