Is ‘Shadow and Bone’ worth reading before the Netflix show?

“I’ve been waiting for you a long time, Alina” He said. “You and I are going to change the world.”

― Leigh BardugoShadow and Bone
The article is SPOILER FREE for ALL books. You can proceed without fear. 

Shadow & Bone

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Siege & Storm

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Ruin & Rising

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I have dedicated reviews for each book here: Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, Ruin and Rising.

So, is it worth reading the trilogy before watching the show?

Sadly, no.

Shadow and Bone world map

Had I not wanted to write this article, I would have stopped after the first book. Shadow and Bone offered all the necessary basic information about the world, established the magic system and featured the majority of the important characters in the story. On that front, the author did a pretty good job.

That being said, it was a pretty mediocre series overall. I do admit that for the time it was first published and when compared to other similar books released in the early 2010s, it is certainly one of the good ones. It has all the tropes (and clichés) you might expect but it stands out. If you absolutely want to be somewhat familiar with the world before the Netflix show, then I guess you could try Shadow and Bone.

[coudn’t find the artist]

When it comes to the sequels though, in my opinion it’s not worth it to continue. Unfortunately, Siege and Storm was a massive disappointment. There was a lot of petty drama, characters’ behaviors made absolutely no sense when you think about their established personalities and the plot felt rushed and jumped around a lot. It was also very VERY boring and featured a love square with little to no chemistry. The only good thing that came out of the second book is the new character we meet, whose name I can’t reveal because his identity is a big deal. He basically carried the whole book.

Then Ruin and Rising comes and things start falling into place after the middle of the book, but up until that point the characters largely do the same exact things they did in the previous books. Plot repetition is never a good thing. Plus, the ending was pretty predictable and also kind of lame. I only liked it better than the previous one because of two plot twists that I didn’t see coming and shocked me.

My biggest disappointment was the villain. He had massive potential in Shadow and Bone considering there were actual motives behind all the violence and he wasn’t written in a mustache-twirling kind of way. However, he had little to no page time in the sequels and only appeared at the end for the battle or to be an indirect source of drama for the main character. He was also written to be very easily out-smarted by a 17-year old girl, and that just didn’t sit well with me.

If you are only interested because of the show, DON’T read the books. It’s better to wait for everything to be explained on the screen or you could just learn about the magic system here right before the release. In fact, I don’t know if there’s even a point because apparently the show not only will merge the storylines from the trilogy and the spin off duology, but the author has asked the fans to be open-minded and don’t go batshit crazy if there are a lot of changes.

If you are an experienced fantasy reader and you have dipped your toes (or your whole body) into more mature/recent YA and especially Adult High Fantasy, then I think there is less chance you’ll enjoy this. As I said above, the character development for the two sequels leaves much to be desired and the plot has problems with consistency. Readers accustomed to a certain level of complexity won’t be that impressed.

You SHOULD read the series if you are looking to read something reminiscent of the old YA books, if you are a beginner in fantasy or you want to get out of a reading slump with something fast because believe me when I say you fly through the books. The writing style really helps with that.

Please remember that reading enjoyment is subjective and we should respect all opinions even if we don’t agree with them.


Started Shadow and Bone: 4 March 2021Finished Ruin and Rising: 19 March 2021
Author Leigh BardugoSeries Grishaverse books #1 #2 #3
Age Range YAPages 1242 in total {385-435-422}
POV femaleSetting Ravka
Sub-genresHigh fantasy, Romance Fantasy, Slavic
Important Character NamesAlina, Malyen, Darkling, Genya, David, Zoya, Nikolai.
Good love interest?went from two-way romance to a love triangle to a love square.
Good friendship?it’s more tell than show kind of situation. Not as developed as I wanted but I’ve read worse
Tropes (all books)newfound powers, orphaned, peasant to more, friends to lovers, love triangle, love square, secret heir, friend squad, academy setting, magical artifact, training, resurrection, unusual monsters, miscommunication
Trigger Warningsdescriptions of dismemberment, violence, mention of past rape incident

“What is infinite?
The universe and the greed of men.”

In this moment he was just a boy -brilliant, blessed with too much power, burdened by eternity.”

7 thoughts on “Is ‘Shadow and Bone’ worth reading before the Netflix show?

Add yours

  1. I agree that Shadow and Bone is quite mediocre and it has terrible Russian elements, which sound ridiculous to the native’s ear. Besides, secondary characters are more developed than the main ones. And then there’s Darkling, who I kind of like as a perfect villain. I wonder what the tv-show will be like but my expectations are pretty low.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think we’ll like the show if we don’t care about it being true to the books 😂 also yes I’m not native speaker but I’ve been learning for four years and even I was annoyed with how she butchered the language. He would be a perfect villain yes but so much time was taken by drama and he didn’t get the attention he deserved.

      Liked by 1 person

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