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Bone Up on Shadow and Bone

A Quick Guide and Some Similar Series

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • April 19, 2021

An Emerging Superpower

The discovery of a previously unknown power is, of course, a staple of YA coming-of-age fantasies. But when done well, it never gets old. Shadow and Bone, volume one of the bestselling trilogy by Leigh Bardugo, is a shining example of this scenario with the story of Alina Starkov, a teenage war orphan whose life is transformed when she unexpectedly displays an extraordinary ability she never knew she had in order to save her best friend. Now the book is coming to the small screen in a new Netflix series premiering on April 23.

The Grishaverse

The emergence of Alina's singular gift propels her into the top tier of the Grisha, a sect of magical beings who wield a diverse set of powers in service to the realm. The saga is set in a nation called Ravka, which resembles the old world Russia of fairy tales. This world is rich and complex, yet familiar. Before the emergence of her power, Alina seems just an ordinary girl, harboring a secret crush on her best friend Mal, the boy she grew up with. But the revelation of her ability to summon light changes everything in an instant. Alina's story is continued in books two and three of the trilogy: Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising.

Bardugo's duology Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom expands the Grishaverse with the story of criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker and his crew of six dangerous outcasts attempting a nearly impossible heist that promises wealth beyond their wildest dreams. The setting of these bestsellers is Ketterdam, a city loosely inspired by Amsterdam.

Bardugo's most recent installment, the duology, King of Scars and Rule of Wolves, returns to Ravka and a dashing, young king, Nikolai Lantsov, who seeks to revitalize his wartorn country and fortify the ranks of the weakened Grisha army.

More Old World Folklore and Fantasy

If you love the fairy-tale qualities of the Grishaverse and are looking for more dark, emotional, and action-filled fantasies, check out any of these captivating YA novels—most of which are the first in a series.

  • The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden: The first in The Winternight Trilogy, this medieval fairy tale casts an irresistible spell. Set on the edge of the Russian wilderness, it is the story of Vasya, a young woman who must tap her hidden abilities to save her village and herself.
  • The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty: On the streets of eighteenth-century Cairo, Nahri is a con woman, relying on her unforeseen powers to get by with palm readings, zars, and a mysterious gift for healing. This is the first in The Daevabad Trilogy.
  • Spinning Silver by Naomi Novic: From a Nebula-winning author, this imaginative retelling of Rumpelstiltskin draws readers deeper into a glittering realm of dark fantasy. The daughter of a struggling moneylender, Miryem takes matters into her own hands.
  • The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang: The first in a series, this epic fantasy, filled with treachery and magic, is inspired by the bloody history of China's twentieth century. When war orphan Rin unexpectedly aces the Empire-wide Keju test and is admitted into an elite military school, her life changes.
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas: When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf, a terrifying creature arrives to demand retribution. Dragged to a treacherous legendary realm, Feyre discovers that her captor is one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled.
  • An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir: Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free under the Martial Empire where defiance is met with death. Yet somehow they form an alliance that will awaken old magic and change the history of the world. HuffPost calls it "as beautiful and radiant as it is searing."

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