Thoughts on Netflix’s Shadow and Bone Adaptation (Spoilers)

Normally I do not have a Netflix subscription, but a friend surprised me with a gift card so I could watch Shadow & Bone, so here are some thoughts I had while watching the first season. This comes with the disclaimer that I barely remember reading Shadow & Bone and Siege & Storm, and I never read Ruin & Rising at all. I did read both Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom.

1. Overall, I Loved the Series

One benefit of barely remembering the books is that I didn’t have a lot of expectations going in to watching the adaptation, either for casting or plot, and I loved most of the choices that were made. I loved pretty much all of the casting choices, particularly for the Darkling and Alina. I was also pretty invested in the story and eager to see what happened next (because I sort of knew but also didn’t know, both because of my memory lapses and because the plot was obviously changed, since the Crows were integrated into Alina’s story).

2. I Agree the Racism Wasn’t Handled Well

I’ve seen a lot of viewers who are not happy the writers decided to make Alina part-Shu and then make it a plot point that she doesn’t quite belong in Ravka and experiences racism because of it. My biggest issue is that I don’t think it was well-integrated. It felt a bit as if the writers were going along, writing their story, and then would suddenly remember Alina’s supposed to face racism and then have a random character shout a racial slur at her and then disappear. A few times Alina tried expand on the point by explaining that she’s used to being Othered because of her race, so being apart because she’s a Grisha with legendary powers isn’t an entirely new feeling for her, but overall it just felt awkwardly done.

3. I’m on the Fence about how the Crows Were Integrated

I loved seeing Kaz and company on screen, and he, Inej, and Jesper were definitely badass. Jesper in particular comes across as having real flair and skill with his guns, which impressed me because he wasn’t my favorite character in Six of Crows or anything, but he’s fabulous in this series. However, I have some reservations about the show writers giving the Crows a task that they, very obviously, are not going to accomplish. As soon as it comes up that their task is to kidnap Alina and bring her back to Ketterdam, viewers know they’re not going to succeed. First, that ruins any sense of suspense. Second, it ruins the idea that Kaz and his friends can accomplish the impossible. Because clearly they do NOT. I’m not sure how they’re going to get out of the mess that failing has put them into in season one, and I don’t know what heists they’ll be up to next, but I do hope they’ll be given more room to actually pull it off this time.

4. Mal Is Way More Awesome Than in the Books

Again, I barely remember the books and I never read Ruin & Rising, but I do remember feeling “meh” about Mal as a love interest while reading. In the show, however, I’m a huge fan. His loyalty to Alina, his deep friendship with her, his protectiveness, and his support are all clear. He also gives her her space to do what she needs to do. If she’s not going to take the hints that he’s in love with her, someone else needs to snatch him up because he’s just incredibly nice!


Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo

Rule of Wolves


Goodreads: Rule of Wolves
Series: Nikolai Duology #2
Source: Library
Publication Date: 2021

Official Summary

The wolves are circling and a young king will face his greatest challenge in the explosive finale of the instant #1 New York Times-bestselling King of Scars Duology.

The Demon King. As Fjerda’s massive army prepares to invade, Nikolai Lantsov will summon every bit of his ingenuity and charm—and even the monster within—to win this fight. But a dark threat looms that cannot be defeated by a young king’s gift for the impossible.

The Stormwitch. Zoya Nazyalensky has lost too much to war. She saw her mentor die and her worst enemy resurrected, and she refuses to bury another friend. Now duty demands she embrace her powers to become the weapon her country needs. No matter the cost.

The Queen of Mourning. Deep undercover, Nina Zenik risks discovery and death as she wages war on Fjerda from inside its capital. But her desire for revenge may cost her country its chance at freedom and Nina the chance to heal her grieving heart.

King. General. Spy. Together they must find a way to forge a future in the darkness. Or watch a nation fall.

Star Divider


The ending of King of Scars left me disappointed, fearful that the sequel would retread old ground instead of moving forward with the story about a nation rebuilding. Few series seem to treat the aftermath of a war, preferring instead to close with the “happily ever after” of an enemy defeated. King of Scars feels novel in that it depicts a country unsure of the future after the collapse of the old regime. Though readers may be rooting for Nikolai to be king, the people of Ravka do not know him, nor are they sure they want the kind of future he represents. This uncertainty, this fragility is what makes the book so interesting. I was glad to discover that Rule of Wolves continues to explore the fraught relationships between people and nations, rather than trying to recreate the storyline of the Shadow and Bone trilogy.

Leigh Bardugo’s masterful storytelling is at its height here, as she weaves together the stories of several characters, each with their own hard choices to make. Nikolai is trying to keep a country together, even as he is torn apart by the monster instead. Zoya is trying to atone for following the Darkling by serving her country as its general. Nina is trying to lay her old lover to rest even as she glimpses the possibility of a future with another. Their stories intertwine along with several others, showing how the fate of a nation can rest in the hands of not only its leaders, but also the people who get swept up in events along the way. But, since this is Ravka, things only seem to get worse as the story progresses. The cliffhangers at the end of each chapter will lead readers breathless to know more, desperate to learn that everything turns out all right, after all.

Part of what I enjoy so much about Bardugo’s work is that is often offers the unexpected, upending tropes and refusing to fall into the patterns genre fiction so often embraces. Rule of Wolves is no different. While I predicted a few plot twists, others completely surprised me. This feels right, because leading a nation often means there are no easy answers. While the outcomes were largely satisfying, they did not feel trite. And they leave the door open for more exciting adventures to come.

My one main criticism of the work is one other fans may likely not share. I thought the cameos were overdone. While it is nice to see old favorites return, seeing them all in one book felt more than fan service than great storytelling, especially when some of these characters do not have a real reason to be mingling with each other. I understand, however, that many readers probably enjoyed these moments. And, really, they are too small a part of the book to really hinder my enjoyment.

Rule of Wolves is another stunning installment from Bardugo to the Grishaverse. Fans of Bardugo’s work will not want to miss out on this exciting adventure–especially as it seems to be setting up a future novel, maybe even the ones readers have been waiting for since Six of Crows.

4 stars

If You Like Six of Crows, Then Read…

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

gilded wolves

It’s 1889 in Paris and hotelier Séverin Montagnet-Alarie has been offered the opportunity of a lifetime: in exchange for helping the Order of Babel, he will receive his true inheritance.  To find the treasure the order seeks, Séverin assembles an extraordinary team.  But what they find could change history.  Read Briana’s review.

smaller star divider

The Poison Throne by Celine Kiernan

The Poison Throne

Fifteen-year-old Wynter Moorehawke has returned to the palace where she grew up like a sister to the two princes, the bastard son Razi and his younger brother, the heir Alberon. But things have changed. The cats no longer talk, the ghosts are not friends, Alberon is missing, and the king is torturing subjects. The king desires Razi to take the throne, but Razi knows his brother must be the one to rule. Now Wynter must choose: her king or the true heir.  A compelling adult fantasy whose morally-dubious characters somehow manage to still be sympathetic. Read Krysta’s review.

smaller star divider

The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson

Shai is a Forger–one of the best. But the arbiters who rule the empire believer her art is nothing more than a trick, or, at the worst, a heresy. But now, as the result of an assassination attempt, the emperor sleeps in a coma and when he wakes, an enemy faction will no doubt declare him unfit to rule. So the arbiters need Shai. They need her to do the impossible. They need her to refashion a soul for the emperor.  A fantasy novella that features a complex protagonist and a carefully detailed world.  Read Briana’s review.

smaller star divider

Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson

As the youngest daughter, Siri has always been considered unimportant. But then her father sends her to marry the dreaded king of Hallandren in her sister Vivenna’s place. With a neglected education, Siri has no clue how to act in her new role as the wife of a god-king who could kill her at any moment. Feeling useless herself, Vivenna sets out to rescue Siri. But both princesses are about to find themselves embroiled in political conspiracies that may prove to be too much for them to handle.  A rich fantasy featuring court intrigue, a simmering rebellion, and morally complex characters.  Read Krysta’s review.

smaller star divider

Ship of Smoke and Steel by Django Wexler

Ship of Smoke and Steel Review

When the emperor discovers that eighteen-year-old ward boss Isoka can access the Well of Combat, he gives her an impossible mission: steal the ghost ship Solitan.  Isoka’s sister’s life is forfeit if she fails.  But she beings to realize that Solitan may be harboring secrets.  Read Briana’s review.

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo Review


Goodreads: King of Scars
Series: Nikolai Duology
Source: Purchased
Published: January 29, 2019

Official Summary

Nikolai Lantsov has always had a gift for the impossible. No one knows what he endured in his country’s bloody civil war—and he intends to keep it that way. Now, as enemies gather at his weakened borders, the young king must find a way to refill Ravka’s coffers, forge new alliances, and stop a rising threat to the once-great Grisha Army.

Yet with every day a dark magic within him grows stronger, threatening to destroy all he has built. With the help of a young monk and a legendary Grisha Squaller, Nikolai will journey to the places in Ravka where the deepest magic survives to vanquish the terrible legacy inside him. He will risk everything to save his country and himself. But some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried—and some wounds aren’t meant to heal.

Star Divider


Potential spoilers for the Shadow and Bone trilogy and Six of Crows duology. Very minor spoilers for King of Scars itself. (As in, don’t read the review if you want to know literally nothing about the story, but it’s safe if you don’t mind basic facts like who’s in the story, where it’s set, etc.  being revealed.)

King of Scars takes readers back to Ravka, where King Nikolai, Zoya, Genya, and other favorite Grishaverse characters are dealing with the aftermath of the civil war and the death of the Darkling.  It’s a novel that begins by backing away from the high stakes plot Bardugo gave readers in Six of Crows to ask how a king and his advisors hold together a crumbling country that might be at risk of going to war again and how the leaders who just survived a war deal with their own scars.  This might not be what readers were initially expecting, but the introspective approach is thoughtful and engaging, while it lasts.

Because the story also takes readers to Fjerdan, where Nina is completing a dangerous undercover mission for the king, while trying to bury some of her grief for Matthias.  Her story is more action-packed, following her deep in enemy territory as she tries to complete her tasks and learn about her the way her new magic works.  Nina’s plot line is fascinating, as it shows readers more of Fjerdan and Nina’s struggles to overcome her dislike of the country’s oppression of Grisha to try to see what Matthias might have loved about it, and it introduces a great new cast of characters.  However, her plot also means that King of Scars is not exactly “Nikolai’s book,” which is how it was marketed.  In fact, even the events that occur in Ravka with Nikolai are frequently narrated from Zoya’s point of view.  I didn’t have a problem with this, and I thought all the POVs were well-written, but I think this is going to be surprising if readers were expecting an exclusive focus on Nikolai.

One part of the book I did struggle with was the constant allusions to the original Grisha trilogy with Alina.  I didn’t particularly care for the first two and never read the third one, and it didn’t fully occur to me that Bardugo is created an entirely cohesive universe where it is necessary for readers to have read all the books before King of Scars to understand what’s going on.  If she continues to do this with future series, I think it’s going to create a real barrier to entry to her work for new readers, partially because (sorry) the original Grisha trilogy is mediocre compared to her most recent work, and readers (like me) might not want to read through three “meh” books to get to the good ones.  As it was, I was vaguely confused about some references and what was happening and realized I probably needed to consult a Grishaverse wiki to really understand what was happening, even though I could see that Bardugo tried to include just enough explanation of previous events to keep readers on track.

My other reservation is the ending of the book, which I feel is actually a bit unoriginal and undermined a lot of what was set up as the focus of the story in the beginning of the novel.  I don’t want to be more specific, however, to avoid spoilers.

Ultimately, King of Scars is a well-developed epic fantasy with imagination and scope and a complex, compelling cast of characters.  Bardugo is really becoming a force to be reckoned with in the fantasy world, and it’s always nice to find a book that reminds me of why I love the genre.

Look for Krysta’s upcoming discussion post about the ending of King of Scars!

4 stars Briana


Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Facebook

When True Love Doesn’t Conquer All in YA: A Reexamination of Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy

Spoilers for Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy below!

A popular YA book is never without it ships.  Often the female protagonist–along with the readers–is torn between the boy next door and the bad boy hopefully on a path to redemption.  In these cases, the result of the love triangle is. predictable and presumably the majority of readers receive the sweet satisfaction of knowing they were rooting for the ship that was meant to be.  In her Grisha trilogy, however, Leigh Bardugo complicates the cliched plot device by adding something YA readers are not quite accustomed to–a dash of realism in Mal’s reluctance to court Alina once she rises to a higher social class.  This decision has upset many a reader who longs for escapism and wants to believe, at least this time, that true love can conquer all.  Yet is also raises the Grisha trilogy above the hackneyed narratives currently saturating the YA market.

Posts and comments on the book blogosphere suggest that a not insignificant number of readers dislike Mal’s reactions to Alina’s new social status.  A good argument can in fact be made that Mal comes across as petulant at times and insufferable at others–especially when he declines to take Alina’s feelings and thoughts into account, and instead informs her what he thinks is best for the two of them.  However, I also contend that Mal’s reactions, if potentially annoying, are also supremely realistic.  Dating someone who has a vastly different social status, a higher education, and a higher income (all of which could be said to apply to Alina) comes with certain obstacles that dating someone from the same background does not.  Mal is simply more alert to the obstacles than Alina is.

As someone who has quickly risen to the top of the social ladder, Alina seems to believe that social identities are malleable.  Since she broke through the ranks, presumably Mal can, as well–especially if she, one of the Darkling’s favored ones, sponsors his rise.  Alina, however, is, as readers discover, surprisingly naive about her place at court.  Even though she possesses great power, she overestimates the social clout her Grisha powers give her.  She does not know how to play the game of court politics and others are pulling her strings.  She believes that being a Grisha gives her the ability to do whatever she wants.  Mal recognizes that being a Grisha makes Alina too important for the court to ever allow her to marry a commoner.  Alina is nothing more than a political pawn.

However, even if Alina were given the freedom to marry whomever she wanted, Mal rightly worries that the social divide between them has grown too great for them to be happy together.  Alina has accustomed herself to a certain lifestyle that comes with certain values and attitudes that Mal does not share.  He is uncomfortable with the opulence of the court and prefers his outdoor lifestyle. It is difficult to see him, a rough soldier, transforming into a courtier waited on by servants, fawning over the right people, giving cuts to the wrong ones.  Mal simply is not that cunning or calculated, nor does he want to be.  If he married Alina, he would always be aware that he is not the type of person that Alina, willingly, associates with everyday.  He is not “one of them.”

Mal’s reluctance to court Alina is not merely about his feeling threatened by her sudden acquisition of power.  It is about his fear that Alina no longer wants to associate with people like him, now that she has accustomed herself to hobnobbing with the elite.  She may one day decide that he is boring, that he is useless, that he is embarrassing, or that he is hampering her career.  Because Alina’s letters are withheld from him, he has no reason to think otherwise.  As far as he is aware, at least at first, Alina voluntarily cut off contact with her old life.  But even after he helps her escape from the court, Mal can never forget that they come from too separate worlds.  He has seen how comfortable she is performing for the court, and he knows he can never live like that.

Typically, YA books feed readers the narrative that true love conquers all.  If Mal and Alina loved each other enough, the story usually goes, the class divide between them would not matter.  But real life does not work that way.  Social divides typically come with value differences, which are much more difficult to bridge. Mal is not a man discontent with being a social inferior to his wife, but a man discontent to give up everything he believes in.  Most readers know intellectually that pretending to be someone a person is not will not result in a good relationship.  Mal is simply living that recognition out, refusing to pretend to be a courtier in order to date a woman.