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Grishaverse fans rejoice! Tomorrow is the long-awaited release of Netflix’s Shadow and Bone adaptation, and we’re living for it. Whether you’re an OG Shadow and Bone trilogy fan, an adjacent Six of Crows duology fanatic, or a recent inductee after watching the cinematic trailers, noticing the great cast chemistry, or diving unawares into the more recent King of Scars duology, this weekend is going to be a blast of action-packed, heart-pounding, and potentially tear-jerking content.
But we all know lows can come after the highs, especially after binging all 8 episodes of what is predicted to be a rather addictive series, and you’re going to need something to fill that Shadow and Bone hole in your heart. You can re-read or catch up on Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse novels, or you can think of your favorite Grishaverse character and give one of these book recommendations a try.
(Apologies Baghra, Genya, Nikolai, Tamar, Tolya, etc. fans, but there are just too many great characters in this universe. We can get them next time with the release of a hopeful season 2!)
The Legendborn Cycle (by Tracy Deonn) for Alina fans
Our main character, Alina Starkov starts off as an average individual before a life-altering event grants her unique abilities with the capacity to shift the fate of her failing world for the better. Sounds like many YA series or really any series mapped (intentionally or not) with Campbell’s hero’s journey in mind, but the hero’s journey is popular for a reason. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Throw in a likable protagonist with some relatable (Alina doesn’t seem to fit in), admirable (she never gives up), and purposeful (she has something and someone she cares about) characteristics, and you’ve got the start to a compelling narrative. Tracy Deonn does just this with the first book in her new Legendborn Cycle via protagonist Bree Matthews. Set at a modern-day college campus with a secret society descending from the Knights of the Round Table, Bree is also a brave, persistent, and compassionate girl with newly discovered abilities that, if trained properly, could prevent the world from being overrun with demons as well as corrupt authorities.
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Cemetery Boys (by Aiden Thomas) for Mal fans
As Alina’s best friend and an amazing tracker in the First Army (i.e. non-grisha soldiers = soldiers without manipulative abilities like Alina, the Darkling, and other characters), Mal is protective, loyal, and persevering in whatever his task. He’s the reliable ally that’s separated from the heroine to allow her to grow in her own way, but despite this, he makes his way back to her. His main narrative obviously focuses on his devotion to Alina and his willingness to do whatever is necessary for her sake. Of course we all know about Samwise Gamgee and his similarly undying loyalty to Frodo Baggins, but have you heard about Julian Diaz from Aiden Thomas’ Cemetery Boys? Though more energetic and charming than Mal, Julian’s a very found-family-trope man with a steadfast dependability embedded in his heart, and although he’s a ghost with limited capabilities, once he’s given the chance, he focuses all his afterlife energy into caring for his established family as well as his newly found family member, Yadriel.
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Villains series (by V. E. Schwab) for the General Kirigan/Darkling fans
Netflix may be marketing the Darkling as General Kirigan, but we all know the man’s book name and really, it’s hard to call him anything else. As his name suggests, he’s a bit dark, a bit brooding, and he can wield shadows in ways Bruce Wayne can only dream of. Unlike other grisha, he’s one of a kind in the scope of his power and the element he can manipulate. The more powerful a grisha, the longer a life-span, and this man has been around the block and around the block and back a few more times. Driven, morally gray, and a bit lonely, the Darkling sounds quite like Victor from V. E. Schwab’s Villains series. Victor, similar to the Darkling, has a unique power to manipulate pain in others and himself, whether that be to take it away or cause it, and he often likes to cause it. Also like the Darkling, Victor has his own moral code with strict reasoning behind each action, he is calculating and often ruthless, and something can be said about certain relationships they surprisingly invest in.
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Kingdom of Cards duology (by Janella Angeles) for Zoya fans
Although there hasn’t been much explicit promotion for Zoya’s Netflix adaptation (or Genya’s for that matter), there’s an obvious amount of love for this ambitious, stubborn, and loyal Squaller (a grisha who can manipulate air). She’s popular enough to cameo in Crooked Kingdom, get her own spin-off alongside Nikolai and Nina, and for fans to scream over her one second appearance in the trailers. If you like powerfully skilled and intimidatingly beautiful women with a healthy dose of arrogance, you’ll enjoy Kallia from Janella Angeles’ Kingdom of Cards series. More of a performer and less of a soldier than Zoya, Kallia is the best show magician in the Conquering Circus and knows it. She wields fire like Zoya does air, has a strong sense of purpose and doesn’t let anyone or anything deter her from her path, and has a Nikolai-like companion in the form of Aaros.
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Gentleman Bastards series (by Scott Lynch) for Kaz fans
Six of Crow fans, justifiably, lost it when Netflix announced the SoC characters would weasel their way into the Shadow and Bone TV series as the crows aren’t in the original trilogy but are introduced in their own duology. This means readers will get to see a prequel-take on the crows before SoC events, but based on promo, we’ll still get the cunning, cold-hearted, and brutal Kaz Brekker readers know and love. There is a lot to Kaz that distinguishes him as a compelling character from his limp that doesn’t make him any less deadly to his mysterious gloves that earned him the name “Dirtyhands,” but his ability to recruit a band of drastically different and resourceful thieves and scheme what should be an impossible heist is definitely up there. Locke Lamora, from Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard series, pulls this off as well, though he does so with more profanity, more fun-going tendencies, and honestly, more chill. Don’t let that fool you though. He can be just as clever, willful, and cruel as Kaz, which makes for a fun series.
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Sands of Arawiya duology (by Hafsah Faizal) for Inej fans
Inej could best be summarized as Kaz’s deadly, right-hand spy, or as actor Amita Suman regularly describes her, “an assassin with a conscience.” Trained as an acrobat, reserved and intelligent, and armed with fourteen knives (yeah) on her short, lithe frame, Inej is not only badass in her skill and tact, but she is morally unwavering and just a darn good person. Her relationship with her work and her ideals makes her a great foil for Kaz and a fascinating character in her own right. Another “assassin with a conscience” is Nasir from Hafsah Faizal’s Sands of Arawiya. Set in a magical, folklore-esque Arabia, Nasir is the personal killer for his father, the sultan, but like Inej, he’s naturally compassionate and is thrown when he’s sent on a mission to uncover a lost artifact and kill the legendary Hunter (our other main character). Faizal’s duology also includes interesting characters that play well off of Nasir’s particular struggles, but most importantly, Nasir’s got a fancy assassin name (the Prince of Death) like Inej (the Wraith).
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The Raven Cycle (by Maggie Stiefvater) for Jesper fans
Last, but in no way the least, Jesper deftly juggles the roles of Kaz’s left-hand sharpshooter, a mildly regretful gambler, and a snarky, bisexual disaster. He’s playful, reckless, and restless, and all of this makes him a rather easy character to grow fond of especially when placed next to Kaz and Inej and when paired with his genuine good intentions and surprisingly low self-esteem. Similarly, Ronan Lynch from Maggie Steifvater’s Raven Cycle projects one version of himself and holds deeper his more vulnerable side. Definitely more caustic and cynical than Jesper but with as much affection for his unusual set of friends as the gunslinger holds for his unusual gang, Ronan can be sarcastic, self-hating, and yes, both reckless and restless. He also relentlessly teases his crush, ignores school responsibilities, and keeps a close secret to his heart, so Jesper fans could really find another fav in Ronan. If you fall in love with him as much as Jesper, you're in for a treat as Stiefvater is currently releasing a Ronan-focused spin-off trilogy (the first one’s already out).
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