Something Strong Enough To Topple Kings – A Grishaverse Review, Mostly Anyway

Leigh Bardugo has been a prominent name within YA literature for years now, and I am shamefully admitting how little attention I had ever given her. Bardugo is currently seven books deep into what is known as the Grishaverse – excluding her separate additions to the world that include a book on the language, another on saints and a third on journal prompts inspired by the series.

Now, being seven whole books into this world there is an order to the three different series, which I am shamefully admitting to not following and I very much suggest you do.

We start off with a trilogy, centred around Alina Starkov and companions as she manages life changes and suddenly has the title of a saint from orphan. Shadow and Bone (now actually a show on Netflix but I will get to that later), Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising. These three are the first in the Grishaverse timeline, where we meet the world and its magic along with its citizens and places from the map. Needless to say, these first books are referenced in those that follow it, which you might assume would have made me read them first. I did not and only for the purpose of following the timeline in this review have I started off with them. Actually, I read the second duology in the world first, and I know I’m not the first to do so, and I know I’m not the first to regret it either. However, I will say it did impact the way I enjoyed them.

In Shadow and Bone we are greeted to characters who I had met through later characters already – and the show but we will get to it I promise – and compared to Bardugo’s later works they had little depth, to begin with, along with being a little less diverse. I won’t critique the diversity within it only because from what I understand when this trilogy was first received by audiences it was a common one, a valid one, and Bardugo listened to it, later creating a nicely diverse cast of characters in the Grishaverse. Personally, I like that kind of growth in an author, especially as a biracial girl myself. Honestly I found Shadow and Bone to be pretty boring, which I do fault for knowing the whole plot beforehand a bit, and partly because I felt like parts of it dragged on. Shadow and Bone I only rated 2.5 / 5 stars, but don’t worry that is the lowest rating I gave out.

Siege and Storm was far more entertaining, and weirdly surprising. I didn’t anticipate the very fast paced start at all and was rather into it actually. I felt like the characters, and even the writing, was far more expressive and actually allowed for me to be shocked, and mad, often. I felt like I was experiencing something while reading it. The plot had a nice pick up in development too, and I was much more interested in everyone and the way the world worked because of it. Siege and Storm was by far a 4 star read for me, I was excited for the finale book in the trilogy.

Ruin and Rising at first was a little bit of a let down. I disliked, as I was supposed to, the environment and where the plot had reached to the point I was just hoping for it to start up again. I think I wasn’t expecting such a slowish – I say that just because none of these have been leagnth-y in pages – start from my expectations set by Siege and Storm. However, my god did that change once things were happening again. Everything I said about the second book, take it and make that hit puberty. My emotions were all over the place and for a mental image – picture me, a short girl, full face of my advanced emo adult make up, sitting in a Mcdonald’s booth as the sun sets through the window, my best friend who happens to be obsessed with the Grishaverse since highschool watching me gasp and near screaming over a certain favourite character. It was, if I dare say, an amazing ending to Alina and her story. So much so that Ruin and Rising got 5 / 5 stars and a very special place in my heart. I read all three of them in the span of three days, and I’ll even share some grand moments from the course of doing so.

Up next in the order is the Six of Crows duology, which actually happens to be what I read first only because of how deeply loved and appreciated it is, far more so than the original series. Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom follow along with the bastards of the barrel, Kaz, Inej, Jesper, Nina, Matthias and Whyland. Now, I’m still not ready to talk about the show – I will get there! – but I will mention here that the Crows and their books are merged into it alongside the first three. These books expand on the map of the world, explore it differently, along with bringing more representation. Bardguo’s writing over the years to reach a fourth and fifth book in this world improved greatly.

Before I go into it, I had tried to read Six of Crows a year before actually doing so but found Bardugo’s writing very hard to get into with how detailed everything was. It is one of those series where you need to be taking it all in to understand, and at the time I did not have the mental energy to do that. It could have also been the fact that it was the fourth book in this world and the first I picked up but, well, we’ll ignore that.

In Six of Crows we are met with multiple perspectives, always shifting to another member, allowing us as an audience to grasp the depth and complexities of each one. It allowed us to understand and grasp their separate motives and even their traumas, something that is explored through this duology. Not only that, the increase of diversity, the plot – OH THE PLOT – was so spectacular and entertaining. I believe I read it within three days in between uni classes, assignments and life, but I’m sure if those adult responsibilities weren’t there it would have only been a few hours. I don’t even know what to say here because I am more than likely biased as hell – if you haven’t guessed it was 5 stars – and I have so many thoughts but they would all be spoilers.

Crooked Kingdom I would say I liked a slight bit less, but don’t take that as it was bad at all because it was still 5 stars, but it was a FREAKING rollercoaster. In fact I won’t ever recover, its been a while since I read them and I am still processing my own pain over it. If you like things that will make you wish you were a criminal in a fantasy world, going on heists, being unbelievably cunning and tearing down those who are your foe, you will love this duology. Again there isn’t anything I can even say without giving anything away at all, which sucks, but also if that doesn’t make you grasp how detailed and full these books are I don’t know what will do it for you. I read this in a day, and I spent the night crying. Here are some photos of my reaction to the last part of the book, clearly I loved it.

Following Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom is the current series which hasn’t been finished yet. However, two books have been published. King of Scars and Rule of Wolves. Here is where I tell you why this review is titled as “A Grishaverse Review, Mostly Anyway”. If you haven’t guessed, I have not read them yet. I do plan too obviously, and I will probably link my seperate review on them here when I have. The only reason I can give you as to why I haven’t picked them up is well, life. It tends to get in the way doesn’t it?

Finally, as promised, the show. In 2021, April 23rd, Netflix aired Shadow and Bone, which included eight episodes that follow the plot of the book Shadow and Bone, but also introduced the Crows and made them an addition to it, with the implied expectation of season two following Siege and Storm and Six of Crows together. Netflix describes the show as “dark forces conspire against orphan mapmaker Alina Starkov when she unleashes an extraordinary power that could change the fate of her war-torn world.”

I watched the show, all eight, forty minute episodes the night it aired with my best friend before reading any of the books. I knew it was coming out, the two of us were on a trip to Sydney and I agreed to watch an episode of it with her. Yeah, well it was more than one, and it was the early hours of the morning when we stopped. I had said that if I liked the show I would try and read the books again. You obviously know the outcome. Since that first time I have watched the show three more times. The second was after Six of Crows, the third was after Crooked Kingdom and the fourth after all three of the original trilogy. Each time I have noticed and picked up on so many things I would not have acknowledged without the context of the books, and each thing made me love it more. Now, there have been some disgusting things to come out about the filming, such as painting a stunt double brown instead of hiring someone of colour, and the fans very much fought for justice with that, called everyone out on it and forced the author to apologise when she was being told to not say anything. According to her she was unaware, having only been on set for a few days, but that’s not my apology to accept.

We have since had the announcment that season two will be happening, and while we are all very excited for it, it is known that if anything else comes out about the filming a lot of us will be rightfully not partaking in watching it.

Now, I don’t really have a way of rating shows as I do novels, but I will say compared to some Netflix adapted shows (yes, yes I’m looking at you Shadowhunters cause wtf) it was a massive improvement. I thought I would hate the CGI as I have before and I have seen Netflix make things ten times more cringe than it should be. Shadow and Bone was a pleasant surprise, and it really shows how good they can manage a book adaptation when the effort is actually there. Personally I really, really enjoyed the show. I found the casting was spot on too, especially for Matthias.

Now I know this review is already pretty long, and you can definitely guess whether or not I liked it, but I’m still going to give some final thoughts. Bardugo’s writing over the years has seriously developed into some of the best fantasy writing I have read, she has built this marvelous world and cast of characters that are not flawless in slightest but are still able to be loved. I won’t ever forget the experience of reading the Grishaverse, nor will I be able to with all my hopes for the show being continued. It is truly phenomenal, it is truly a whole moment, and I will always recommend it to anyone who has an interest.

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