I’ve been promising you all a giant review of the Shadow and Bone trilogy for ages, but it’s finally here! Since it’s kinda long, I’m gonna keep this introduction fairly short, but I hope you enjoy my reviews and if you want any more information, feel free to ask questions in the comments or shoot me an email. I’d love to talk with you all about what you liked and disliked with this trilogy.
Shadow and Bone
Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.
Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.
I liked this book. It was a good story, had cool characters, and was super easy for me to read. But it didn’t really make me feel anything, and the writing made me want to scream. It was so much telling instead of showing, and it was just overly descriptive about everything. It didn’t feel very polished to me, which made me struggle to really connect with the characters.
Overall, it was a decent, easy read. I just think I prefer the TV show adaptation over the book.
What I Liked
The concept. I think the entire premise of this story is absolutely genius. The idea of darkness being a place is so creative, and I loved the way the plot unfolded (although I knew what would happen because I watched the TV show before reading the books).
The characters. This is a sort of gray area for me because I like the characters, but I also…don’t. The Darkling was the most fascinating character because he was the most conflicted. I don’t have the same utter hate for Mal that everyone else seems to have, but I don’t have any particularly strong feelings for him either.
What I Didn’t Like
The writing. Leigh Bardugo’s writing felt very amateur to me. This was her debut novel, and unfortunately, it reads exactly like a debut novel because the writing is weak and too wordy. I appreciated the worldbuilding, but it was too much description and not enough showing for me.
Animal death, death of a parent, death, violence, blood, toxic relationship, and mentions of sexual assault.
“I love you, Alina, even the part of you that loved him.“
“I’ve been waiting for you a long time, Alina” He said. “You and I are going to change the world.”
“The thought filled me with grief, grief for the dreams we’d shared, for the love I’d felt, for the hopeful girl I would never be again.”
Listen to my Shadow and Bone playlist
If you have not read past the first book, Shadow and Bone, I highly suggest stopping here until you do. There are spoilers for the rest of the trilogy from here on out.
Siege and Storm
Darkness never dies.
Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But she can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.
The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her—or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.
I liked this one so much more than Shadow and Bone. Nikolai is fantastic—I can see why everyone loves him so much. Mal and Alina bugged me because they kept fighting, but it’s the middle in a trilogy, so that’s expected. The plot twists had me gasping, and the writing was definitely better.
What I Liked
The plot. This was so much better than the first book, in my opinion. The first half of the book picked the action right up and just launched into this amazing pirate story that gripped me in a way that the first book never really did.
Nikolai. I now understand why the fandom practically worships this man, and it’s because he is the only well-rounded character in the trilogy. He’s sarcastic and somewhat unreliable, but he has such a good and loving heart for his country and his people. He means well, and I think he was the best character in the book.
What I Didn’t Like
Mal and Alina. I’m so tired of authors relying on the miscommunication trope to sustain their middle books in a trilogy because it simply doesn’t work. It’s probably my biggest pet peeves with sequels, and I wish that we could just proclaim this trope dead.
The pacing. After the first half moved so fast, it was jarring to have it suddenly slow down and revolve so much around politics. I mean, I get why Leigh did it, but it still made the pacing feel weird for the book because it just started lagging and kinda bored me a little bit.
Death, blood, violence, and toxic relationship.
“I have loved you all my life, Mal,” I whispered through my tears. “There is no end to our story.”
“Anything worth doing always starts as a bad idea.”
“The less you say, the more weight your words will carry.”
Ruin and Rising
The capital has fallen.
The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.
Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.
Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.
Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.
Honestly? This was a very satisfying conclusion to the Shadow and Bone trilogy. It dragged a little bit in the middle, but overall it was emotional and beautifully heartbreaking.
[Editor Bree here] It’s actually been so long since I’ve finished this trilogy that I can’t really remember what I liked and disliked. I mean, it’s a good ending, but the details aren’t exactly super memorable.
Sex scene (not overly graphic, but still clear that the two characters are having sex), mentions of rape, violence, blood, and death.
“They had an ordinary life, full of ordinary things—if love can ever be called that.”
“I hope you weren’t looking to me to be the voice of reason. I keep to a strict diet of ill-advised enthusiasm and heartfelt regret.”
In the end, maybe love just meant longing for something impossibly bright and forever out of reach.”
Have you read the Shadow and Bone trilogy? What did you think? Do you like the books better than the show? Let’s talk about all things Grishaverse in the comments below!