My Thoughts on the Shadow and Bone Netflix Adaptation!

It has been no secret just how very excited I was for the Shadow and Bone series (as well as the Six of Crows duology) to be adapted by Netflix. While the streaming platform doesn’t always get it right, I was really optimistic early on and the trailers looked fantastic. Before I watched it, though, I caught up on all the books as to really know what I am talking about (only Rule of Wolves is missing for me now, but that’s irrelevant for the show at the moment) and even before going into details on my thoughts, I think they did a great job!

Obviously, the Grishaverse is huge and vast and has quite the fanbase because of the books series. But not everyone has read those and Netflix offers a platform that exposes the material to millions of people all over the world. Not everyone will be happy with everything, but I would like share my personal opinions in the following post.

*I could not do this without going into detail on some topics, so this might not be for you if you want to go into the show with as little knowledge as possible. SPOILERS ahead!!!*

THINGS/CHANGES I DIDN’T LIKE

I want to get the “bad” things out of the way, because some of it really irked me. It did not overshadow my enjoyment entirely, because I binged the show in a day, but I find it necessary to point them out regardless.

  • Casting Jessie Mei Li as Alina was a beautiful choice. Jessie is a ray of sunshine and hence amazing to watch as the sun summoner. They have great chemistry with on screen partners and I’m so very glad they got cast for this role. In the books, Alina wasn’t biracial though. This was a choice made to bring more diversity to the on screen adaptation, but where they went wrong (in my opinion) was by adding anti-Asian slurs and racism to portray the treatment of people from Shu Han. Nowhere in the books was this kind of racism ever present and we are dealing with a Fantasy world where Alina already faces enough struggles and could have dealt with a number of different circumstances that made her feel othered if that was what they wanted to portray so badly. Every time they inserted a slur such as “rice-eater” or “half-breed” it felt forced and unnecessary and I imagine hurtful to certain audiences. The problem is that they never contextualize this behavior, because they simply claim that being at war with Shu Han is enough to warrant the hostility, but that’s really not the take they thought it was.
credit: Netflix
  • Amplifiers in the books, while still kind of barbaric, are jewelry made out of bones/scales/claws/etc. and can be anything from a necklace to a bracelet or ring. Grisha can only have one amplifier in their lifetime (yeah, I know exceptions exist) and can never take it off. The Grisha who killed the animal the amplifier is from has the power over it. I think that’s all pretty cut and clear, so, why did the show change them into some kind of body horror?
    When the Darkling puts the antlers on Alina, she does not get a badass necklace, but rather the antlers fuse into her collar bone, making it an extremely uncomfortable scene to watch. I worry about this change, not just because she eventually absorbs the antlers into her body entirely and they are not visible anymore at all, but also because it makes me feel that the producers thought putting a literal collar on a person was not horrific enough and they needed another violation of Alina’s body to showcase the Darkling’s evil nature. Apparently, people wouldn’t be put off enough by his disregard for consent and need to control everyone around him.
  • Speaking of the Darkling! Due to budget constraints and everyone adoring Ben Barnes (he is a great actor), they opted to not show the Demon in the Woods short story as part of a flashback, where the Darkling would have been only 10 years old, but rather showed a grown up Darkling. In that tidbit from the past, he seemed enamored with a Grisha called Luda, who did not exist in the books, but came across as a love interest in that scene. Her death causes the creation of the Fold, making it feel like fridging (where the girlfriend/wife/love interest of the male protagonist dies in order to propel his story). In an interview with Insider, the showrunner explicitly said they weren’t trying to do that and even actively tried to avoid it, but nothing in that scene told me they weren’t romantically involved. (You can read the interview here!)
    Also, I keep calling him the Darkling, because that’s how I knew him for 7 books. Yes, his first name is Aleksander, but in the books that’s revealed very late. His name is a mystery and Alina is the only person in that world to know it, which felt special, but here he just throws his name around like it means nothing. The show really humanised him a lot.
credit: Netflix

GENRAL STUFF I ENJOYED OR NOTICED

The following points that I will mention were neither huge mistakes nor masterful choices. I just collected some of my thoughts that I found interesting or necessary to mention to give you all a complete picture.

  • As someone who has read all the books, short stories and anthologies (Language of Thorns and Lives of Saints), I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on the Grishaverse. However, had I been someone who didn’t have that prior knowledge, I could have easily seen myself struggle with some of the concepts. They really barely explained anything to do with Grisha orders, amplifiers or something as simple but vital as the belief systems (Fjerdan god vs. Ravkan sainsts etc.). I doubt that anyone could understand some of the important components to their full extent having none of that knowledge and background info. Whereas I understand it’s difficult to include, a little more would have been appreciated from my side.
  • While waiting for the show to release, I always said that I did not care about the faithfulness of the story, but rather about the accurate representation of the characters and their personality and I still stand by that. Yes, Jesper should have been played by a dark-skinned actor, but Kit Younger has his personality DOWN. And not just him, EVERYONE either behaved exactly like I imagined they would (even if they didn’t all look like they had in my head) or even improved on the characters by playing them softer and with more nuance and vulnerability (e.g. Matthias Helvar). I cannot wait to see who they will bring in for the twins, Nikolai and Wylan next season.
credit: Netflix
  • The overall pacing and the amount of story they packed into this first season was well handled. From what I heard, the showrunner has a three-season-plan, which would correlate nicely with the three Shadow and Bone books. I really hope that the next season would also start implementing the Six of Crows plot, because this was a nice prequel to their characters, but I need to see the big heist happening. However, since everything is more interconnected, they might change things up further and I’d be excited to see what that looks like.

SOME IMPROVEMENTS

In some cases, I even think that the show did better than the book. Having the ability to show several points of view, whereas Shadow and Bone the book only offered Alina’s side really gave them the chance to explore the characters some more. Also, it probably helped that the producers already knew about all the later books Leigh Bardugo wrote as well. Here’s some changes I thought worked well:

  • When I first read Shadow and Bone, I hated Zoya. She literally broke Alina’s ribs and just treated her terribly, because she was jealous. Early on in the books, there are few redeeming qualities to Zoya and while she improves over time, I always felt a grudge until I got her side of things in King of Scars. While she starts out similarly in the show, I was grateful that they allowed an insight into her backstory earlier in the season than in the books. She is such an important character, but I think audiences would have struggled later on, just like I did while reading, if they hadn’t softened her up.
  • I think I am part of a small group of people who actually liked Mal in the books, but I think Archie and the writing on the show made the character so much better. They scratched unnecessary and childish jealousy scenes (which was annoying but fine in the books, because they were younger) and genuinely made his connection to Alina seem sweet and fated. I’m so happy people are now actually rooting for them.
  • Milo the goat is the real MVP.

VERDICT

I loved seeing some of my favorite characters brought to life on the screen. My expectations were high and I could have easily been disappointed but I was really pleased with how everything came together. Shadow and Bone is by no means flawless, but the effort they put into wanting to do the material justice came through. I honestly didn’t know if I would understand the involvement of the crows before watching, but it was integrated beautifully and they provided some of the best parts of the season. If you enjoyed the books, I think you will like this as well. Even if you weren’t a huge fan of the Shadow and Bone books, but only enjoyed Six of Crows, I can easily see you liking this better. 

credit: Netflix

Previous Reviews from this books series and Leigh Bardugo’s work:


Have you watched Shadow and Bone yet? Do you plan to? What were some of your favorite and least favorite moments? Let’s talk!

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo (Book Review)

Publisher: Orion Children’s Books
Page Count
: 514

With the imminent release of the Shadow and Bone Netflix series (if you haven’t heard me talk about that basically all the time as of late, where have you been? Watch the trailer here) and the even closer release of the second book in the duology King of Scars is a part of – Rule of Wolves – I thought it was time I finally caught up on the Grishaverse.
It’s been a while since I’ve read Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, but I still vividly remember how easily I fell in love with the characters and the world they inhabit. It has been much more recent that I tore my way through the Shadow and Bone trilogy, finally catching up on Alina’s storyline and getting that proper introduction to Nikolai Lantsov. He deserved that grand entry like no other! I’m glad I picked up all the previous books before reading King of Scars, because I think I would have been lost without people’s backstories. 

That’s the thing with the books in the Grishaverse; in the beginning you might have been able to just read one series or another, but we are in so deep now, with everything being interconnected, that it would do you a disservice not to know the previous material. In fact, it’s necessary, because so much of this series is built on your feelings for the characters and what is about to happen to them.

“The monster is me and I am the monster.”

King of Scars, just like the Six of Crows duology, offers multiple POVs. The most important ones are likely Nikolai, Zoya and Nina, although I have to say that I struggled to really find a proper connection between Nina’s storyline and the others. She felt very much apart with her mission in Fjerda, even if her plot made sense for her character development and offered a great new path for Nina. It’s something only she could effectively pull off. And I could see those small crumbs that tried to hint at how it would link to the business in Ravka, but (at least in this part of the duology) it felt very much like it could have been a completely unrelated just simultaneously running story.
So, I couldn’t help but feel more drawn to what was going on with Nikolai. I think I wasn’t alone in quickly having him become a favourite even without him having his own perspective back in Shadow and Bone. This broken golden boy just has his charms, as every other character in the Grishaverse could probably attest to. The fact that he now has a major part in this duology just shows that Leigh Bardugo knows what her fans like to read about.

“Most of us can hide our greatest hurts and longings. It’s how we survive each day. We pretend the pain isn’t there, that we are made of scars instead of wounds.”

While I felt like the plot was moving along quite slowly at times and not necessarily contradicted previous books, but definitely rewrote a couple narratives (just throw out your knowledge about amplifiers now for example …), which I did not care about massively, I did appreciate how much more we got to know the characters.
Again, Nikolai is not just charming, he is a really good man. The way he puts Ravka above all his needs is incredible and possibly not healthy, but he just wants to do better than the weak men who came before him. He would give his life if it meant that the people he is trying to serve as a ruler will get to have a more stable and prosperous life. As boisterous and superficial as he can seem, he is one of the most selfless characters.
But most of all, I appreciate that I got to know Zoya more. I’m not going to lie, I struggled with her character for a long time in previous books, because I just couldn’t forget her mean girl behaviour from the beginning. I don’t enjoy people who make others feal scared or lesser than just to feel superior and she has always given off that vibe. She was never kind, nor good, she was ruthless. Now though, I feel like this showed us why she is the way she is. Why she thinks kindness is such a weakness, even if that’s not true at all. Why she is all prickly like thorns despite her beauty like the most gorgeous flowers. There’s really quite a lot of selflessness in her too.

“Most women suffer thorns for the sake of the flowers, but we who wield power adorn ourselves with flowers to hide the sting of our thorns”

King of Scars definitely isn’t my favourite book in the Grishaverse, but it does what it is supposed to – it keeps me wanting more. I always want to know and probably always will want to know how these characters are doing and if lasting peace is an option. But it’s Ravka … something always goes wrong.

Lastly, which is really more of a personal side note than a criticism, I wish there wasn’t this incessant need to always pair everyone up. Tolya is literally the only person I can think of who currently doesn’t have a crush and it’s a lot to me. Sometimes characters can just be friends … or partners in crime … or confidants … or alone?

Fazit: 3.5/5 stars! I rounded up, but I did struggle with this book at times.


Have you read King of Scars? How deep are you into the Grishaverse? I, for one, can’t wait for the show and the upcoming release of Rules of Wolves!

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo (Book Review)

Publisher: Gollancz
Page Count
: 458

**CW: rape, sexual assault, abuse, self-harm, murder, violence, vomiting, gore**

I like Leigh Bardugo as an author. I have not, in fact, read everything she has written, but just like about every human on earth, I have really enjoyed the Six of Crows duology and could easily have seen her become one of my household favourite authors. When it was announced that she had written her first adult book in a sort of dark academia setting, I was fully on board. And it’s not that this book didn’t deliver on what it advertised, it just turned out that I wasn’t really the right reader for it.

First of all, you get thrown into a world you understand very little of. Bardugo is great at creating a whole universe with magic, and rules that apply to it, that feels real and accessible, but I was just lost. I’ve never been to the Yale campus and even with a map, there were so many details I had a hard time connecting with. Aside from Gilmore Girl’s Rory, I really have no connection to it if I think about it some more. But then there are also the actual magical societies. I thought we would gradually get eased into the matter, but instead you start into the midst of it all, and believe me when I say it is a mess.

Aside from the confusing societies, it takes a while to get to know the characters and therefore really get into the story. To me, connecting with the people on the page and their journey is so important, but there were so many blanks that eventually got filled in, but it took me a good 100 pages to really get into it.
Alex Stern, the main character of the series and who’s real name is actually Galaxy, is a mystery wrapped in an enigma. Her past is hard to swallow and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I understand her anger and her way of keeping people at bay, but at the same time, I felt like I was kept at bay sometimes. That’s maybe why I found golden boy Darlington (who I need back desperately and who will be the main reason I will pick up the sequel) and quiet but caring Dawes more accessible. Also, Turner was a big upside of the book for me, because he felt like the lawful good person the story needed. But I enjoyed the dynamic among all characters and the way we still got to explore how some of these relationships were formed. Where a lot of things felt like pre-established fixtures, at least this was something that felt like it was still in the making.

“I let you die. To save myself, I let you die. That is the danger in keeping company with survivors.”

So, there were some aspects I really enjoyed (especially the emancipation and handling of different female characters) and others I did not understand or connect to as much as I had hoped. The fact that a lot of it was presented in the shape of a paranormal crime story maybe didn’t help me personally. I understood that murder and mayhem would be involved in Ninth House, but I wasn’t quite expecting it to be so much like a detective story. Those of you who know me, know that I get a little bored with the investigation-type plots. However, I can see how a lot of readers would be the opposite of me and enjoy those the most!

In conclusion, I would say that this book is A LOT. There is blood and gore and death around every corner. I understand if it is too much to stomach for some people, especially those who are more used to YA content. If you aren’t sure, I would just take a look at what different people who’s opinion you trust are saying about it and then make up your own mind. Or go in completely blind!

“Take courage; no one is immortal”

Fazit: 3.5/5 stars! Maybe this just wasn’t for me as much as other readers, but I would still continue with the series!

Have you read Ninth House? Have you read other books by Leigh Bardugo? What do you think about her first take on adult fiction?

The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo (Book Review)

Publisher: Orion
Page Count
: 279

I can make this very easy for all of you! I love fairy tales, I love Leigh Bardugo, I love the Grishaverse and I love books with beautiful illustrations all lead to me adoring and falling in love with The Language of Thorns. There was no way around it and I honestly never really doubted it to begin with. However, I know that makes for a really poor review, so I am shortly going to review each of the stories.

Disclaimer: It is not strictly necessary to have read any of the Grishaverse books beforehand, although I suspect the tales will be more fun that way.

Ayama and the Thorn Wood

Rating: 5/5 stars

“You know how the stories go. Interesting things only happen to pretty girls, you will be home by sunset.”

Well, wrong! This one was my absolute favorite and I think it had a lot to do with the message of the story. It was like a mix between Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast but with the complete opposite moral – you don’t have to be beautiful or handsome to go on adventures, to be brave and strong and most of all to be appreciated. It gave me such a sweet taste of how Leigh Bardugo would continue to deconstruct these tales we all know so well and make them her own, a lot darker and in quite a few cases way better.

The Too-Clever Fox

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

“A lesser creature might have closed his eyes and prayed for nothing more than a quick death. But if Koja had words, then he had hope.”

I liked the idea of having a fox (by the name of Koja) as the hero of the story. His wit and fast thinking got him out of every situation until it didn’t. For this one I saw the twist coming, but I still appreciated how the story ended quite a bit.

Little teaser for this one: Koja is supposedly Kaz Brekker’s (Six of Crows) favorite, so if that is no reason to check it out then I don’t know.

The Witch of Duva

Rating: 3/5 stars

“Fly away now, little bird,” she said. “Some things are better left unseen.”

The closest fairy tale to compare it to would probably be Hansel and Gretel, however, I just want to point out that Leigh Bardugo goes far beyond all the traditional tales’ constraints. I don’t exactly know what it was about this one, but it definitely fell among the most disturbing ones for me and they are all … peculiar in that way. One thing is for sure, nothing is as it seems here!

Little Knife

Rating: 4/5 stars

“She never worried when her beauty faded, for in her reflection she always saw a free woman.”

While Little Knife has a lot of classic fairy tale elements, such as impossible tasks and suitors battling for the hand of the most beautiful woman in town, it still has such a positively refreshing message about female independence and women’s identity. I liked how Little Knife reinforced the idea that it is not necessary for every single being to end up in a romantic relationship in the end.

The Soldier Prince

Rating: 4/5 stars

“My life began with wanting something for myself.”

The vague resemblance to the nutcracker definitely peaked my interest for this story. Yet, instead of the transformative power of love being the main focus it is rather about finding your own wants and human desires; that need to live for yourself instead of the people around you. I enjoyed this little journey of self-discovery that very much reminded me of artificial intelligence becoming conscious. It also had one of the most eerie endings out of all the six.

When Water Sang Fire

Rating: 5/5 stars

“A thousand desperate wishes have been spoken on these shores, and in the end they are all the same: Make me someone new.”

Let’s face it, this was basically the very dark yet still incredibly beautiful original take on the origin story of Ursula from the Little Mermaid. I loved every single word of it!


So, those were my thoughts on the Language of Thorns! As a final statement, I just really want to praise Sara Kipin’s illustrations that beautifully unfold as you continue with each story. They made the tales truly special and assured that 5-star-rating in the end.

Fazit: 5/5 stars! The most beautiful addition to the Grishaverse possible!

Have you read The Language of Thorns or other books set in the Grishaverse? What are your thoughts?

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo (Book Review)

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Publisher: Orion Books
Page Count
: 536

Crooked Kingdom is yet another book back from December that I have neglected to review until today! It is the second and final part in the Six of Crows duology (my review for the first part can be read here!) and what a ride it has been. I did not technically read this Fadwa @Word Wonders, however, without her emotional support and me being able to ramble while I read, it would only have been half as much fun. So, many thanks for that!

I just really struggle with reviewing sequels, because I obviously don’t want to give away the plot, most of what I liked or disliked was already mentioned in my previous post and despite repeating myself a lot, I don’t actually enjoy doing that. So, what’s left to say? Because I still love the group-dynamic, their banter and how they are like some lovely, dysfunctional family. I still adore the twists and turns of the story, the adrenaline that rushes through my veins, even when I know (or at least think I know) how a situation ends.

While I was romantically frustrated with this book, all my ships sailed and there was just so much love all around. I am not going to lie, if a book has abso-freaking-lutely no one to ship, I will get bored, so this duology was like a shipping heaven. There’s so much potential all around, without any silly love triangles or other ridiculous jealousy plots. You just have all kinds of pairings and they are so cutesy with each other. I just really, really, really wanted some kind of making out session, which I didn’t get …

Unfortunately I was spoiled for one of the major plot twists (even if it wasn’t in detail) because of social media. I am obviously not going to repeat myself here, but let’s just say that the actual scene didn’t have much impact on me. I can’t even describe a feeling, because in that very moment, I felt absolutely nothing, which disconcerted me a little to be honest. HOWEVER, in a later scene it really hit me I guess. Somehow I am not sure though if I ever fully realised what happened there or if I am denying it.

Finally, even without having read the Grisha trilogy, this duology was a feast for my ever hungry reader soul. We had such an inclusive cast (including POC, m/m romance, a character suffering from PTSD and another one from dyslexia to name just a bit of what’s going on) and exciting plot! If you want something engaging, thrilling and emotional, this should be your next read!

I will finish this review with one of my favourite Kaz Brekker quotes and general favourite quotes from the series (be still my beating heart):

ckquote

Fazit: 5/5 stars! LOVE. LOVE. LOVE. this duology!

5stars

Have you read Crooked Kingdom or the duology as a whole? Would you like to in the future?

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (Book Review)

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Publisher: Henry Holt
Page Count
: 462

Six of Crows was my first buddy read with the ever amazing Fadwa! I don’t know why we waited for so long, because I this was so much fun in my opinion *fingers crossed she feels the same way* and if time and schedules permit it, I would be up for another one any day. Don’t forget to check out her review on her blog right HERE!

We actually finished this book last week and I usually tend to do my reviews right afterwards, but every now and then a book comes along and it needs more time. This book came with a lot of expectations! It has been recommended to me countless times and fanart as well as quotes from the characters have spammed my timeline more than once. I even had some book swag from subscription boxes at home, without ever having read a single word from the books. Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining at all! Love for a story like this is beautiful, but it also puts some pressure on the book itself as well as me while reading. You cannot imagine how relieved I was when Six of Crows fully delivered!

There’s already an existing world from the Grisha books that I was not unaware of, but I still haven’t read those previous books. So, right in the beginning it took a little time to understand what’s what and where’s where, but gorgeous maps and little lists in the front where a big help in that department. Aside from that little confusion there is nearly nothing bad to say, which makes this the tough part of the review. I LOVED all the characters. It barely took me 5 chapters and I was already head over heels for most of them. Of course I could give you a precise ranking of my lovelies (From most love to least love, but still love all around: Inej, Kaz, Jesper, Weylan, Nina, Matthias), but the point is that they were all amazing.

Ähnliches Foto

I am lacking words today, but all six of them were multi-layered, beautifully unique, flawed, selfish, passionate, caring and generally hilarious characters. There were laugh-out-loud-moments, just as much as there were really scary action sequences. Even when I knew how a situation would end, my heart was still threatening to jump out of my rib cage. The dialogue was fast and witty, there were some predictable moments and others that completely surprised me. My shipping heart aches with all the possibilities. YOU SEE ME FLAILING HERE, RIGHT? I am not even into multiple-POV-books usually, but this one captured me in all its entirety. So, I am going to leave you with one last snippet, just in case you still need convincing (you really shouldn’t at this point) that the banter will be glorious!

Kaz leaned back. “What’s the easiest way to steal a man’s wallet?”
“Knife to the throat?” asked Inej.
“Gun to the back?” said Jesper.
“Poison in his cup?” suggested Nina.
“You’re all horrible,” said Matthias.

Fazit: 5/5 stars! Crooked Kingdom is already eagerly waiting on my shelf! (I recommend you have it ready too, because THAT ENDING!?)

5stars

How do you feel about the gang? Who’s your favourite? Do you want to read SoC?