A Beginner’s Guide To The Grishaverse

If you love fantasy and YA, you’ve probably heard of The Grishaverse. First published 10 years ago, Leigh Bardugo introduced readers to a lush and vast fantasy world in the first book in the series, Shadow and Bone. It kicked off a fandom that still exists a decade later and with the premiere of the Netflix series of the same name, seems to be growing stronger. If you’re not familiar with the series or verse and you want to start, we’ve put together a basic beginner’s guide to get you ready to dive in to this rich and complex world. So settle in and get ready to order the books at your local library or bookstore and queue up the Netflix series. And since we don’t have a real estimate on when season 2 of the Netflix series will air, you have some time to get acclimated before binging. Happy reading!

What You Need to Know:

Key Terms To Know At The Start:

Grisha: A Grisha is a powerful soldier, “a magical elite” with abilities that boil down to healing, controlling water or manipulating raw materials to make weapons/clothing. Grisha are largely dedicated to Ravka’s war effort.


The Grishaverse World: The Grishaverse is made up many countries with shifting alliances and borders. The ones at play throughout the series are featured on this map with stories set mostly in Ravka, Kerch, and Fjerda.

The Grishaverse

The Shadow Fold: Also known as the Unsea, its a blight on Ravka and splits the country in two.


The Books:

The Grishaverse as a whole is a series of books by Leigh Bardugo. The first book, Shadow and Bone, introduces readers to Alina, an orphaned girl in the Ravkan army. When a near miss on the Shadow fold–the deadly barrier that splits Ravka–uncovers Alina’s Grisha powers, she’s whisked away to the Little Palace, to train with the other Grisha. Under the watchful eyes of the Darkling, the most powerful Grisha in Ravka, Alina works to control her abilities as a Summoner, one of the rarest of the Grisha gifts. There is hope that she and the Darkling can save Ravka from the danger of the Shadow Fold. Since this is a beginner’s guide, I would hate to give away any of the exquisite twists and revelations of the series. All you need to know is that Shadow and Bone is the first of the trilogy and follows Alina on her journey to discover the depth of her Summoner skills and how she can help Ravka and the world.

Henry Holt and Company

A spin-off series, Six Of Crows, takes place in another part of the world, Ketterdem. Ketterdem is a city in Kerch, an island in the True Sea known for trade. Ketterdem is a port city and is a hub for gangs, gambler, making it a wealthy but deadly place. One of those gangs is The Dregs, run by Kaz Brekker, a wunderkind of crime and business. When the biggest score of his life offers him a chance to get the revenge he desperately needs, he assembles a crew of Grisha and thieves to pull it off. To say that it doesn’t go according to plan isn’t so much a spoiler but a given and there’s a reason why this series–and Kaz–is a favorite in the Grishaverse.

Henry Holt and Company

From there, we have the start of another spin-off series, starting with The King of Scars. Without giving too much away, I can tell you that each series gets better and expands this world so that readers have a full understanding of the people and places that make it up. The King of Scars is a bit harder to explain without spoiling the events of the previous books but I definitely would recommend reading the other books first before starting this duology. It’s worth the wait.

Henry Holt and Company

Short story collections and supplementary books complete the verse. There is a book of Ravkan Saints, called The Lives of Saints that is not required reading but adds a deeper understanding to the Grishaverse as a whole. The Language of Thorns is a series of myths, legends and fairytales that take the magic that Leigh Bardugo threaded through the novels and expands on them. In a way, that makes this series feel like a living breathing thing. Out in September, Leigh will be releasing a graphic novel prequel of sorts, Demon in the Wood, detailing The Darkling’s past. There is also a journal full of quotes and prompts called The Severed Moon.


And now, some tips on entering the Grishaverse for the first time:

Don’t Rush It

Just like binge-watching is a thing, binge reading is also definitely a thing. I would caution, when you start on the Grishaverse, against binge-reading. This is a sprawling, vast world and it should be explored with care. I know all too well what happens when you binge-read a series back to back and then have to struggle to remember what happened in the first few books. These books have their own gravity and will pull you in until you’re reading late into the next morning, blurry eyed and with too little sleep. Don’t be afraid to enjoy them. Take them on a vacation, stretch them out on weekends, and really relax. Before you know it, you’ll be done with your first go-around and you only get to read/listen to them for the first time once. Don’t be afraid to enjoy it slowly!

Listen First

There are some books that are just better on audio. I think the entire Grishaverse works so well on audio because its a next-level reading experience. Leigh writes in such a cinematic, explosive way and the narrators chosen to perform these books are so talented. The full-cast recording of Six of Crows is definitely not be missed.

Read before watching

You might be tempted to read the first book and then watch the Netflix series of the same name. Please don’t! The series is so much better when you have a fuller understanding of the world and characters. And there’s nothing like the delight you get when meeting a character on the screen that you got to know over a series of books.


Order Matters but not seriously

A little secret: I read Shadow and Bone, skipped to Six of Crows and then finished the first trilogy. Reading in order probably would have helped but I don’t know if it completely took away from the experience. So if you want to read sort of out of order, you can. Though you might be a bit confused. And if you need more guidance, Leigh has a helpful page on her website.

Explore The Fandom

Like many book series, The Grishaverse has an impressive fandom. When you’re done with the books and you’ve binged the first season on Netflix, feel free to dip into the creative and passionate world of The Grishaverse fandom. There’s fanart, fanfiction, a Wiki page, subreddit, and so much more. Just because the canon material has run out for the moment, doesn’t mean the enjoyment of the series has to end!


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