So, even though you had every intention of savouring S2 of Shadow and Bone after that agonisingly long 2-year wait since the S1 finale, you ended up binging the new season anyway and now you are desperately looking for stories that will sate your cravings for more.
Review of Shadow and Bone Season 2
Whether you want more of the Russian-inspired setting, the gang war, heist and found family vibes of the Crows, the dangerous elemental magic system, the steampunk vibes or maybe even the juicy romantic tension (I see you, Darklina fans), this list of books has got you covered.
And no, you won’t find the original books written by Leigh Bardugo here, because I assume you’ve either already read those or you have no intention of reading them (though honestly, maybe just give them a try anyway, they are pretty great escapism and entertainment!).
Okay, no more stalling, let’s dive in!
1. The Blood Heir trilogy by Amélie Wen Zhao
This dark Anastasia retelling has to be the series that comes closest to Shadow and Bone in its vibe and atmosphere. In the Cyrilian Empire, which is basically an alternate Russia (much like Ravka), magic is seen as a threat and Affinites are oppressed and persecuted. Our fierce and feisty MC, Anastacya Mikhailov, is the crown princess of the Cyrilian Empire, but she’s also a Blood Affinite, which makes her one of the most dangerous Affinites alive.
While this story is still technically YA, it feels like an even darker and more brutal version of Shadow and Bone. Also, there’s a delicious slow-burn romance side plot between Ana and a morally gray con-man that you will adore if you like the romantic tension and angst in the TV show.
2. The Winternight Trilogy by Katherine Arden
Another one for those of you who loved the atmosphere in Shadow and Bone, because here the setting isn’t simply inspired by Russia, but it’s actually set in medieval Russia! This gorgeously written book focuses on Vasilisa Petrovna, a young girl who has the ability to connect with the spirits of her land. The story is filled to the brim with Russian fairy tales and folklore and features villains that are so complex and nuanced, they will give the Darkling a run for his money.
3. The Witchlands by Susan Dennard
If you were particularly fascinated by the elemental magic system in Shadow and Bone, then The Witchlands series will offer another exciting world to dive into. Much like Alina, the main character Safi has rare magical powers (she’s a Truthwitch who can detect lies, super cool!) that could save the world. But this badass girl isn’t planning on being a pawn in someone else’s game, so she decides to flee her fate together with her best friend Iseult. What follows is an engaging story full of sea monsters, magic wells, prophecies, corrupted witches, trained assassins, untrustworthy rulers, female friendship and sloooooow-burn romance.
4. The Rook and the Rose series by M.A. Carrick
Okay, okay, I hear you, you liked the Crows. Rather than recommending the obvious heist fantasy, The Lies of Locke Lamora (which you should also totally read if you haven’t done so already), I offer you the underrated gem: The Mask of Mirrors. This Venetian-inspired political fantasy is totally different from Shadow and Bone in terms of atmosphere and plot, but it has all the heist, con-artist and found family vibes of the Crows! Also, it’s queer as all get-out!
In this slow-burn story we follow con artist Ren as she tries to trick her way into a wealthy noble house in the city of Nadezra. Enter the deadly feuds of the privileged elite, the shady crime lords of the city’s murky underbelly, a notorious vigilante with mysterious intentions, and entrancing yet dangerous nightmare magic. The complex character dynamics are honestly unmatched, you won’t even miss the Crows after reading this series 😉
5. The War for the Rose Throne by Peter McLean
You thought Kaz Brekker was the ultimate cunning and enigmatic gang leader? Wait until you meet Tomas Piety! Now, fair warning, this series is NOT YA and veers way more into the grimdark realm, containing a lot more disturbing content than Shadow and Bone does. That said, I still think there’s big crossover appeal, especially if you are looking for an adult version of the Crows.
This grimdark gangster low-fantasy follows Tomas Piety, leader of the Pious Men (a found family to die for!), as he sets out to reclaim the crime empire that has been taken away from him while he was off fighting in the war. Grimy alleys, back-street taverns, racy brothels and shady gambling dens… the gangster vibes are just off the charts in this series!
6. The Risen Kingdoms by Curtis Craddock
Do you like your fantasy worlds to feel a bit more inventive and unique, with a side of guns and airships, perhaps? Look no further, this steampunk series is the perfect fit for you!
A Renaissance-inspired setting, airships, floating islands, ancient blood-borne sorceries, mirror magic, clockwork cyborgs, court intrigue… this series has it all! And the protagonists, princess Isabelle and her musketeer/father-figure Jean-Claude, are truly an iconic duo. Rarely have I met characters who are more intelligent, savvy and witty than these two are. Again, found family vibes abound!!
Oh and if you liked the complex dynamic between Nikolai and Alina, then the (minor) romantic subplot in this series will be right up your alley!
7. In the Ravenous Dark by A.M. Strickland
Now, I can hear you groaning behind your screen as you go through this list and see me recommending a bunch of first books in series (they are worth it though, I promise!). But, don’t worry, I’ve got a standalone recommendation for you to wrap up this list 😉
In the Ravenous Dark is a dark and mesmerizing YA fantasy that was sold with the blurb: “A pansexual bloodmage reluctantly teams up with an undead spirit to start a rebellion among the living and the dead.” And, yeah, that pretty much sums it up.
While it’s marketed as YA, I personally think the emotional maturity of the characters makes it feel a lot more adult than you might expect from the synopsis. If you liked the casual queerness in Shadow and Bone (we love to see it), then you will adore this queer fantasy as well. Though, the true reason this one is on the list, is to satisfy all my Darklina fans. I see you hungering for those dark, angsty and slightly messy romantic relationships… and I am not here to judge.