The first three were re-reads, I do love well done and sweet LGBTQIA+ titles. Bloom Into You is one of my all time favorite yuri/girls’ love manga. It is very character driven and the writing is really amazingly detailed for a manga. I feel you really do have to read all volumes to get the full picture.
Go for it Nakamura is just a super sweet shounen ai title, it shows the protagonist who is very bad at socializing trying to become friends with his crush. Unfortunately, this is only a oneshot, so there is no second volume.
Heartstopper is basically a webcomic, that got super popular and is also published as a book now. It also features a boys’ love couple who are very sweet. If you like sweet romances this is a good read, with a very light story.
I have been waiting religiously for the release of Cherry Magic! volume 3. This is a great boys’ love series, very character focused with lots of laughs. It also has an amazing live action drama (which is even better than the manga!)
The Secret Garden is a very cute graphic novel based on the original book. It was a sweet, light read but maybe a bit too short.
Across the Green Grass Fields is the 6th book in the Wayward Children series. I adore the series a lot and I loved this book as well. Though I did feel that the adventure was possibly the tamest we had so far (and didn’t seem to connect to the overall storyline as the others did) but this one was advertised as a great introduction to the series for new readers and it definitely checked that mark while keeping the author’s usual style and priorities.
I also managed to finish Clockwork Angel from the Shadowhunter books. I admit the writing was much cleaner in this one, but I still had issues with the romances Clare writes and there didn’t seem to be a lot of character development happening in the second half of the book.
After watching the amazing Netflix adaptation of Shadow and Bone, I of course needed to start reading the book as well. (I only read the Six of Crows duology before) The book is pretty fun and it’s nice to see where they changed things in the show to improve on Alina’s story and where they lifted dialogues and scenes from the book.
I say Alina’s story since Kaz, Inej and Jesper are not in Shadow and Bone originally, you only meet them in the Six of Crows books. As others said before the book and the characters aren’t perfect so I didn’t mind the changes done to Shadow and Bone. I just hope the screenwriters won’t change much about Six of Crows & Crooked Kingdom because those are very well written. Full review to come once I finish the book.
A yuri manga with gorgeous art and a reference to Bloom Into You? Of course I needed to read this immediately. Huge thank you to Kodansha and NetGalley.
The story starts present day, Sahoko Narita is headed for her high school reunion party. She is in her third year of university right now and on her way she wonders why do people even go to these parties. She meets up with her two best friends from school and one of them mentions that a certain Aoi Koshiba is not likely to attend tonight. Sahoko feels sad and a bit embarassed and this is when we head to flashback territory – and see the girls at high school, as they are on the cover.
I was surpsied that we only got to see the high school years in the flashbacks. This is just my personal preference but I don’t really like stories where the present day character spends most of their time reminiscing about the past. It seems that the things that happened in the past will be a cataclyst for things to move forward in the present, and if that is the case I won’t mind it much. But this is mostly speculation after volume one.
Most of the first volume is spent in the past and I liked these chapters much better. We learned what kind of a person our protagonist, Sahoko is. And boy, is she a handful! Sahoko remembers having a boring school experience before high school so she did everything she could to change her life around. In Japan kids usually graduate from their previous school and attend high school for three years (essentially 10, 11 and 12th grade) and we see Sahoko as a 17-year old in her second high school year. She spends a lot of time and energy to look pretty, and to give others a good impression. She is obsessed with having a popular Instagram account and getting likes while also fishing for people’s irl admiration of her. She became friends with two equally cute and popular girls so she feels settled in her new life – while also secretly worrying about doing anything that would brand her as lame. Unfortunately, due to her new social status she also became a bit vain, easily writing off other students as lame, unpopular, etc. based on looks alone.
Things change when she meets Aoi Koshiba, who is just so effortlessly fun and people seem to like her even though she is a bit of a tomboy. Sahoko is jealous of her free spirited attitude and finds herself gravitating towards Aoi.
I liked this set up and I liked how the two girls started to learn a bit about each other. Aoi also admires Sahoko, and she has her own issues as well. But I felt the communication between them is something that badly needs improvement. Sahoko is rather pushy in wanting to get closer to Aoi and she never stops to ask if Aoi wants her around. Instead she worries about doing things that will make Aoi dislike her. There was a confusing moment where Aoi calls her annoying – which I get, she was a bit pushy – but then immediately wants to hang out with Sahoko. I was also not a fan of the first kiss – it felt rushed, and one sided, with both girls being really confused and it was hard to tell just how much of it was on purpose and how much of it was just an accident.
The girls also have a short talk about dating, but we don’t learn why Aoi brings it up and we don’t know if Sahoko ever really came to terms with her own attraction for Aoi during high school. She is clearly still in denial at the beginning.
Sahoko’s conflicting feelings for Aoi are super relatable though, finding the other girl really amazing and wanting to know her better while being confused if this was friendship or more. It is not clear what happened between the two yet, the dialogue suggests they had some kind of falling out, but present day Sahoko is still clearly hang up on what could have happened or could still happen between them.
I liked this first volume but the end of the book leaves me with more questions and no answers, I felt like too many things were left open for the next volume. I wish we got some answers at least, but for now so many things are waiting to be answered that it is hard to get really invested in the story. Sahoko is asked once about dating and boys and she visible feels uncomfortable, an ex is mentione and her friends even tease her if she just made this boy up – but we don’t actually learn what the deal is. She talks about being unpopular so it could be that she made up an ex to hide the fact that she was never asked out, but it is not clear and we don’t know if she is even interested in dating. It is implied Sahoko is unhappy in her current life, but we don’t know what she does besides studying. She also seems a bit depressed in comparison to her high school self – is this all because of what happened with Aoi? We don’t know if her and Aoi would even meet in the presents – Sahoko wants to but she doesn’t know if Aoi feels the same way. She mentions having her contact and texting sometimes but Aoi not being very responsive and the two slowly stopping to text. Did she ever actually ask Aoi to meet up? We don’t know why Aoi stopped texting her back. Present day Sahoko feels to be a really passive character, waiting for Aoi to accidentally turn up at the reunion party but not really trying to make it happen eg. asking if she is coming.
While I liked the past chapters more, I was pulled into the story for a sweet high school romance after all, I hope that the present – past – present divide won’t be used for many volumes. I expect the next volume to still follow this set up, but in the long run this could quickly prove annoying, trying to guess what happened in the past while the present characters stagnate and don’t move forward. However if the past inspires them to move forward in the present day that could be interesting.
I really really love the art, and the pacing and the paneling is done really well. I felt that the illustrator captured the feelings and moments really well. I loved that the scenes had enough space to breathe, sometimes we would have pages with only two panels, but it was needed so you can really get immersed in the story.
Huge thank you to Oni Press and NetGalley for providing a review copy.
rating: 4 out of 5 🪁🪁🪁🪁
genre: young adult, graphic novel
content warnings: some bullying (frowned upon)
The cover and the art is pretty great throughout the series. This is a fully colored book which is always impresive to me, as that requires a lot of work and patience. The only thing that stood out to me is that we had quite a few old characters and most of them managed to have a character design that gave me the creeps, I do not know if this was intentional or not. The story managed to keep up the intrigue for the first half and it was fun trying to guess what was going on. I even felt a bit creeped out a few times.
We meet a family on their way to their new house, in the town where the Dad grew up. We learn that while the rest of the family will be busy moving in to the house, the older kid Willow will be off to a local summer camp. On their way they stop at a diner and the locals scare the kids by telling them that there are rumors about the summer camp: supernatural beings and cryptids are rumored to roam free around the island and a few years ago a camper even went missing. Despite this and the fact that the camp organizers seem shady as hell the parents still send their only daughter to camp. Willow is a spunky kid who has no problems antagonizing the bullies and almost getting in a fistfight even before they reach camp. The story follows Willow and her bunkmates as they uncover the secrets of camp and the mystery regarding the missing camper all those years ago.
Willow is also a representation for kids who need to wear hearing aids. There was a brief part where her batteries died and the comic highlighted this by the conversation balloons appearing blank and the kids using sign language with her. It was a really awesome and creative way to express her situation
Thank you to VIZ Media for providing an advanced copy in exchange of a honest review.
genre: romance, girl’s love, yuri, slice of life, manga
content warnings: some adult scenes and discussions of sex, some past scenes of implied homophobia and bullying
This title is a very cute yuri/LGBTQIA+ manga that is interested in not only telling how a couple starts dating but explores what it is like to be in a relationship.
Miwa just started college and on her first day she bumps into another student, Saeko. Saeko does not leave the best impression on her as she is quick to compliment her boobs, but despite all odds the two get along well and become friends. Miwa is shy about making friends and quiet, while Saeko is more the easygoing type. Their personalities bring out the best from both. While they are hanging out at school they decide to join a club together. Their choice falls on the music club and they go out for drinks with their future band mates. As we learn from the short intro at the beginning of the manga, Miwa is confident about liking girls but she has trouble with admitting this to others. So when Saeko asks about her dating life she doesn’t tell her a lot. As it happens Miwa is super popular with their new band mates and one guy immediately asks her out. She feels really embarrassed and cornered, not sure how to say no. Saeko saves her from the situation and as the two, slightly drunk, head on home they chat a bit. Miwa asks Saeko about her own love life, since she was so nosy about hers. Saeko admits that she likes girls, which lets Miwa admit the same to her. Saeko then drunkenly suggests that the two of them should try going out, after all she finds Miwa super cute and they are already getting along well. To her surprise Miwa agrees and their relationship starts!
As the two start to navigate their relationship they learn more about each other. Saeko seems to have had a bad experience with people treating her awful due to being gay so she doesn’t like to tell people about it. Miwa never really dated anyone before so it is all new for her. She also ponders a lot about whether it is all right for them to really date after a quick drunken confession, and if she is really interested in Saeko other than just-friends. I was happy that all the concerns the two have they eventually discussed, so the story wasn’t burdened with drama due to miscommunication. Of course there were topics they each found harder to open up about, but I felt that this was very normal. Saeko talking about her bad past experiences felt real and I liked that her old fears were addressed and she started working it out together with Miwa.
The art is is nice, Miwa is really pretty and I like the flow of the story a lot. You can see the development of the characters and their relationships with each other. I like the supporting cast as well, their band mates are a bit chaotic but really nice people. We are also introduced to a few of Saeko’s college friends and they were a nice addition. It was cute how everyone cheered their relationship on.
I recommended this to anyone who is looking for a more realistic but still very sweet story about two girls navigating a romantic relationship.
Genre: young adult, fantasy, magical realism, LGBTQIA+
Content warnings: death, murder
This is just one of those books that I will be always grateful to have stumbled upon. I was browsing a book recommendations post on tumblr with awesome asexual/aromantic representation. That’s all I knew about the story, an ace main character and I read the blurb. I went in with no expectations and this little series instantly made it to my all time favorites list.
The Wayward Children is a series of short novellas set in a world, where on Earth special kids exist. They might not be special to the people around them, but they are chosen by other worlds to accept as their own. The worlds want them so bad that a door appears to the chosen child inviting them to live in the world that is most compatible with them. The only instruction they get is that they need to be sure of their choice and they have to keep their new world’s rules. It is a portal-magic series with lots of heart and a very lovely and diverse set of characters.
It is honestly incredible to me to this day how thin these books are compared to other young adult stories.. and despite that so many things happen! I never feel like the book was cut short or any character development or bonding scenes were cut or rushed. Seanan is just mighty good.
I also have to mention the prose! Ever since my love was reignited for Maggie Stiefvater’s beautiful soul-touching prose I have been craving it from other books. This book was the first one that gave me that same comfort, of feeling known and connecting so deeply to an author’s principles. The series has beautiful, unapologetically feminist prose throughout and it won’t stand for anything less.
In each book we have a central character whose story is the main focus of the plot and a few supporting characters who will be back from time to time in the other books, or end up being the protagonists in that book. All books and plot are connected, even if chronologically they have a fun trick to them. Every odd volume is set in the present, every even is set in the past.
As such, the first book, Every Heart a Doorway is set in the present, and follows Nancy and her adminission to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. This is a great set up as we both learn more about Nancy and we are introduced to the world through her.
Nancy was young when she found a peculiar door in the cellar and on the opposite side she found herself in a garden of pomegranate trees. She fell in love with the Halls Of The Death immediately and never wanted to return to the world she was born in. However, after years, she was still sent back to her birth-world. A world that is far too fast and noisy for her, to parents who never really understood her. Her parents of course don’t believe a word about mysterious doors and a world filled with ghosts and living statues and as a last resort they send her away to a boarding school for troubled kids.
The only thing they don’t realize is that the headmistress, Eleanor, has been through the doors herself and the stuff she tells to desperate parents is nothing more than a well rehearsed sales pitch. Eleanor was one of the lucky ones, her doors allowed her to visit between the world of her choice and her birth-world several times. Still she lives in her birth-world now, trying to guide kids who went through similair journeys. Eleanor, with the help of a small staff, offers lessons and counseling to the kids. As a part of this, every kid shares about the world they found. The worlds are as different as can be and the kids only seem to have one thing in common: they all hope to return one day.
As Nancy makes some friends and struggles to accept that she might never return to her beloved world, a murder mystery intrudes on their peaceful school life. She and her new friends set out to solve the mystery while also keeping an eye out for doors that could appear at any place.
The series is about finding your place in the world, finding a place that feels like it was made for you – and then loosing it. Do you give up hope or can you keep faith that you will be able to return? What happened to those kids who just disappeared one day? Did they find doors of their own or did something else happen to them? Despite all the hard hitting questions the books manage to be full of hope and heart.
P.S. I am just going to to happy-cry a little in the corner because I just realized we are getting a boxset release for the first three volumes. It’s not like I don’t have them already, but do I also need the set? Absolutely.
Genre: LGBTQIA+, slice of life, romance, yuri, girl’s love, manga
Content warning: n/a
It is hard to write a review for only the first volume, because Bloom Into You has became one of the best written manga I have read during the past few years. It has quickly became the new standard to which I now hold all yuri/yaoi/bl/gl manga. It turned out to be all I needed from the genre which I never even dared to hope for.
It stars a female couple and supporting characters, among them we have characters on the aroace spectrum, lesbians, heteros and some who never really label or define their attractions. The story also deals with past trauma and overcoming them and exploring romance and sexuality and what it means for the characters. While the first volume moves quick (which I have to chalk up to the genre’s fault, more on this later) the following volumes take a step back and start exploring and explaining everything. It is rare to find such manga where all conversations and scenes add to the depth of the story and the characters or it foreshadows something. There is also a lot of symbolism in the paneling and how the illustrations express the characters feelings.
Yuu just started a new school a few months ago and she is slowly getting used to it. She always dreamed of having a sparkling and heart-pounding romance that shoujo mangas talk about. But when a friend asked her out after their middle school graduation she didn’t feel anything special. Confused and feeling like her friends would not understand she has been delaying her answer. It’s not like she doesn’t like the person, so then, why doesn’t she feel that special feeling that would lift her up from the ground?
One day she gets roped into helping out the student council after classes and she accidentally overhears a confession between an older girl and a boy on the school grounds. When the beautiful upperclassman rejects the boy and tells him she doesn’t plan on dating anyone, Yuu finally feels like she has found someone who could understand her. As Yuu gets acquainted with Touko and the two works together at the council they also learn a bit about each other.
Yuu wants to have that special connection with someone yet she feels she is unable to fall in love. She feels like she has found a kindred spirit in Touko who also confesses to never have been in love. So she is a bit suprised when suddenly it is Touko herself who confesses to Yuu. While she doesn’t understand why she would like her, Yuu certainly doesn’t mind having Touko around.
While the first volume and the first few chapters move very quickly and seemingly fall into instalove on Touko’s side, it is far from it. I chalk this up to the medium, since manga are often published monthly, chapter by chapter, they have to set up their story fairly quickly to grab their audience.
However, I can promise you that after volume one the story takes a step back and unravels everything that was set up in this volume. This is probably the only instance I ever had an issue with the pacing or the writing, everything in the next volumes is so carefully crafted and amazingly written.
There is a reason why Touko has been refusing every love confession before and why it is only Yuu that interests her. There is a reason why she is so quick to throw around the word love without really knowing Yuu.
While the story moves around the school year and we witness several school events in it’s heart it is very much character focused. We learn the inner workings of Yuu and Touko and even the supporting characters. There are a lot of scenes where the paneling is symbolic and portrays the character’s feelings – like in the very first chapter where Yuu feels distant from her friends and suddenly it seems like she sits a huge distance away from them.
Every scene and conversation between the characters is meaningful, it either moves the plot forward or tells us something about the character. There are no scenes that are just there for the sake of filler.
While I have read some titles that came closer to depicting real lgbtqia+ people and not just chalk their story up to the yuri/shoujo-ai genres, Bloom Into You is the first one I have read that focuses on main characters who fall on the asexual-aromantic spectrum. It lets Yuu and Touko freely explore their feelings and lets them define it for themselves: what they want from a relationship and what love means to them, if anything. And I love that it is not just the main characters who ponder about these things, we also have a self proclaimed aromantic supporting character and several confirmed lesbians.
I love that even if there is drama prevalent in the story, things get resolved in a satisfactory way and the characters actually talk things out between them. There are some heavy topics and characters going through past traumas but it all gets discussed in a healthy way and shows how they can move forward from it. In the first volume there are some scenes where the question of consent comes up but I really appreciate that these times it actually gets addressed and not just glossed over as I have seen in other manga.
If you want to read a great book with aro/ace characters and carefully crafted storytelling I recommend you start reading all eight volumes and then there is also a spin-off lightnovel with one of the supporting characters. (Has three volumes as of now, illustrations done by the same mangaka).
Oh and before I forget, there is also a gorgeous anime adaptation! It is well worth watching but the ending is a bit more open ended in the anime – at the time it was airing the manga was still running so they had to avoid spoiling the manga’s story. And they even adapted the story into a stage play which seems to come full circle with the in-story school play.
Note: These reviews discuss the episodes in detail and might contain slight spoilers for the books Six Of Crows and Crooked Kingdom.
So far this has to be my favorite episode of the series.
I love Genya and I knew she wouldn’t disappoint me after her cameo in Six Of Crows. I love that she addresses what everyone, even Alina kept saying, maybe she only became aware of her powers, but she has been Grisha all her life. And I am still not quite convinced if Alina really didn’t know or is she was just lying to herself all these years, after all if someone can be aware of it at only age three, surpressing her own powers for so long seems strange.
It is great to see Alina making some friends at the Grisha Palace, but of course since nothing is perfect, she is also making some enemies. I was surprised by what a jealous bully Zoya was. I understand that she had her pride hurt her by Mal saying no to her offer and as implied, by Kirigan ignored her for Alina. But still I hoped she was better than this, and hopefully she will get over herself and do better in the next half of the series. From what I understand she is actually quite the badass Grisha so it would be great to see her as an ally.
Alina’s letter to Mal are both incredibly funny and heart breaking. I wonder, if she just started writing them to console herself or if she is actually allowed to send out the letters?
From the first episode when Kaz spoke of Heartrenders, my heart leapt, could it be really her? But timeline wise it would have been too early for Nina to be at Ketterdam, and well, this episode suggests it will be another two years until she actually meets the Crows. Regardless, it was great to see Nina in all her glory and I adore the casting! Nina is a confident Grisha who is not afraid to use her powers and loves to eat and she is powerful and beautiful. I have to say that red carpet in her room had to be the most Hungarian thing they could have filmed. Everyone and their grandmother has one of those. Good for Nina for trying to fight for people in her own way and trying to help others despite the risks.
I loved to see that she didn’t go down without a fight, even after she was unable to use her powers. Since I know where her story is headed I am not as upset about her kidnapping as I should be. I really hate the Drüskelle who are esentially fantasy Nazis in the story. I wonder if her storyline will connect with the main events this season somehow, since now it seems like we have three separate storylines going on in paralell. If the story follows the books Nina is not likely to join the main cast this season. Something that stood out to me though, was how one of the Fjerdan’s wore an animal pelt that looked a lot like a white wolf – since these are their sacred animals would they really wear their pelts? But this might just be me nitpicking.
On the other hand, the Crow’s adventure with The Conductor was so amazingly funny. Watching it the second time I can only appreciate it even more, the Conductor just looking to his side at Jesper and going “yepp, we need a baby goat” is so, so funny. Of course our restless sharpshooter needs a goat. Obviously. To be fair, Jesper so far hasn’t been as fidgety as he is in the books, but he always gets distracted which is just how he is. I loved when Kaz specifically told him to only get the coal and Jesper’s resolve lasted for a whole.. five seconds.
Gambler: Who’s feeling lucky?
Jesper, the useless boy he is: Lucky’s my middle name!
I love that Kaz could be just leading the goat, especially with his bad leg, but he instead choose to carry it. While I find the idea or the Conductor and his train amazing, it raises so many questions. If there was one sole man so smart to figure out how to build an entire train track through The Fold and even somehow place markers.. possibly with a few helpers.. how did the entirety of Ravka and their military not figure out something like this? I love the idea that these people are helping others cross and I doing it for others but it just seems to be too big of an invention for one person.
I loved the train scene, where Jesper as a reflex refuses to throw out the goat, and it turns out that it was only brought to calm him down. His moment of glory is spectacular – Jesper, calm with a goat in his hand, shoots down all of the monsters. Some with closed eyes. Because our sharshooter is just that good. Don’t worry it will be explained in Six Of Crows as well. All this chaotic glory of the Crows, with Jesper and the goat, Inej praying with knife in her hands, and Kaz just trying to keep it all together.. it really brings back the Six Of Crows feelings the books gave me and it has to be my favorite scene with the so far.
Alina vs. the veil was also really funny. The way they theatrically dressed her in a uniform she never in her life had worn, and made her march up to the king for a presentation. I like that at least there is an in-canon explanation on why she can use her power with Kirigan by her side, and it isn’t just a random occurence that she can use the power just at the right moment that she isn’t able to control normally.
While I am not a fan of Kirigan, I am super glad he actually talked a bit about how Grisha powers work. The Small Science is the study of their powers They are also very clear that Grisha control and manipulate elements that are already present in the world, and they aren’t creating from nothing. Most Grisha are sorted into common types, such as the ones that were mentioned so far, Inferni (fire), Squallers (wind), Tidemakers (water) fall under Etherialki. This would also be where Alina and Kirigan are. Heartrenders (manipulating people’s moods or health), Healers (body) and Tailors (manipulating the body) are Corporalki. The third category is Materialki who can alter metals or chemicals.
And I have to give it him, Kirigan’s flair of the dramatic with all the shadows and the fancy speeches to the King and the Queen is working, it makes a damn good scene. Of course he could have just told Alina, don’t worry I can help you summon your powers so you’ll be all right, instead of the that flaky line about how things will be all right if she trusted him. The way he holds her wrist instead of taking her hand like a normal person is sending up red flares for me immediately. Alina is obviously a bit taken by him but I do not trust this man.
We also have the author cameo! When Alina goes to the Grisha the first person hugs her, and she is a woman in purple kefta withnlong blonde hair. I thought she looked familiar at first but I am just realizing this is because it is the writer of the books – Leigh Bardugo! Looking good Leigh!
It was actually good to see a main character who is wary – Alina suddenly finding herself alone in an empty library with a man she doesn’t know and immediately backing off is very realistic. This is a woman who has been attacked for many different reasons at a place she doesn’t know, of course she would rather keep her distance. I liked that she only trusted the advisor after he proved to be someone who doesn’t pose danger and actually knows about the books, not just made it up. I find this character really intriguing especially the fact that he seems to be well intentioned yet gets away with saying lines like “ I think you will suffer more”. Is this a threat, a prediction or a guess? Who knows with this person?
Baghra is an awful, awful teacher. Although the part where she “slaps” Alina feels really anticlimatic, the sound makes it feel like it barely touched her yet Alina looks so offended and hurt. The dinner scene isn’t any better, I am not sure what the Grisha is thinking, bullying their one and only Sun Summoner but also waiting for her to save all of their lives? Why would she even want to try if everyone is so awful? This is not how you motivate someone.
Alina’s letter to Mal at the beginning is beautiful. I like that she knows that all these expectation others have of her are too much. And it is so heartbreaking to see how much these two kids care about each other. I wonder if we get so see Mal’s side soon as well?
Note: These reviews discuss the episodes in detail and might contain slight spoilers for the books Six Of Crows and Crooked Kingdom.
We see the fallout of episode 1, thanks to some Grisha still being able to use their powers the ship returns to the military base where it came from with Alina and the others.
In a flashback we see more of the scene at the Meadow and the orpahanage. We learn that Mal and Alina both skipped the Grisha test as kids – it is not clear if Alina noticed her powers before, only that she didn’t want to chance being separated from Mal.
Zoya gets Alina sent to the General and we change to Ketterdam again. The fight between Inej and Kaz is very interesting, Kaz already shows that he cares about Inej’s opinion but he is still very cold and guarded at this point. We learn that Inej still have ties to Tante Heleen and can’t leave the city without her permission.
Then Pekka rolls up and.. this was the first scene that really made me go “hmm, that doesn’t seem right”. Kaz is in his room when he fights with Inej, we see the window and the painting from episode one. When Pekka and his men arrive we can see the stolen painting again, meaning this should still be his room. Yet these men just appear there so casually… not only are these members from a rival gang and the boss of a rival gang.. but Kaz’s room is also supposed to be in the attic of their own gang run bar/casino. Did they change his room’s location in the the tv show? Because the little window where he looks out onto the bar makes it seem like he isn’t in the attic after all but somewhere lower.
And that leaves me to my second question: where are the rest of the Dregs? Where are the Dreg guards from the doors? Did they just let the Dime Lions waltz in through their own bar? Kaz does send Jesper to guard the door later, which already happened in episode one, so it raises the question if they only have one person at the door at all times, and if Jesper is just really terrible at his job? If this was his fault I feel Kaz would have been way more pissed at him. Kaz also signals another crew member who is inside the bar later so if he is supposed to be a lookout.. it is implied they’d have multiple people inside to spot trouble. Unless this is a commentary on how lax their security is under the current boss, this doesn’t add up.
And the second thing that really felt out of place is how easily they took hold of Kaz. In the books it is clear that while he isn’t quick as Jesper or stealthy as Inej, Kaz can hold his own in a fight due to his troubled upbringing. He is good at a scrap, injured leg or not, and his cane packs a bunch. And most of the time he can just talk his way out of fights without even having to lift a finger because that’s his own specialty. So being beaten down so easily, and the scene making it look like even the cane isn’t doing much is really weird.
I really love Inej and Jesper casually hanging out at the bar and both of them being worried/pissed at Kaz. And the way Jesper immediately offers his help to Inej is very lovely. The way Kaz just trots out of his office/room so quickly to the bar also makes the whole Pekka thing even weirder.. why did no one else notice Pekka just walking through the Crow Club? It just doesn’t make sense to me.
It’s interesting how early they are peppering in the clues that Pekka and Kaz have history.. and even Jesper seems to know more. I wonder if this means that Kaz already trusted him enough to tell him about what happened, which only happened in book two of Six of Crows.
I do love that Kaz immediately catches sight of the woman who is from East Ravka and can tell when she’s lying, that and his whole scheming is very much in character. I am starting to feel however that they softened his character up a bit, Kaz in the books (or at least in the first one) would most definetely tell the woman that he was after her family to get the information, while the reader knows he is just pretending to be cruel to save face in a world full of criminals and would never hurt those people. Netflix Kaz though immediately says nah, we’re not after you.
Back to Alina and General Kirigan.. I actually like the fact that she doesn’t know why she is being taken to the General. Her reaction when Kirigan tells her to come closer and Alina barely stepping a foot closer is so funny. And her immediate sass in “well what” and then adding “sir” at the last minute is just so funny to me. Her thinking that she is gonna be punished for getting the cartography team on board makes a lot of sense since she kinda sorta passed out and didn’t even realize using her power.
I know people are shipping her with Kirigan because he is.. uh, dark, handsome and controlling or something and that’s supposed to be hot? But I am just so uncomfortable with their scenes.. This is a man who is clearly holding power over her and who also sorta looks like he has at least 10 years over Alina.. Now I don’t know how old Alina is but since these are young adult books I have to guess she is around or under 18 which just makes this ship all the more yikes.
Also can I just say, what are you has to be one of the rudest things to ask someone yet it seems so common in young adult stuff when someone with incredible powers appears? It feels like the asker is stripping them of their humanity in some way.
Moving on, the light show looks really amazing and I cannot wait to see more scenes where Alina gets to use her sun powers! And how sweet is it that Mal immediately just wants to go to her.
I love the transitions between the two storylines so much. It is so ingenius to connect the scenes with the same word/convo. Isn’t it funny how people keep saying Alina is Grisha now, while she was one all along she just (supposedly) didn’t know.
Inej’s knife moment has to be the funniest one so far – and rivals my all time favorite un-equipping moment from the Shadowhunter movie adaptation where Jace spends a good minute just taking out all his hidden weapons. I am pretty sure Inej wins in total count, I just hope she has more hidden that Tante Heleen isn’t even aware of. Not like she can pull out a metal scanner on her.
Honestly, I kind of expected Heleen to be more impressive or threatening. But I have to say she did make a good attempt at trying to cross Kaz’s plans by tricking Inej.
Jesper, supposedly on guard duty, is just playing in front of a mirror and practicing his gun showmanship. I love him so much. It is so funny that Inej surprises him when he has probably the best reflexes of their entire crew. And the way he just immediately wants to help Inej and calls her love.. I love these two.
I love the two Grisha in the carriage. Until now most Grisha we met were really full of themselves and looking down at the First Army, but it finally feels like Alina can make some friends. It actually make some sense while the Grishas act the way they do after you learn that they are behind the Little Palace’s walls not just to be separated from others but for their own protection as well. And it is understandable for Alina who already went through so much to not want yet another thing that would make her stand out. But it doesn’t seem like she has any choice in this matter. The keftas being bulletproof is pure genius.
The Drüskelle is also here of course, and it is astounding how easy the Grisha can go down if they aren’t great at combat training and don’t work together. Can we also take a moment to think about how close they got to loosing the only one Sun Summoner they ever got? And if Kirigan’s presence is a Drüskelle anti-repellent why didn’t he just go with Alina in the first place?
I love how the dramatic horse galloping scene is broken because Alina cannot handle horse riding. The way she keeps her distance from Kirigan but also isn’t afraid to sass him is something amazing. He does not look like a man who can handle being said no.
It’s great that they repeatedly address the fact that even though he is so powerful and has shadow powers he isn’t able to destroy The Fold because his powers just don’t work like that. If his powers only amplify The Fold does it mean he never crossed it?
The First Army General is actually making a lot of sense when he tells Mal that the Grisha aren’t ever powerful. And I am glad this is addressed because even though they have all these powers, and some are more rare than others, they still had casualties on their side in these two episodes. And I reallt like the fact that Mal has other friends not just Alina, friends that look out for him and stop him from doing soemthing reckless.
Jesper asking for a demo man and Six Of Crows readers knowing he has to wait like two more years until he finds the one that fits the team.. I’m loving all these foreshadowings. I also love how he isn’t afraid to complain to Kaz.. Jesper the handsome decoy was amazingly funny.
And god, can we just talk about my new favorite character, Poppy. I love his fashion sense and the sass. By the way they talked, if I didn’t know better about Kaz, I would have thought there was something more that happened between them and not just the club shares. I love how much the Crows trust each other, Jesper and Inej have each other’s backs already and they both choose to trust Kaz when the time calls for it.
I don’t feel this is very clear from the show so far, how deals work in Ketterdam and how important they are. Without context it might even seem foolish just how much Kaz stakes on getting Inej free of Heleen. She’d be worth it obviously, but that’s not really what’s happening here. Ketterdam does not have a proper government and is ruled by the Merchant Council. The only hard rule they have is that all deals are sacred and must be kept, if one breaks a deal it can cost them their live’s work. So by accepting Kaz’s deal Heleen is actually forced to honor it. As everything with the Crows, Kaz hesitating to take Heleen’s hand is also a foreshadowing.
I do wonder though, we knew Kaz has shares in the Crow Club but the way Heleen says it.. it implies Kaz put up the entire club as collateral.. which he shouldn’t be able to since he isn’t the big boss. So once again, what is going in at the Dregs and where is their boss?
The little palace is beautiful and remarkably Hungarian. It’s interesting how many European and mainly Russian inspired works are shot at Hungary. Alina remembering their two rules, and only starting crying once she is alone is some amazing characterization. And her immediate action after that is rule two, looking for a weapon. I like that it is easy to understand why she acts the way she does and it is easy to understand her reluctance as accepting her fate as a Grisha. I really liked this episode and I cannot wait for more!
Note: These reviews discuss the episodes in detail and might contain slight spoilers for the books Six Of Crows and Crooked Kingdom.
I have been excited for this tv show adaptation of Leigh Bardugo’s books since I first heard about it. I kept hearing how good her Grishaverse books are but never read any of it myself until last year. As people kept recomending the Six Of Crows duology I gave in and.. I had so much fun with the books! I admit I still have not read the Shadow and Bone books – which are chronologically set before the Crow books but that did not stop me from getting hyped about the Netflix adaptation.
I love this new trend of book adaptations sticking to the source material rather closely and even the authors getting involved in the production, we have seen some wonderful examples of these in the recent years – just think the Lemony Snicket books. So I was really excited to learn Leigh is on board as executive producer.
And the Shadow and Bone show’s adaptation is a bit unique in it’s own way, since the writers wanted to tell us the Shadow and Bone story while also bringing in the Six Of Crows characters in season one. While the two series are set in the same universe, the three Shadow and Bone books are set two years prior to Six Of Crows. While there are characters that show up in both series, we only had vague ideas about what the Crows characters were up to when Shadow and Bone’s main story played out. The tv show writers alongside with Leigh had to flesh out more backstory for these characters that we wouldn’t be aware of if we only read the books.
Now with the backgrounds explained, let’s see head into episode one! Please read with caution as I talk about the episode in detail below and it can contain occasional spoilers for the Six Of Crows books. I will attempt to explain some things for people who have not read the books yet, without spoiling too much.
The series starts with our main character, Alina Starkov, introducing Eastern Ravka to us and The Fold. The countries in this universe are fantasy countries with some real life roots to European countries. Other than the city and country names you can see these influenced in the clothing styles, languages and in the variety of the country’s indigenous people.
In Ravka I pick up on Russian influences, their language looks a bit like the cyrillic alphabet and their furry winter hats and coats remind me of the country as well.
As Alina informs us Ravka isn’t a very great place to live currently, not only are they at war with both their Northen neighbours, Fjerda, and their southern neighbours, Shu han, their country is also split in two. No, this is not just a metaphor, a great blackness literally separates East and Western Ravka. This is the so-called Fold. (Marked as the UnSea on the below, official map.)
The Fold is said to have been man-made, well Grisha made. Which is were one of the most important concepts of the stories come in. Grisha are people born with abilities to manipulate certain elements. Think Avatar The Last Airbender benders but on a smaller scale.
In some countries being Grisha is equal to a death sentence. The Fjerdans for example call them witches and abominations and don’t treat them as human. In Ravka however an entire army is made up of Grisha. They test the children at a young age and those who posess the power are sent to the Little Palace to train and become part of the special Grisha unit of the military, the Second Army.
Those who don’t make it, like Alina and her friends end up in the First army as either soldiers or mapmakers. Alina and her best friend, Mal, grew up in an orphanage and they knew that the only way they could make a life for themselves was to join the army. Their childhood was rough, bullies found them in the orphanage and in the military as well. Mal would run away from fights as a kid but he grew up to be a great fighter. Alina would be picked on all her life because of her looks – her mom was from Shu Han, who are considered enemy of Ravka – so she had to grow a thick skin.
While life is though Alina and Mal have each other, at least. That is until Mal is drafted for a mission through The Fold. The Fold is not just a supernaturally dark place; monsters, creatures also live there. The army cannot go around the Fold due to their warring neighbours, so they send missions through it, but only a few ships make it to the other side of Ravka. While The Fold is a sandy terrain, and not water, the Ravkan ships are steared by Grisha so they are able to use ships for transport.
Alina dreamed of finding a way around The Fold as she studied to be a mapmaker, but as she grows older she has no choice but to accept the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any way around. Since The Fold was made by Grisha, people talk about a mythical Grisha who will make it disappear one day, the Sun Sumonner.
When Alina panicks about loosing Mal, she makes a selfish decision. She destroy’s the army’s maps so she can convince them to put her on the ship as well. One thing she doesn’t count with is that they would put her entire cartographer team on the ship. You can tell by Alina’s face that she did not expect this, though she cannot really do anything about it. These are orders and confessing to her crime would just remove her from the mission.
The Second Army’s General, Kirigan also shows up to see the ship off. So far we only heard rumors of him, he supposedly has power over shadows and while he is one of the strongest Grisha, he’s powers aren’t able to make The Fold go away either.
The ship enters The Fold under the Second Army’s command. They reach 2 markers out of the thirty something they have to pass along the way when the creatures get close to them. The ship operates with blue lights, to not bring too much attention to themselves. When these flicker out one scared cartographer lights a lantern and that is when the horror show starts. The creatures start picking the crew off one by one, Grisha and soldier alike. Mal is also attacked and Alina surprising herself manages to shoot the creature and save him. However as she heads to help the injured Mal.. she herself if attacked. As she is helplessly dragged away from Mal she thinks of their promise and suddenly, she is enveloped in searing burst of light.
On the other side of The Fold the army is waiting for them, but no ships shows. As they are ready to give up, someone runs out of The Fold – Alexei, a cartographer who jumped off the ship somehow made it through, alone, on foot.
I really like the casting for the main characters. Alina was easy to relate to from the start. It was interesting to see an orphanage during war times, how the strict headmistress was but still trying to protect Alina in her own way: by saying if she didn’t want to fight she’d better get really good at cartography since there was no other way out.
I like the flashbacks as it helps build up the characters and we get to know them and relate to them. The flashbacks were my favorites from the Crow books so I am glad we get them in the tv show as well. The flashbacks are not random and always build on what is going on around the characters and how they feel. It is a great balance of show and tell – when Alina says she is picked on we immediately see it hapenning; Mal mentions that the Grisha picks on the regular soldiers after we could already see it happen. There are also great transitions used hand in hand with the dialogue, whenever Mal mentions that he would love to see Ketterdam, it gives an opportunity for the story to switch over to the Crows. When the cartography girl mentions that Mal is not afraid of anything, it is a great way to connect it to Alina’s flashbacks about their childhood and to show us how Mal changed in the present time.
I loved the moments between Alina and Mal, the two were genuinly happy just to be able to talk and walk together. There are hints that they might like each other romantically but it is all built on years of trust and memories and I really love that. I love their talk of their shared childhood traumas where Mal chalks up three important life lessons this gave them. First is to hide your emotional breakdown and never cry in public, second is to always carry a weapon. He does not recall what the third one is but I have a feeling this conversation will be continued later on as it feels to foreshadow some future events. Their goodbye before Mal boards the ship was really heartfelt and a great moment between two people who really care about each other.
It was funny to be introduced to characters who will become important later on, such as Zoya. She is absolutely gorgeous and I love her confidence. I was surprised to see her hitting on Mal, but the scene told us a lot about both of their personalities through their reactions.
I have some questions though, about the transport through The Fold. I find it curious that no one is able to cross to the other side but somehow the people knew to expect the ship. This ship was attacked and picked apart so quickly, so how did all the others make it through? Twice no less, since people also had to get back.
While this plays out, we get glimpses into Ketterdam, where our Crows reside. The Crows characters are members of a criminal crew, the Dregs. They reside in Ketterdam which is inspired by Amsterdam. Ketterdam is a place where brothels and casinos thrive on guileless people who are too poor to make a proper life for themselves so they turn to gambling and crime.
The Dregs mainly run their own casino, the Crow Club. We are introduced to Kaz, one of the higher ups in the crew. He is not the big boss but gained a name for himself during the years he has worked for the Dregs, despite being fairly young. I have to admit when I first read about these kids, because they are around 16-17 in the books, I was baffled. How could a teenager threaten a grown ass man even if he is a criminal? But I don’t feel this way watching the show.
The actor for Kaz conveys really well the character’s seriousness and why he is considered ruthless. He is a cold, calculating man who always looks out for himself. He is also introduced as a great thief to us: he is told of a great painting robbery from a rich merchant that sounds almost impossible to pull off, and the next minute you see the painting hanged in his room. There are a lot of things already peppered in episode one that will become important later on. Kaz wears gloves and walks with a cane and he also seems to have some history with other crime crews. It is really great to see a main character who has some disabilities but it is not a defining trait for them and also isn’t something that stops them from doing what they want.
Next we are introduced to Inej. She works for Kaz after he bought her from a brothel. Inej is a great spy who mainly gathers intelligence for the Dregs, she is great at climbing literally every available surface and she is very quick on her feet. She also has a gorgeous collection of knives that are literally covering her entire body. She is of Suli origin, which is a nomadic nation inspired by South Asia. She often wears a cloak that looks a bit like a hijab which I really adore. It is great to see a character who is considered a criminal but has her own values, she immediately shows sympathy for the injured and helpless. She follows a religion that is made up for the universe and there is a cute moment where she hears something unbeliveable and you can tell by her reaction that she is just shaken and immediately praying in her head.
And the third member of our Dreg trio is Jesper the sharpshooter. Just like Inej he is also a poc character, from Novyi Zem. He loves flirting, gambling and has an incredible way with guns. Despite his carefree attitude he surprisingly doesn’t have a huge issue with the criminal life and all it holds.
The trio are trying to get in on a job with a great pay, a rich man wants a crew who can go through The Fold and get something for him from the other side. Since we learned this is a really dangerous thing, that even the Grisha army has trouble completing, the Crows need to make a plan first.
Kaz is famously great on making plans in the books, this doesn’t seem to be any different here. I love the montage we get where they go around town talking to different people and gathering information. While we know Jesper and Inej are mainly interested in getting this job for the money, it is implied Kaz has some other reasons.
While they go around town we learn a lot about Ketterdam and the people here. This is a place where people don’t really care where you came from or who your parents were, which is something Alina would definietely appreciate.
I like that you can tell how a character feels about something by paying attention to their reactions, and that they also pay attention to the people around them. The actors are doing a great job portraying how their characters are feeling, or in Kaz’s case, when they are trying to hide something.
I love the little jokes and the small moments that show the personality of the Crows, like Inej playing with her knives while being bored at the table. Jesper loving to show off his marksmanship but taking it very seriously when Kaz tells him to do something for him is very in character.
I love the little moments where you can immediately tell there is a trust and understanding between Kaz and Inej – Kaz noticing Inej being in his room even though most people wouldn’t. And the fact that Inej showing up uninvited in his room is just being treated as a casual everyday thing where they talk about all the intel she gathered is great. While Kaz calls her an “investment” at one point, and it could seem cold, you can tell he holds her to a high esteem. There is an explanation for everything Kaz does and says even if it doesn’t make sense now.
While Kaz and crew are definitely criminals, they are introduced as people who are in for it for the money and the narrative makes you interested in learning more about them. Jesper seems to be a fun guy with questionable morals, Inej follows a religion and avoids killing people even if people would pay her for it, and Kaz seems more focused on scheming and getting a job that would be too hard to pull off for most people. However, one of the rival gang bosses, Pekka Rollins is immediately introduced as someone who plays as dirty as they get and has no issues with using violence to get what he wants.
As the Crows learn more about the job, the story reveals that the events with Alina on the ship happened two weeks ago. Now the word is getting out that something weird happened on the Ravkan ship and as people start calling Alina the Sun Summoner, a bounty is placed on her head.
The job the Crows win is this: enter the fold, kidnap Alina and bring her to Ketterdam.
Since these books are focused on Alina and her story, the Crows don’t seem to get any flashbacks in this this season. I am okay with this since I honestly didn’t expect them to have such a big role in Shadow and Bone at all. The narrative seems to move the two plotlines almost in paralell which is more than I could have ever asked for.
I would have been happy to only see the Crows in the background as cameos only. The way the multiple plotlines are played out gives me the same kind of rush I had when reading the Crow books. The Crows always get themselves into some crazy fun adventure with lots of scheming and planning and it felt like an adventure/action movie – which is now reality!
I already watched episode two and three and I cannot wait up to write up on those and to continue the show! What a great start!
Once in a blue moon I stumble upon a book that completely blows my expectations away even though I went in with none, and as such immediately makes it to my all times favorite list. That was the case with Cherry Mahou as well. It is a gem among boy’s love titles, standing out mainly by the fact that it shows us that you can write an engaging romance that you want to root for with healthy boundaries and unproblematic characters.
At first sight I was wary of this title – our main character gains mind reading powers due to his virginity after all. As an advocate for healthy romances and asexual coded characters I was worried the main character would be mistreated or ridiculed even. But the story never makes fun of Adachi due to his virginity or never implies that he is less in any way. He is treated with respect, and consent and communication are a huge part of the story. This alone made me really appreciate this manga and let me tell you about all the things I loved about it.
Oh and don’t be worried about the explicit warning, this volume and volume two contain no adult scenes so far, the author however stated they would like to include some later on.
Adachi, turning 30, suddenly finds himself being able to read other people’s minds – people that he touches, that is. He finds the power more bothersome than anything and tries not to pay a lot of attention to it. That is until thanks to a crowded elevator ride, he realizes that his super handsome, kind, popular co-worker likes him. After confirming that he isn’t just hallucinating and loosing his mind, as one could when turning 30 and living a lackluster life, Adachi starts to think about how he never had a relationship before.
He never dared to act on it even if he had someone he liked, due to a fear of being rejected and being afraid of not being able to meet other’s expectations. Surprised but not entirely put-off Adachi finds himself pondering if he possibly could like kind, sweet Kurosawa back. The two suddenly find themselves spending time together more often than before which let’s Adachi learn more about Kurosawa.
I also find it very refreshing that Adachi doesn’t even have a gay panic moment – he is surprised by Kurosawa’s interest in him because he has no romantic experience and he is awkward around people but he is super chill about gay things otherwise. There is also an added humor in how Adachi can read other people’s unfiltered thoughts such as Kurosawa noticing a mole on Adachi’s neck and finding it super sexy. While there is no way to top the live action adaptation’s perfectness the manga is also super sweet. I love that the story deliberately avoids falling into any of the time-tried and frankly problematic BL tropes.
While the mind-reading brings up the question of privacy, it is due to be addressed in later volumes. It is not something Adachi can control, and even when he uses it on purpose it is mostly to serve as a social aid of sorts since he struggles with social anxiety.
Kurosawa invites Adachi to stay over after he misses his train home and they spend some time alone together but he never tries to take advantage of him. There is another instance when drunken coworkers egg them on to kiss just for fun, but the moment Kurosawa sees that Adachi is uncomfortable he backs off. I really appreciate this, especially since it is clear Kurosawa is interested in more but he never wants to risk pushing Adachi too far. Thanks to his magic Adachi can hear Kurosawa’s conflicting thoughts about wanting more but not wanting to force himself on Adachi. The fact that Kurosawa being considerate of him is one of the major reasons Adachi starts liking him is just something we rarely see in romances and it makes this story so refreshing.
The fact that Adachi has no prior experience in romance is also treated so amazingly, he is not treated badly or any different because of this – if anything Kurosawa reacts respectfully when he tells him, and vows to be even more careful in how he tries to woe him. A lot of thinking happens in this volume, and I am excited to see more as Adachi will continue to realize his feelings towards Kurosawa.. the below is just the closing thought of his for this volume and it sums the sweetness of this series up perfectly.
We desperately need more boy’s love titles like this where the focus is on communication and mutual respect. Relationships that are built on both parties being interested in romance and treating each other as equals. Characters that care about consent and don’t push their partners out of their comfort zones.
The manga moves slowly, and this is a slow burn romance built on the characters getting to know each other.
For now only two volumes are available in English (6 in Japanase and still running). The third English translated volume will drop in May. If you can’t wait to see more of the story though there is an incredible live action adaptation with amazing writing and really cute actors. The live action keeps the main themes and central plot lines and polishes the writing and character interactions even more, it is clearly a love of work. You can read my detailed review on it here. You can watch it on Crunchyroll with a free account.
Also can we just appreciate the fact that the author drew the first few pages of this story for fun and posted it on twitter (@toyotayou) and when the post went viral a publisher reached out and that’s how we got this manga! Let’s go and support this title! 💜💜💜