Four Part Author Chat with Leigh Bardugo and Friends

Leigh Bardugo got together with authors M.L. Brennan (AMERICAN VAMPIRE), Django Wexler (THE SHADOW CAMPAIGNS), and Teresa Frohock (MISERERE) to chat about all things books, writing, and connecting with fans!

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PART ONE: UNICORNS, HIGHLANDERS, AND THE CHARACTERS WE KILL


Q: What are your feelings about seriously harming or even killing main characters?

Leigh Bardugo: I’m glad that you mentioned doing serious harm, because for me, that’s sometimes the more interesting choice. I like to take away the thing that the character believes defines him or her and then see what happens.

As for killing off characters, agreed on all fronts, particularly Teresa’s points re manipulating or cheating the reader. A death is like a declaration of love or any dramatic moment really—it has to feel earned. Even if the death is deliberately arbitrary (Whedon does this a lot—shrapnel! stray bullet! danger is everywhere!), I think the fallout has to be deeply felt. Otherwise, you’re just upping the body count and there’s a good chance the reader will begin to feel brutalized or simply stop caring. I don’t know. It’s easy to talk about these things in the abstract, but I just locked the third book in my trilogy and I worried quite a bit about striking a balance between the reality of war and narrative satisfaction. I still don’t know if I walked the line successfully.

PART TWO: WORLDBUILDING AND THINGS WE PUT IN OUR BOOKS JUST BECAUSE THEY’RE COOL

Q: Is there an element you put in your books not because it was necessary to the plot or characters, but just because it was awesome?
Leigh Bardugo: I like imagining Teresa setting fire to the world. In Siege and Storm, Alina discovers that Mal has been spending his nights brawling in what started out as an ordinary fight club scene because, well, I wanted to write about a fight club. But my friend Sarah called me out on it. She basically said, “What is this Far and Away shiz?” And I knew she was right, but I also knew there was a reason beyond bare-knuckle shenans for why I felt so attached to the scene. It was only on the rewrite that I realized the change I needed to make to give the moment significance: Mal is an ordinary soldier and he needed to be challenging Grisha, the members of the magical elite. He’s doing it to prove he isn’t helpless, to get a bit of his own back—and it ended up having an impact not only on his character, but on the rest of the trilogy.

I desperately, desperately wanted Sturmhond to have a sky fortress in Siege and Storm. I had this whole vision of how it would plummet to the earth in this big battle. But with the rules I’d created for the magical system, it was impossible. In theory, a group of Squallers could have kept a floating fortress aloft and stable, but in the context of my world it would have been an absurd expenditure of resources, completely pointless. So that was the end of the sky fortress. But I still think of it fondly.

PART THREE: CONS, FANS, AND BOOKS WE WISH WE’D WRITTEN

Tell us about one novel that you wish you had written.
Leigh: Lawd, I never know what to make of this question, but I’m going with Glen David Gold’s Carter Beats the Devil. It’s one of the most perfectly plotted books I’ve read, and it also strikes this tone of possibility that I haven’t encountered many other places. It’s an intimate story, but it has grand scale. It’s historical fiction, but there’s an element of magical realism. It’s whimsical and improbable, but grounded in something sinister, and heartbreaking, and absurdist. After I read it, I started trying to write a literary novel set in early 1900s Los Angeles. I never got past chapter two. At the same time, I’d hate to have written Carter because then I’d be deprived of the pleasure of simply reading it.

PART FOUR: ALL THE LIES!

Q: Is there a book you pretend you’ve read, but haven’t? Answers after the break!
Leigh Bardugo: I always nod or smirk as appropriate when Jonathan Franzen’s books are mentioned, but I’ve never read them. The problem is that, at this point, I’ve read enough of his commentary that I’m incapable of giving him a fair read. Am I missing out? Tell me fellow panelists. Unless you haven’t read him, in which case, nod or smirk as appropriate.

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Review of SIEGE AND STORM, Book 2 of the GRISHA TRILOGY, By Leigh Bardugo

Siege and Storm (The Grisha, #2)Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You just never know how the story is going to go. Of course, when you read the first book of a series, you naturally expect the second book to be about the same. However, you can’t always rely on that, because sometimes that’s not always the case.

I can’t say that this book generally follows the same pace as the first book, because for me, it doesn’t. That isn’t to say I didn’t like it, because as you can see by my rating, I did. But it is different, and to be honest, some people may not find the pacing to their liking.

There is still a good bit of action involved, however, there’s also a lot of internal turmoil with Alina and having to deal with the ramifications of the events of the first book, even when it comes to Mal, or especially when it comes to Mal. You find her to be very untrusting of anyone, including herself, as may be expected, and you may find it frustrating. I know I did.

Mal’s position in all this is also much different than when it was in the first book, and you learn more about it. I definitely felt for him, but I found him just as much in turmoil emotionally as Alina, even after reuniting with her at the end of Shadow and Bone.

There are some supporting characters that make a return in a way you didn’t expect and there are a few new characters that are quite likeable. Keep a watch out for Sturmhond. He is by far the most exciting new character in the book.

As with some second books, they tend to be more of a set-up for the third and final book of the series. This one serves its purpose as that, I believe, and in saying so, again it feels realistic in the pacing of the procession of events. That’s not to say it’s boring, because I was actually surprised at how fast I was able to read through the book.

The book is quite descriptive, but I don’t think that you could understand anything about the action-y parts of the book without the descriptive parts of the book, so I appreciated the pacing of it.

The hard part was wanting things to be good for these people and not seeing it fully realized. This book had my heart pumping and aching and tightening, and every so often, laughing with humor… but not as often as I would like. Yes, I am not ashamed to say tears were shed, even for people that I didn’t think I would shed tears for.

The hard part about having to complete it so fast is that I have to wait that much longer for Ruin and Rising to be released. *sigh* Waiting can be so torturous in itself.

Realistically, I’d give this book a 3.5 stars, so slightly less than Shadow and Bone, but still very good.

You can read my review of Shadow and Bone here.

Leigh Bardugo on Female Leads and “Competent” Boys

EW’s Shelf Life caught up with Leigh Bardugo and author friend Veronica Roth (Divergent) to discuss YA lit and what makes their characters tick!

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Here’s a pretty spectacular snippet!

The love interests in your books, Tobias/Four and Mal set readers’ hearts aflutter. What qualities do they have that reflect what you look for in real-life partners?

L: I’m about to give the least sexy answer ever. Ready? Mal, and the Darkling, and Sturmhond all have one thing in common: they’re spectacularly competent. They’re really good at what they do. I guess I also love the sense of honor at Mal’s core. He’s someone you’d always want at your back in a fight. I feel like that’s true for Four, too.

V: I LOVE that answer. I think competence is extremely sexy, actually. And it’s what Tris is attracted to when she sees Four jump on a train for the first time — she admires his physical competence, and the ease with which he does it. I also think something your boys have in common in Shadow and Bone is that they feel like whole people — you don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on their looks, and instead you focus on the things that make them tick, their strengths and their flaws and their desires. That, I think, is what makes them appealing to readers, even if they can’t quite put their fingers on it — they feel real. I tried as hard as I could to make Four feel as real as possible, so this is something I think about a lot.

With Four specifically, he’s always appealed to me because he’s utterly convinced of Tris’s strength even when she isn’t. He respects her and respecting women is sexy, I don’t care what anyone says.

L: Hold up, who says respecting women isn’t sexy?

V: I mean, no one in particular, but sometimes you see love interests who completely disregard the main character’s opinions or feelings or even clearly expressed wishes, and I think that is the antisexy. There’s a difference between, say, impulsive or protective and straight up controlling and disrespectful, and that’s something I try to be pretty careful about. I think you’ve done a good job with this, actually — Mal wants to take care of Alina, but he’s not pushy or condescending about it. Two thumbs up, Bardugo.

L: Okay, now I’m the one blushing, Roth. It’s funny, I said that both Mal and Four would be people you’d want at your back in a fight. I think they’d say the same for Alina and Tris. That trust, that respect is fundamental. I like alphas. I like bad boys. I like a guy with a protective streak. But all of those archetypes fall apart if they’re just running roughshod over the heroine.

Fear and darkness are themes in both the Divergent and the Grisha trilogy. Do you ever have nightmares about the characters/scenarios in your books?

L: Ha! No but I had a nightmare about a bird pecking its way into my mouth after I read Divergent. (I did once dream that I was at King’s Landing, one of the locations from Game of Thrones. The Pet Shop Boys were playing.)

V: And I have been haunted by a particularly horrifying image at the end of Siege and Storm since I read it. I don’t want to spoil it, but you know what I’m talking about. So I guess we’re even!

L: Is it wrong that I’m pleased? I’m pleased.

Read the full interview here!

Leigh Bardugo’s SIEGE AND STORM Blog Tour Stop #8

On Leigh Bardugo‘s eighth stop in her blog tour, we get more character profiles, with one Malyen Oretsev and two amazing supporting characters:

(source: Ardawling)

(source: Ardawling)

Name: Malyen “Mal” Oretsev
Most Frequently Found Wearing: First Army uniform or roughspun
Line of Work: Soldier
Skills: Tracking—anyone or anything. Great with a rifle and bow, faultless sense of direction
Likes: The outdoors and hanging out with his friends
Dislikes: Court life, the Darkling
Inspired by: Chris Chambers, Karl Agathon (Helo)
Frequent fancasts: Colton Haynes, Drew Van Acker, Steven R. McQueen

“I’m sorry it took me so long to see you, Alina. But I see you now.” 

Leigh’s Comment: At the start of the story Mal is such a guy, he’s a seventeen-year-old boy who’s never really had to think about what’s important to him. He goes through so much when he loses Alina and then when his unit tracks the stag into Tsibeya. When he tells that story and when he finally expresses his feelings for Alina, it was important to me that he not become someone else: He’s still a soldier, he’s still a guy who isn’t fantastic at big declarations, but he’s also found the courage to speak his heart. I love writing him and I’m so glad I got the chance to write in his voice for the paperback bonus content.

Name: Genya Safin
Most frequently found wearing: White and gold, but these days red and blue
Line of Work: The Tailor
Skills: Genya’s skills represent a unique combination of Corporalnik and Materialnik and include manipulating physical appearance.
Likes: Fabulous clothes, rich food, spending time in the Fabrikator workshops, gossip about other people
Dislikes: Herring, dirt, gossip about her
Inspired by: My most fabulous makeup artist friends and fairy godmothers everywhere
Frequent fancasts: Holland Roden, Deborah Ann Woll, Sophie Turner

“I’m marvelous.” 

Leigh’s Comment: With Genya, I wanted to take the idea of the sassy best friend—the girl who acts as a kind of guide and fairy godmother, transforming you, helping you to fit in—and tweak it a bit, because I think playing that role is bound to have a cost. Genya has been both empowered and victimized by beauty. But even after all she’s been through, she refuses to be shamed or cowed by her situation and I love that about her.

wheetsDavid

(credit: Sabra at wheets.tumblr.com)

Name: David Kostyk
Most frequently found wearing: Purple and red
Line of Work: Durast (Materialnik)
Skills: Manipulation of metal, glass, textiles. Master Fabrikator and most talented Durast in the Second Army.
Likes: Science, gadgets, being left alone
Dislikes: Are you still here?
Inspired by: My dad and some of the programmers I worked with in Seattle.
Frequent fancasts: Logan Lehrman[sic], Aaron Johnson, Matthew Gray Gubler

“I make things. I don’t destroy them.” 

Leigh’s Comment: David is all about focus—the kind of guy who could easily walk into traffic because he’s busy unraveling some tricky problem in his head. He sometimes seems rude or abrupt, but he’s just not interested enough in people to care. The biggest challenge in writing him is that he’s so much smarter than I am. His work often requires that I talk to actual scientists. Luckily I have a pretty amazing braintrust.

(via eighth blog tour stop: IceyBooks.  Enter to win a paperback copy of Shadow and Bone and a Hardcover copy of the upcoming Siege and Storm!)

Leigh Bardugo’s SIEGE AND STORM Blog Tour Stop #2

Leigh Bardugo, author of Shadow and Bone and the upcoming Siege and Storm, is now on a blog tour every day until the release of said book, and on this second stop, she answers some questions about Siege and Storm, so be warned, there might be slight spoilers in this Q&A.

Alina finds herself in the rather unique position of having to design an original kefta to wear so as to set her apart from the other Grisha. If you were in her shoes, what might the kefta you design for yourself look like?

Oh wow. I love this question, but I’m so torn. I’d either go Heartrender red or just take my chances and dare to wear black.

We get to meet a new and magnificent mythical creature in this second installment. Is there any one magical or mythological creature that has always fascinated you most?

I desperately want a direwolf, but I would gladly settle for a baby dragon. I think the gorgon always fascinated me. There’s something very poignant about that myth and the way she’s defeated.

Let’s say you arrive at the Little Palace and petition Alina to let you aid her. What type of position do you think would best suit you and what skills would you bring to the table to assist her with her many and varied problems?

Alina would probably send me packing. I have no skills! Maybe I could tell her stories and sing her songs? I can whip up a pretty good apple and apricot tart. Beyond that, I’ve always thought I’d make an excellent fool what with the capering and falling down. I’m certainly willing to wear bells, but I can’t juggle or play an instrument so I may be out of luck.

Alina’s life gets significantly more complicated and dangerous in Siege and Storm. If she were to stand in front of a mirror and admit to her own face one of her greatest fears knowing speaking it aloud would ease some of her burden, what might she say?

In Shadow and Bone, I think Alina most fears that she will never find her place in the world, that she will always be an outsider, that the one person who truly knows her will leave her behind. Those fears are still there in Siege and Storm, but she’s also contending with terrible guilt and the burden of tremendous power. I don’t know that it would be as simple as articulating a single fear.

Mal and Alina have known each other almost their entire lives. What would Mal say is one of his fondest memories of them together growing up?

This question made me really think about the memories that come up for both of them over the course of the series. So often they seem like stolen things—sneaking away to play in the meadow, or the brief moments in the dom cart. Keramzin wasn’t a joyful place, so the happiness they found they had to make together.

The Darkling continuously haunts Alina throughout this story, trying to get her to see things his way through both veiled and obvious threats as well as soothing words. If he was to stand before her to try and convince her of his cause one final time but had to do so in the form of a single question, what would he ask her?

I’m not sure he’d ask anything at all. The Darkling isn’t big on requests.

(via second blog tour stop: Supernatural Snark.  Go there to enter to win a paperback copy of Shadow and Bone and a Hardcover copy of the upcoming Siege and Storm!)

First Two Chapters of SIEGE AND STORM Available To Read

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If you didn’t know, you can read the first two chapters of Siege and Storm, the sequel to Leigh Bardugo‘s Shadow and Bone, online at Tor. com.

Here’s an excerpt:

BEFORE

The boy and the girl had once dreamed of ships, long ago, before they’d ever seen the True Sea. They were the vessels of stories, magic ships with masts hewn from sweet cedar and sails spun by maidens from thread of pure gold. Their crews were white mice who sang songs and scrubbed the decks with their pink tails.

The Verrhader was not a magic ship. It was a Kerch trader, its hold bursting with millet and molasses. It stank of unwashed bodies and the raw onions the sailors claimed would prevent scurvy. Its crew spat and swore and gambled for rum rations. The bread the boy and the girl were given spilled weevils, and their cabin was a cramped closet they were forced to share with two other passengers and a barrel of salt cod.

They didn’t mind. They grew used to the clang of bells sounding the hour, the cry of the gulls, the unintelligible gabble of Kerch. The ship was their kingdom, and the sea a vast moat that kept their enemies at bay.

The boy took to life aboard ship as easily as he took to everything else. He learned to tie knots and mend sails, and as his wounds healed, he worked the lines beside the crew. He abandoned his shoes and climbed barefoot and fearless in the rigging. The sailors marveled at the way he spotted dolphins, schools of rays, bright striped tigerfish, the way he sensed the place a whale would breach the moment before its broad, pebbled back broke the waves. They claimed they’d be rich if they just had a bit of his luck.

The girl made them nervous.

Three days out to sea, the captain asked her to remain belowdecks as much as possible. He blamed it on the crew’s superstition, claimed that they thought women aboard ship would bring ill winds. This was true, but the sailors might have welcomed a laughing, happy girl, a girl who told jokes or tried her hand at the tin whistle.

This girl stood quiet and unmoving by the rail, clutching her scarf around her neck, frozen like a figurehead carved from white wood. This girl screamed in her sleep and woke the men dozing in the foretop.

So the girl spent her days haunting the dark belly of the ship. She counted barrels of molasses, studied the captain’s charts. At night, she slipped into the shelter of the boy’s arms as they stood together on deck, picking out constellations from the vast spill of stars: the Hunter, the Scholar, the Three Foolish Sons, the bright spokes of the Spinning Wheel, the Southern Palace with its six crooked spires.

She kept him there as long as she could, telling stories, asking questions. Because she knew when she slept, she would dream. Sometimes she dreamed of broken skiffs with black sails and decks slick with blood, of people crying out in the darkness. But worse were the dreams of a pale prince who pressed his lips to her neck, who placed his hands on the collar that circled her throat and called forth her power in a blaze of bright sunlight.

When she dreamed of him, she woke shaking, the echo of her power still vibrating through her, the feeling of the light still warm on her skin.

The boy held her tighter, murmured soft words to lull her to sleep.

“It’s only a nightmare,” he whispered. “The dreams will stop.”

He didn’t understand. The dreams were the only place it was safe to use her power now, and she longed for them.

You can read the rest of it here!  And don’t forget to check out my exclusive interview with Leigh about all things Grisha, including the movie rights being sold to DreamWorks.

REVIEW: Shadow and Bone (novel) by Leigh Bardugo

shadow-and-bone_lowresShadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading this. I knew it had Russian elements, but not much else. The funny thing is that I didn’t expect the style of writing to sound somewhat modern in how they spoke. I’m not sure if that was to make it easier for the readers to understand Alina Starkov or what, but it only took me a few pages to get used to.

As far as the story goes, I slowly became enveloped in this new and unique world of people with powers and unfamiliar words (I still don’t know the meanings of some of the foreign terms because I was too involved in the book to stop and find out what they meant – hopefully I’ll try and look them up soon enough, but I realize it’s a lot harder to “flip” through the pages of a ebook since I didn’t book mark them).

Alina is the protagonist and she’s an interesting character, because you see how shy she is how low her self-esteem is. Although you see the changes in her throughout the book and see her confidence grow, she still is vulnerable, which I think is something I can understand. It’s not easy to just change completely within a short amount of time, and what I mean by short is the several months this book goes through. I like this character, even if I was frustrated with her at times, wanting her to hurry up and be brave. But realistically, courage can sometimes take time to build.

The Darkling is a very interesting character indeed. You think you know the guy, and for the longest time I had a hard time picturing him looking like a normal handsome man. The title made him sound more than human, like some kind of magical creature in human form, but not really human. Yet, there are things you read and you have to assume that he’s human. It’s interesting how my thoughts about him changed from one thing to another and I wished that some things about him weren’t so, but it does make for really great storytelling and really original characters.

Mal, Alina’s best friend, is somewhat of an enigma for probably the first half of the book, but when he comes in, you realize how much he brings to the story, and you just want to hug him and protect him, and him to protect and take care of you and never, ever leave.

There are some really cool elements in here. There’s the Grisha (those with powers) with their awesomely sounding garments. Although they are different from regular people because of their powers, their characteristics most of the time run on very human emotions, so you’ll find you like some Grisha better than others.

The other supporting characters don’t bore me, either. They all interact with Alina in different ways that doesn’t read as repetitive and you get to see Alina learn from each of them in more ways than one at some point.

In the end, your mind will try and wonder who exactly to trust or who to like. You may even want to like someone even though that person may be bad, or vice versa.

The pace of the book isn’t exactly fast, as there’s only bits of action here and there, but it doesn’t dwell too much in descriptive details, only in the importants things. So, it didn’t feel too long for me at all. I was drawn into this place without knowing hardly anything about Russian folklore or terms. I guess that’s what made it feel original to me.

I’ll definitely continue with book 2 when it comes out later this year. And hopefully I’ll be wearing a kefta when I do! Just kidding…kind of.

View all my reviews here or just my book reviews at Goodreads.