L is for Leigh Bardugo

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Leigh Bardugo’


I’m a new comer to Leigh Bardugo – I’d never heard of her Grisha Trilogy until I got the opportunity to review the last one. After making the mistake of picking up the second or third book in a series where I hadn’t read the previous instalments a number of times, I wasn’t about to pick up Ruin and Rising without reading the first two first. Fortunately, I had some Audible credits spare.

I listened to the whole trilogy pretty much over a weekend while painting the fence round my garden. Painting the fence is a horrible job – it takes ages, makes your arms hurt, is messy and in our garden you have to stand on a stepladder in a busy road to do the frontage. It’s not nice, and in previous years I’ve wanted it over as quickly as possible,

Shadow and Bone

But while listening to the Grisha Trilogy I couldn’t help but want it to last a little longer – just so I could listen a little longer. I was so absorbed in the characters, so absorbed in the plot, I didn’t want to stop listening. I ended up doing the same thing I did when listening to Eleanor and Park – finding excuses to do things that meant I could leave the audiobook running. My house was very clean that weekend!

I’ve tried to think about what it was that made the Grisha Trilogy such an engaging listen. By all accounts it was a fairly typical YA fantasy story – girl discovers she’s not as ordinary as she thought she was, gets taken away to school to learn about her new magic, has several love interests, and is involved in an ancient prophecy that will save or destroy the world. So far, pretty par for the course. It helped that the performer was excellent, certainly, but that alone couldn’t have elevated the story beyond the typical.

Ruin and Rising

I think in part it was definitely down to the interesting and unique setting of the story, and the magic system. The careful balance of the Grisha – how they are both feared and needed by the community, how they have power but don’t. And the Russian style mythology and politics – it’s not really an area that’s explored regularly in YA literature. Certainly not in the books I’ve been reading. Loads set in America or imaginary cities in America, some British, but little further east. And it’s a shame because there’s so much ripe material to mine.

But it also comes down to Bardugo’s excellent characterisation. I think anyone reading would be hard pressed not to love Nikolai, and I’ve seen the reviews that utterly revere the Darkling (which I don’t get, but he is a great character, I’ll give them that much). When you’ve got a world that’s fascinating and characters that are great fun to spend time with, you’re on to a winner!

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