My fourth and final interview of the Comic-Con weekend was with Shadow and Bone author Leigh Bardugo, who was there to talk Siege and Storm, the sequel to Shadow and Bone and, of course, to be a fangirl just like everyone else there!
Like The Maze Runner author James Dashner, this was her 2nd visit to Comic-Con, and she finds it as enjoyable as everyone else, especially getting to meet other authors that she adores as well as the chance to “get exposed to things that are out of the YA world.”
Warning: mild *spoilers* below
This time, I got to chat with her a little more about Siege and Storm, and then about the third book, Ruin and Rising. One of the first questions that came to mind was about Sturmhond and what we can expect to see in regards to his role in the Big Palace. Of course, she was quick to remind me that we don’t know what his situation is at this point, stating “Well, we don’t know if he is still alive. He could be alive, he could be dead, he could be held prisoner. We don’t know.” I paused for a moment, realizing my faux pas and told her that I am just assuming he is (basically because how could you get rid of such a wonderful character, right?)
How has the fan reaction been so far with Siege and Storm?
It’s been really amazing. It was very scary for me to put out the second book. When we put out Shadow and Bone, there were no expectations. There were no readers to make happy or sad. So to have readers that were- and I was watching on Tumblr, some of the first people to enter the fandom and create graphics and all that, what the response would be. So I thought, what if they hate it?! They’d say, this book was terrible and I’m done with Leigh Bardugo! But the fan response has been so wonderful, and I have to say, I got to go out on tour again and this time it was a really different experience. I got to meet a lot of the people who I interact with online and a lot of new people and it was just amazing. It’s the most unexpected and powerful part of being an author – to hear from readers and to meet them. So, it’s been great.
And I know there are lot of things in the book that made some people mad and there are going to be things in Ruin and Rising that are going to make them even madder, I may have to go live in a shoe and hide.
It seems like it hasn’t deterred a lot of people from still loving The Darkling. What do you think about that mindset – the people who are just all about The Darkling?
Well, if I wanted you to hate The Darkling, I would just have him kill a kitten in the first chapter. It’s not hard to make somebody hate a character. There’s lot of ways to do that. I want him to be appealing. And I want people to question both his allure and the crimes he’s committed. I always say that, with very few exceptions, I think a lot of his actions are maybe not defensible but maybe understandable, and I’ve never wanted him to be the kind of antagonist who is easy to just write off.
That said, there are some people who really loathe him, and there are some people who really love him. The only thing that bugs me is when I feel like people don’t cut other characters the same slack they cut him, which is maybe my fault as an author. Maybe I haven’t made them appealing enough, but Genya has done some bad things. To me, she’s a very sympathetic character, and that sometimes carries a little sting when people are like, ‘Well, sure the Darkling destroyed an entire village and horribly scarred someone, but Genya! Genya burned those letters, so, you know, she’s a bad lady!’
Sometimes that sort of double standard that we see sometimes with the way we treat female characters versus male characters gets to me, but again, maybe that’s my failure as an author to not show that character’s point of view enough, and also because you just never know how a character’s going to strike someone.
I did feel very sympathetic towards Genya. People make mistakes.
I don’t like infallible heroes. And I don’t like eeevil villains. Spell evil with three e’s! I just don’t find them compelling and in my favorite books, there’s never this clear division between good and evil. And I think there’s a lot of questions that could be asked about what the best thing is for this country and what it’s going to mean to have a power vacuum there potentially. There’s a lot of big questions that I hope don’t have simple answers.
Can you give us any hint as to what we can expect in Ruin and Rising?
Oh lawd! The truth is it’s almost impossible for me to talk about the book without giving away any spoilers. I can tell you that not everybody’s going to make it out of the trilogy. I can tell you there’s going to be some twists and turns, and I don’t think that people will see them all coming. And I can tell you that if you decide to hate the ending, you can reach me in my remote shoe location, where I will have wi-fi!
And you’ve already stated before that the end is going to be The End.
Yeah. There are certain stories that could go on, but there will be no question that this trilogy is over. Everybody dies in chapter 2!
She likes to jest, a lot!
Are there going to be some major battles in Ruin and Rising?
Yes, there’s lots of action in Ruin and Rising, and there are a few major battles. But I didn’t want it to just be a war book, where it’s all about war – where we have a battle here and a battle here and a battle there. There’s some very specific – let’s just say yes, there are battles, but there are also action sequences. My goal with every book is to sort of upend the characters’ lives and to force them to change and to evolve in ways to push them further. Sometimes they don’t evolve in ways we like and sometimes they don’t go places we want them to go. But I hope that the readers will stay with them. And I can tell you that some if the ideas about the existing characters will be different by the end of the book. Or I suspect they will.
With your characters, is there any that you see close to you in personality or traits?
On some level, they’re all a little bit like me. They’re kind of me on my best days and my worst days and there’s no character that I feel completely divorced from, no matter how horrific their actions. I try to be in their heads. I guess I’d like to be like Genya but I’m really a lot more like David than any other characters. Like, ‘leave me alone and let me do my work!’
I’d really like to be like Sturmhond! I’d really like to be just capable and confident and fearless and just like, ‘why yes! I’m both an inventor and a privateer and I can cook you a 5-course meal, but I never would because I have this chef here!’ I would like to be as fabulous as he is, but am much more like David.
Do we expect to see any more new places in Ruin and Rising?
Yes, if you’ve read Siege and Storm, you know that we’re going to be traveling to some new places in Ravka and so forth. There’s also a lot of places on the map that we don’t explore in the trilogy, but that I’m hoping I will get a chance to take readers to in future books, but we’ll see how it goes.
Will you be writing another novella/short story before Ruin and Rising?
That’s the plan. I probably will. When I have free time, I would really love to do a whole book of Ravkan folk tales or do a whole collection of them online or something, but yes, we will probably have another short story that’s a folk tale in the Grishaverse.
I really loved what Leigh had to say about how we treat certain characters and as much as I agree with her, there are people that are just not going to like a character for whatever silly reason, be it their gender, their appearance or any number of factors. That comprises who we are and how we grow up. For that matter, I can’t blame the author for the understanding that readers may not have for such characters like Genya, but I can only hope they learn from the books they read, including these books.
With that said, however, as a reader, we are free to interpret characters as we choose, and to accept or not accept the story as the author has written it. I so far choose to accept this one as heartily worthy of recommendation, if only to not force Leigh to live in a shoe.