Sometimes, I love a book so much I have to shout it from the rooftops. Leigh Bardugo’s debut, Shadow and Bone, is that kind of read–seriously one of my absolute top picks for 2012! Of course I had to beg Leigh for an interview and put together the ultimate Ravka themed prize-pack. I couldn’t help myself, guys!
So..if you want to win an ARC of Shadow and Bone along with a mailbox full of indulgent goodies, keep reading.
Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.
Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.
1. Leigh, can you tell us about that moment when things clicked, when the fragments of SHADOW AND BONE became the story you wanted to tell?
Honestly, it came pretty late in the process. People may be surprised to learn that in the first draft, Alina and Mal had parents. (I wanted to dodge the high fantasy cliche of the orphan.) But as I got into my research, I learned about some of the Russian noblemen who came back from the Napoleonic Wars with a much changed view of the serfs that had fought beside them. Their stories became the inspiration for Keramzin, a country estate converted into an orphanage and home for war widows by a Duke returning from military service. Once I understood where Mal and Alina came from, I understood the bond between them so much better, and that really became the heart of the story.
2. Ravka, Ravka, Ravka…You built such an amazing place, setting each scene so well! (Exhibit A: Page 40–’The Duke’s estate had been beautiful, but it was a melancholy beauty of dusty rooms and peeling paint, the echo of something that had once been grand.’ WORD SWOON.) What’s your favorite detail or element of Alina’s world?
I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I have to admit, I really liked writing about the food– sweet pea porridge, roasted lynx, burnt swan with saffron, the list goes on. I went even crazier with it in Book 2, and food and sweets are a big part of the narrative in my short story “The Witch of Duva.” I also had a lot of fun describing the winter fete. I love to plan parties for my friends and I basically got to throw the most over-the-top, disgustingly decadent shindig ever at the Grand Palace.
3. Alina is a wonderfully believable heroine. She’s tough and vulnerable, all at once, and her experiences are downright thrilling. What drives her? In her heart of hearts, what does Alina yearn for, more than anything?
At the beginning of the story, Alina is desperate to belong to someone or something. She isn’t just an orphan, but also a refugee and she has no real place in the world. She’s not quite a peasant, but she certainly isn’t aristocracy. She’s supposed to be a mapmaker, but she isn’t a very good one. Her hunger to find a home, to feel valued is a powerful thing and it leads her to make some questionable decisions. By story’s end, she has a much clearer sense of herself, but what she wants has gotten far more complicated.
4. It would be criminal not to mention my stalker-like crush on the Darkling. Are you surprised to hear that so many readers connect with him as a character? What was the key to writing this enigmatic charmer?
I would not recommend stalking the Darkling. I suspect it would end… badly. That said, it’s been interesting to see the positive and negative reactions to him. In a way, I think they mirror Ravka’s ambivalence toward the Darkling. His charm and his beauty don’t change the fact that he’s a very dangerous sort. Power seduces and it isolates. I think that dichotomy is the key to his character.
5. Every author has a unique journey. So far, what has surprised you the most about the road to publication?
Well, I’m going to be honest here. The biggest surprise has been learning just how thin my skin is. I like to think of myself as fairly ferocious, but I like being liked. Sometimes it’s hard for me not to take things personally. I assume I’ll get better at this. Or I’ll go live in a cave without wifi.
6. What, if anything, can you tell us about your next book?
I’m so eager to talk about Book 2 of the Grisha Trilogy. So many things change and no one comes through the story the same way he or she started. We’ll be traveling a bit more beyond Ravka’s borders and I’m introducing some new characters– one of whom is easily my favorite of the whole series. That’s about as specific as I can get.
7. If you could go back and give your pre-debut writer self some advice, what would it be?
I’d like to give her the confidence of knowing that she does finish the book, that she has it in her. So often, this ugly voice would crop up in my head, “Who do you think you’re kidding? You don’t know how to do this!” It would be nice to give myself a little more ammunition to shut that voice up.
A big thanks to Leigh for doing this interview. And a big thanks to YOU for reading! Again, do you wanna win this:
To win, all you have to do is leave a comment below. BUT…if you ALSO tweet this blog post link with the hashtag #SHADOWANDBONE, I’ll put FIVE EXTRA ENTRIES into the drawing for you! And if you sign up as a blog follower, I’ll put in FIVE MORE!
Contest ends in one week, guys, at Midnight on June 4th. Sorry, no international entries–US only. Happy Memorial Day and good luck!