2014 Teens’ Top Ten: So You Want to Read Leigh Bardugo? Fire Up the Samovar and Make Yourself Comfortable!

Photo by Kevin Rolly
Photo by Kevin Rolly

Congratulations for Leigh Bardugo on Siege and Storm‘s inclusion in the Teens’ Top Ten! These books are amazing and if you haven’t read them yet, what are you waiting for? You’ve heard all of your friends chattering excitedly about Leigh Bardugo‘s Grisha Trilogy but can’t decide if you want to read it. Luckily, we here at The Hub can help.  To start off, here’s the plot:

Ravka is split down the middle by a horrifying sea of shadows called the Unsea populated by terrifying undead creatures. The royalty is doing nothing and the Grisha are the only ones working to stop it. They are led by the formidable and secretive Darkling who can control shadows. Using the small science – magic-like command of various elements – the Grisha work air, blood, metal, and more. Newly discovered as the long awaited Sun Summoner, Alina is an orphan who never thought she was anything more than a map maker. When the Darkling’s secrets are revealed, Alina the Sun Summoner who can control light is called upon to wage war against the Darkness and try to heal the country. With help from her best friend (and love?) Mal and a great cast of characters they set out to save the world.

And then here are the top five reasons why you should read it.

From Leigh’s kefta Pinterest board

1. It’s a fantasy set in a “tsarpunk” fantasy Russia-like land: The setting is inspired by Russian folktales and the world of the tsars. Check out Leigh’s military and “tsarpunk” Pinterest board that she used in creating this fascinating world.It’s got keftas beautiful and functional garments like a caftan that the Grisha wear. The language used in the books is Russian inspired and the world is infused with Russian mythology and folklore. For anyone who ever was fascinated by the Romanovs, Russian literature, and fantasy, these books are for you.

2. It has a diverse set of characters: Not only is it diverse in terms of the fantasy land –  it’s got magic, different types of love, scientists, pirates, religious folk, and more – it also has characters of different colors from lands bordering Ravka and two female characters who fall in love. Writing an answer to a question about the lesbian characters, Leigh affirms their place in our world and Ravka.

3. It’s an exciting story with  fascinating themes and meanings: The folktale of the Firebird plays a huge role here. Going through a major Russian phase in middle and high school I listened to a lot of Stravinksy’s Firebird suite and pretended my name was either Anna Romanov or Anna Karenina, depending on how tragic I felt that day. Bardugo’s books evoke tragedy but still rise with the frenetic energy of the firebird. It’s thrilling to watch as the two themes unfold. The interplay between light and darkness, and the tension between duty and desire make the series stand out as especially compelling.

4. Alina Starkov is the hero for our times: You know the strong female character trend that is sweeping YA books, movies, and beyond? I think it’s pretty great because women and girls deserve to have amazing adventures and be the heroines of their stories just as much as boys. But you know what my problem with the “strong female character” trope is? Sometimes the girls can be really unemotional and cold; like they have sacrificed their complicity for human compassion for sweet karate skills or something. Not so with Alina. She is very powerful but she has heart, doubts, vulnerabilities, and feels conflicted about her involvement with Mal, the Darkling, and her use of the amplifiers, special talismans harvested from animals to help her use her powers.

Fan art from @tiffkuan from Leigh's Tumblr
Fan art from @tiffkuan from Leigh’s Tumblr

5. The fan art is beautiful: I love fan art and the lush setting and deep characters lend themselves to some amazing art. Take a look at some of the examples on Leigh’s Tumblr.

5 1/2. Finally, a fun side note: Leigh used to be a makeup artist before she started writing. This comes out gloriously in her character Genya who uses Grisha powers to transform people’s faces and appearances!

If you need more reasons to read the Grisha trilogy check out some of Leigh’s interviews and various websites.

Her next book, Six of Crows, is set in the Grisha-verse but takes place in Kerch, an island in the true sea off Ravka. We know Leigh has been really busy, so hopefully we will be able to feature our interview with her soon. Stayed tuned for that!

-Anna Tschetter, currently reading Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson