Bardugo created a darkly magic world inspired by Tsarist
Russia for her debut book, the YA novel "Shadow and
Bone," entrancing enough to be optioned by
DreamWorks. It and its sequel, "Siege and
Storm," were bestsellers, and now Bardugo brings
her Grisha trilogy to a close with "Ruin and
Rising" (Henry Holt and Co., $18.99).
was born in Jerusalem, attended Yale and lives in Los
Angeles, where she has worked doing film makeup and
performed in a band. These days, she mostly writes.
chatted with us by phone to tell us more about her
process and creating Ravka, the mystical world in which
the trilogy is set. The series follows Alina Starkov,
who has been trained as a member of the Grisha, the
magical elite. In the third book, with Ravka ruled by
the mysterious Darkling, it is up to a weakened Alina to
forge alliances to find the firebird ó the one thing
standing between Ravka and destruction.
did your experience writing the final book of the
trilogy compare to writing the first two books?
thought the third book would be the easiest to do
because I outlined extensively ó Iíve basically
known where this book was going for years. But I
discovered that wasnít the case.
third book seemed to be about closing doors, whereas one
and two were all about opening them. It wasnít as easy
as I had expected and it was surprisingly emotional. Iíve
always kind of smirked at authors who said they cried
when they killed off a character or when they wrote
something difficult into their books ó Iím really
going to eat my hat on that one since I definitely when
through that with my third book.
you mapped out the way you were going to close the
trilogy when you were writing the first book?
when I wrote the first book. "Shadow and Bone"
was my first book and my only goal when I started
writing it was to finish it, because I had started a lot
of books and they really hadnít gotten past the first
or second chapter.
idea of completing a trilogy was not anywhere in my
thoughts. But about halfway through, I realized that
this was not meant to be a one-book story and I could
see a much broader picture. But I didnít know if
anybody would even want the first book so I just kept
notes for the second and third books and had my fingers
mentioned in the past that while Ravka is not Russia,
you turned to Russian cultural influences to build the
world. Can you tell me a little bit about that process?
love fantasies with a medieval, European inspiration.
Some of my favorite books take their inspiration from
medieval Europe, medieval England in particular. But I
knew I wanted to take readers some place a little bit
different with this story. And I also knew that I wanted
modern warfare to play a part.
in, I knew I wanted to explore some place that would be
new to me. And Russia was a very natural fit. There were
already dynamics emerging in the story ó a desire to
industrialize, a largely conscripted army, a huge gap in
wealth and resources between the rich and the poor.
also think that people who donít know anything about
Russia still have very strong associations with it. And
they tend to have associations that are both very
beautiful (the winter palace, Faberge eggs and the
Bolshoi Ballet), and also very brutal (the Gulag, bread
lines and mass graves). So, in a way, it lends itself
very powerfully already to a fantasy world that would be
both familiar and, I hope, transporting.
did you find the challenges to be when building the
Ravkan language system?
be fair, I didnít create an entire language. And I
used to have a lot of misgivings about that until I
heard a number of fantasy authors I really respect say
they did not take the Tolkien approach and build a whole
language first, and then write the book.
built what I needed. Russian can be incredibly
impenetrable if you donít have any knowledge of it. In
some cases I wanted to use Latinate roots, with a word
like "Corporalki" or "Poliznaya,"
that would have an instant, resonance for a Western
reader. But then I would use a Russian cognate to finish
it or build it out.
fiction and fantasy novels played a huge role helping
you through a difficult juncture in your life during
junior high. What was it about the genre that helped you
so much, and often helps other YA readers going through
think that thereís this tendency to look at genre
fiction, science fiction and fantasy, as escapist. But
really, all reading is escapist in one way or another,
even if itís nonfiction.
I think the thing that was different for me was that
science fiction and fantasy were expansive. They include
new worlds that were so much bigger and more exciting
than mine. Worlds where the things that were important
were being prepared, being diplomatic, being political,
being strong ó all of those things came into play in a
way that they just donít when youíre in junior high
and high school. What matters when youíre in school is
being pretty or being popular or being great at a sport,
and I was none of those things.
these were worlds where being smart and clever were
valued and would get you through hard times. We
sometimes live in a world that doesnít value or
achievements or talents very much, and in YA having your
potential recognized is a big thing.
already received a two-book deal for your next project,
"The Dregs," set in the same universe as this
trilogy. What prompted that decision as opposed to
creating an entirely new world?
you see a map in "Siege and Storm," youíll
see that there are a lot of countries I didnít get to
go to or explore that much in the trilogy, and Kerch was
a big one for me. Ravka is this nation that has really
been kept in a stranglehold by this swath of darkness
called the Shadow Fold. Theyíve been cut off from the
ports and harbors, and from free trade with the outside
world. And I wanted to set something in a country that
was the opposite of that. And Kerch is very much that:
Itís this hyper-capitalist place and is the hub of all
legal and illegal trade in this world.
of the fun things for me is creating a magical system,
and then findings ways to twist it this way and that.
What happens when you break the rules? What kind of
technological developments will occur when you have
those rules? That was something I got to keep doing by
keeping it in the same universe. That said, there are
some times when I say, "why canít I just throw
some new magic? It would make it so much easier!"
close, I wanted to ask a few rapid-fire questions. If
you were a member of the Grisha, what would you want
your magical power to be?
would really like to be a Corporalnik ó Iíd love to
be a Heartrender. If I was in a boring conversation with
somebody, I could slowly make them fall into a low-grade
in my heart I know I donít have the guts to be a
Corporalnik, so I think would probably be a Fabrikator
(the "lab geeks" of the Grisha Order).
the zombie apocalypse hits, what tools and methods would
you use to ward off the zombies?
honey, Iím just going to open up all of the booze and
all of the bags of potato chips and tell them to make it
quick! I donít have any illusions about my abilities
to fight. Iím going to enjoy my last few days, invite
some friends over for drinks and then let the zombies
have their way.
is the one book you would take with you if ever stranded
on a deserted island?
one is always such a killer. Alright, I would either go
with "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" or
"A Clash of Kings" by George R.R. Martin. Itís
a tough one. But the nice thing about "Harry
Potter" is that itís so comforting, which is not
something you get from George R.R. Martin. So maybe Iíll
go with "Harry Potter."