This question/answer is between Leigh Bardugo and her editor, Noa Wheeler. Leigh Bardugo is the author of the "tsarpunk"Grisha Trilogy. The second book in that trilogy,Siege and Storm, is available now.
Photo credit: Kevin Rolly
NW: Your fans are eagerly awaiting the arrival of Siege and Storm, the second book in the Grisha Trilogy. Without giving away too much of the story or naming names, what can readers look forward to learning in that book?
LB: I'm so glad people are excited. Most of the characters from Shadow and Bone will return and you'll get to meet some new players as well (including my favorite character of the series). They all have big changes in store for them over the course of the book. This is a story about power—personal, political, magical—the price of it, the lure of it, and even the pleasure of it. So expect more action, more plot twists, and plenty of heartache.
NW: Diehard fans often write about Shadow and Bone's genre. Do you agree when readers identify it as High Fantasy or Dark Fantasy? What do you call it?
LB: I like "dark fantasy," though I'm not totally sure what it means. Personally, I'm fond of the term "Tsarpunk." We coined it as a joke, but it really does seem to say the most about the series. When people hear "high fantasy" or "epic fantasy" they tend to think of worlds based on Medieval Europe. But the world of the Grisha Trilogy was inspired by Tsarist Russia of the early 1800s—think sabers, muskets, and samovars instead of broadswords, crossbows, and tankards. So for now, I'm sticking with Tsarpunk. Or just waggling my fingers and saying "Faaaantasy!"
NW: You have done such an amazing job of building this world, basing it on Russia but making it something all its own. Do you think your readers quickly recognize the Russian themes and imagery? Why did you choose to infuse hints of this culture into Ravka?
LB: Thank you! I wanted to take readers someplace a little different, but that still felt grounded in
reality. Even people who know nothing about Russia have very strong images associated with its culture. I felt it was a strong point of departure for a fantasy world. Some people haven't liked the choices I made with regard to the world and I have to respect that, but at the same time, it's incredible to get email from fans in Russia and Ukraine who are excited about the book. I've also had readers tell me that Shadow and Bone got them going on a Russian culture binge. I've seen posts from them on Russian folklore or gotten requests for recommendations on Russian authors. One girl on tumblr reached out to tell me she petitioned her school for a Russian language elective. It's nice to know that Ravka led them there.
NW: When talking about Siege and Storm, we often say “Darkness never dies.” This is pretty terrifying! But it’s also something we can all relate to on many levels. How does this idea play into the book?
LB: The line refers to the Darkling's return and to the new way he's found to use his power, but it's also about what Alina is dealing with as she comes to grips with her own strength, what it means to be the Sun Summoner, and the choices she made at the end of Shadow and Bone. I'm not interested in characters who are just one thing, who are wholly evil or wholly good. People aren't like that. We all have our own darkness to contend with and that isn't necessarily a bad thing.