BACKLIST BABBLE – The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

With all the focus on upcoming titles or new releases, it’s easy to forget the books that came months, if not years, before. Books we loved, are only reading now for the first time, or are even rereading.

So in that vein we here at A Take from Two Cities are going to start a semi-frequent (aka whenever we feel like it) feature called Backlist Babble where one, or both, of us are going to babble a bit about a backlist title (or series) we love.

In my case (hi, Hollis here), I’m usually rereading old favourites because a spinoff has been announced or there’s a new book being added to the series. A perfect example of that? The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo.

With the announcement of KING OF SCARS, which expanded the Grishaverse once more after the addition of the Six of Crows duology, it felt like the perfect time to reread the books that started it all. Books I remember loving so much when they released — which, in the case of the first book, SHADOW AND BONE, was back in 2013 — but, honestly, had only vague recollections of beyond some of the major key plot points. So I dove back in and, colour me surprised, but I think I liked them better with the passage of time.

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I had some trepidation that SHADOW AND BONE a) wouldn’t live up to my memories (vague as they were), b) I would just find it too.. I don’t know what word I’m looking for but.. less. It wouldn’t be on par with the writing or pacing of SIX OF CROWS or CROOKED KINGDOM, and c) I would hate Mal. Because I remember really disliking him.

And, okay, maybe point B is kind of valid but the rest? Nope. I enjoyed the heck out of this. It’s a very nostalgic read for me that I obviously wanted to still like but also wow I had forgotten that pretty much everything I (mostly) remembered of this series actually takes place in book one. I have no idea where book two goes. It’s like my brain just stops here and jumps right to the very end of book three. Weird.

Also, Mal? Not that bad.

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I think the reason I had forgotten book two entirely was probably because of how I felt about Mal the first go-round. And yet in hindsight.. I find SIEGE AND STORM to just be mostly heartbreaking. With, like, a lot of hilarity and banter. Fun mix.

I absolutely understand why this is the least liked (?) of the series for so many people. There’s a lot of seemingly tropey or dumb YA behaviour but I actually found it really believable considering the circumstances and the emotional turmoil. I mean, it isn’t without some frustration but it didn’t make me roll my eyes or anything.

For all the emotional upheaval and darkness, there were also these lovely light moments. Like in the beginning and then.. well, okay, that was probably it, but the banter, and Nikolai, really saved this one from being too dark and heavy.

Definitely my favourite of the series.

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I’m so satisfied by the ending in RUIN AND RISING. It makes me think of another well-known trilogy that deals with stress and PTSD and loss and shows such a realistic place for the characters to end up. With a happy ending of sorts, sure, but not unmarked. Not without missing pieces. And not without lost friends. There were still breaks for levity and hilarity but again, things are dark, things are hopeless, things are heartbreaking. Until they aren’t. Or until it just is.

I’m so glad I reread this because I had forgotten so much of this series. And I am much better equipped to tackle not only my reread of the Six of Crows duology — and maybe pick up on some of the nuance I might have thought I understood but probably didn’t the first time around — but particularly KING OF SCARS. After everything that went on in this book for Nikolai.. wow, yeah, happy rereader is very happy. It was fun, too, to relive and see how this story built from where Bardugo started it off and also see where she was maybe already planning to take it.

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And, of course, a reread wouldn’t be a reread without discovering some new, or overlooked, extras by an author who has fleshed out a world so well. So after reading the original trilogy I also read the beautiful bind-up of the Grishaverse novellas in THE LANGUAGE OF THORNS.

I had previously read maybe half of the stories within this collection but only remembered one or two really well. Revisiting them was a delight, though, and the new ones were just as fabulous. While these stories are all set within the Grishaverse, they are still essentially folktales or retellings, little fantastical bites of magic and myth and slightly twisted tales of morality, so even if you’re not familiar with Bardugo’s world, you can (and will!) definitely still enjoy.

Additionally, beyond the magic of the author’s words, what makes THE LANGUAGE OF THORNS not just great but amazing are the illustrations the evolve on the edges of the pages throughout each story. Stunning. Gorgeous. A total package of whimsy and wonder and heartbreak; of strong girls and brave girls, overlooked girls and betrayed girls.

If you’ve yet to read, or read some or all of the novellas back when they were ebooks, I would highly highly recommend you treat yourself to buying or borrowing a physical copy.


And thus wraps my Backlist Babble for The Grisha Trilogy! Hopefully you enjoyed this feature and we hope to have more to come soon. If you have any suggestions for a back list title for us to read, or revisit, let us know in the comments below.

Also, brief word of caution, neither of us have yet to read KING OF SCARS so no spoilers please!

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