I Met Leigh Bardugo!

Last night, I went to an event at Brookline Booksmith for a talk & signing with the queen herself, Leigh Bardugo.  I just finished eating my feed your demons cookie, so I thought it’d be fun to talk about my experience!

But the beginning!  Because what is a story about meeting an author without the story of discovering that author? Now, if you’ve been following me for a little while, you may remember that fateful month in 2017 that I finally read Six of Crows.

THIS BOOK.  If I were to do this book justice and really write a review for it, it would be ten pages long.  That’s not even long enough.  I loved this book so much.  I don’t have words.

That was the beginning of a rambling four paragraph review in which I mostly just screamed a lot about my love for Wylan Van Eck. Like:

Yo, this book is amazing.  It’s full of guns and gory violence and blowing shit up and dramatic longing glances and ANGST OH THE ANGST THERE’S SO MUCH MY POOR WIBBLY HEART CANNOT HANDLE IT and POCs and rib-cracking hilarious dialogue and poor blushing Wylan (literally how did he become my favorite character, HOW) and Kaz’s aesthetic crow cane that he custom-made to break people’s bones and Kerch holy mother of all things that are good KERCH what an amazing world and the fact that the magic is not the focal point but wow the magic is beautiful and just jaw-droppingly good backstories and literally all the things.

My review for both Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom came out that month, and it has truly been a wild ride since then. I read Shadow and Bone the following March, and was swallowed whole:

The world.  The world.  This is the one thing I’m always going to just rave about when it comes to Bardugo’s novels.  Her world is so vast and well-developed and incredible.  I just want to live in it.  In all parts of it.  I hope that someday I can create a world that’s as intricate and gorgeous as hers.

I was going to say I can’t even describe to you my love for her actual world, but if you’ve read these books, you know. There is nothing like this world out there in YA. It honestly just goes above and beyond what everyone else has done. The only person I can think to even kind of compare it to is Alwyn Hamilton’s Rebel of the Sands trilogy, but her’s is just a trilogy and Leigh’s is going to take over our entire world someday, just you wait. I mean, she’s already got a trilogy, a duology, a short story collection, and a new duology set up in the Grishaverse??? I can’t.

My love for Nikolai Lantsov started to develop the following month, in April, in which I read Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising back to back.

Oh man, oh man, oh man.  This was GOOD.  I actually gave the first one only four stars, but this definitely deserves five, and I’ll be straight with you, that’s because of Nikolai.

In a funny and super Mary turn of events, I read these all out of order, so the Sturmhund plot twist was shocking both during the Crows duology and also during this trilogy because I had forgotten by the time I read the trilogy, so that was cool.

For The Language of Thorns, I originally wanted to reread the Crows duology before diving into this, but because I have no self control, I read it in May:

because come on, we’ve listened to me wax poetic about how much I love Bardugo’s writing for the last half year

In July, I started calling Leigh our “queen and savior” after I’d finished reading Wonder Woman, and that brings us to right now. Have I read King of Scars yet? NO AND I’M MAD ABOUT IT.

Not only that, but in my Top 10 of 2017, of course I put Six of Crows on there, and this was the review for it:

It was not just one thing about this book that hooked me, either.  I loved the characters in a kind of all-consuming, soul-crushing sort of way where I pored over fanart for hours, dreamt about happier times for them, thought about them when I couldn’t read, and then woke up one morning with an entirely new novel that I wanted to write that was drawing inspiration from this.  The story, too, was just–incredible.  There are not really enough adjectives to describe how much I adored the story.  The plot itself was very well crafted, but it was the stories of the characters, too, and the little stories woven into the bigger one, that I loved just as much.  The world is phenomenal.  I want to live in that world so much that I’ve got the Grishaverse trilogy coming to me in the mail right now so that I can dive back into it.  It’s just a truly stunning work of art.  The writing is gorgeous, and I am so envious of Bardugo’s skill.

Can you say obsessed? Because I am.

She wasn’t on my Top 10 of 2018 because, like a maniac, I read every single one of her books in 2017, but just you wait for this year, guys. I’m going to have to choose between King of Scars and Ninth House, and I’m not ready.

Okay, so I haven’t read King of Scars yet because a) I had to preorder the book through the bookstore in order to get into the event, which meant I got it on Wednesday (last night) instead of Tuesday (release day), and b) I’M GOING TO NEW YORK FOR MAGGIE STIEFVATER’S WRITING SEMINAR ON SATURDAY and my best friend is here for the weekend, so my options were to read KOS in its entirety today or wait until after she leaves. Like when I waited until I was done being sick before I started reading Crooked Kingdom, I want to devote my full love and attention to this book, so I’m waiting until next week.

But last night!

My original plan for last night was to dress as Jesper. I knew there would be approximately 85 people dressed up as Kaz (I think that’s a pretty close number, too), and though Wylan is my homeboy, Jesper’s fashion is where it’s at. But then Leigh posted a picture of her gorgeous black lace dress from the NY book signing, and I knew I had to punk goth it out, so I went in my black combat boots, some ripped jeans, and a black lace shirt with a bold red lip. She looked incredible, as expected, but the best part was OH MY GOD HER HAIR and an adorable gold skeleton hands belt.

I meant to say the words “thank you so much for Wylan Van Eck because he makes my little cold heart beat so fast”, but instead I just told her how beautiful she was for the entire time she was signing my books? Like holy shit I was in the presence of royalty last night, and I just gushed at her. Look at me making moon eyes at her, I can’t.

I have a lot of favorites out in the world. If I had to make a top three, they would undeniably be Maggie Stiefvater, Leigh Bardugo, and Victoria Schwab, and each of those has inspired me in different ways. But, when it comes down to it, the morning I woke up after finishing Six of Crows, I had an entire novel in my head, and I’ve been living in the universe that Leigh inspired for over a year now, and I can’t thank her enough. She has truly changed my writing world.

Now, unlike when I met Victoria Schwab, Leigh did not do a talk, she just did a Q&A, which was still super fun except for one thing that was completely out of her control. We, unfortunately, got there very late and thus were not able to actually see the Q&A, we just got to hear it over speakers while we were upstairs in the bookstore. I was super bummed about this, but I still got to experience it, and here were some of the highlights from it:

  • Someone asked what the Dregs would Google, and, while everyone was hysterically laughing at her saying that Wylan would 100% be picked up by the FBI, she dropped this bomb: “And Kaz would totally be searching, like, magic for beginners.” I’m still dead.
  • “Why did you have to do Nina wrong? Whyyyy?” was a question submitted and that made Leigh cackle and constantly pipe up with “too soon? too soon.”
  • She talked a little about Ninth House and told this super creepy story about how when she was at Yale in a secret society (I mean, how much cooler can she get???), there was a terrible hurricane, and one of the greens around Yale has THIRTY THOUSAND SKELETONS BURIED UNDER IT, and one of them washed up into a tree.
  • “Most of the crying happens early on in King of Scars, and then it gets better! Kind of!”
  • “I mean, okay, I believe in happy endings, but real life comes with suffering, and what is a happy ending without a little sacrifice? Everyone gets happy endings at the end of Crooked Kingdom! Well, okay, wait, most of them. WELL. Some of them. Whatever.”

The actual fan meet-up event before the Q&A and signing was awesome, too! There were all sorts of different stations–trivia, sort yourself into a Grisha category (I’m an Etherealnik, apparently), the Grishaverse passports that you could take polaroid pictures with, and this super cute fox mask! I met some great girls there that we waited in line (for almost three hours!) with, and all around, I had a great time.

I met Leigh Bardugo last night. She’s funny, beautiful, inspiring, and so damn cool. She has gifted this world with a lot of magic, and I want to thank her, from one little goth witch to another, for existing and blessing us with her words. You are truly a queen.

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