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Leigh Bardugo
Born: 1975 in Jerusalem, Israel
Other Names: Benson, L.B.
Nationality: American
Occupation: Novelist
Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit, MI: Gale, 2016. From Literature Resource Center.
Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2019 Gale, a Cengage Company
Updated:Dec. 15, 2016

Born 1975, in Jerusalem, Israel; immigrated to United States; daughter of Harve Mossawir and Judy Bardugo. Education: Yale University, B.A., 1997. Addresses: Home: Los Angeles, CA. Agent: Joanna Stampfel-Volpe, New Leaf Literary and Media, 110 W. 40th St., Ste. 410, New York, NY 10018. E-mail:


Author, makeup artist, and singer. Has also worked as a journalist and copywriter.



  • Six of Crows ("Dregs" series), Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2015.
  • Crooked Kingdom ("Dregs" series), Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2016.


  • Shadow and Bone, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2012.
  • Siege and Storm, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2013.
  • Ruin and Rising, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2014.

Contributor to books, including Modified: Cyborgs, Mutants, and Dystopia, Feiwel & Friends (New York, NY), 2012; and Kisses and Curses, edited by Lauren Burniac, Square Fish (New York, NY), 2015.


Film rights to Shadow and Bone were acquired by Dreamworks/Heydey Studios and producer David Heyman.



Best selling fantasy author Leigh Bardugo took a roundabout path to publication, working as a journalist and then as a Hollywood makeup artist before writing her first fantasy novel, Shadow and Bone. "I'd always wanted to be a writer," Bardugo recalled to Michael M. Jones for Publishers Weekly online. "Come hell or high water, I'd finish a book." The inspiration for her world's unique magic came from the creepy things she imagined during a night spent at a friend's home. "I wanted to take something figurative and make it literal," the author told Entertainment Weekly online interviewer Brenda Briesley. "So the question became, 'What if darkness was a place?'"

Filled with elements from with Russian folklore and history, Bardugo's imagined setting became the land of Ravka, a place perpetually at war and menaced by the monsters of the Darkfold. Orphans Alina and Mal are working with the army when an attack reveals Alina's ability to control light, a power previously unknown to the land's Grisha magicians. Alina heads to the royal court to develop her skills under the lead Grisha, known as the Darkling. There she must navigate new dangers as well as worry about her old friend Mal.

According to a Publishers Weekly contributor, Shadow and Bone gives readers "action and intrigue mixed with an undercurrent of romance and danger," and the story's "final twist upends assumptions and lands us smack in the middle of a harrowing climax," as Anita L. Burkam noted in Horn Book. In Booklist Lynn Rutan wrote that "Bardugo weaves a captivating spell with lushly descriptive writing, engaging characters, and an exotic, vivid world." The novel's "setup is shiver-inducing, of the delicious variety," noted Laini Taylor in her New York Times Book Review appraisal of Shadow and Bone. "This is what fantasy is for," she added: "Letting us slip into the skin of characters grappling with great power and the destinies that come with it." Leigh Collazo also praised Bardugo's story in School Library Journal, writing of Shadow and Bone that, "fast-paced and unpredictable," "will be a hit with readers who love dark fantasy."

Shadow and Bone struck a chord with readers as well as critics, hitting the New York Times best-seller list and being optioned for film by Dreamworks. In response, Bardugo planned more stories, adding a second and third volume to create the "Grisha" trilogy. While this meant her career as a makeup artist would have to take a back seat, she told Jones, "Writing is a dream which requires sacrifice, and I [am] willing to do whatever it takes."

Siege and Storm, said a Kirkus Reviews contributor, shifts the trilogy "from bildungsroman to political thriller." Fleeing Ravka in hopes of finding a new life together, Alina and Mal are captured by the Darkling and forced onto the pirate Sturmhond's ship. The pirate's mission is to find the second of the three magical amplifiers that will enhance Alina's powers in service of the Darkling. But Sturmhond changes course, delivering Alina and Mal back to Ravka where they discover his true identity: he is Prince Nikolai, the king's younger son, who hopes to secure the throne for himself rather than let his wastrel older brother take charge and neglect his responsibilities to the kingdom. Alina and Mal agree to help Nikolai, asking in return that he give Alina command of the Grisha army in her fight to defeat the Darkling. But as Alina assumes more power, her relationship with Mal becomes less certain, and she faces the prospect of losing his love.

The Kirkus Reviews writer praised the book highly for its rich world-building, engaging plot, and well-rendered complex characters. Writing in Booklist, Cindy Welch also admired the author's "appealing three-dimensional characters," and deemed the novel a highly readable and exciting book.

The trilogy concludes with Ruin and Rising. Alina's attempt to defeat the Darkling has failed. With Mal and the remaining shreds of her faithful Grisha fighters, Alina has been sheltered by the mysterious Apparat and his followers, who idolize Alina as a saint. But she now decides to leave Apparat and, with Mal and the few remaining Grisha, she sets out to find Prince Nikolai, Ravka's only hope for a stable political future. The companions also hope to find the mythical firebird, and from this creature obtain the third amplifier, which will augment Alina's powers so fully that she will become invincible against the evil Darkling.

Reviewers found the book exciting, complex, and deep. As well as battling external adversaries, Alina faces inner conflicts as she struggles to balance her thirst for power with her desire for peace and justice, and reconcile her fondness for Nikola with her love for Mal. Noting that the author provides surprising plot twists until the very end, a commentator for Kirkus Reviews described Ruin and Rising as "triumphant."

Six of Crows, which opens Bardugo's "Dregs" series, is set in the world of the Grisha but focuses on characters who are less heroic. "I was stepping away from 'chosen one' narratives," the author told Publishers Weekly Online interviewer Amy Brabenec. "I really wanted to tell a story about kids who were not necessarily ordinary--they've had fairly extraordinary lives, they have fairly extraordinary skills--but whose motivations lay in more ordinary places. Who were just trying to get by, who [were] just trying to make a buck, who had their own motives and ambitions that have very little to do with saving the world." The action in Six of Crows takes place in the city of Ketterdam, a place reminiscent of Amsterdam, in the country of Kerch. The novel's protagonist, seventeen-year-old Ketterdam resident Kaz Brekker, accepts an unusual and very lucrative assignment. Despite his young age, Kaz is an experienced and creative criminal, and he has been asked to use his skills to rescue a brilliant scientist imprisoned by the forces of Fjerda, a nation bordering Kerch. This scientist has developed a terrifying drug that, while giving the Grisha extraordinary abilities to fight, also reduces them to a state of abject addiction. The Fjerda, who hate and fear the Grisha and consider them witches, have captured the scientist in order to force him to recreate this potion, which they then plan to use against the Grisha. But a powerful merchant wants this man returned to Kerch, and entrusts this dangerous job to Kaz.

Kaz gathers a team that includes Matthias, a Fjerdan witch-hunter, and Matthias's captive, Nina, who is a Grisha. Another member, the acrobat Inej, had been sold into slavery and forced to work in a brothel. Jesper, a rural lad, has amassed huge gambling debts in Ketterdam; Wylan, who has ties to the Kerch aristocracy, is the group's expert in explosives. Writing in the Washington Post, Alyssa Rosenberg said that this motley crew give the author "a terrific way ... to flesh out the way personal motivations interact with politics." The characters' varied backgrounds and experiences, the reviewer continued, "are an elegant expression of an important insight. The fate of nations may seem to grind on in an impersonal fashion. But foreign and domestic policies and cultures have a profound effect on individuals."

Many reviewers enjoyed Six of Crows as an exciting heist story. Comparing the novel to the 1960 heist film Ocean's 11, National Public Radio Web site contributor Jason Sheehan said that if that film "was a textbook exercise in plotting, character development and the ol' bait-and-switch reveal, then Six of Crows is a thesis on how these lessons can be deployed in genre fiction." Making a similar point, a Publishers Weekly reviewer observed that the book "marries heist and action conventions with magic and mystery."

Crooked Kingdom is the sequel to Six of Crows, and in this energetic follow-up, the characters from the first book are still in the mood to rescue Inej and to get revenge against Ketterdam merchant princes--particularly the vile Jan Van Eck--who betrayed them. Kaz continues to look for ways to find Inej and release her from slavery. The other members of his youthful team--Matthias, Nina, Wylan, and Jesper, plus Kuwei, who seems to be in perpetual danger of being kidnapped--are ready and willing to help Kaz in any way possible. Yet the odds are fearsome, and it seems that almost all the forces of Ketterdam are aligned against them. Kaz never stops plotting, however, and the group never stops trying. Honor, money, reputation, and even love are at stake, and they are determined that no power in or out of Ketterdam will stop them.

In assessing the book on the National Public Radio Web site reviewer Jason Sheehan commented: "With Ketterdam (and the larger Grisha universe that surrounds it), [Bardugo] has created a rattling, sighing, stinking and fog-shrouded world that feels real enough to have its own passport stamp and fascinating enough to want to visit. As an author, she knows it to the stones and as a stylist, she understands just how to bring it to life on the page."

A Kirkus Reviews contributor observed that the story in Crooked Kingdom is "dark and violent ... but gut-wrenchingly genuine." Booklist writer Sarah Hunter found the book to be a "delicious blend of masterfully executed elements." In a BookPage review, Annie Metcalf stated, "Just as violent and thrilling as Six of Crows but tempered with more mature, quiet moments, Crooked Kingdom is an immensely satisfying follow-up.




  • Booklist, May 15, 2012, Lynn Rutan, review of Shadow and Bone, p. 64; April 15, 2013, Cindy Welch, review of Siege and Storm, p. 57; May 15, 2014, Lynn Rutan, review of Ruin and Rising, p. 64; August 1, 2015, Sarah Hunter, review of Six of Crows, p. 64; August 1, 2016, Sarah Hunter, review of Crooked Kingdom, p. 73.
  • BookPage, September 27, 2016, Annie Metcalf, review of Crooked Kingdom.
  • Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, July 2, 2012, Claire Gross, review of Shadow and Bone, p. 550.
  • Common Sense Media, (January 18, 2016), review of Siege and Storm.
  • Hollywood Reporter, October 25, 2016, Andy Lewis, "Six of Crows Writer Nabs Seven Figures for Next Two Books," profile of Leigh Bardugo.
  • Horn Book, July-August, 2012,Anita L. Burkam, review of Shadow and Bone, p.106; May-June, 2013, Anita L. Burkham, review of Siege and Storm, p. 77; July-August, 2014, Anita L. Burkham, review of Ruin and Rising, p. 87; September-October, 2015, Anita L. Burkham, review of Six of Crows, p. 92.
  • Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2012,review of Shadow and Bone; April 15, 2013, review of Siege and Storm; April 15, 2014, review of Ruin and Rising; July 15, 2015, review of Six of Crows.
  • Los Angeles Times, February 22, 2015, Meredith Woerner, "Q&A: Author Leigh Bardugo Reveals Plot Details and the Cover to Crooked Kingdom," interview with Leigh Bardugo.
  • New York Times Book Review, June 17, 2012, Laini Taylor, review of Shadow and Bone, p. 19.
  • Portsmouth Review, (January 18, 2016), review of Siege and Storm.
  • Publishers Weekly, April 30, 2012,review of Shadow and Bone, p. 138; July 13, 2015, review of Six of Crows, p. 68; December 2, 2015, review of Six of Crows, p. 106.
  • School Library Journal, June, 2012, Leigh Collazo, review of Shadow and Bone, p.108; May, 2014, Leigh Collazo, review of Ruin and Rising, p. 124; September, 2015, Jane Henriksen, review of Six of Crows, p. 156.
  • Voice of Youth Advocates, August, 2012, Christina Miller, review of Shadow and Bone, p. 274; June, 2013, Christina Miller, review of Siege and Storm, p. 72; August, 2015, Stacey Hayman, review of Six of Crows, p. 73.
  • Washington Post, November 16, 2015, Alyssa Rosenberg, review of Six of Crows.


  • Angieville, (November 11, 2015), review of Six of Crows.
  • BookPage, (January 18, 2016), Annie Metcalf, review of Six of Crows.
  • Dear Author, (September 26, 2013), review of Siege and Storm.
  • Deseret News Online (Salt Lake City, UT), (September 26, 2015), Christine Rappleye, review of Six of Crows.
  • Entertainment Weekly Online, (June 29, 2012), Brenda Briesley, interview with Bardugo; (October 19, 2015), Danielle Zhu, review of Six of Crows.
  • Fandom, (September 22, 2015), review of Six of Crows.
  • Fansided, (October 1, 2016), Cheryl Wassenaar, review of Crooked Kingdom.
  • Gay YA, (November 30, 2016), "Author Interview: Leigh Bardugo."
  • Guardian Online, (October 2, 2015), reader reviews of Six of Crows.
  • Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2016, review of Crooked Kingdom.
  • Leigh Bardugo Home Page, (November 30, 2016).
  • National Public Radio Web site, (October 1, 2015), Jason Sheehan, review of Six of Crows; (September 25, 2016), Jason Sheehan, "Lose Yourself in the Twisting, Turning Alleys of Crooked Kingdom," review of Crooked Kingdom.
  • PopWrapped, (November 16, 2015), review of Six of Crows.
  • Publishers Weekly, (June 29, 2012), Michael M. Jones, "Flying Starts: Leigh Bardugo;" (September 29, 2015), Amy Brabenec, "Q & A with Leigh Bardugo."
  • Ramblings on Readings, (October 14, 2015), review of Six of Crows.
  • Red Hot Reviews, (January 18, 2016), review of Ruin and Rising.
  • Refracted Light, (September 14, 2015), review of Ruin and Rising.
  •, (June 6, 2013), Kelsey Ann Barrett, review of Siege and Storm.
  • Young Folks, (January 18, 2016), review of Six of Crows.*

Source Citation   (MLA 8th Edition)
"Leigh Bardugo." Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2016. Literature Resource Center, Accessed 13 Nov. 2019.

Gale Document Number: GALE|H1000301802