☾ about the book
Title: The Demon in the Wood
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Shadow and Bone Trilogy
Format: ebook, novella
Trigger Warning: Death
☾ the plot
The novella is set prior to the events of Shadow and Bone, and follows the antagonist of the trilogy, the Darkling.
In this story, the Darkling and his mother are traveling from Ravka to Fjerda, hoping to hide out in a Fjerdan camp. The Darkling, or Eryk, as he is called in the story, is already aware of his powers.
He knows that being a Grisha with amplifying abilities, there’s a target on his back, and he needs to be careful.
However, he befriends a girl named Annika in the the camp, who is the daughter of the camp leader.
She figures out that Eryk is an amplifier and tries to trap him in a hot spring so she can kill him and wear his bones to strengthen her powers.
However, Eryk is quick to free himself and manages to use a form of shadow magic on Annika and another boy from the camp, effectively killing them.
He also uses this magic on himself to convince the camp leader that he survived an attack.
After the events of that night, Eryk makes a promise: He wants to create a safe space for all Grisha in which they are not hunted for their power.
☾ the characters
The Darkling is a very complex and often misunderstood character.
Leigh Bardugo has made very clear that he is a villain, and that he should be seen as such, and while this novella does not explain all of his motives, interests and the way he functions as a character, it gives a little bit of background to the mysterious character we meet in Shadow and Bone.
It definitely illustrates how much the Darkling changed with the years, and how his goals and ambitions shaped him.
Annika seems like the typical ruthless Fjerdan, who sees “Eryk” not as a person but as a thing – an amplifier.
It is very clear that she also has a motive – to gain power.
☾ the magic system
The magic system in the GrishaVerse is definitely very complex, and the Darkling’s use of it only offers a look into two parts of it:
For one, what it means to have a special power, because human amplifiers aren’t a natural occurance in the small science, and on the other side the temptations of merzost, the dark magic branch of the small science.
The fact that the Darkling uses the cut as a means of defense further underlines his develpment from a “lonely boy of extraordinary power” into the Darkling the Grisha fear and admire at the same time.
☾ the world building
This novella offers only little insight into the worldbuilding of the GrishaVerse, but it introduces two main people:
The Ravkans and the Fjerdans.
It establishes these two people and sets ground rules, but none that would be very helpful in understanding the universe without reading the trilogy, as this book is meant to offer insight into one of the universe’s characters and not the universe itself.
☾ the things i liked about this book
I haven’t had the opportunity to go back to the GrishaVerse and read more about the Darkling after having finished the latest book in the GrishaVerse, King of Scars – and I missed it so much that by default I gave the book five stars.
The Darkling is one of my favorite characters from the GrishaVerse, so getting to read more about him was what made this book worthwhile.
I also enjoyed the lore about the Fjerdans, the setting and the writing style.
☾ the things i didn’t like about this book
Honestly, the novella wasn’t what I expected and it didn’t provide as much backstory to the Darkling as I had hoped.
I can see that with the fact that it is only 30 pages long, that would have been quite hard to do.
Also, the fact that the story started off with what was basically the actual ending confused me, because it interrupted the reading flow. I had to take a couple moments to understand that the actual storyline hadn’t started yet.
It could have been longer. While it told a complete story the way a novella tells a story, there were a lot of things that I would have liked to read more about.
lastly, I have always loved the way Bardugo provides passages in her books that are meaningful and quotable, but this novella unfortunately really lacked in that department.
☾ would i recommend this book
The short answer is yes.
The long answer is that the novella is only really a worthwhile read to fans of the GrishaVerse who, like me, just cannot get enough of it.
But, it also isn’t a necessity to read as it is quite short, and does not really provide a lot of information that can help understand the way the Darkling acts in the main trilogy.
Have you read this book?
Are you also a fan of the Darkling or villains in general?
Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments – please be sure to put a spoiler warning if necessary.