The world of Shadow and Bone is known across the globe because of its talented and #1 New York Times bestselling author, Leigh Bardugo. Bardugo has created a vivid and unique world through her many books that have been officially titled the Grishaverse. This universe has grown to now include a hit Netflix series bringing even more fans into the fold. Now the Grishaverse has added its first graphic novel. Bardugo partnered with the immensely talented illustrator Dani Pendergast to bring to life an origin story about our favorite “villain,” the darkling.
Demon in the Wood introduces us to a young man named Eryk and his mother Lena. This pair is in a constant state of travel and must change their names and stories everywhere they go. In this world, Grisha are seen as witches, a dangerous type of people with unknown power and therefore must be hunted down. Because of this, all kinds of Grisha live in tents and huts, never truly feeling safe. Eryk and his mother are a unique kind of Grisha that have the ability to summon shadows and darkness. This makes it so that even among their kind they must lie and guard themselves.
Lena guides Eryk to a camp of Grisha that are settled down for the winter, and for the first time, Eryk is excited to be in the same place for a long period of time. Readers follow the beautiful illustrations as they see Eryk attempt to make friends for the first time. Becoming close to anyone has always been forbidden to him so all these experiences are brand new. Being separated from everyone but his mother and never being able to share his real name has taken its toll on Eryk over the years. Soon Eryk finds it difficult trying to balance the line between letting people into his life and protecting secrets that could change the world. After meeting other young Grisha, will this experience be enough to change Eryk’s dark future?
“Fear can be a powerful ally. But feed it too often, make it too strong . . . and it will turn on you.”
Demon in the Wood helps readers understand further the Darkling’s actions and choices when we encounter him in Shadow and Bone. Seeing a small part of this young man’s journey and knowing how it ends is highly emotional at times. When I began this graphic novel, Lena’s actions seemed too harsh and I didn’t understand them, much like Eryk. By the time we turn the final page, everything she warned us about makes sense. The little palace and the Darkling’s protectiveness of the Grisha is earned through this excellent origin story. Bardugo and Pendergast painted a beautiful, dark story that readers will enjoy.
Accompanying the graphic novel is an audiobook of the same name. However, this audio is very special because the Darkling himself, Ben Barnes, is the narrator. Barnes is accompanied by Benjamin Valic, Cassandra Morris, Eason Rytter, and many more. Barnes has the perfect deep, smooth voice to bring the drama needed to properly spin this tale. The Darkling is the textbook definition of a morally gray villain. His reasoning is often rooted in sensible thoughts and will have you questioning if it’s okay to agree with him. Barnes plays this complicated character perfectly in the Shadow and Bone series. Bardugo even dedicates this novel in part to Barnes and calls him one of the good guys. Season 2 of the hit Netflix show will be headed to the streaming service sometime next year.
More information on how to purchase Demon in the Wood in hardback or audiobook can be found here. Season 1 of Shadow and Bone is now available for streaming on Netflix.