The Demon in the Wood by Leigh Bardugo

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RATING: 4/5

SYNOPSIS: A tale about the Darkling and his mother in the days before he became the Darkling.

PREVIOUS: The Witch of Duva  Shadow and Bone  The Tailor  Siege and Storm  The Too-Clever Fox  Ruin and Rising 

This was a really interesting tale that takes place many many years before Alina’s story begins. It was cool to see the Darkling’s life before he became the Darkling, although it did make me sad to know that he once was a scared little boy who really thought that he could make a difference in the world. It is crazy to me just how misguided he became towards the end (but isn’t that the way it goes with all villains?). Villain backstories are always intriguing because you get a glimpse at the catalysts that made them the villains that they are. It is also interesting to see the parallels between his young life and Alina’s young life. They both were lonely, they both wanted a place to belong, but Alina always had Mal and the Darkling had nobody (although it seemed like he was about to make a friend, but then things went horribly wrong). It’s crazy to think about how Alina’s life would have been different if she never had Mal and I think this short story helps to showcase what Alina’s existence could have been like. I also liked how even though in Ruin and Rising we learn the Darkling’s true name, he never truly got to use it. At multiple points of the story the Darkling has trouble remembering which name he is supposed to be using with the group of Grisha that he and his mother are living with currently. Even in The Grisha trilogy he went by many different names before he was the Darkling, it’s a miracle he could remember his true name at all! Names are important and it’s a shame that the world never got to know him as himself (who knows what his life could have been like then). It was also really sad how excited he was at the prospect of staying in one place for three whole months! I really enjoyed seeing this side of the Darkling and I hope that Leigh Bardugo will do some short stories for some of the other characters as well!

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