The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo – REVIEW
Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid’s voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy’s bidding but only for a terrible price.
Inspired by myth, fairy tale, and folklore, #1 New York Times–bestselling author Leigh Bardugo has crafted a deliciously atmospheric collection of short stories filled with betrayals, revenge, sacrifice, and love.
Perfect for new readers and dedicated fans, these tales will transport you to lands both familiar and strange—to a fully realized world of dangerous magic that millions have visited through the novels of the Grishaverse.
This collection of six stories includes three brand-new tales, all of them lavishly illustrated with art that changes with each turn of the page, culminating in six stunning full-spread illustrations as rich in detail as the stories themselves.
“This is the problem with making a thing forbidden. It does nothing but build an ache in the heart.”
I finally read the Grisha trilogy for the first time this month and absolutely loved it so I decided to read A Language of Thorns straight after, whilst I was still immersed in that world. These six stories are beautifully haunting fairytales with a dark twist. Some are retellings of known fairytales and others are original. The retellings never felt stale or derivative though as they each explored a different facet of the original tales and forced the reader to question their assumptions about them. I have to mention the gorgeous cover and stunning illustrations. The artwork bordering each page evolves with the story and the final art piece at the end of each story is breathtaking.
“She held each sorrow like a chafing grain and grew her grudges like pearls.”
‘Ayama and the Thorn Wood’ is about a clever girl who is less valued because she isn’t as beautiful as her sister, exploring the sexism that pervades the Grishaverse and mirrors our own society. Ayama’s story reminds us of the necessity of painful truths and the costs associated with being true to yourself. I loved that this tale (as did all the others) gave the agency to the female character and challenged toxic societal norms.
‘The Too-Clever Fox’ tells the tale of Koja, a cunning fox who prides himself on his intelligence. As a companion piece to Siege and Storm, it’s easy to make comparisons between Koja and Sturmhond, both are good with words and can usually talk themselves out of a dangerous situation. This tale reminded me of the Greek tragedies where the protagonist’s fatal flaw (in this case hubris) leads to their downfall. It was a beautifully told tale of the difference between wisdom and cleverness.
“This goes to show you that sometimes the unseen is not to be feared and that those meant to love us most are not always ones who do.”
‘The Witch of Duva’ is definitely the creepiest and most sinister of the tales. A retelling of Hansel and Gretel, Leigh Bardugo uses this tale to dismantle the Wicked Stepmother trope. This story probably has the most unexpected and haunting twist, and it is definitely the most disturbing. It’s a delightfully horrid reminder that looks can be deceiving and things aren’t always what they appear to be.
‘Little Knife’ is a powerfully feminist tale exploring sexism and misogyny. Yeva’s stunning beauty is her prison and her father the jailer. The men in this tale can’t see past Yeva’s appearance and fail to treat her as a person who has desires and hopes. The ending is absolutely wonderful as Yeva gains the freedom to live as more than a beautiful woman.
“Bad fates do not always follow those who deserve them.”
‘The Soldier Prince’ is a retelling of The Nutcracker exploring identity and desire. It questions the difference between being real and being alive and emphasises the transformative power of wanting something for yourself rather than for others. I loved the detailed and magical imagery of this tale, and the illustrations add another layer of complexity.
‘When Water Sang Fire’ is the final tale and the longest, inspired by The Little Mermaid. It was probably my favourite tale as it was darker than the others. Ulla is a Sildroher mermaid with a powerful singing voice but she’s an outcast because of her different appearance. This is a tale of friendship, loyalty, and betrayal with a wonderful ending. It also features the Darkling!
This is a darkly lyrical and hauntingly beautiful selection of fairytales with sinister twists and powerful messages.
|About the Author
Leigh Bardugo is the #1 New York Times bestselling and USA Today bestselling author of the Six of Crows Duology and the Shadow and Bone Trilogy, as well as the upcoming Wonder Woman: Warbringer (Aug 2017) and The Language of Thorns (Sept 2017).
She was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Los Angeles, and graduated from Yale University. These days, she lives and writes in Hollywood where she can occasionally be heard singing with her band.