ARC Review: The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic

The Language of Thorns

Title: The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Series: N/A

Publisher: Orion Children’s Books

Release Date: September 26th 2017


Five Stars

Love speaks in flowers. Truth requires thorns.

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.

– Blurb courtesy of

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Language of Thorns was one of my most anticipated releases of this year, after all it’s by one of my favourite authors set in the same world as one of my favourite series. I had high expectations and Leigh Bardugo more than met them. The Language of Thorns tells six stories, the book split into four parts for each of the different countries in the Grishaverse. The writing was beautiful, each story full of magic and wonder but also dark twists and turns so I was never sure how it would end.


“You know the only bargain I will make, little messenger.” The beast settled besides the stream in a heap of black fur and golden claws. “Tell me a tale that can make me feel more than anger, and perhaps if it pleases me, I may let you live.”

Ayama and the Thorn Wood

When the Queen gives birth to a monster the King has it locked away, when a peasant family have a disappointing second daughter they turn her into their servant. Years later the monster has escaped its labyrinth cage, and after it kills all the men the King sends to reason with it Amaya is the only one, volunteered by her family, to go to the Thorn Woods and bargain with the monster.

The first story in this book was definitely one of my favourites. There were hints of the Greek Minotaur myth and Beauty and the Beast in Ayama and the Thorn Wood, and while it was a dark story it was also unexpectedly beautiful.


“What is it you want?”
“I want to go home,” said Nadia, glancing at the snow still falling outside. “But I can’t.”
“Well then,” said Magda. “Come help me stir the pot.”

The Ravkan short stories were the three I’d read before picking up this collection, but I still loved them reading them for the second time. They’d been expanded on a little in The Language of Thorns, so while they were familiar to me they were new at the same time.

The Too-Clever Fox

Koja has used his wits to escape death so many times, the first barely minutes after being born. He is clever and when a hunter arrives in the forest Koja calls his home the too-clever fox is determined to outwit him and send him far away.

The Witch of Duva

The first time I read The Witch of Duva I remember being surprised by how it ended. This is my favourite of all the Ravkan tales and I’d say probably the darkest in this book. The Witch of Duva turned all my expectations on their heads; the twists I thought I’d see weren’t there and instead there were twists that surprised me, making for a surprising and shocking but dark story.

Nadya’s story mirrors that of Hansel and Gretel, with a kind father, a wicked stepmother, and a witch in the woods with a house full of the most tempting smells. However, unlike Hansel and Gretel the villain of this story wasn’t as obvious as I first assumed.

Little Knife

While Little Knife is an incredible story, full of all the elements I’ve come to associate with Leigh Bardugo’s writing in the Grishaverse, it was my least favourite in this collection. Semyon find himself in Velisyana, competing for the hand of Yeva, but instead of trying to figure out the three tasks himself he gets the river, his Little Knife, the complete them for him.


“Wanting is why people get up in the morning. It gives them something to dream of at night. The more I wanted, the more I became like them, the more real I became.”
“I am perfectly real,” protested the nutcracker.

The Solider Prince

The Kerch tale was without a doubt my favourite. Drawing inspiration from The Nutcracker Doll The Solider Prince told a story of need and want, and it was so powerful and beautifully written. The Nutcracker is a toy, but through Clara’s need he came alive, and now he wonders what it is he is, what it is he wants, and what life is like beyond the cabinet he is trapped in.


“There are different kinds of magic. Some call for rare herbs or complicated incantations. Some demand blood.
Other magic is more mysterious still, the kind that fits one voice to another, one being to another, when moments before they were as good as strangers.”

When Water Sang Fire

While this wasn’t my favourite book in the collection it definitely ended The Language of Thorns on a high note. When Water Sang Fire drew influences from The Little Mermaid, it was more dark than beautifully tragic like some of the stories before, but again it was a brilliant story.

Ulla is an outcast, despite her powerful song she doesn’t look like the other sildroher and so rumours fly around about her parentage. However, when she sings with Signy they create something powerful, and their song is enough to draw the attention of the Prince, sixth in line for the throne and hungry for power.

Leigh Bardugo is a master of story telling, each of these captured my attention and left me wanting more from the characters I was only briefly introduced to. I love fairytale retelling and these definitely apply; dark, magical, unexpected, beautiful, and powerful are just a few of the words I would use to describe this collection.

You don’t need to have read Leigh Bardugo’s other books to understand these stories and fall in love with her world, so I’d recommend this collection to everyone, especially if you love fairytale retellings as much as I do.

What did you think of The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.

All quotes have been taken from an ARC and may differ in the final publication.

28 thoughts on “ARC Review: The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic

  1. I’m so glad to see that you loved this book! ❤ I'm beyond exited for it to get released and to get my hands on it! I have already read The Too-Clever Fox, The Witch of Duva and Little Knife, as they were released as novellas on Kindle. I loved all of them and I'm really exited to read more stories soon! Great review Beth! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was incredible Anna! 😀 I actually saw one of the finished copies in Waterstones today and oh it was so gorgeous. Not too long until it’s release now either.
      I think you’ll really love the other stories in this book. The Too-Clever Fox, The Witch of Duva and Little Knife are all good but the other three were even better in my opinion. 😀
      Thanks Anna. 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I had to skim through your review (gotta dodge them spoilers) but I’m sooooo very excited to read this book. It’s wonderful to hear that Leigh Bardugo blew you away once again with this collection of short stories. I’ve been waiting on this one all year and I can’t wait to have this beautiful book on my shelves. It sounds beyond excellent. Who better to tell fantastically dark and captivating fairy tales than the magnificent Leigh Bardugo? Haha, wonderful review Beth! So glad this book lived up to expectations. I have high hopes for it! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s all right, I do the same with so many of my most anticipated releases as well when I see reviews for them. 😀
      This is an incredible book, and yes it was so much better than I thought and my expectations were high to begin with. I know right, the edition and the illustrations looks so pretty I can’t wait for my physical copy to actually arrive now. 🙂 I don’t think there’s anyone better. She’s written some incredible stories and I loved every last one of them.
      Thanks so much Azia, and I really hope you love this book even more than I did. You’ll have to let me know what you think when you do read it! 🙂 ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  3. ohh great review, Beth! I haven’t read any books by Leigh Bardugo so far… I think I might be the only one left hahaha – but you really make me want to start. I don’t know where, though, but I’m glad that this one doesn’t need us to know everything about the Grishaverse and the worlds and that you can just read it like that 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Marie! 😀 ❤ Oh you definitely need to check out Leigh Bardugo's books as soon as you get a chance. She's one of my favourite authors now because everything she's written has been incredible. 🙂
      I feel like you can definitely read The Language of Thorns first, it should give you a good feel for the world and also for Leigh Bardugo's writing style. Then I'd say start the Grisha trilogy and then Six of Crows, but honestly you can read her series in any order. If you wanna start with the Six of Crows duology (the best of the best in my opinion) then you certainly can. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I haven’t read anything by Leigh Bardugo before, but these do sound interesting! I really want to get to Six of Crows and also Shadow and Bone, but am not sure which to start first? Any suggestions? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh definitely pick up Leigh Bardugo’s books, they’re excellent. 😀
      I feel like you can read The Language of Thorns first. It will give you a good feel for her writing and also a little bit of background into the world, there are no spoilers for any of the earlier books in this one don’t worry about that. 🙂 Then I’d say the Shadow and Bone trilogy and finally Six of Crows, though you can read Six of Crows first if you feel like you’d prefer that duology over the trilogy.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s all right. 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed my review. Leigh Bardugo is definitely an incredible author, and this collection was as amazing as I’d assumed it would be. I really hope you enjoy The Language of Thorns as well, it’ll be well worth the wait when you finally have it in your hands. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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