Title: The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Orion Children’s Books
Release Date: September 26th 2017
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 goodreads.com
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.