Book: The Language of Thorns
Author: Leigh Bardugo
I had originally intended to make this my May #RockMyTBR read, but it took me a lot longer than I thought to finish Hero At The Fall and I had exams, so I decided to switch my April and May books and read Language of Thorns first because it was shorter. I really enjoyed this collection of fairytales, they were clearly based off well known stories, but all of them were a lot darker and more feminist than the original and had a Grisha-verse twist to them. I’m not usually one for short stories, but I definitely enjoyed this collection. Here’s a short synopsis of the book:
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.
It’s kind of hard to work out exactly how to review a short story collection, but I’m going to talk about each of the stories one at a time and then give an overall rating for the collection:
Ayama and The Thorn Wood
This was the first story of the collection and I think it was a good establishing story. I liked that the protagonist wasn’t a pretty girl, because it showed that you don’t always have to be the pretty princess type to be the hero of your story. I also loved that it was clearly partially inspired by Beauty and The Beast because that is one of my favourite fairytales and that Ayama’s love didn’t change the Beast into a beautiful prince, it really subverted all the usually fairytale tropes. I also loved the way that Ayama’s stories were incorporated into the main narrative. It was a little lengthy, but I love “outcasts coming together” stories, so this was definitely one I enjoyed.
My Rating: 4/5
The Too Clever Fox
The Too Clever Fox was one of my two favourite stories of the collection. It felt like one of the most fairytale like of the six stories, and I have a soft spot for animal stories. Koja was an endearing protagonist, and I liked that his confidence in his intelligence ended up being his downfall. It felt unique among the stories, whilst the theme of loneliness and outcasts runs through all of them, this one felt slightly different. Also that twist? MIND BLOWN.
My Rating: 5/5
The Witch of Duva
This was a Hansel and Gretel inspired story and I really enjoyed it. I liked that it subverted the wicked stepmother trope, and that the “evil witch” in this story wasn’t really evil. Nadya was definitely a heroine that I could root for. However there were aspects of the story that I found kind of gross, which kept me from enjoying it as much as I would have done.
My Rating: 3.5/5
The Little Knife
This story was kind of repetitive, but since they’re fairytales, all the stories were to some extent. Yeva seemed to have very little agency, which annoyed me at the start, but I should have known to trust Leigh Bardugo because that turned out to be the whole point, everyone was so focused on winning Yeva, that no one bothered to listen to what she wanted and I loved that she ended up reclaiming her own agency. I didn’t love Senyon or the Prince, but I think that was the point. Yeva’s father really irritated me, the way he treated his daughter.
My Rating: 3/5
The Soldier Prince
This was the most creepy and eerie of all the stories, which was probably why I liked it so much. It was a Nutcracker inspired story, which I thought was really cool. Droessen was a really convincing villain and the Nutcracker’s revenge against him was really dark, but also kind of perfect. It was a little overly long and confusing in parts, but the general feel of the story was really great and I loved the theme of embracing what you want.
My Rating: 4.5/5
When The Water Sang Fire
This one really confused me. I knew it was an Ursula origin story, but I found it really hard to follow. It was way too long and I wasn’t really sure what was happening most of the time. I thought at first it was going to be a love story between Signy and Ulla and it ended up being something completely different to what I was expecting. It was definitely my least favourite of all the stories.
My Rating: 2.5/5
Overall, this was a really great twist on your classic book of fairytales and I enjoyed Leigh Bardugo’s darker and more feminist take on them.
OVERALL RATING: 4/5
BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Nadya and Magda have exchanges during The Witch of Duva that do not revolve around men.
My next review will either be of my May #RockMyTBR book, Rose Under Fire or one of my Netgalley e-ARCs, Almost Love or Not If I Save You First, it depends what I finish first!