Book Review Time: The Language of Thorns | Leigh Bardugo


The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic | Leigh Bardugo

Book Details

Hardcover: 288 pages

Publisher: Imprint

Publication Date: September 26, 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 lovemore

Revamped Review-2

Leigh Bardugo has yet to disappoint me. I absolutely adored this collection of Grishaverse tales. While I didn’t enjoy them all equally, I nonetheless enjoyed them quite a bit.

Ayama and the Thorn Wood

Outside the Ravkan tales, I’d have to say the Zemeni tale is my favorite. It draws themes and tropes from Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, One Thousand and One Nights, Little Red Riding Hood, and other well-known folktales, and combines them into an intriguingly sad and romantic story that has a delicious twist at the end.

The Too-Clever Fox

The only fable of the bunch, The Too-Clever Fox is a grisly and harsh cautionary tale that possibly encourages one to be wary of one’s own cleverness as it may lead to excessive pride, which may lead one to be blinded by the obvious. While I loved this story, the mystery was fairly predictable. But the tension was built up well, and the course of events were surprisingly, yet welcomingly, dark. The illustration at the end is my second favorite!

The Witch of Duva

I think this one is my favorite. Inspired by Hansel and Gretel, this tale conveys the same theme of monsters in dark places, but the true monster in this story is much more shocking than anticipated. The content is mature and not for the faint of heart. I was very surprised by how the tale progressed. Quite somber and ruthless, The Witch of Duva is exactly the type of dark fairy tale I prefer.

Little Knife

I’d have to say this tale was the most forgettable one for me. The ending was certainly the best part as it implied an LGBTQ relationship, which isn’t something often seen in old-style fairytales, but the events leading up to it didn’t capture my attention as much as I would have liked. It was very well-written but not as engaging (or grim) as the other tales in the collection.

The Soldier Prince

Though I thought this one was a bit too long and boring, I think it has some of the best writing. The solider prince’s, or the nutcracker’s, characterization soars as he grapples to understand his existence and struggles to belong. Bardugo says her inspiration for this one was The Velveteen Rabbit, but I’ve never read it. So I thought mostly of Pinocchio while reading this one, and at its core, Pinocchio is a very tragic tale as an insentient creature seeks out the opportunity to be real. This one has that same tragicness attached to it, but it leans more into the concept that a thing cannot be real unless it is loved. And that’s just SAD. Also, this one gets high marks as Bardugo takes the opportunity to make her characters sexually diverse! So, even though this one isn’t my favorite, it’s still probably one of the most meaningful stories.

When Water Sang Fire

This lengthy tale was noticeably inspired by The Little Mermaid. However, it’s more an alternate origin story than a retelling. I loved this one simply for the content (a.k.a mermaids), but I will admit that I found it to be tad bit too long and slower-paced. But that’s understandable. Leigh really took the time for us to become attached to the main character and to sympathize with her, so that the ending would seem all the more heart-breaking and ruthless than it already was. The ending illustration is by far my favorite. So fierce and full of vengeance. Absolute perfection.


Leigh’s tales were a brilliant ode to the dark fairytales of old. Each story was creative and original, yet strikingly familiar as they drew inspiration from the tales spun by the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson, and other folkloric myths and authors. Each well-crafted fable and tale conveyed their lessons clearly and compellingly while remaining immensely entertaining. Masterfully written and beautifully illustrated, The Language of Thorns is no doubt a new favorite of mine.

My Rating:

5 stars

19 thoughts on “Book Review Time: The Language of Thorns | Leigh Bardugo

  1. I’ve just started this book today and not gotten further than Ayama and the Thorn Wood. I didn’t know what to expect when going into this collection of stories but now I can definitely see that Leigh Bardugo has used aspects of popular fairytales to feed her own stories. I actually loved it when I felt the Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella elements of Ayama and the Thorn Wood as they are two of my favourites.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh great review for this book Azia, and I am so glad you enjoyed this collection as well (then again as it was by Leigh Bardugo was there really ever any doubt?)
    I think if I had to choose one favourite it would be When Water Sang Fire, just because of the level of detail it had which, like you said, allowed us to become attached to the main character, but I also really enjoyed The Solider Prince so it’s a shame that one wasn’t one you enjoyed as much. πŸ™‚
    The Witch of Duva is another favourite of mine and if I hadn’t read it separately before picking up The Language of Thorns that would have been my favourite just because of the twist at the ending. I loved how Leigh did that with all the stories in their own way because I love the gruesome side to fairy tales you get in stories by the Brothers Grimm and the like. πŸ™‚
    Great review! πŸ˜€ ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Beth πŸ™‚
      When Water Sang Fire was so well-crafted, as was The Soldier Prince. I wish I was as invested in the nutcracker story, but it was just a bit too slow for me. But I’d still read it again! And The Witch of Duva was excellent. Perfectly dark and eerie, just the way I like ’em haha.
      Thanks again! ❀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s all right. πŸ™‚ I think when it comes down to it if you’d read a story again then it’s definitely a success in my mind! πŸ˜€
        The Witch of Duva is one I think perfect describes Leigh Bardugo’s writing style as well, dark and eerie! πŸ˜€
        That’s all right. πŸ™‚ ❀

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh really?! Well, guess I’ll have to reread the Grisha trilogy! It’s been a while. And i haven’t even read the first book, so…Got some major catching up to do LOL

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Ok i just read those titles and I’m so so intrigued queen Leigh is the best at writing dark stuff asdfghjkl. I must chill. I haven’t read the rest sorry I SHALL COME BACK AFTER I READ IT GO DISCUSS AND FANGIRL!!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Nooooo my books take about 3 weeks to come after I order them…this is fine I am fine and not going to cry. Hopefully I’ll get it this year.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh no 😱😱 That’s insane. Wait, where do you live again?? I think I remember you mentioning Romania, right?
        Well, lemme know when you get it! We can fangirl together LOL

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yeah it’s Romania aka the place where no one wants to ship so packeges come really hard and it takes FOREVEEER. I ordered them for Christmas in November ughhhhhm

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh my, five stars?? That is amazing! πŸ˜€ I was, of course, expecting it since you seemed to really enjoy it and it’s Queen Leigh we’re talking about here but still hahaha
    I have to say I have mixed feelings about this book, at least from what I’ve read so far. But I’m really happy that wasn’t the case for you πŸ™‚
    The Too-Clever Fox and The Witch of Duva broke me for life. Best. Stories. Ever. And apparently there’s one missing, which was the one I was thinking about when I mentioned the Ravka short stories: The Demon in the Wood. It’s a prequel to the Grisha trilogy and it’s just soooo good. It also broke me for life hahaha
    I loved The Soldier Prince, as you know, and I hope I’ll enjoy the last story as much as you did, though I agree the length and slowness aren’t helping much.
    Amazing review, Azia!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, even though the stories weren’t perfect individually, reading the entire collection of stories all together was a 5-star experience for me! And people have mentioned Demon in the Wood!! I thought that was Ayama and they’d just given it another name??? If it’s a prequel (I really hope it’s about The Darkling…), then I’ll be sure to read it soon πŸ˜€
      Thanks so much, Sophie! ❀


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