The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic | Leigh Bardugo
Hardcover: 288 pages
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 love…more”
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.
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.