Review: The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic
Title: The Language of Thorns
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Illustrator: Sara Kipin
Published: 26 September 2017
Memorable Quote: “We were not made to please princes.”
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Synopsis: Short stories based on myth and folklore come together in this book. Bardugo writes her own old-school fairy-tales and folklore that are referenced in her Grisha and Six of Crows series.
Review: I’ll be reviewing each story individually, but before I jump into that, I want to say that this book is truly fantastic. Sara Kipin’s artwork is magnificent, detailed, and clever. It truly adds an extra layer to each of the stories. I’m honestly mesmorized by it.
I adored the writing in Language of Thorns. It really reminded me of the old stories they used to read us in school. The ones that were about difficult lessons, meant to scare children, rather than happy endings. Parts of some stories even reminded me of those Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books, especially the descriptions.
The writing and illustrations work incredibly well together to create several dark, haunting, and thrilling short stories that leave readers wanting more.
Like, seriously. I need more short stories from Leigh Bardugo!
Ayama and the Thorn Wood
5 stars. This story was the right amount of twisty and creepy. It also pulled at my heart in many different ways. There were so many lessons crammed into a short story, but it was so well done and thoughtful. It’s the kind of story that I think some kids would enjoy hearing someone read to them. I appreciate what a layered and complex story this was, and how it held on to a tradition folk-tale feeling, while also being unique and turning the genre on its head.
They pray that their children will be brave and clever and strong, that they will tell true stories instead of easy ones
The Too-Clever Fox
4 stars. This story was dark, and I think from the title that most people could figure out the issues with being “too clever”. The major theme I took from this story is that of appearances, and how dangerous it can be to overestimate or underestimate someone based on first glance. This story sent actual chills down my spill and made me feel a little nauseous. It was fantastic.
For anyone who has read The Grisha trilogy, you’ll know that a certain prince is often referred to as “the too-clever fox”, which makes this story even more beautiful and painful. I do love that we finally have the story that was so frequently referenced in the original trilogy.
The trap is loneliness, and none of us escapes it. Not even me.
The Witch of Duva
5 stars. Now this was a creepy, twisty story that left my mouth hanging open in shock. This story took some of the darkest elements of old folk lore and made them even darker. Does that make sense? Every time I thought I had the story figured out, I was wrong. None of the stories in The Language of Thorns are light, easy reads, but this one was by far the darkest (in my opinion). Everything about this story was so carefully planned and well-written. I was on my toes from page one, and my heart was racing even after I had finished the story.
Fly away now, little bird…. Some things are better left unseen
4 stars. I was reminded of The Giving Tree a little bit while reading this story. Except, this story was, of course, much darker and more intense. The lessons in these stories are harsh and to the point, and Little Knife was no expectation. I appreciated the story-telling in this story. I wasn’t as emotionally invested as I had been in previous stories, but the writing was still beautiful and the story itself was enjoyable – and in some ways, a bit humorous.
For in her reflection, she always saw a free woman
The Soldier Prince
3 stars. I suppose that out of all the stories, this one was my least favorite. I was never a fan of The Nutcracker, and this story was just a bit too close to it – although The Soldier Prince was much more meta and heavy. I did appreciate that the story was from the toy’s perspective, and how complex it was, as the soldier prince began to realize he was being used rather than loved and cherished. The idea that only love can make something real just hurt me in a way that I don’t know how to explain.
I know who I am without anyone there to tell me
When Water Sang Fire
5 stars. I want there to be a second part to this story so badly! This story was by far the longest one, but it had me hooked from the first page as it was something of a prequel to The Little Mermaid. This was also by far the most heart-breaking story, as there was a great deal of betrayal, anger, and dark magic. Not to mention a visit from a character from The Grisha Trilogy who shall not be named, because…spoilers, kind of. Anyway, this nightmare-inducing tale is just fantastic.
There is not magic that can make them love you
Overall, these stories were just amazing. I highly encourage every fan of Leigh Bardugo to read them! So many were referenced in her other books, and these short stories are so well written and beautifully illustrated.