Review: The Language of Thorns

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The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic by Leigh Bardugo
Published by Orion Books on 26 September 2017
Pages: 281
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
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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, no. 1 New York Times-bestselling author Leigh Bardugo has crafted a deliciously atmospheric collection of short stories filled with betrayals, revenge, sacrifice, and love.

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.

Man, I thought Bardugo had really stepped up her game between Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows, but after reading The Language of Thorns, I can safely say I’d be happy if she just wrote short stories for the rest of her career. This collection was so good – conforming closely enough to the fairy tale format to feel familiar, but original enough for the stories to be distinct from the crowd of fairy tale retellings on the YA market.

“Come now, Ayama. You know how the stories go. Interesting things only happen to pretty girls.”

Three of these stories have already been published – Little Knife, Witch of Duva, and The Too-Little Fox – I don’t usually read the ‘novellas’ that often accompany popular YA series, so I went into this not knowing what to expect. I saw influences from fairy tales such as The Nutcracker (The Soldier Prince was the only one that felt like a straight-up retelling), The Litle Mermaid, and Hansel and Gretel. I’m sure those more familiar with fairy tales can find more influences. I liked that Bardugo completely turned the fairy tale genre on its head while retelling them. So often a plot twist would just come out of nowhere, but it felt authentic and true to the story. You think you know how the story ends, but all of these stories ended in ways I was not expecting. Given how little time we got to spend with the characters, it is a testament to Bardugo’s talent to how complex the characters were, and how quickly you came to care for them.

The illustrations on the side of the page were absolutely sumptuous, and I loved how they slightly changed as the story progressed. You could tell how much care and love went into the production of this book, and it just made my reading experience that little bit better. One slight annoyance – the font goes between teal and maroon (in keeping with the colour scheme of the illustrations), and I think I would’ve found it easier to read black don’t. That said, it’s a tiny thing to pull up and didn’t really affect my overall enjoyment of the tales.

My favourite tale was, hands down, The Witch of Duva. More of this, please.

Recommended for fans of: Lips Touch Three Times

 ★★★★☆

One Reply to “Review: The Language of Thorns”

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