Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, they say. Well, screw them. Because if the cover of The Language of Thorns is anything to go by, this book is beautiful and stunning. Even if I didn’t know who Leigh Bardugo was, I would have bought this book just because of the cover. But as things go, I obviously do know Queen Bardugo so this was a must-read for me.
Midnight tales and dangerous magic
Leigh Bardugo is author of the Grisha trilogy and the Crows duology. I’ve read both Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom and am still in love with these two books. Crazy enough, I still haven’t read the Grisha trilogy because I dislike the special snowflake trope but since Bardugo’s writing style is a-ma-zing, I will get around to reading these three books as well. And I truly believe she will proof me wrong, and that these are killer books. Anyway, back to The Language of Thorns. In the author’s note, Bardugo explains the origins of this book:
Back in 2012 during the lead-up to the release of my first novel, my publisher asked if I could write a prequel story for Shadow and Bone. I was game, but the idea that came to me had little to do with the characters of that book. Instead, it was a tale that the characters might have heard when they were young, my own take on a story that had troubled me as a child – Hansel and Gretel.
So, The Language of Thorns is a collection of six stories, six fairytales, that take place in the same world as the Grishaverse, but have little to do with those stories. As such, this book is suitable for both fans of Bardugo’s books and for newcomers to the Grishaverse. You don’t need any prior information, these are six stand alone fairytales. And they all hail from existing stories, like said Hansel and Gretel.
Love speaks in flowers. Truth requires thorns
And she did it again. Bardugo wrote another book that made me soak up each word. Her new Grishaverse fairytales were all so lovely and so well written. These can all easily compete with Hans Christian Andersen and the brothers Grimm.
Also, huge, HUGE praise must go to illustrator Sara Kipin. Her illustrations are on every page. As each story continues, the drawings on the pages grow with the story. It all starts with something small, like a flower. From that, the illustrations get a new addition every page. At the end of each fairytale, there is a two-page spread about the ending of the story. And they are all mouth dropping gorgeous. It adds more depth to the book. Let’s delve a bit deeper into each story.
Ayama and the Thorn Wood
For me, this had a Beauty and the Beast-vibe all over it. There’s a hideous prince-beast and a lovely girl who is misunderstood by the rest of her town. In the author’s note, it’s said that the legend of Tarrare was an inspiration for this story. As I didn’t know that legend, I had to Google it and… that’s one pretty weird story there. I enjoyed Ayama’s story but found it very predictable.
The Too-Clever Fox
I love fables; stories about animals who can speak. And I think the Too-Clever Fox is somewhat a fable. There’s the titular fox who needs to find out how he can stop a hunter from killing all his friends and other creatures in his forest. This story originally was a companion story to Siege and Storm and is also available as e-book. I really enjoyed this story, as it has fun and unpredictable twists.
The Witch of Duva
This is that Hansel and Gretel retelling. As a child, Hansel and Gretel was my favorite fairytale so I loved that this story was in Language of Thorns. I think it also might be my favorite from the six. Not just because of the source material, but also because this is a very clever story, with yet more surprising twists. The image in the header is the two-page spread from the end of The Witch of Duva. I could re-read this story many times.
I couldn’t pinpoint if there was any inspiration from older tales for Little Knife. I think Little knife can be called a feminist princess fairytale, even though the main character isn’t the princess. This was the fastest read. It’s such a lovely tale. It’s about not messing with nature, feminism and dumb men. What’s not to love? This is a companion story for Ruin and Rising and also available as solo e-book.
The Soldier Prince
The Soldier Prince is the only story from Kerch, where the Crows book take place. So that was a big plus for me even before reading it. This was a mix between Pinocchio and The Nutcracker, with of course Bardugo’s excellent own take on these. I didn’t love it as much as I hoped I would (because Kerch) but I still really enjoyed it. It’s a pretty tragic story when you think about it. And I have to share this amazing quote from this story:
Wanting is why people get up in the morning. It gives them something to dream of at night.
When Water Sang Fire
Obviously, the source for When Water Sang Fire is The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson (and not the Disney version but the rougher original story). Bardugo says to herself in the authors note that his story was ‘a point of departure’. This is by far the longest of the six stories and for me it felt a bit too long. There are certain points that could have been left out. But I’m far from complaining as this again was another great fairytale about fearsome creatures.
The Language of Thorns adaptations
These six stories were so well written, I could visualize them all. I sincerely hope that the big chiefs of Hollywood or the Netflix executives get their hands on a copy of this book. Because every single one of these stories would make an excellent film or tv-series.
And since this is the third pretty much flawless book I’ve read by Leigh Bardugo, I just have to get over myself and read her Grisha trilogy. Because I’ve been pretty stupid not yet reading it, right? Either way, go and read The Language of Thorns. It doesn’t matter if this is your first Bardugo book or if you have a bookshelf full of different editions of her novels. This would also make the best birthday gift if you don’t know what to get someone. Because books are the best gifts and these six stories are all gifts to their readers.