Books, Reviews

Review: The Language of Thorns

The book in 3 words: Fairytales. Magic. Darkness.

Stars: ★★★★★ 5/5 – Loved it! squidwarditsbeautiful

Core

Name of book The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic
Author Leigh Bardugo (writer) and Sara Kipin (illustrator)
Series N/A but part of the Grishaverse
Published Sep 2017
Format Hardback with exclusive Fairyloot red foil
Source Fairyloot October 2017 box
Synopsis “A collection of six lavishly illustrated stories filled with betrayals, romance and revenge.”

About

Cover ACD7EBB5-E767-41C6-A17A-5D03F600E1FD

Beautiful, just look at it. No central image but the little symbols on the corners are representative of a story each, which I thought was a nice touch. The tiny GV at the top (standing for Grishaverse) is so subtle and I love it.

Main genres
  •  Fantasy – all stories contain magic: there’s talking woodland creatures, mermaids, witches, beasts
  • Dark elements to all the fairy tales
  • A bit of romance where it’s appropriate
Tropes
Characters Strong protagonists. I like that not all characters have a backbone (as it tends to happen in a population) and a lot of them make mistakes. I like that the protagonists choose to show mercy and forgiveness despite what happened to them. Except a case or two, where they’re quite entitled to have finally snapped.
Story Follows a fractured fairy tale format – all the elements of classic fairy tales are there but it doesn’t quite go as you’d expect.
Worldbuilding 5/5 ❤ Leigh Bardugo has created a beautiful universe and I hope she never stops writing in it. Each story is based in a different part of the Grishaverse – 1 in Zemeni, 3 in Ravkan, 1 in Kerch and 1 in Fjerdan. She expands on her already elaborate universe in a way that the world seems to reveal its hidden parts to you rather than someone making up a detail to wish away a plot hole. The magic has rules it must obey and it follows them well – no one is overpowered in a ridiculous way.
Notes  The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous and I love how the images show plot-related progression. I think the last story was the best in terms of that – just look at the transition below!

boomerang

Review ★

or me fangirling over Leigh Bardugo’s work

There are 6 short stories in this book and they are all absolutely amazing. I loved seeing the lore of the Grishaverse expanded on. Leigh Bardugo is a great writer and I like her style – it’s mainly straight-forward but she knows when to add more lyrical notes to her prose. The stories are well-paced, as one would expect in short stories (though I’m sure there are exceptions). I love them all, though the first and last ones are my favourite. But that’s just because I have a bias for strong female characters.

Ayama and the Thorn Wood

First favourite. The story is about a younger sister of two, Ayama, who is sent by her family to persuade a ‘beast’ to leave the kingdom alone because no one else is brave enough to. The wicked stepsister trope is inverted, which I like – Kima is the only person in her family who actually seems to care about Ayama. Her family is very willing to just let her be eaten if it means they’ll be rich, which is heartbreaking to read. The whole story contains subverted tropes, where whoever appears to be evil is in fact not and the other way round. The grandmother also seems heartless but then turns out to not be quite like she seemed. It’s beautiful.

Ayama is also amazing, because despite her background and what she’s had to put up with, she is still a very strong character. I love it when characters who aren’t pretty or demure or fragile are still portrayed as important – I think that society still seems to praise being quiet as being feminine and being loud as a negative trait, if found in a woman. I will give you a quote to show you why I love Ayama – this is when she first meets the beast, who is a terrifying creature that could eat her if he felt like it:

“Ayama had grown very used to being insulted, so much so that she hardly noticed it anymore. But she was miserably tired, and miserably sore, and so frightened that the very bones in her body were quaking. Perhaps this was why she stood, opened her mouth, and in the piercing voice that had vexed her parents bitterly said, ‘So much for the terrifying beast. His weak teeth require soft-limbed ladies.’ ”

You go, girl amyyess

I like that the beast forgives his mother for not protecting him. I think that’s a mistake he could have easily banished her for, but he shows mercy instead.

The Too-Clever Fox

A story about a witty though ugly fox named Koja. This has more of a twist, which I don’t want to spoil. But I like the ending and its realism (as much as you can have in a story about talking woodland creatures). I like that not everyone is who they seem to be. I like the small clues littered across the story. I would say it ends with a bittersweet note and it bears some sadness throughout.

The Witch of Duva

A girl’s father remarries and his new wife is terrible to her. Think you know what’s gonna happen? Think again. Huge plot twist.

Little Knife

Yeva is too beautiful to look at. Her father wants to sell her hand and the prince wants to buy it. But a Tidemaker (can control the waters) uses a river he dubs “Little Knife” to help him accomplish the tasks the father sets. Great twist, once again.

The Soldier Prince

Many elements similar to The Nutcracker. A tale of how important it is to be your own person.

When Water Sang Fire

My other favourite reads like a prequel to The Little Mermaid. This is about 2 sildroher, the Grishaverse’s variation of mermaids. When they sing, it can create living things and it can even work blood magic, so it’s a lot of power. Our protagonist, Ulla, wields great power but she is ostracised because the others think she has a non-sildroher parent. She befriends Signy, another girl of lowly class but the only one who can keep up with her songs.

I absolutely love Ulla – I love that she is loyal and forgiving of human/sildroher nature. I like that she is ambitious and I like that her ambition is a tool – she knows what she needs to obtain the life she yearns for and she knows that that is power. I like that her morals are strong enough to not be manipulated but that she’d give in if her friend’s happiness is at stake. And I absolutely love that what makes her snap is that her friend has so little backbone that she cares most about class and social rules even in her last moments. Her revenge brought me a lot of joy.

iwillendyou

 

Conclusion: I love Leigh Bardugo tearclap

I highly recommend this.

 

Have you read The Language of Thorns? If you did, which story was your favourite and why?

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3 thoughts on “Review: The Language of Thorns”

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