The Language of Thorns
By: Leigh Bardugo
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.
Perfect for new readers and dedicated fans, these tales will transport you to lands both familiar and strange—to a fully realized world of dangerous magic that millions have visited through the novels of the Grishaverse.
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.
I swear, everything that Leigh Bardugo touches turns to pure bookish gold–she’s like a YA Midas. I almost swore off all short story collections after Marissa Meyer’s Stars Above, but bought The Language of Thorns on a whim over Christmas, and then of course I couldn’t not read it. Fortunately, Leigh Bardugo does a short story well.
I actually enjoyed this short story collection, because it wasn’t entirely dependent on any of her Grishaverse novels, even though it was set in the same universe. I honestly think someone who had never read a Leigh Bardugo book could have picked this up and gotten the gist of everything, which puts it quite a bit above most YA short story collections that accompany major series. Instead, Language of Thorns was a series of ‘fairy tales’ set in each of the four countries in the Grishaverse. Ravka, of course, got three stories to everyone else’s one, but still. Added to that, there was actual effort to make each of the stories from the four nations sound different. It was clear that the stories from Ravka and Ketterdam, for instance, were set in different places and cultures, which was wonderful.
Another thing I liked was that the stories weren’t obviously taken straight from the Brothers Grimm/standard fairytale lexicon. They played with traditional tropes, notably the whole ‘three tasks and you will get my daughter to wed’ thing, but the stories that I could tell were based on standard fairy tales took a remarkably different take on them that made them feel new. They were also generally darker. The Hansel and Gretel retelling involved the stepmother shooing Gretel out before her father could molest and kill her, for instance, and the witch working in tandem with both of them to prove to Gretel that the crime was happening/kill the father. The Nutcracker story looked at the pull the nutcracker continued to have on the family through the girl’s teenage years, and there was an Ariel story that told the origin story of Ursula (or Ulla, in the story). But again, all of them were from different angles, and had been integrated fairly seamlessly into the Grishaverse in terms of culture.
I do think that the Ravka stories have been previously published online, so if you’ve been a long-time fan of Leigh Bardugo, only half of these stories may be new to you. I know that I definitely read two of them years ago. But the other three stories do seem to be new, and it was nice to have all of them collected in one volume. I also liked that the stories were complete in and of themselves. They weren’t interconnected or reliant on anything. I could read one story, go off and do something, read another, and not feel like I was picking up the same thing.
Although I’m still wary of YA short story collections, I do think that Leigh Bardugo sets a high standard for them–I’m definitely not regretting buying the Language of Thorns.
Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us.