The Language of Thorns – Book Review

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The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic

by Leigh Bardugo

★★★★

Expectation

I picked this book up with some other Grishaverse books I was buying to complete the collection. I loved the Shadow and Bone trilogy and was hooked so bad I wanted to get them all. I had no idea what this book was about except that it was a short story collection and it looked really gorgeous. I was pleasantly surprised with the story themes. The symbolism reminded me of some fairy tale compilations I read when I was younger.

Summary

The darker folk tales the author choose for her world of Grisha hit home and gave me a lot to think about. The stories are engaging and do not let the reader to make assumptions on the world being all black and white. There is a lot of depth in shades of grey and a whole rainbow of colors springs up when you least expect it. The themes in these stories many authors might shy away from but Leigh Bardugo handled them beautifly. I loved it.
The stories have a „cautionary tale“ feel to them. Some were even therapeutic in their practical approach to life. I liked the consistently provocative female characters and situations they were put in. The illustrations on the pages drew me in and provided and extra motivation from page to page.

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– Ayama and the Thorn Wood –
The first story blew me away right from the start. I was intrigued with illustration and scanned every page for picture clues along the text. The narrative style was very soothing and helped with giving the story a „Seherezade“ from „One Thousand and One Night“ feel. Moral of the stories was appealing along with pacing of the narrative.
– The Too Clever Fox –
The second story started out as a fable. I could not help but notice how the characters braced their difficulties as challenges to overcome. There was a distinct lack of vengeful feelings throught the story. Again, the practicality of life is at the fore front of all things. The ending came almost too sudden for me and I did not like it at all.
– The Witch of Duva –
I liked this one a lot. It started out simple enough as a some of the folk tales might but turned out darker than I expected. I love the dualitiy of this story and how something might seem perfectly logical driven by superstitions and our own expectation but the other side of the coin hides the truth we are taught to shy from sometimes.

– Little Knife –
This story I enjoyed the least. The dominance of the male characters was annoying and the end was not enough gratifying at all! I went trough this story at a rather fast pace and when I consider it now it probably needed some slower pacing and contemplation.

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– The Soldier Prince –
I could not help but feel a bit creeped out by this story. I found the illustrations for this story to be the most compelling. The red coloring and the Nutcraker motive gave the illusion of a theme that was more Christmasy for me ( I was reading it during Christmas time). It was all mixed signals for me.

– When Water Sang Fire –
It was difficult to imagine Fjerda as a setting of this story. I loved the characters and the character dynamics in this story. This story seemed like a an introduction to something larger. There were so many possible points for further narrative and so many characters I was wondering about.

Conclusion

I think the reason I did not get along with some of the narrative so well was because I was still thinking about it along the lines of more traditional fairy tales. These stories have much more depth to them than I expected and require more time for contemplation. The story I tend to most get back to is the first one – Ayama and the Thorn Wood. Because of the “story inside of the story” mechanism I liked it and have a need to read it again from a perspective of both characters. When Water Sang Fire is the strongest story for sure. It is longer than others and there are many characters I was intrigued by and wanted to read more about. It was not what I expected when I got the book but it is a more than solid short story collection for not only Grishaverse fans but for anyone who enjoys folk tales and myths as well. Anyone not familiar with the any of the Grishaverse books might enjoy these stories and an elegantly produced this book is a great present for any book aficionado.

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