Posted in Book Review

The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic

Read Dates: August 20, 2019 – August 26, 2019
Publication date: September 26, 2017
Source: Owned hardback

GoodreadsAmazon

The Language of Thorns2.png

5 cats

Leigh Bardugo has bamboozled me again!
This time it’s with a collection of short stories passed down through generations in different villages spread across the lands of the Grishaverse. Novya Zem, Ravka, Kerch, and Fjerdan stories that absolutely set my soul alight. They were clever and they were beautiful and they were shocking and I LOVED THEM.

Let’s get into it.

Ayama and the Thorn Wood
A queen gives birth to a terrible wolf child and the king banishes it to a maze. However, one day the wolf escapes and chaos ensues over the Zemeni lands. Herds of cattle are attacked and human bones are piled up for the townspeople to see… So the king calls for someone to bargain with the beast in exchange for riches. Ayama, urged by her grandmother, volunteers and sets out to find the beast in the thorn wood. The beast requires a story. One that will not bore him and should Ayama succeed in holding his attention, he will agree to leave the village be.

This story was so magical and enchanting. I loved Ayama from the beginning and I loved where the story took her character. There’s a lesson to be learned from this story and also just the pure beauty of the ending this story gives us.

The Too-Clever Fox
A story of a fox born as the runt of his litter who is able to outwit any other creature, freeing himself from life threatening situations. Until one day the fox befriends a famous hunter’s sister in order to find out how the hunter is able to hunt so quietly and fiercely.

I saw the ending coming but it didn’t take away from the story at all. I still felt the shock that the author intended and was on the edge of my seat as the fox had to, once again, wiggle his way from a dire situation. Another lesson, and another entrancing story.

The Witch of Duva
Girls are going missing in the village.
Nadya and Havel live with their grieving father who has just lost his wife, their mother. When a woman named Karina comes into their lives and seems to only want the children to leave she and their father be. Havel goes off the the war but Nadya remains and wanders off one day into the woods to escape her overbearing and hateful stepmother. She becomes lost and finds the shack of a witch who she stays with for a time learning to make potions and meals. But Nadya could’ve never prepared herself for the truths the witch comes to reveal to her.

At the end of this story, in my notes, I wrote the word “WOW”. And that’s honestly the best explanation I can give you for how I felt about this story. This one actually DID have me fooled and then when all was revealed, I was in SHOCK. This story was so wonderful, and yet so chilling… Two of my favorite things.

Little Knife
This is the story of Yeva, a duke’s daughter who is so beautiful that no one can look upon her without going mad. Every man wishes to win her favor and wed her. But the greedy duke sets a task for all the men who wish to have her hand in marriage. The duke creates challenges that he believes only the prince has the resources to win, as the duke wishes his daughter to be married to the prince so that they can be rich and live a wealthy life. Semyon is a poor, penniless man who wishes to marry the beautiful Yeva and, as luck would have it, has the favor of the river who he named “Little Knife”. The river helps him win every challenge to win the beautiful Yeva, but at what price?

This story was my least favorite of all the stories in this book but I still liked it! It seemed, thus far, that all of these stories were here to teach you a moral. Stories grandmothers and mothers told their children before bed at night to keep them honest and well-behaved. This story was fun and I loved the ending but it just wasn’t my favorite… (We’ll get to that one.)

The Soldier Prince
The Clocksmith is a creepy, isolated man who decides it would be in his best interest to marry into money so he can live a comfortable life. So the Clocksmith sets his sights on Clara, the daughter of a wealthy couple whom he befriends. He attends parties at their home, bringing his magical trinkets to woo the other party goers. To win the favor of Clara, he crafts her a nutcracker doll. He enchants the doll so that he can learn all of Clara’s secrets, wishes and dreams. Clara becomes so attached to the nutcracker that her family worries for her and wishes for her to become more social with real people. Only Clara, the nutcracker, and the Clocksmith know the true nature of the doll and just what Clara can have the doll become with just a few simple words spoken to it.

This one was FASCINATING. The spin the author put on this story was amazing! Toy Story meets Peter Pan? Something like that. Anyway, it was wonderful. But… still not my favorite.

When Water Sang Fire
Ulla and Signy are mermaids who, when their voices combine, can create magic unlike anything anyone has ever seen. The two are invited to accompany the princes to the surface where they will use magic to grow legs and live among the King and Queen for three months until they can find a suitable gift to bring their King. Each prince must present their King with a gift from the mortal world. The King will decide which price will become King based on the gifts he receives. Ulla and Signy are swept into court life by the youngest price, Roffe, who takes an interest in the two and their magic. But Roffe is willing to go to great lengths to present his father with the best gift and become King… and he may end up pulling Ulla and Signy into something sinister that they could never hope to recover from.

Welcome to my favorite story in the book!! THIS STORY WAS EVERYTHING. I admit, I do have a soft spot for the mermaid stories. Once I read the REAL “Little Mermaid” story, I was obsessed. I loved the dark side of it and this story gave me just that. BUT BETTER. That ending! I was breathless. Speechless. I wanted MORE. Dear lord, Leigh, please give me a book about Ulla? Please?

Honestly, guys, Leigh Bardugo is holding my heart in her hands. I’ve been making my way through the Grishaverse one book at a time and all I have left now is King of Scars. (And then the one that comes after that which I would LOVE to have a release date for…) I don’t ever want her books to end. I absolutely adore Bardugo and everything she’s done up to this point. If you aren’t interested in reading any of the Grishaverse books, at least pick up The Language of Thorns. It has nothing to do with any of the characters or stories from the Grishaverse but the stories within it are so beautifully constructed and I HIGHLY recommend them to ANYONE who just enjoys a good fairy tale. I LOVED this book and I’m quite sure I’ll be reading it again and again.

Keri