The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic (Leigh Bardugo)

First off – the title is awesome. Second off – I seem to be on some sort of fantasy world fairytale add-on splurge… if you can call two books in a row a splurge that is. The Language of Thorns is a collection of dark and dangerous tales set in the Grishaverse, that is to say, the collective of Ravkan, Kersh, Zemini and Fjerdan, as per the Shadow and Bone series, and the Six of Crows duology. I believe Bardugo is currently working on another trilogy featuring the prince from the first series. Basically its a big world and she’s still writing.

Title: The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Published: 2017
Format: Hardback (Library)
Pages: 281 pages

This book is a remarkable collection of six stories across four fictional countries and draws on familiar elements from many different stories and themes and traditions. They’re pretty dark and disturbing in some places (wait till you get to the one with the gingerbread girl), and having read language of thorns, you don’t need to know much about the Grishaverse – the Grisha powers are only mentioned in two of the stories at the absolute most, and for one, his power is clear and part of the story so you don’t need to know about the extended Grisha power structure really.

The first story contained sub stories, drawing on the genre of stories keeping a person alive. That beauty doesn’t mean honest and good is a theme revisited several times. There are a few queer undertones to some of the tales, and the basis for the stories are very familiar, they’ve been told in different ways so many times before. But I have to admit, despite having heard the start over and over, the ending of the stories can still surprise you. There is Clara’s nutcracker, Hansel and Gretel, a strange version of Cinderella, and other familiars told in a new (and sometimes disturbing) ways.

The stories are just as they are advertised, they are dangerous and haunting and beautiful on the surface but with problems lurking behind unexpected faces. Each story is so separate from the other that this would be a good book to read on a day where you have a million tasks and only snippets of time to snatch to read, like all good short story collections. I however, curled up after a week of crafting, made myself a hot chocolate and read all of it in one evening because I needed something a little easy and something a little dangerous (and moral).

Honestly this is worth reading for the “little mermaid” inspired story at the end. That short story was incredible, and had so much packed in that it felt like I’d read loads more than the pages/space it took up! It was dark and grim and blood magic is bad, but such a good story.

The illustrations are beautiful in a haunting way, beautifully done by Sara Kiplin, the Illustrator. I also feel the need to mention that the text is not in black, but in a teal blue and a burgundy pink, alternating colour themes for each new story. It was a nice touch actually, and it certainly made the book feel a bit different. It’s certainly a well looking book.

If you like fantasy retellings that are a bit darker, this is definately a good one to add to the list!

Bea

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