The Language of Thorns ★★★★☆

The Language of Thorns ★★★★☆
Leigh Bardugo


Genre(s) | Fantasy, Young Adult, Retelling
Goodreads Rating | 4.51
Humpo Show Rating | 4.00
Published: 2017
Publisher: Orion

Following on from the success of Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy and the Six of Crows duology, also inhabiting the same universe, she has composed a book that is full of folk stories, fairy tales and retellings that are full of surprises, twists and lessons. The Language of Thorns is full of darkness, magic and thought-provoking characters.  

Bardugo’s writing style has seen her become one of the most well-known and most adored of YA Fantasy writers, and it is once again on full view in these short stories that she has managed to house inventive twists to retellings, all of which is completed in her deliciously writing style. We are treated to a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, a story of how we are never as smart as we think we are, a story of the greed of men, a creepy retelling of The Nutcracker, and a stories about witches and mermaids.

My order of the stories goes as follows are:
The Soldier Prince 

Ayama And The Thorn Wood
Little Knife
The Too-Clever Fox
When Water Sang Fire
The Witch of Duva

Bardugo loves the shock factor as evidenced by her novels, and these stories all follow the same pathway. The stories follow a similar path to what we are used to when reading fairy tales, but each of them leaves us with a very different ending or message than what we would have expected. There is a definite moral to each of the tales, and it is not always evident that the protagonist in the tale has heeded the advice, which I feel is an intriguing inclusion given that traditional fairy tales, usually come with a happy ending.

The illustrations, some by Bardugo herself, are completed by Sara Kipin, and they perfectly inhabit the world that Barudgo has created, with stories from each culture/country (Zemeni, Ravkan, Kerch, Fjerdan). The colours are predominantly dark, to mirror the murky stories and settings, but there is an ineffable magic that shines through the illustrations that complete each story. My favourite illustrations are from The Little Knife (above right) and When Water Sang Fire (above left).

This short volume of stories is reminiscent of The Tales of Beedle the Bard, but with a more sinister and adult sense to the stories. The Language of Thorns is a must-read for fans of Bardugo’s work, however, I don’t think you need to be a fan to be able to read this book, although some of the terminology may be off-putting, but on the whole, I feel that the stories can be read as they are without too much trouble. Eerily brilliant and beautifully illustrated, Language of Thorns is a entertaining and engrossing read.


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7 thoughts on “The Language of Thorns ★★★★☆

  1. The illustrations are stunning in this book. It makes the tales so much more invigorating and eerie. I love the twisted nature of the tales and love how she takes the expected and makes it unexpecting. I’m still trying to shake myself out of the slump so I’ve still not read the When Water Sang Fire, but I LOVE that illustration and hope to at least start it tonight.

    • I’ll look out for your review! I love how the illustrations change slightly with each passing page- great touch. 🙂

      I’m kind of in a slump myself, I want to read books, just not the books I own atm. :/

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