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The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic

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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.

Zemeni Ayama and the Thorn Wood --
Ravkan The too-clever fox --
The witch of Duva --
Little knife --
Kerch The soldier prince --
Fjerdan When water sang fire

281 pages, Hardcover

First published September 26, 2017

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About the author

Leigh Bardugo

52 books149k followers
Leigh Bardugo is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Ninth House and the creator of the Grishaverse (now a Netflix original series) which spans the Shadow and Bone trilogy, the Six of Crows duology, the King of Scars duology—and much more. Her short fiction has appeared in multiple anthologies including The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy. She lives in Los Angeles and is an associate fellow of Pauli Murray College at Yale University. For information on new releases and appearances, sign up for her newsletter.

She would be delighted if you visited her at LeighBardugo.com and fairly giddy if you liked her selfies on Instagram.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 8,794 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,962 reviews293k followers
September 28, 2017
So shut the window tight and make sure the latch is fastened. Dark things have a way of slipping in through narrow spaces.


Bardugo is definitely at her best when writing short stories. These dark, haunting and beautifully-written little fairy tales had me reading at every spare moment. They have that timeless fairy tale quality, reminiscent of Neil Gaiman and Laini Taylor’s Lips Touch: Three Times. And if you’re considering whether it is worth buying a hardcover copy of The Language of Thorns - definitely go for it. It is STUNNING.

I actually wasn’t aware that three of the stories are ones that were available online beforehand and that I had read already - The Too-Clever Fox, The Witch of Duva and Little Knife - but I also don’t care that much because they are all fantastic and I read them again just to see them play out alongside the gorgeous illustrations.
“This goes to show you that sometimes the unseen is not to be feared and that those meant to love us most are not always the ones who do.”

All of these stories take inspiration from classic fairy tales, but I wouldn’t really call them retellings (except maybe the last one - When Water Sang Fire). Bardugo tells brand new stories with nods to the classics, such as The Little Mermaid and Hansel and Gretel, often leaving us with a very different ending or message than what we would have expected.

As she notes in the afterword, many fairy tales feature characters completing impossible tasks to win love or acceptance, but this has always felt... wrong somehow. Much of Bardugo’s work here is guided by a sense of dissatisfaction with traditional fairy tales; a sense that maybe the villains were not who we first thought, and that maybe the love of a handsome prince isn’t everything.

It is freaking fantastic for twisted, unromantic minds like mine. It is so satisfying to have my expectations shattered; to read sentences like the following and smile because I know, I just know, that it’s about to be torn to shreds:
“Come now, Ayama. You know how the stories go. Interesting things only happen to pretty girls;”

I recommend this for anyone who enjoys fairy tale-style stories and/or retellings, regardless of whether you usually enjoy Bardugo’s books or not. I get a completely different vibe from her short stories and they are nothing like the Shadow and Bone trilogy or the Six of Crows duology. I would be happy if she just kept releasing short story collections and forgot about the novels, to be honest.

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Profile Image for Hailey (Hailey in Bookland).
611 reviews87.5k followers
October 3, 2017
This was delightfully dark and creepy and was the perfect fairy tale collection for a universe I have come to love. Leigh Bardugo is not only incredible at writing novels, she also writes outstanding shorter pieces. Her writing style is perfect for fairy tales. I'M OBSESSED.

Also THE ILLUSTRATIONS oh my goodness I could not stop marvelling at them and how they formed a frame around the pages and something was added every time you flipped the page until the story was complete. It made for such an enhanced reading experience.

All of these tales are 5/5 stars honestly, but here they are in order of favourite to least favourite.

1. The Too-Clever Fox
2. The Soldier Prince
3. The Witch of Duva
4. Ayama and the Thorn Wood
5. When Water Sang Fire
6. Little Knife (this one actually might be closer to 4/5 stars, it was kind of boring)

For any fan of the grishaverse, this is a MUST read IMO. Whenever you read it, doesn't matter, just do it (personally I would read it after having read at least one of the books set in this universe, so then you're already familiar with the world and this just enhances your understanding).
Profile Image for Brittney ~ Reverie and Ink.
259 reviews4,891 followers
October 1, 2017
"It was only then that she saw the black-clad boy crossing the room toward her. The shadows seemed to shift as he passed, pulled along by him like a tide."

Hello, Darkling.


YOU GUYS. I can't even function to write a full review so I'm going to wait.


The last story.


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Profile Image for Melanie.
1,165 reviews98.2k followers
May 28, 2018

The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic is a bind up of six fairy tales that take place in the Grishaverse, which is the same world that her Shadow and Bone series and her Six of Crows series take place! All of these are expertly crafted. All of these are so very lyrical and beautiful. All of these feel powerful and impactful. All of these are absolutely haunting.

And only Leigh Bardugo could bring me to tears while reading the sentence “I hope you stir the pot.”

These stories are also illustrated and Sara Kipin's art took my breath away. This whole book is a gorgeous masterpiece from the dust-jacket, to the cover, to the spine, to the art that progresses throughout the story that eventually leads to full-page beautiful artwork, to Leigh’s perfect writing that will make you evoke every emotion ever felt. This is easily one of the top books published in 2017.

And my personal favorite in the whole collection, which moved me to a whole hot mess of tears, was When Water Sand Fire . If you can only read one of these amazing stories, please pick that one. It’s the longest, but the most fulfilling, and hopefully is the start of something beautiful.

I'm going to break down each short story with my thoughts, opinions, and individual star rating!

Ayama and the Thorn Wood - ★★★★★
“This goes to show you that sometimes the unseen is not to be feared and that those meant to love us most are not always the ones who do.”

This story was actually heartbreakingly perfect. It surrounds a small kingdom, where the king and his wife have given birth to two sons, one that is loved and one that is not because of the way he looks. Meanwhile, a young girl in the village is treated like a servant to her family that only sees her beautiful sister. Their paths cross, and continue to cross, because everyone in the village believe both of them to be expendable just based on their appearance, but together they forge something more beautiful than eyes can see and together they can change the kingdom. And they teach that kingdom that the world can be so much more beautiful when you stop only looking physically.

The Too-Clever Fox - ★★★★
“I can bear ugliness,” he said. “I find the one thing I cannot live with is death.”

This is such a beautiful story about perspective and how we are never as smart as we feel we are. Also, sometimes being smart has nothing to do with knowledge, but completely with the actions you take. This story centers around the cleverest fox in all of Ravka. From birth, he has been at a disadvantage because of his looks, but he compensates by being a witty and clever trickster. Also, this story reads so much like an actual fairy tale story that we would read in our world, even.

The Witch of Duva - ★★★★★
“There was a time when the woods near Duva ate girls.”

You can actually read this short story for free HERE thanks to Tor! And I can’t recommend you read it enough, because this short story actually shook my entire world. This is such a perfectly woven and absolutely haunting tale about a village who is mourning their lost girls, while also trying to endure very hard winters. And the ending of this story is beyond words, and turned me into a crying, melted, weeping, puddle on the floor. Also, this one should probably have a few trigger warnings for abuse (physical/sexual) and just violence in general, even though these things are very vague in the story they are still there, just woven in quietly.

Little Knife - ★★★★
“It is dangerous to travel the northern road with a troubled heart.”

This is a lovely tale about beauty and owing it to no one but yourself. This is also a tale about never underestimating what greedy men will do for things they feel they are entitled to. This story actually reminded me very much of my favorite saint, Rose of Lima, and her life and the consequences of being so beautiful. And an unexpected love story will always be the best love story.

The Soldier Prince - ★★★★
“This is the problem with even lesser demons. They come to your doorstep in velvet coats and polished shoes. They tip their hats and smile and demonstrate good table manners. They never show you their tails.”

Give me all of the Ketterdam tales, please. And this was a super twisted, yet amazing, retelling of The Nutcracker. And Leigh perfectly mixes what you would expect from a mash up of The Nutcracker and the streets of Ketterdam. And Droessen might be the best character debut in this entire short story collection. Like, I’d love a full-length novel just about him and his entire backstory. But yeah, this is such a creepy little tale that I really enjoyed.

When Water Sand Fire - ★★★★★
“This is the problem with making a thing forbidden. It does nothing but build an ache in the heart.”

Be still, my everything. This story. Lord, this story. This story gave me life. This short story was so perfectly crafted and the tale was so perfectly woven into a simple masterpiece. This was easily my favorite story in the entire collection. Also, this is the story that features one of the best characters ever written in modern day literature, the Darkling. This story surrounds two girls who live under the sea. One is ostracized for being different, and the other is forced to sing alongside her, but when they sing they’re more magical than any other singing group. After a turn of events, they are taken above the sea where magic grants them legs to walk among humans. But soon our main character, Ulla, realizes the heart of sea folk isn’t much different than the heart of men. And that pain and hatred can find a way inside of all of our hearts, if we let it. And I just am praying with all of my soul and with the entirety of who I am that we will cross paths with Ulla again in King of Scars.

“I was not made to please princes.”

I gave The Language of Thorns five stars overall, because out of a possible 30 stars (5 stars possible for each of the 6 stories) this collection accumulated 27 stars (90%). But, like, throw away all of those stars, because this book is one of the best things that 2017 has produced. It’s beautiful, detailed, thoughtful, whimsical, and every single thing I look for in good fairy tales. I can’t recommend this masterpiece enough.

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Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,460 reviews9,613 followers
February 2, 2019
UPDATE: $2.99 on Kindle US today 2/2/19

My October 2017 Fairyloot! I added a link below this picture if you want to go see close-ups of the goodies =) ♥


These stories were awesome. Well, one that I read when it was free on Tor I only gave 3 stars because of the hunting but other than that, they were pretty dark and cool!

I'm just going to add pictures of the postcards I got in my Fairyloot box because these are the same pictures they have after the story has been told. And let me tell you, all of these pictures on the postcards and through-out the book are amaze balls!


This one is my favorite. It's a telling of the not beauty and the beast =) It's wicked and cool!


This is the one with too much animal killing. I gave it three stars in my original review because it had some tales within tales


This one is really dark and cool. The woodsman who has a secret. His daughter who befriends a witch and some ewww involved!


This one is about a girl too beautiful to even behold. A bunch of idiots. And a river =)


This one is another take on the Nutcracker. Like I have said before, I have not read the original Nutcracker but this one is really good as well.


This one is about some mermaids.


Don't y'all love my short little explanations? =D

I loved the book, it's absolutely beautiful inside and out. The pages are stunning and each page is colored as well. I would recommend to anyone that love the author and fairy tales, myths and folklore!

Happy Reading!

Mel ♥
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,084 reviews17.4k followers
January 19, 2019
These are so, so utterly beautiful.

I have not actually read the Grisha Trilogy [okay. now I have.], only Six of Crows, but Bardugo's attention to detail in planning her Grisha world comes through in every one of her books that I've read. This one is no exception. Somehow, these stories are more than just folktales; they feel both like folktales told by your grandmother and ghost stories told by your friend beside a campfire.
It wasn't the cannibal witch that bothered me. It wasn't even the selfish stepmother. For me, the real villain was Hansel and Gretel's father, a man so weak-willed, so cowardly, that he let his wicked wife send the children into the woods to die not once but twice. Don't go back, I would whisper as we approached the inevitable final illustration—happy father reunited with children, evil stepmother banished—and I was always left with a feeling of unease as I turned the last page.

Above all, this collection subverts its source material in ways clever and creative and, always, compelling. If you're a fan of trope subversion, you'll love this.

Also, please just look at the art.


# Ayama and the Thorn Wood - ★★★★★
This is like a mashup of Cinderella and Beauty & the Beast. It's a story about the power of being heard in a world that wants to shut your voice off. It's brilliant, and all the stories within are even more so.

# The Too-Clever Fox - ★★★★☆
I can't believe a story this short managed to make my spine tingle. Here, Bardugo tells the story of a clever fox and a hunter who is just as clever. This novella reads exactly like a word-of-mouth-tale, with an archetypal trickster character and several minor plot twists. This gets a five because I happened to guess a major plot point.

# The Witch of Duva - ★★★★★
This is one of the best short stories I have ever read. I ended in near tears. It's filled with Leigh Bardugo vibes. You can read this here.

# The Little Knife - ★★★★★
Oh my god this was just beautiful? It's a story about agency, especially of women. And the last illustration is genuinely one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen.

# The Soldier Prince - ★★★★☆
This story is eerie and heart-tingling and utterly fabulous. I adore how each fairy tale changes in vibe based on what country it originates from; this is a Kerch myth, and you can completely tell.

# When Water Sang Fire - ★★★☆☆
This was very good, and the artwork - especially the mermaids - was some of my favorite from the whole book. I also love the subversive nature of the retelling. But... idk, I feel somewhat baited? I thought the two girls were a couple for around ten pages when they're in fact just friends.

VERDICT: What a collection. Highly recommended for anyone who's a fan of the Grisha world.

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Profile Image for jessica.
2,533 reviews32.3k followers
October 12, 2019
'tis the season for fairy tales and leigh bardugo is a retelling queen! but honestly, she could write the same word over and over for 100 pages and i would still love it. plus, the illustrations in this are nothing short of remarkable! this is such a treasure of a book!

ayama and the thorn wood - ive actually never heard this story before, but its such an beautiful telling and so unique!

the too clever fox - basically, this makes me wish i was more clever and that the fox was my spirit animal. lol. 

the witch of duva - i really admire the dark spin on this story. its so magically twisted -- perfect for my black heart. 

little knife - awww. so delightful and important. such a lovely story. 

the soldier prince - ive never really been a fan of the nutcracker, but this gives me all the those winter feels. 

when water sang fire - yessss. my love, in all his cameo glory! my favourite story only because of the darkling. obvs. 

4.5 stars overall
Profile Image for Katerina.
422 reviews16.8k followers
August 28, 2018
Who knew that genuine beauty can be found in midnight tales infused with a dash of twisted?
“Bad fates do not always follow those who deserve them.”

The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic is a collection of tales inspired by folklore and beloved stories, such as The Little Mermaid, Hansel and Gretel and The Nutcracker, but they follow a different path. Through lush, marvelous illustrations and words that warm your heart only to tear it from your chest, between thorns drawing blood entwined with fragnant roses, Leigh Bardugo weaves six hauntingly beautiful and disturbing tales, that stir a wave of unease that you cannot quell. You think you know where the story goes, but the ending is always unconventional, and leaves a bitter taste in your mouth; they teach you that, perhaps, you got all the stories wrong. The heroine does not always ride into the sunset on the back of her one true love's steed. Her one true love may be cruel, greedy or manipulative, the ones meant to protect her those who inflict devastating pain, and fairy god-mothers do not save the day. While your hair curls from the steam rising out of the witch's pot, and your fingers grow sticky with the burnt sugar of the candies you savored, you delve into dangerous magic, you're outsmarted by pretty facades and deep down, you're greatful your grandmother did not narrate you those tales when you were only a child, craving adventure and romance, because she would have doomed you into a childhood deprived of sleep. But mind that with her deliciously creepy tales, Leigh Bardugo takes you back to Ravka, Fjerda and Kerch, to lands familiar yet peculiar, where you once experienced joy, heartbreak and love.
You feel at home.

“This is the problem with making a thing forbidden. It does nothing but build an ache in the heart.”

Ayama and the Thorn Wood follows a loud but neglected girl and her encounters with a terrible beast, while The Too-Clever Fox focuses on an ugly but cunning fox trying to outsmart a devious predator. The Witch of Duva is the story of young Nadya, who lives in a vilage near haunted woods, where girls go missing and an evil stepmother drives her to the witch's lair. In Little Knife a poor man tries to win the heart of the duke's beautiful daughter, who doesn't use his wits and courage to pass the trials set but the greedy duke, but calls to magic instead. Only magic has, as always, a price. The Soldier Prince narrates how the creations of a wicked clocksmith came to life and claimed their destiny, and my personal favorite, When Water Sang Fire, goes back in time, when mermaids took human form and sang tempests and storms.
“When no one is looking at you, or whispering to you, who are you then?”

A collection of six lavishly illustrated tales that blend folklore with wondrous creativity and a pinch of darkness, The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic is the perfect read for cold weather and thirsty hearts in search of magic.

Review also posted on BookNest!
757 reviews2,345 followers
December 27, 2017
I just finished reading this and honestly where the fuck is The Darkling, I'm so confused.

UPDATE: Just found out my soul mate Daddy Darkling in this book and I'm having a hard time breathing. Fucking hElp mE IM DYING


y'all don't even know how bad I want my daddy Darkling to be in this
Profile Image for karen.
3,978 reviews170k followers
July 4, 2018
oooh, goodreads choice awards semifinalist for best YA fantasy! what will happen?

this is gonna be just pure reader response here, with no attempt made towards any objective assessment or critical analysis. when it comes to bardugo’s fairy tales, i’m just a box full of puppies and all i can do is grin.

i’d read three of these stories before this collection was published, as free tor shorts. i reviewed ‘em here, if you really do need to have your critical analysis beast fed, or if you just want the links to where you can read the stories for free:

The Too-Clever Fox
The Witch of Duva
Little Knife

even though i’ve read dozens more since then, those three stories are still top-ranked in my “free tor short hall of fame.” they are the perfect kind of fairytale - not cheesy or gentle, not dark and edgy just to shock or subvert, but … honest. they are as close to feeling “real” as a fairytale can get, in their beating hearts and blood beneath the magic. coming across them, i felt like i’d discovered something exquisite - it felt like a gift, like pure magic and wonder handcrafted for me. and when i heard this was going to be published and realized i’d already read half of the book, it is a testament to just how good those stories are that i didn’t feel a scrap of disappointment. i only felt, “oh, good - now they can truly be mine, away from my computer.”

and now they are. the three stories i hadn’t read were every bit as good as the ones i had, and the artwork - it’s phenomenal. as each story progresses, it grows its own illustrated borders page by page simultaneously across the verso/recto, until the images connect triumphantly, or devastatingly, followed by a single, full-page illustration serving as an explosive “THE END.” the illustrations are quite cheeky in their details, too, which makes them perfect companions to these little story bombs.

she’s so good at these that as much as i enjoy her longer books, if she decided to devote herself entirely to fleshing out her imaginary lands through folklore like this, i would applaud her choices without reservation.

maybe i will write more at a later date, but for now, just this happy cheer.

also, i'm really glad i have a signed copy, otherwise this page would feel like it was missing something

 photo IMG_5175_zpswcirmi4b.jpg


five perfect perfect perfect stars. review to come, but for now - much swooning delight.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Virginia Ronan ♥ Herondale ♥.
530 reviews34.5k followers
October 23, 2020
”Bad fates do not always follow those who deserve them.”

I guess that’s a wisdom that sets the tone for this entire collection of dark fairy tales. If there is a recurrent theme that runs through all of those stories then it’s the fact that the bad guys don’t always get what they deserve. Which, quite honestly, made this even more intriguing for me. So what else did I love about Leigh’s stories? That they were as dark as the midnight hour. *lol* I mean if you’re familiar with fairy tales you know that all of them have a lesson you’re supposed to learn and that they are pretty cruel and wicked as well. So in that regard Leigh certainly delivered. XD Some of those stories gave me goose bumps and caused me to shake my head in disgust. And others made me wonder how different the story could have ended if the characters would have been a little bit more on guard. No matter the outcome of the stories they were all amazing though. As were the drawings around the pages! I loved them so much! There were so many little details and each and every single story turned out to be a flip book when you went through it fast enough. If you ask me a lot of thought went into this book and I really appreciated it.

This said let’s take a short look at the six stories themselves:

Ayama and the Thorn Wood: 4/5

”Then perhaps you might show mercy freely?”
“My father never taught me mercy.”
“And can you not learn?”

I really enjoyed that one even though it kind of reminded me of a combination of “The Beauty and the Beast” and “Arabian Nights”. Well, if the beauty would have been a plain girl instead of a beauty and if the stories wouldn’t have had an ending. *lol*

The Too-Clever Fox: 5/5

”If you like, you may have me as supper. I warn you, though, I am stringy and tough. Only my tongue holds savor. I make a bitter meal, but excellent company.”

Ahh I really loved that one!! Okay, I might be biased because I love foxes and cunning people/creatures but Koja was awesome! How he got out of the most delicate situations was great and that fox had all my respect! <3

The Witch of Duva: 5/5

”What is it you want?”
“I want to go home,” said Nadya.
“Well then,” said Magda. “You’d better start shoveling.”

This was a totally unique story and I never heard anything like it before. It plays with how people perceive others and it shows that you should never give into your prejudices. I really loved that one and the moral of the story was driven home with quite a punch. XD

Little Knife: 3/5

”Papa forgive me, but what way is this to find a husband? Soon I will have a fine mirror, but will I have good man?”

For some reason this was the story I enjoyed least. I don’t know why but maybe because it wasn’t all too shocking? I mean there is definitely a lesson to be learned and Semyon’s relationship as a tidemaker with the river was interesting, but the ending... I dunno. *shrugs* Maybe I didn’t like the fact that the beautiful girl always obeyed her father’s wishes. *lol*

The Soldier Prince: 4,5/5

”Are you mine?”

Okay! For me that one was super creepy because I’m kind of afraid of dolls and clowns. You might call it a mild coulrophobia and automatonophobia? >_< They just scare the bejesus out of me. (I know why I never read “It”.) So this story was kinda tough to read and gave me all sorts of anxiety. I somehow managed to get through it though and I’m glad I survived it. I have absolutely no idea how Clara and Frederik could play with the Soldier Prince, let alone love him, but oh well. Still, that ending... *shudders and hides under a blanket*

When Water sang Fire: 3,5/5

”Magic doesn’t require beauty,” she said. “Easy magic is pretty. Great magic asks that you trouble the waters. It requires a disruption, something new.”

I think we can all agree that this was some sort of “The Little Mermaid” retelling and the longest story out of those six. The relationship between Ulla and Signy was really interesting but if you ask me it was only friendship. I know some people thought they might have a relationship but I doubt it. They both just loved to sing and were connected through their magic and their love for music. The ending didn’t really surprise me and Roffe’s character and his intentions were obvious right from the start. The most interesting piece here was probably the apprentice, which apparently was the Darkling?! I dunno. He was a too little part of this story to actually make assumptions.


This was the perfect Halloween read and if you love creepy and dark fairy tales this is definitely your kind of book! The cover, the illustrations and the flip book element only made this even more enjoyable and every time I picked up “The Language of Thorns” I had a smile on my face. I just loved to hold this in my hands! If you want to read those stories properly, I’d recommend going for a physical copy. You won’t regret it. ;-)


This was just great! <3
I loved all of those fairy tales. Some more than others but in general they were all amazing! =)
What I really liked was that they were so dark and creepy! Ahhh! I enjoyed this so much!
Perfect read for October!

Full RTC soon! Stay tuned! ;-)

It’s getting dark and cold outside which means it’s the perfect time to read fairy tales!
Dark fairy tales!!
Leigh Bardugo fairy tales! *lol*

Which means I’m finally picking this up! =)
I can’t wait to dive into this book, especially because it’s so damn pretty.
Love the cover and the pictures on the pages. Somebody thought long and hard when she/he made those drawings!! <33

Leigh’s stories in combination with the beautiful art will be a treat! XD
December 28, 2018
Ok, this writer just keeps getting steadily better... The stories here? Totally insane! Unexpectedly cool and twisted, in an incredibly good way.
Actually, we have since ages read and heard fairy tales. How often have we strayed with our thoughts from the usual to contemplate what happens after all those princes marry all those girls and everyone gets their happy ever after. Does everyone get it? Do those gnomes or spirits get to be happy? Are jhinns ever set free or do they go to suffer from their own peculiar shade of PTSD back in their bottles? Do the fairies and godmother(s) get to go happy or free or have wonderful adventures? Here the author made some very cool twists I loved! Things rarely are as they appear.
We are not made to please princes. (c)
THE FIRST TRAP THE FOX ESCAPED was his mother’s jaws. ...
IT IS DANGEROUS TO TRAVEL THE northern road with a troubled heart. ...
IN THE END, THE CLOCKSMITH WAS to blame. But Mr. and Mrs. Zelverhaus should not have let him into the house. This is the problem with even lesser demons. They come to your doorstep in velvet coats and polished shoes. They tip their hats and smile and demonstrate good table manners. They never show you their tails. ...
When water sang fire...
YOU WISH TO STRIKE A BARGAIN, and so you come north, until the land ends, and you can go no farther. You stand on the rocky coast and face the water... Be still and listen. Think of it as part of the bargain. ... (c)
You see, some people are born with a piece of night inside, and that hollow place can never be filled—not with all the good food or sunshine in the world. That emptiness cannot be banished, and so some days we wake with the feeling of the wind blowing through, and we must simply endure it as the boy did. (c)
We all know the story of how the queen became a queen, how despite her tattered clothes and lowly position, her beauty drew the notice of the young prince and she was brought to the palace, where she was dressed in gold and her hair was woven with jewels and all were made to kneel before a girl who had been nothing but a servant bare days before. (c)
That was before the prince became a king, when he was still wild and reckless and hunted every afternoon on the red pony that he’d done the work of breaking himself. (c) Sorry? A pony??? Breaking? A guy, wild and reckless, hunting on a pony????? Ok, that's imagery I could have surely lived without.
The clocksmith was called Droessen, though there were rumors he was not Kerch, but Ravkan—an exiled nobleman’s son, or possibly a disgraced Fabrikator, (c) Gosh, this reads horrible in any language I can think in and probably in most ones that I can't. Can anything be done to persuade this author to stop spoiling her beautiful, beautiful prose with all those HORRIBLE names she seems bent to stick in any of her books?
Shura Yeshevsky ... Genetchka Lukin (c) Yeshevskaya, Lukina would be the correct forms...
She was tall and lithe as a young linden tree, and she moved with a grace that was almost worrying—as if, being so light upon her feet, she might simply blow away. (c)
You know how the stories go. Interesting things only happen to pretty girls; you will be home by sunset. (c)
Well, she thought, for she had learned to keep silent even when alone. At least I do not have to work today, and I will see something new before I die. (c)
Perhaps, she thought, I will just drop dead before I ever reach the beast and I have nothing to fear at all. (c)
But just because no one bothered to listen to Ayama didn’t mean she had nothing to say. (с)
But Ayama remembered the quince and took the sprig from her apron pocket. The flowers were fresh and unwilted, their white petals still damp with dew and tinged with pink. The blossoms glowed like a constellation in her hand. When the townspeople looked upon them, they could taste the tart flavor of quince on their tongues; they could feel the soothing touch of shade falling over their skin. These were no ordinary flowers. Now the people listened as Ayama stood with the sprig clasped in her fist and told them of the beast’s promise, and when she had finished, they led her all the way to the palace, murmuring in wonder, forgetting that the girl they now looked upon with awe still had the marks of their pinching fingers on her arms. (c)
... Her pockets shall be weighted with jewels and all shall sing songs of her courage.”
Ayama returned his smile, for it was impossible not to bloom in the prince’s sunny regard. But what she really wanted was a glass of water.
the prince said, “Extraordinary! We shall raise a statue in this girl’s honor and celebrate her birth there every year.”
Ayama thought that was a fine proclamation, but what she really wanted was to sit down and take off her shoes. She supposed if the prince had bothered asking, he would know that. But he was not as fond of questions as his brother. (c)
Her family was rich now and had many servants, but they’d gotten so used to ordering Ayama about that they’d forgotten how to treat her as a daughter. ... People tipped their hats to her in the street now, but they never stopped to talk or ask how Ayama was faring. The beast might shout and snarl, and he might well devour her, but he’d at least been interested enough to listen to her speak. (c)
Do not behave as a tyrant and then tell me to scold a tyrant to behave. Show mercy and mercy you may be shown. (c)
... she realized that in all the silent days and nights since she’d left the wood, she’d been storing up words to offer the king’s son. (c)
This goes to show you that sometimes the unseen is not to be feared and that those meant to love us most are not always the ones who do. (с)
Why not stay a bit longer? Why not rest awhile here? Why not tell another story? (c)
She tucked the sprig of quince flowers into her braids, and it was as if she carried the cool leaves and the shade of the wood with her. (c)
There is a great difference between not eating a person and trusting a person. (c)
... No prince is worth your life.”
Ayama supposed it depended on the prince. (c)
“‘Come away with me to my palace by the sea,’ said the prince, ‘and all will pay you homage and you will want for nothing in this life.’ And as you may know, when you have had very little and worked very hard, that is no small offer. (c)
... she’d thought on this story quite a long time as she’d walked through the wild lands, and how the ending she’d been told as a child had seemed far more enchanting before she’d actually met and spoken to royalty. (c)
“It’s true they were selfish and silly in many ways,” said Ayama. “But they also loved their youngest sister dearly. As soon as they found her missing and a golden feather on the chair, they guessed what had happened, for they had seen plenty of the world. They saddled their horses and rode all day and all night to reach the palace by the sea, then pounded on the doors until the guards let them in.
“When the sisters entered the throne room, making a racket and demanding that their sister return home to them, the prince insisted that they were just jealous sorts who wanted to be princesses themselves, and that they were wicked girls who liked to drink and dance and be free with their favors. In fact, the sisters did like all those things, and it was precisely because they’d seen so much and done so much that they knew better than to trust handsome faces and fine titles. They pointed their fingers and raised their loud voices and demanded to know why, if the prince loved their sister so, he should let her be made to perform tasks to prove her worth. And when he did not answer, they stomped their slippered feet and demanded to know why, if the prince was worthy of their sister, he should bend so easily to his parents’ will. The prince had no answer but stood there stammering, still handsome, but perhaps a bit less so now that he had nothing to say.
“The sisters apologized for not doing their share of the chores and promised to take the girl to parties so she wouldn’t have to settle for the first boy who flew in through her window. The younger sister saw the wisdom in this bargain, and they all returned home together, where their days were full of work made easier in the sharing, and their nights were full of laughter and carousing.”
“And what lesson am I to learn from this story?” asked the beast when she was done.
“That there are better things than princes.” (c)
For when Ayama had awoken after her adventures, it was the wounds from the thicket that had proven all the sweet blossoms and starlight had been real. (c)
“Why do you bring this beast to my door?” the king demanded to know. “I told you to return with his heart.”
“And so I have,” said Ayama in her loud, clear voice that echoed like a horn of war over the listening crowd. “His heart is mine and mine is his.” ...
“I will love an honest monster before I swear loyalty to a treacherous king.” (c)
... they drew their daggers and fell upon Ayama.
But no matter how many blows the soldiers struck, Ayama stood unharmed.
Then she took the hat from her head, and all the people saw that she was a girl no longer. Her tongue was forked; her eyes glowed like opals, and her hair twined in serpents of flame that licked at the air around her in ribbons of orange and gold. She was a monster, and no blade could pierce her skin. With her thorn knife she slashed the brambles that bound the beast’s wrists. (c)
After a courtship of many stories, Ayama and the beast married beneath a blood moon, and pride of place was given to Ma Zil, who had sent Ayama again and again into the thorn wood. She had not been much to look at in her youth, and she knew well that only courage is required for an adventure. ...
So it was that the valley to the west came to be ruled by a monstrous king and his monstrous queen, who were loved by their people and feared by their enemies.
Now in the valley, the people care less for pretty faces. Mothers pat their pregnant bellies and whisper prayers for the future. They pray for rain in the long summer. They pray that their children will be brave and clever and strong, that they will tell the true stories instead of the easy ones. They pray for sons with red eyes and daughters with horns.
A lesser creature might have despaired at such cruelty, but the fox saw vanity in his mother’s carefully tended coat and snowy paws.
“I will tell you,” he replied. “When we walk in the wood, the animals will say, ‘Look at that ugly kit with his handsome mother!’ And even when you are old and gray, they will not talk of how you’ve aged, but of how such a beautiful mother gave birth to such an ugly, scrawny son.”
She thought on this and discovered she was not so hungry after all. (c)
But if Koja had words, then he had hope. (c)
“I can bear ugliness,” he said. “I find the one thing I cannot live with is death." (c)
I am stringy and tough. Only my tongue holds savor. I make a bitter meal, but excellent company. (c)
“Come now,” said the fox. “Let there be no more crying. I have spent my life finding my way out of traps. Surely I can help you escape your brother.” (c)
Freedom is a burden, but you will learn to bear it. (c)
“It is always the same trap,” she said gently. “You longed for conversation. The bear craved jokes. The gray wolf missed music. The boar just wanted someone to tell her troubles to. The trap is loneliness, and none of us escapes it. Not even me.” (c)
In the wood, even songbirds must be survivors. (c)
But Lula was not only clever.
She was wise. (c)
Papa, forgive me, but what way is this to choose a husband? Tomorrow, I will certainly have a lot of firewood, but will I have a good man? (с)
Will you remain here with the father who tried to sell you, or the prince who hoped to buy you, or the man too weak to solve his riddles for himself? Or will you come with me and be bride to nothing but the shore? (c)
She was terrifying in her beauty, bright like a devouring star. (c)
The river carried her all the way to the seashore, and there she stayed. She said her prayers in a tiny chapel where the waves ran right up to the door, and each day she sat by the ocean’s edge and watched the tides come and go. She lived in happy solitude, and grew old, and never worried when her beauty faded, for in her reflection she always saw a free woman. (c)
Now, if you have been foolish enough to wander from the path, it is up to you to make your way back to the road. Follow the voices of your worried companions and perhaps this time your feet will lead you past the rusting skeleton of a waterwheel resting in a meadow where it has no right to be. If you are lucky, you will find your friends again. They will pat you on the back and soothe you with their laughter. But as you leave that dark gap in the trees behind, remember that to use a thing is not to own it. And should you ever take a bride, listen closely to her questions. In them you may hear her true name like the thunder of a lost river, like the sighing of the sea. (c)
And yet, though he could smile readily, charm easily, and play the part of a gentleman, he had never truly understood people or the workings of their steady-running but inconstant hearts. (c)
But as the years passed, Clara stayed the same strange, dreamy girl who might let a sentence trail off because some secret, unspoken thought had caught her, who would endure language lessons and cotillions with distracted grace, then smile and drift off to some dim corner where whatever invisible world her mind had conjured might unfurl without distraction. (c)
I loved you when no other would, and you chose me for your queen. ... She would find herself atop a great white horse, clutching her beloved’s waist, whooping with joy as they sailed through the night, past the clouds, and into the lands beyond. ... She would try to smile at the drab world around her, though her cheeks were still warm with sunshine, though her tongue was still sweet with the taste of honey wine.(c)
Wanting is why people get up in the morning. It gives them something to dream of at night. The more I wanted, the more I became like them, the more real I became. (c)
But a rat can’t live with seven heads always talking and arguing. It took us hours to make the simplest decisions... (c)
Your desire must be stronger if you wish to get free of the cabinet, if you wish to be real. (c)
Only take me with you to your home and I will forsake this place. We can stay forever in the land of dreams. (c)
The nutcracker thought of the road again, but now he saw the road was a future—one his father would want him to choose for himself. He imagined the snow in his hair, the ground beneath his boots, the limitless horizon, a world full of chance and mishap and changing weather—gray clouds, hail, thunder, the unexpected. (c)
The young man left silently through the front door of the house and headed east along the road, toward the sun rising in the gray sky.
At the beginning of everything, he discovered loneliness in the quiet of his own thoughts. (c)
She considered her options and decided there was nothing for it but to become a writer. She sold her pearl earrings and moved to Ketterdam, where she took a small apartment with a window facing the harbor so that she could watch the ships come and go. There, she wrote fantastical tales that charmed children, and under another name, she penned rather more lurid works that kept her in nougat and sweet cream, which she always took care to share with the mice. (c)
he took up the family business and boarded one of his father’s vessels to fetch a shipment of tea from Novyi Zem. But when it was time to return home, he hopped another ship, and then another, stopping in ports only long enough to mail a postcard or, occasionally, a parcel. He sent home a packet of tea that made a flower bloom beneath the drinker’s tongue; another that, when sipped before bedtime, assured you would dream of the city of your birth; and a blend so bitter one sip would make you cry for three hours. Frederik’s parents wrote letters begging him to return and take up his responsibilities. Every time, he vowed to do just that. But then the wind would change direction and the sea would lift, and he would find himself shipboard once more, certain another world must wait beyond the next horizon. (c) Reminded me a bit of the beautiful short stories of Alex Grin. This is one of the things his heroes might find themselves doing.
Now their laws are different. They know the land is a place of danger. Yet still they long for a taste of mortal life. This is the problem with making a thing forbidden. It does nothing but build an ache in the heart. (c)
The dwelling place of its kings and queens was distinguishable only by its six spires that rose like grasping fingers around a craggy plain. Those bony spires were layered with the scales of trench-dwelling creatures so that, in the daytime hours, they glowed with blue light like a captured moon, and at night their chambers and catacombs gleamed phosphorescent in the heavy dark. (c)
Song was not just a frivolity then, something meant to entertain or lure sailors to their doom. The sildroher used it to summon storms and protect their homes, to keep warships and fishing boats from their seas. They used it to make their shelters and tell their histories. They had no word for witch. Magic flowed through all of them, a song no mortal could hear, that only the water folk could reproduce. In some it seemed to rush in and out like the tide, leaving little in its wake. But in others, in girls like Ulla, the current caught on some dark thing in their hearts and eddied there, forming deep pools of power. (c)
But hope rises like water trapped by a dam, higher and higher, in increments that mean nothing until you face the flood. (c)
Ulla felt the cold settle in her bones, the night rushing in, vaster than the sea. Still she followed. (c)
The storm had brought Ulla to the cold shelter of the northern islands, to the darkened caves and flat black pools where she remains to this day, waiting for the lonely, the ambitious, the clever, the frail, for all those willing to strike a bargain.
She never waits for long. (c)
Profile Image for Charlotte May.
695 reviews1,072 followers
April 22, 2021
“So shut the window tight and make sure the latch is fastened. Dark things have a way of slipping in through narrow spaces.”

Review per story:

Ayama and the Thorn Wood - ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A unique spin on Cinderella and also on the monster in the labyrinth.

The Too Clever Fox - ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Really liked this one. Woodland creatures being attacked by a hunter. Koja the clever Fox decides to find out who it is and how they are targeting them. A good twist.

The Witch of Duva - ⭐️⭐️⭐️
This one was a bit grim even for me. Interesting take on the Gingerbread house in the woods, and on witches. The twist at the end made me feel a bit ill though.

Little Knife - ⭐️⭐️⭐️

A beautiful girl’s father is trying to marry her off to the best candidate. He sets 3 tasks to show their worth. A Grisha man is determined he will win her heart with the help of his friend the river. But the river has its own secrets.

The Soldier Prince - ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A really good take on The Nutcracker. A clockmaker designs a nutcracker for a girl he wishes to woo, but unfortunately his greed comes back to bite him. The nutcracker discovers his own personality and wants.

When Water Sang Fire - ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Maybe my favourite. Ulla lives beneath the sea but she has always been treated differently. When she and her best friend Signy are invited to spend Summer on shore with the Prince they cannot wait. But what awaits them in the human world and what is the prince’s real aim?

These were a vivid collection of stories that I enjoyed. I loved the illustrations and some of them were truly breathtaking.

So my original library copy went uncollected. I genuinely can’t remember why. But it’s available again now and I will not be missing out this time!!


This one is finally available for me to pick up from the library! Can't wait to read these stories :)
Profile Image for emma.
1,822 reviews48.1k followers
January 13, 2019
“I hope you enjoy these stories and the world they populate. I hope you read them aloud when the weather turns cold. And when your chance comes, I hope you stir the pot.”

Have you ever read a book so good it makes you want to retry a book you DNFed? A book you hated so much that getting to the 100-page mark put you in a reading slump? A book you disliked so strongly, you stopped reading it, something you have only done nine times, including textbooks?

I have. And that book (the good one, not the abysmal one), my dear boy, is a little number called The Language of Thorns.

The best way to describe it is “beautiful.” Because the illustrations are, and the book itself is, and the stories and the characters are, and of course the world, the Grishaverse, is unrelentingly beautiful too.

Here are some other words that may be the best way to describe this, though, actually, come to think of it: twisted, fantastical, dark, creative, magical, stunning, unique, gorgeous, surprising, the-best-thing-ever-in-global-history-excluding-warm-chocolate-chip-cookies-and-Alice’s-Adventures-in-Wonderland-because-I-have-a-brand-and-I’m-sticking-to-it.

Some of those are synonyms but that just means they’re extra true.

The Language of Thorns so utterly confirmed Leigh Bardugo as an auto-buy author for me that I’m doubting the reasoning behind the fact that there’s so much as a single thing she’s written that I haven’t read. I’m obsessed with the way her mind works, and the characters she’s able to create, and this gorgeous, insane, twisted world she’s created, which is completely on a level of its own.

I don’t think any of the renowned YA worlds come close to the Grishaverse. JK Rowling, Cassie Clare, all of you: eat your heart(s) out.

There are few things as sweet as hearing about a book that sounds like it was factory-made to suit your interests and then reading that book and loving it.

I could ramble about this for ages.

Bottom line: I love fairytales and I love illustrations and I love the Grishaverse and I goddamn love Leigh Bardugo and this book is a dream and I love it.

whoever came up with the idea of leigh bardugo writing a bunch of twisted, justice-filled fairytales set in the grishaverse in a beautiful illustrated edition should be knighted and given a lifelong pension of cookies and hugs.


review to come
Profile Image for Warda.
1,152 reviews18.3k followers
December 23, 2017
So, I'm having a WTF-did-I-really-give-this-a-three-star-rating moment.
I honestly thought I was going to love this! (See my excitement below!)
And since I pretty much converted to Bardugo-ism last year, I thought, that's it. This woman can write whatever, and it'll be perfect and as if I've been handed a slice of heaven itself. I mean, she's queen. All hail!

This collection just did not do it for me. It could be my slumpish mood... however, I did enjoy some of the stories, The Witch of Duva in particular, but the majority were slightly mediocre to me. Nothing about the stories blew my mind, nor could I connect to them on any level.

Usually with other short stories that I have read, the characterisations are on par. They feel alive and I would be craving for more. They would have had the potential to become full-fledged novels to me. With these stories, however, I was just glad they ended.

It wasn't even that the book itself was bad, because there is no way that I can fault the writing, or the eeriness these stories possessed. Just that it wasn't for me.

Initial reaction.
THAT COVER!!! I cannot WAIT to read this book! My mind is still obsessing over how INCREDIBLE the Six of Crows duology was.

Give it to me, Bardugo!
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.7k followers
November 28, 2020
4.5 stars! Review first posted on Fantasy Literature:

The Language of Thorns is a collection of six stories and novelettes by Leigh Bardugo, dark and lyrical folk tales set in her GRISHA universe, in the Russian-inspired country of Ravka and other nearby countries. These are stand-alone stories, unrelated to the specific characters and events in the GRISHA novels. This tales might be told on a dark night by a villager living in Ravka.

Bardugo’s stories, containing elements of both fantasy and horror, include elements of traditional fairy tales like “Hansel and Gretel,” “The Little Mermaid,” and “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” but morals are twisted into something new and traditional tropes are subverted. Sometimes handsome princes and kings are weak and evil, and beasts honorable. Fathers don’t always know best. Beauty may be more of a burden than a gift. Bardugo takes fairy tale tropes apart, examines their assumptions, and recasts them in new and often much more logical ways, often with an eye toward feminist values and empowerment of women.

The six stories are:

❧ “Ayama and the Thorn Wood:” In a troubled kingdom, there’s a parallel between the royal family and a poverty-stricken one: both families have a favored, handsome older child and a younger one that is unattractive and despised. The younger prince, born with a wolf’s fur and horns, is confined to a labyrinth … until he escapes to the Thorn Wood. Ayama is stocky and clumsy, and is treated like a servant by her family.

As the children in both families grow older, the wolf prince begins terrorizing the country. Ayama is volunteered by her family to journey to the thorn wood to confront the wolf prince. She goes, although with a great deal of fear and reluctance. These two characters, disregarded and rejected by everyone around them, find power in themselves and in each other as they tentatively begin to communicate. Amaya tells stories to the wolf prince, changing the endings to better suit both herself and the prince, and gradually realize that they can change their own stories as well. It’s a potent tale.

❧ “The Too-Clever Fox” is a very fable-like story about (logically enough) a fox. Not a cute fox, though: an impressively ugly one. But Koja the fox is clever, and smart is more important than looks. I was thoroughly charmed by this animal fable, right up until the point Bardugo slapped Koja ― and me ― upside the head for thinking we had everything all figured out.

Told in deceptively simple style, this tale follows Koja from his birth (when he’s almost eaten by his mother for being so small and ugly, and is saved only by his quick thinking) through various adventures. Koja learns about patience, sacrifice, and the importance of friends. But mostly he learns that despite his lack of good looks, his cleverness and creative thinking will get him ahead. When a hunter moves into the area and captures and kills several of Koja’s animal friends and neighbors, Koja takes steps to save the day.

As with all fables, there’s a moral to this story … but it’s not the one I thought was going to be served up to me. Well played!

❧ “The Witch of Duva” is a dark Russian-flavored fairy tale with echoes of Hansel and Gretel and a serial killer twist… or is it wolves? Nadya and her brother Havel are the children of Maxim Grushov, a carpenter and woodcutter. They live in a village on the edge of a deep, dark forest. When a famine hits, Maxim no longer gets enough work from the other impoverished villagers. The children’s mother fades away and dies, the famine deepens, and ― worst of all ― girls begin disappearing from the village.
Real fear came upon the town. In the past, girls had vanished every few years. True, there were rumors of girls being taken from other villages from time to time, but those children hardly seemed real. Now, as the famine deepened and the people of Duva went without, it was as if whatever waited in the woods had grown greedier and more desperate, too.
Nadya’s father marries a neighboring widow, who makes it clear that Nadya isn’t welcome in her house. She sends Nadya out to check their traps for rabbits in the dark. When Nadya gets lost in the forest, she comes across a strange hut in the woods where an old woman cooks over a vast black cookstove, with bubbling pots and an oven large enough for a child to get inside. I might be forgiven for thinking that I knew where the story was heading at this point, but I was completely wrong. Those who like dark fairy tales will enjoy this one.

❧ “Little Knife:” It’s fascinating to see Bardugo subverting so many traditional fairy tale tropes here. The duke’s daughter Yeva is surpassingly beautiful … so beautiful, in fact, that it literally makes people crazy: nurses and midwives fight over her and try to kidnap her as a baby (her father ends up hiring a blind nurse for her), reasonable men come to blows over her as she grows older, and she can’t ever go outside.

So Yeva’s father decides that he needs to marry her off when she’s about sixteen, and holds a contest with challenges for her suitors, because that’s what prideful aristocratic fathers get to do in these tales. It’s clearly not as much fun as it might sound for the girl.
When her father returned to the palace and Yeva heard what he had done, she said, “Papa, forgive me, but what way is this to find a husband? Soon I will have a fine mirror, but will I have a good man?”
Nor, as it turns out, is it fun for her father in this case. He assumes that his favored suitor, the prince, will be able to use his wealth and servants to win all the challenges, but there’s a poor Grisha Tidemaker, with magical power over water, who comes into town just as the first challenge is getting rolling. Seeing Yeva, he decides to throw his hat into the ring. With the invaluable help of a nearby river, which he calls Little Knife, he’s hard to beat.

But. It doesn’t work out the way you might guess.
Now, if you have been foolish enough to wander from the path, it is up to you to make your way back to the road… If you are lucky, you will find your friends again. They will pat you on the back and soothe you with their laughter. But as you leave that dark gap in the trees behind, remember that to use a thing is not to own it.
❧ “The Soldier Prince” is primarily a dark retelling of The Nutcracker, with several twists, though I think it also borrows a few elements from The Steadfast Tin Soldier. A smooth-talking clocksmith called Droessen, intent on raising himself in society, gives a nutcracker to a young girl named Clara, for his own selfish reasons.
This is the problem with even lesser demons. They come to your doorstep in velvet coat and polished shoes. They tip their hats and smile and demonstrate good table manners. They never show you their tails.
Clara adores the nutcracker, who has a hard time not losing himself in her and others’ desires. The tale gets a little murky, but I appreciated the theme of finding yourself and determining your own path in life. The Mouse King gets a cameo here to good effect.

❧ “When Water Sang Fire,” the longest tale in this collection, immerses the reader in a society of mermaids who have magic that manifests in the form of song.
Magic flowed through all of them, a song no mortal could hear, that only the water folk could reproduce. In some it seemed to rush in and out like the tide, leaving little in its wake. But in others, in girls like Ulla, the current caught on some dark thing in their hearts and eddied there, forming deep pools of power.
Ulla has one of the most powerful magical voices in their world, but is ostracized for acting and looking different, with her black hair and grayish skin. When she connects with red-haired Signy, she finds not only friendship but a more powerful magic in their duets. Despite their obscurity in sildroher society, the undeniable power of their magical songs brings them to the attention of others … attention that might raise them in society or prove their undoing.

Bardugo has a knack for getting right at the heart of the flaws in people’s characters. The ending reveals a delightfully unexpected (at least to me) link to a character that will be familiar to most readers.

Each page of these stories is framed by Sara Kipin’s illustrations, which gradually morph from page to page until bursting into full flower with a two-page illustration at the end of each story. It’s a wonderful and well-executed concept.

The Language of Thorns invites the reader to share in the characters’ learning and growing experiences, their triumphs and their heartbreaks. The invitation in “The Witch of Duva” - “come help me stir the pot” - resonates long after the stories end.

Profile Image for Nat.
553 reviews3,176 followers
August 26, 2018
Having to wait on the release for this illustrated collection of original fairy tales since the start of the year was nearly excruciating. I even went ahead and read The Too-Clever Fox by Leigh Bardugo a month after the news to calm my eagerness. But here I am finally ready to dive into my long awaited review for this collection!

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.

“And what lesson am I to learn from this story?” asked the beast when she was done.
“That there are better things than princes.”

#1: “Ayama and the Thorn Wood.”

The Language of Thorns 1-- bookspoils
An original retelling of a forest that demands to hear only the truth and nothing but the truth, which made for a clever, wordy, high-spirited read. It also delivered a compelling mix of Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White, excelling at capturing the chilling and gleaming atmosphere.

“And can this ugly beast not speak for himself?”
The beast looked upon his father and said, “A man like you is owed no words. I trust Ayama to tell my story.”

#2: “The Witch of Duva.”
The Language of Thorns 2-- bookspoils
A twistingly clever take on the wicked stepmother trope. Seriously, that ending couldn't have messed me up more. Leigh Bardugo was making it quite the challenge to move on seamlessly from story to story while delivering such blows at each end.

“Karina who had given herself to a monster, in the hope of saving just one girl.”

Also, coming to the realization that AURORA's Runaway fit like a glove for this tale was so fulfilling. From the lyrics to the visuals in the video, I was continuously mesmerized.

“I got no other place to go
But now take me home
Take me home where I belong
I can’t take it anymore.”

The Language of Thorns 1-- bookspoils
The Language of Thorns 1-- bookspoils


#3: “Little Knife.”

The Language of Thorns 3-- bookspoils
Bardugo once again succeeds to bring about an unexpected turn of events. And I have to note that I came to endlessly appreciate her for sharing the message that our heroine's story doesn't have to end with finding romantic love (not specifically talking about one tale here), even going so far as to make that the damn point of it all.

“It was I who built the tower of trees,” said the river.
“And I who earned the mirror from Baba Anezka. It was I who found the magic coin. And now I say to you, Yeva Luchova: Will you remain here with the father who tried to sell you, or the prince who hoped to buy you, or the man too weak to solve his riddles for himself? Or will you come with me and be bride to nothing but the shore?”


“The river carried her all the way to the seashore, and there she stayed. She said her prayers in a tiny chapel where the waves ran right up to the door, and each day she sat by the ocean’s edge and watched the tides come and go. She lived in happy solitude, and grew old, and never worried when her beauty faded, for in her reflection she always saw a free woman.”

Easily the best ending I've read in awhile.
Overall, I was enamoured by this deliciously feminist collection of atmospheric folk tales filled with betrayals, revenge, sacrifice, and love.

4.5/5 stars

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Profile Image for ♛ may.
806 reviews3,792 followers
October 25, 2017
Leigh’s back again, ruining lives, destroying homes, making little children (me) cry thank you for this leigh, its v welcome

Ayama and the Thorn Wood ~ 4.5 stars
- This story man, it was great
- Fantastic, superb, entertaining
- What an excellent kick off for the collection of stories
- The quiet, ugly-ducklings GET A STORY YES FINALLY
- I just really loved the moral of the story
- Bc we’re always getting these fantastical YA books about flawlessly chiseled heroines and perfectly crafted love interests and boi pleaseee that’s so 2015
- Give us some reality

The Too Clever Fox ~ 3.5 stars
- I didn’t love this one as much as the first
- It was interesting and clever
- Again I appreciated how the ugly little fox was the main character and used his cunning wit to survive
- Kinda a sad story if you think about it tho

The Witch of Duva ~ 5 stars
- I read this before on its own and it gave me chills then and it fricken gave me chills now
- Leigh Bardugo, never stop writing please
- Frick, that plot twist, I totally didn’t see it coming and it shook me up real good
- I love the whole ‘apperance vs. reality’ theme going on in this collection, but this one was especially epic and haunting and chilling and just AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
- Im going to go scream into a viod bc this one was just unmatched and it made me want to die at the same time

Little Knife ~ 4 stars
- Leigh must be a magician bc the way she crafts the stories and makes you so attached to the characters in less than 60 pages is just magical
- Really enjoyed this story too
- The build up was done really well and then the ending is so unexpected
- We always hear those tales that are like, omg yes, we all know whats going to happen and the tale just drags along but no leigh is here to school you
- Bc you don’t end her books, they end you

The Solider Prince ~ 4 stars
- This one was really twisted and slightly confusing but still just as magical and enthralling as the others
- It took me some time to full grasp what the plot was bc it was spread over a vast amount of time
- But the way the characters are crafted, they just come to life man, idk what this sorcery is
- Really creepy, really eerie, all-round entertaining

When Water Sand Fire ~3.5 stars
- This story is like a hit or miss I feel
- Perhaps the moral/build-up of the story went right above my head
- But a lot of the time, I was just trying to grasp what was going on bc the whole thing is basically showed not told and yes that’s an incredible thing to do but it also made me slightly confused
- Just that I wasn’t involved until the 60% mark
- But still managed to be magical and sad and an epic backstory of kinds
- Also apparently the darkling was supposed make an appearance here ???? im confused ???

Also the drawings were epic and I basically screamed everytime I saw them bc wow thank you for blessing my eyes

4 stars!!


Buddy read with a little boi and fake may

honestly it's leigh bardugo, so its an automatic 4 stars just for that


Profile Image for ✨    jami   ✨.
660 reviews3,881 followers
October 22, 2017





Listen, I love the GrishaVerse so much. It's one of my favourite high fantasy worlds, and you can tell Leigh Bardugo loves it so much herself and has put so much work into it. The Grisha world just keeps on expanding and every expansion really makes me heart sing. This world is a little twisted, a little creepy, a little shattered. Filled with broken people and stories, with creepy histories and dangerous characters and a chilling aesthetic. And thats what I love about it. I love it being a little creepy and weird, it makes it so unique and so fascinating.

I'dd admit, I'm not a massive short story lover. I don't know why, it's nothing to do with leigh Bardugo. It's me. So anytime I read a short story collection, even from my faves, I'm expected to be left a little disappointed just because short stories and me don't .... we don't get along great.

But this is probably one of my favourite short story collections ever, because each story was so well written, and each one had a twist or addition I didn't expect. Leigh Barudgo really knows how to string you along and then undermine your expectation. She subverts the genre so often and fuck I love her for it.

Ayama and the Thorn Wood: 4.5 stars. This definitely reminded me of how we usually hear Grimm fairly tales told. It followed that familiar fairytale set up we're used to. The three stories told by Amaya I absolutely LOVED. Each one definitely didn't end how I expected and I loved how they were deliberately supposed to go against your expectations. I didn't give it a full five star though because of the ending being a bit predictable.

The Too-Clever Fox: 5 stars. BITCH I WAS SHOOK. I definitely didn't see the end of this one ocming, for some reason. This story gave me the absolute creeps, it was super creepy and kinda gross but I liked that about it. Definitely gave me the old spine tingles. I loved the characters in this, they were great and just the whole message of the story in general. I'm glad I hadn't already read the short story for this (because I believe this one is already published?) But anyway, loved this one

The Witch of Duva: 5 stars. YESSSS. This was my favourite one in the whole book. Oh my god, the plot twist got me okay. I was super freaked out and grossed out and jfghkjf. But I loved the female characters in this one and how they were written, the bond between the various characters, and the growth of the characters was amazing considering how short this was. I'd read this one again for sure I LOVED IT.

The Little Knife: Leigh Bardugo makes every single river in Ravka a lesbian? Obviously giving this one a five star bitch. I am SO GLAD people posted the artwork for this story on twitter because wow it's gorgeous. So I loved the composition of this story, and the repetitive nature actually didn't get to me at all? The quests were super fun, and I liked to see how each one was tackled. But BRUH that ending. The women establishing themselves and then destroying those who tried to control them my Aesthetic. Love love love

The Soldier Prince Eh. I didn't like this one much I kepy waiting for it to end. I kind of just .... didn't care? And I found the whole doll/kid thing kinda creepy, which I know I've been praising the creepy stuff but this one I don't know I just didn't like it much. The only bit I really liked was the Rat King's appearance. Only gave this one 3 stars

When Water Sang Fire 3.5 stars, maybe? I don't know, I'm very conflicted on this one. It had the Darkling in it, so that makes me happy. And I really loved the ending and what Ulla went out and did. But I felt kind of queer baited? I didn't like how Signy and Ulla's relationship went about, and I definitely felt the ending was the most predictable of all the stories. Pretty much the whole scene with Roth/Signy/Ulla annoyed me, but I was here for what Ulla did after that. I don't know this one is hard for me, I loved bits of it and felt nothing for other bits of it.

So shut the window tight and make sure the latch is fastened. Dark things have a way of slipping in through narrow spaces.

I definitely enjoyed this creepy set of stories from the Grisha world. No matter what they contained, it was amazing just to be back in the world. I was really impressed with some of the stories, and even though I didn't love a couple as much, overall this whole collection was chilling, spine tingling, hair raising. And I can't fault Leigh Bardugo for that

Also, I listened to this on audiobook so for anyone interested the audio is great! It reminded me alot of Every Heart a Doorway in the style and tone of the narration and there was a lot of emotion put into conveying the characters and their situations. Really recommend the audiobook!

You know what I take away from this whole thing most?

Profile Image for Kai Spellmeier.
Author 6 books13.6k followers
November 19, 2017
“This is the problem with making a thing forbidden. It does nothing but build an ache in the heart.”

4,5 out of 5 stars.

This book wasn't high on my tbr pile, to be honest, most of all because I didn't want to spend the money on it and because I didn't expect my local libraries to hold a copy of it. So you can imagine the delight and the surprise when I discovered it just there, in the library.

Normally, I'm not a huge fan of short story (or essay) collections. I know that my favourite author's story will be fantastic but I tend to forget most other novellas as soon as I've finished them; they're either unimpressive or not exactly my taste. This; however, was something else. The Language of Thorns was a unique collection of fairytales. Leigh Bardugo created wondrous stories and fierce characters. She is the queen of plottwists, that's for sure.
I can't exactly pick a favourite. I loved all the tales but one: The Soldier Prince. It seemed to me that the author did not initially know where she was heading with the plot. The change of POV was irritating and overall the story seemed a bit messy, plot-wise as well as character-wise. It simply wasn't to my liking.

Apart from that there's only one thing left to say: the illustrations are to die for. This book is so beautifully crafted. It's amazing (and on the other hand a little sad) to see how much effort will be put in a book when the publisher knows that the author is a goldmine. I wish smaller authors would experience this kind of support and effort once in a while.

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Profile Image for ♥ℂĦℝΪՖƬΪℕÅ.
230 reviews3,933 followers
July 26, 2018
WOW! Like seriously, I'm in awe of this!! I love ittt! These short stories were incredible and fascinating and enthralled me from beginning to end. Leigh Bardugo should truly think about writing books full of these short folklore and fairytale stories. I could read them all day especially the dark ones♥. I LOVE the more darker and creepy ones the most. I also find I love all the names Bardugo chooses to name her characters. They are always unique and fresh :) I recommend everyone read this regardless if they haven't read any of her other works. (❛‿❛)

꧁Individual ratings and reviews of each story below꧂

Ayama and the Thorn Wood ⭐⭐⭐⭐
“This goes to show you that sometimes the unseen is not to be feared and that those meant to love us most are not always the ones who do.”

This story was really heartbreaking and so beautiful at the same time. It was about a King and Queen who had two sons one is handsome and the other a beastly creature. The Beast Prince was cast aside and imprisoned. In this kingdom lived two sisters a beautiful one that loved to sing and everyone held in high esteem, the other was ugly and her name was Ayama. Her parents paid her no mind for she was nothing special. Everyone thought this Beast and Ayama was nothing but exposable, something to be used. Their paths kept crossing because Ayama was sent on these missions to the Thorn Woods to negotiate with this Beast. She tells him three different stories which I really loved! They were so so good. In the prosses bounding them together. They both go back to the castle and show everyone that appearances are not all that matters and should not be solely judged based on one's appearances. Some good advice for everyone to remember ;)

The Too-Clever Fox ⭐⭐⭐⭐
“I can bear ugliness,” he said. “I find the one thing I cannot live with is death.”

This was a very enjoyable short story. It was dark and beautiful and it made me really sad 😭. This was all about having different perspectives :) It was about an ugly skinny fox name Koja who could talk his way out of every bad situation he found himself in. Whether it be being eaten as a kit to hounds to being eaten by a bear to a hunters trap, whatever the case he always had a trick up his sleeve (or rather paw lol), whatever it may be he could get them to do as he asks. He even became the bear, Ivan Gostov good friend. Koja had many friends in the forest despite his looks. I love his sarcasm! He was known to be the cleverest fox in all of Ravka. But for all his witty-ness and fast-talking, it doesn't mean he'll escape every trap set before him! Sometimes you need a trusted friend to save you.

The Witch of Duva ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“Dark things have a way of slipping in through narrow spaces.”

Wow! The Witch of Duva was a pleasant surprise. I really loved this novella. It was so dark and really freaking creepy. CREEPY I tell you! That twist at the end seriously blindsided me like for reals I did not see that coming! It was shocking and I just really enjoyed this read. I wish it was much longer. This story was even a bit sick and twisted which I love. It was haunting and it gripped me right away. This one here is a must read! I absolutely love a good dark folklore tale.

Little Knife ⭐⭐⭐⭐
“She was terrifying in her beauty, bright like a devouring star.”

This novella was wonderfully good :) It was very captivating and I was hooked! This was about an absolutely breathtakingly stunning girl named Yeva. She is the duke's daughter. He is desperately trying to find the perfect suitor and therefore he sets out all these different challenges. Yeva's beauty makes men lose their minds at the sight of her and all want to clam her as their own. The ending message was powerful and lovely♥. And that twist at the end I did not see coming! It was PERFECT. Honestly, this was so worth the read and I recommend Y'all taking the time to read it :)

“Remember that to use a thing is not to own it.”

The Soldier Prince ⭐⭐⭐
“This is the problem with even lesser demons. They come to your doorstep in velvet coats and polished shoes. They tip their hats and smile and demonstrate good table manners. They never show you their tails.”

This was not one of my favorite stories :( It wasn't bad though either! It just didn't resonate with me like the others have thus far. Idk, it was just lacking... something! This short story wasn't really dark in my opinion and after reading four stories that were 'The Soldier Prince' didn't hit the creepy factor. Still, I am happy I read it just the same :)

When Water Sang Fire ⭐⭐⭐⭐
“This is the problem with making a thing forbidden. It does nothing but build an ache in the heart.”

I found 'When Water Sang Fire' to be pretty damn enjoyable. Some parts dragged on at times and I wish this one would have been a bit shorter. But I loved Ulla!!! She was a fantastic character! I also really liked the plot. Another beautiful tale completed :)
Profile Image for Trina (Between Chapters).
858 reviews3,756 followers
October 27, 2017
Although I think some of the stories could have ended stronger, this is my favorite collection of novellas for any series ever. I read the original 3 stories when they were published online and LOVED them at that time and asked Leigh once if she'd ever published a collection of Grisha tales. I'm so happy this happened! They were even better the second time around, and the new stories were magical as well. You can see which classic fairy tales inspired some of these stories, but they all have their own twists and style. Although a few specific locations are mentioned, I don't think you need to have read any of the Grisha books to understand these stories. And the illustrations were gorgeous!
Profile Image for Cesar.
353 reviews236 followers
May 8, 2018
10 trillion stars/5

“This is the problem with making a thing forbidden. It does nothing but build an ache in the heart.”


Words cannot even begin to describe how much I loved The Language of Thorns. I am trying to find the right words but I can't. The best way to express my love is through this gif.


In all seriousness though, I really loved this book. Everything about this book, from the words to the drawings to the stories is just stunning and beautiful and breathtaking and every other synonym that is related to beautiful. It was that good. I have admired Leigh's writing style before, but this one takes the cake with cherries on top. It really felt like I was reading actual fairy tales.

The Language of Thorns takes inspiration from different fairy tales and Leigh tells them in such a unique way so that it belongs to the Grishaverse. You got ones that are like Hansel and Gretel, Beauty and the Beast, and the Little Mermaid. Except imagine them dark, twisted, and beautiful. My kind of fairytales. And yes, I know the original fairytales were dark, but Leigh does it in a way that makes them even more unique.


In the book, there are 3 new stories and 3 other ones that were originally in e-book format. Those are: The Too-Clever Fox, The Witch of Duva, and Little Knife. I have not read them but now I'm glad they were in this book.

These stories are not what they appear at first glance. I knew I was in for some dark and twisted stuff since the tales are from the Grishaverse. Even still, I was surprised by the stories and the characters because I am not kidding when I say the stories are dark. No rainbows, puppies, and sunshine in this book, kiddos.

If I had to choose a favorite story, it would have to be When Water Sang Fire. I loved that story mainly because of the characters, the lyrical writing, how Leigh takes mermaids/sirens and turns it into something different.
(It also helped that I was listening to This because of the whole siren aspect of it.)

And, a certain dark character appears.


(Hello Darkling. 😙 *proceeds to make out with the Darkling*)

I really don't have anything negative to say about the stories. Yeah, some of them can be long, but the stories help with the pacing, especially if you really like the writing and the stories.

I just love everything about the Grishaverse. And, it was recently announced that Leigh is coming back to the Grishaverse with a duology that is centered around Nikolai!



I absolutely loved this book. Everything about it was lovely. I highly recommend this if you really are a fan of the Grishaverse or just like fairytales.

Thanks for reading my review!

Profile Image for Shruti.
24 reviews170 followers
January 17, 2018
“You see, some people are born with a piece of night inside, and that hollow place can never be filled – not with all the good food or sunshine in the world. That emptiness cannot be banished, and so some days we wake with the feeling of the wind blowing through, and we must simply endure it as the boy did.”

Beautiful. Haunting. Intriguing.

Bardugo can create such magic with her beautiful writing! This was exactly what I needed to restore my love for Bardugo's writing after I was disappointed in Shadow and Bone. This book is a collection of six fairytale-like illustrated stories set in the Grishaverse.

The highlights of these short stories are :

1. Reimagined fairytale retellings with dark themes
2. Unexpected plot twists
3. Stunning illustrations

This collection features the different worlds that Bardugo creates, and these stories are filled with creepiness and intrigue. Each story conveys different messages which is totally different from the actual fairytales. Throughout the whole book, I was either mesmerized by Bardugo’s magical writing style, in awe of illustrations or just waiting to see what would happen next.The Language of Thorns is just an all-around beautiful book.

It is not necessary to read any of the Grishaverse books beforehand, although I think the tales will be more fun that way.

¤ Ayama and The Thorn Wood ⭐⭐⭐⭐. 5

“This goes to show you that sometimes the unseen is not to be feared and that those meant to love us most are not always the ones who do.”

This story is from Zemeni and is retelling of a sort of mix between Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast, about a strong hearted ordinary girl and a beastly prince. This story breaks the stereotype of having a beautiful or handsome character as the main character of fairytales. I also loved how the characters in the story also told stories, so the book-within-a-book feeling was strong here. It was my second favourite in the collection.

¤ The Too-clever Fox ⭐⭐⭐. 5

“A lesser creature might have closed his eyes and prayed for nothing more than a quick death. But if Koja had words, then he had hope.”

It is a Ravkan tale about a little fox Koja who uses his wits to get him out of some dangerous situations. This almost has the feeling of a fable. There wasn’t as many twists in this story as in the previous one, the ending was still surprising.

P.S Bardugo confirmed that this story is our very own witty thief Kaz’s favourite!!!! <3

¤ The Witch of Duva ⭐⭐⭐⭐

“Dark things have a way of slipping in through narrow spaces.”

I think the idea for this Ravkan tale came from Hansel and Gretel.It follows Nadya as she finds out the secret of how girls went missing in Duva. The story definitely was the most disturbing and creepy ones for me. The ending has a big twist that I did not see coming a mile away, and it just made the story all that much better.

¤ The Little Knife ⭐⭐⭐. 5

“She never worried when her beauty faded, for in her reflection she always saw a free woman.”

This Ravkan tale gathers all of the familiar elements from many old fairy tales: a competition for the hand of a beautiful maiden and a trio of impossible tasks .In this story, Grisha power of a Tidemaker was mentioned and used. It’s a good story with more lesson,like Too Clever Fox. Still it managed to surprise me at the ending like all the others.

¤ The Soldier Prince ⭐⭐⭐

“Who are you when no one picks you up to hold you?” asked the Rat King. “When no one is looking at you, or whispering to you, who are you then?" 

This Kerch tale is a reimagined The Nutcracker retelling with Grisha Fabrikator magic and the spirit of a toy which comes alive. This was all about self-discovery and knowing the importance of making our own story. But I felt that the ending was very eerie and unsettling.

¤ When Water Sang Fire ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“This is the problem with making a thing forbidden. It does nothing but build an ache in the heart.”

This Fjerdan story is a retelling of The little mermaid, about a sildroher mermaid named Ulla who dreams of being able to use her singing magic as she chooses.It poses questions on the cost of magic, the sacrifices we make for our ambitions, and the price we pay to earn social acceptance. I loved every moment of this story and it was my most favorite from the whole collection.This was no doubt the perfect strong story to end the book.

P.S The Darkling made an appearance in this story!!
"The boy’s clothes were black, his hair blacker still, and he was looking directly at Ulla, the weight of his stare heavy ballast."

Overall there wasn’t a single story in this book that I didn’t liked or enjoyed reading. Every fairytale was just so well-thought-out. It is a treat for all the Bardugo fans. Even if you haven’t read any Bardugo books yet and if you're interested in dark twists in fairytales, then this one is perfect for you!
Profile Image for Natalie Monroe.
591 reviews3,541 followers
October 22, 2017
4.5 stars

"In the year that summer stayed too long, the heat lay upon the prairie with the weight of a corpse."

Can we please talk about what a goddamn gift of a writer Leigh is? Beautiful writing, to me, isn't how many constellations you can find in a love interest's freckles, or stringing together a tinsel chain of adjectives, but the ability to reinvent words. Look at that sentence. It captures the fly-buzzing, desolate atmosphere perfectly while lending a new dimension to the word corpse.

These stories are lush, thorny creatures. Each and every one of them comes with a twist. They challenge traditional fairy tales through modern morals and values—wicked sisters may not always be what they see, magic might not always follow rules.

There's very little I can say without coming off as cheap or sentimental. The Language of Thorns is a work best experienced.

So instead I'm going to give out awards.

The Creepy AF Award goes to the Kerch tale The Soldier Prince. Primarily a Nutcracker retelling, all I can say is, if this what Kaz and everyone in Ketterdam grew up listening to, no wonder they turned out to be morally deficient, gun-wielding gangsters.

Mother's Favorite goes to the Zemini-originated Ayama and the Thorn Wood. Reason? We get an extra three stories sealed in one because Ayama takes the One Thousand & Nights road in beast-slaying.

The coveted Fan-Voted Award goes to When Water Sang Fire from Fjerda. Not a spoiler, Bardugo mentioned on social media a known character would make an appearance and posted a fairly obvious excerpt. (No, I won't tell you who is)

Me, personally, didn't enjoy it as much because it shared a bit too many similarities to Marissa Meyer's the Little Mermaid retelling from Because You Love to Hate Me: 13 Tales of Villainy. However, the plot of When Water Sang Fire is far superior, as are the writing and characters.

As for our returning champions, Ravkan folklore which had been published online for free before this collection, I present...

A Tale Worthy of Kaz and Inej to The Too-Clever Fox. Fyi, Bardugo said this would be Kaz's favorite fairy tale.

A Darker Version of Hansel and Gretel If That's Even Possible Award goes to The Witch of Duva. Helpful warning not to read this over milk and cookies.

And finally, for The Little Knife, the Hufflepuff Award because it's equally brilliant and Helga Hufflepuff is an equal opportunist.

"But as you leave that dark gap in the trees behind, remember that to use a thing is not to own it. And should you ever take a bride, listen closely to her questions. In them you may hear her true name like the thunder of a lost river, like the sighing of the sea."
Profile Image for ;3.
394 reviews811 followers
June 13, 2019
this is IT chief
Profile Image for Michelle.
147 reviews235 followers
October 7, 2019
I just love the Grisha Trilogy, and “The Language of Thorns” is the icing on the cake. These six original stories are broken up into different regions: with three stories coming from Ravka, and the rest from Novyi Zem, Kerch, and Fjerda. Those who have not read Leigh Bardugo’s work are not necessarily required to read her previous novels to understand the stories. They can be enjoyed as simply that: stories.

Bardugo has nailed the fireside tale telling feel -- it’s like you can feel the warmth of the fire on your face, the cold nipping the back of your ears, and see her face lit up by the flames as she regales you with dark tales at midnight.

“Ayama and the Thorn Wood” is a really enjoyable tone-setter for the series, getting you into the voice, style, and tone of the collection, all the while telling a story of bravery.

“The Too-Clever Fox” is a fun story with a pretty gnarly climax. I didn’t guess the plot twist until it was too late, and there were a couple of moments where my skin crawled.

“The Witch of Duva” felt the closest to the fairy tales I remember from my childhood, but Bardugo, as she does so well in this collection, writes an excellent twist. This is one of my favorites.

As expected, “Little Knife” had a wonderful twist I didn’t see coming. There is a very strong message in this tale that I enjoyed reading immensely. This story is gorgeous.

“The Soldier Prince” is a pretty haunting and odd tale that built its momentum from about half-way after being a bit of a slow starter. Bardugo has done a magnificent job of creating a magical mystery as the nutcracker tries to work out what he is, his reality, and what he wants in life.

“When Water Sang Fire” is a novella that had my least favorite start to any entry in this collection, but became the best story in the book -- hands down! This story drew out a lot of emotions from me: I felt joy, sadness, anger, and a need for revenge. It was a perfect way to finish the collection -- a tale of friendship and of being different, and of loyalty and betrayal. I need a sequel for this!

Each tale is as mesmerizing as it is enjoyable and, combined with Sara Kipin’s illustrations, “The Language of Thorns” achieves a storybook quality. Every illustration draws out more curious details that fill up the border of each page as the story progresses. When the story is complete, readers are given a full double-spread of artwork to accompany the tale.

These stories offer no simple architecture of good and evil, but force you to live inside their clockworks -- fear and desire twisted together into that ideal mix that speaks both to children, intimating that the world isn't all pastels and candy, and adults who already know its dangers far too well. These tales are the epitome of brutal honesty and distorted reality.

“Love speaks in flowers. Truth requires thorns.”
Profile Image for Deborah Obida.
673 reviews602 followers
April 4, 2018
" Sometimes the unseen is not to be feared and that those meant to love us most are not always the ones who do.”

Though I've read the witch of duva before and the too clever fox, the rest are new to me.
Ayama and the thorn wood 5 stars
The too clever fox 3 stars
The witch of Duva 4 stars
The soldier Prince 5 stars
Little knife 4 stars
When water sang fire 3.5 stars

I've never been a fan of folklores but Leigh changed that plus I'll read anything she writes and this was incredible. The world building and character development that are like 50 pages long for each story is amazing. It was neither info dumping nor vague it was just perfect.

“Who are you when no one picks you up to hold you?” asked the Rat King. “When no one is looking at you, or whispering to you, who are you then?

The first story is my favourite, The stories in this book are more than retellings they are so original you'll wonder why the original work was not this great. The writing is superb and I loved it, I wanted to see how it ends at the same time I want to savor it.

This is the problem with making a thing forbidden. It does nothing but build an ache in the heart.

The stories are no where near predictable, when I thought I had it figured out, the ending will just leave me dumbfounded.

Remember that to use a thing is not to own it.

Pre Review
Yes its out! I'm going to savour this and read it despacito.

Thanks to Goodreads for that wonderful excerpt, I hope there is a ship, There ought to be a ship, poor prince.

September 26th please come faster.
Profile Image for Heather.
387 reviews16.8k followers
December 6, 2017

LOVED this book! I enjoyed all of the short stories, some more than others!
The illustrations were STUNNING!! So insanely beautiful!
Only reason why it's not a 5/5 is because there were a couple of stories I enjoyed but didn't love!

My individual rating for each story:

Amaya & The Thorn Wood: 5/5
The T00- Clever Fox: 4/5
Little Knife: 4/5
The Witch of Duva: 5/5
The Solider Prince: 4.5/5
When Water Sang Fire: 5/5

Would you guys want a video review solely on this book? Let me know!
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