A Language of Thorns is the very first book I have read from Leigh Bardugo and it didn’t disappoint. This novel consists of 6 fairytales that characters in the Grisha Trilogy essentially would have been brought up in. The book as a whole was great, but each story has a different form of excitement and meaning to me that simply rating it as a whole wouldn’t do it any justice. Let’s not also forget how beautiful the cover and illustrations bordered each story it accompanied. A few of the stories were new and refreshing while others had a similarity of the fairytales I have learned and heard as a child. Folks this review will be a long one, so brace yourselves.
Ayama and the Thorn Wood [4.5 out of 5 stars]
Summary: It begins with the story of the monster prince that was banished. This monster prince grows into an adult and mysterious things are happening to the kingdom’s people. Murders and disappearances from what the King can only assume is done by the hands of his monster son. Ayama comes into the mix as a girl who is considered not as pretty as her sister and used by her parents for chores. After a call from the kingdom to help tame the monster, Ayama becomes the unlikely hero and prepares herself for three journeys to the monster prince. Through each visit Ayama becomes familiar with this ‘monster’ and begins to see who this monster prince truly is. For spoiler free sake, I will not tell the ending but I will mention that I was a bit surprised with the outcome of it. I did enjoy the cleverness of Ayama. She used her power to be able to show truth to everyone in the kingdom and finally found the respect she so rightfully deserved, especially from her family. Her development as a character blossomed from the one thing she needed the most, a voice.
– It was a well written story and the biggest takeaway was when Ayama finally stood up for herself and saved the kingdom from themselves
– It felt at times like I was reading a jumbled version of fairytales
– The relationship between Ayama and the monster prince wasn’t as developed as I wanted it to be and probably didn’t seem as realistic – although their relationship wasn’t the focus point of the story so I will give it that
– Ayama characters seems submissive but its only because she hasn’t had the opportunity to find her voice and when she does I am excited!
– Her rise to power wasn’t surprising but it was definitely pleasant
– Thoroughly enjoyed Ayama being the unsung hero -there are not many female heroes in fairytales, so having this as a modern fairytale is great
– Ayama’s relationship with her sister was heartwarming because her sister is the only person who truly cares about her and her well being
The Two Clever Fox [3 put pf 5 stars]
Summary: The Too Clever Fox was probably the one I probably did not enjoy as much as I wanted to. However, that is not to say that it wasn’t a pleasant read. The fox was the smallest of the litter and survived his mother’s hunger through his clever way of hiding under his siblings. From this beginning, I already predicted that this would be his story being a clever fox. As he grew he was able to use his cleverness to escape the deadliest of situations. However, I did not expect his story to take the turn that it did. SPOILER: The fox was ultimately tricked by a hunter he believed to be his friend. However, an unlikely friend, the hummingbird was there to save him. The one takeaway I did like from the story was that although one may be clever, one must also possess wisdom in order to overcome even the slyest of creatures/humans. I think the familiarity of this story made it difficult for me to feel that breath of freshness in a story that I’ve read with the first one.
– I would say this is a an okay story mostly because it is so familiar
– The fox may have infuriated me on multiple occasions because he used his cleverness to an unsafe advantage
– It was as if he was testing death each time to see who will win the battle
– Enters the hunter disguised as a friend and I am wondering whether the fox will realize this trap
– He doesn’t realize the obvious trick and I was a bit disappointed
– The hummingbird was definitely a hero in more ways than one. I wished they added more to her.
– The scene between the hunter and hummingbird was well described and pretty brutal
– Biggest takeaway – you have to be both wise and clever to be able to get through even the toughest obstacles
The Witch of Duva [5 out of 5 stars]
Summary: The third fairytale, The Witch of Duva was one of my favorites in the book. Young Nadya has heard of the disappearances of young girls in the woods of Duva. However, Nadya knows that the sweets scents wouldn’t entice her to her doom. Throughout this story she loses her mother, watches her father marry someone she finds bewitching and deals with the torment of this woman. With all this on her plate and feeling oh so hungry from days of little food, Nadya is enticed by the sweet scents and stumbles upon the home of a witch. Days pass and Nadya learns that the witch is less harmful than she expected. The witch warns her of a more sinister presence and uses a decoy of Nadya made by gingerbread to show her the real truth. The twist on this story was shocking because the entire time the person I knew wholeheartedly would be the incriminating source was completely wrong. Leigh Bardugo did a great job with the plot twist along with the details for the events.
– Wow this story was fantastic. Form the imagery to the twists, I read through this story in one swoop
– Poor Nadya, I really did feel bad for her when her mom died and her dad just kind of shut down
– Karina was a suspicious character because there wasn’t enough to know otherwise, until the end. Who knew she could have sense to her madness.
– I was frustrated with Nadya for walking into the woods and not listening to her grandmother’s warnings
– The descriptions of the witch reminded me of Hansel and Gretel , except the witch was not preparing a child feast
– Who would’ve thought the witch would actually help Nadya.
– The ending was shocking. I did not see it coming. For spoiler free sake, I’ll have you reading but wow!
– Overall I was very impressed with this. Although the descriptions of food did make me a bit hungry
Little Knife [4 out of 5 stars]
Summary: Little Knife was an intriguing fairytale. A kingdom with a daughter so beautiful, she was sheltered her whole life from the public view to prevent her kidnapping. When she grew of age, it was time for the King to find a suitor. The king called the all the men in the kingdom. In order to win the his daughter’s hand, a man would have to complete three challenges. Although the king had his bet for the prince in the crowd to win, another man had his eye on both the princess and the kingdom. Semyon had a secret weapon which allowed him to complete each mission with ease. What Semyon did not realize was that this very weapon would go against him after feeling used and unappreciated. After the truth is spoken, only one person truly sees a happy ending and for a spoiler free review, I’ll keep it a secret. I actually enjoyed learning the princess choice because throughout the story I kept reflecting back on it and realize it would have been the best choice to show everyone that at the end, she made that final decision.
– So the king has a beautiful princess and he locks her away – yup I’ve heard that a couple of times.
– So in order to win the princess’s hand, one man must complete three missions. It sounds okay but why doesn’t the king just listen to his daughters concern.
– I get that the king wanted the prince because of wealth and royalty but did he seriously think that he was capable just because he had people to do the job for him?
– So Semyon has this special weapon that allows him o complete the tasks to win the princesses hand. I kept wondering if it was going to last long or if this weapon would fight back since Semyon wasn’t very appreciative of its help
– So the weapon did fight back! I honestly wanted Semyon to realize that he didn’t complete the tasks on his own but his own pride would not let it happen.
– I am so glad the princess took the decision she did. She showed both the men and her father that no competition or word form a man would seal her fate.
– This story was another okay story. It was pretty predictable and just didn’t have the flow of excitement the other stories may have shown
The Soldier Prince [3.5 out of 5 stars]
Summary: The Soldier Prince, the fifth fairytale initially gave me vibes that this was a twisted retelling of the Nutcracker. Although characters like the nutcracker and the rat king did appear, this fairytale was a bit different than we would think. Drossen, a master craftsman’s created the nutcracker for Clara whom he was very fond of. Clara daily would escape with the nutcracker and before he eyes each time she asked are you my darling, the nutcracker would come to life. This was an ongoing escaped. As Clara got older, her parents became worrisome that she will not be able to find a suitor. During this time, the nutcracker was also learning and growing and figuring out what was going on. With the help of the rat king, the nutcracker realized that he did not want to be in that cupboard anymore, he wanted to see the real world. Clara was distressed to hear this and only wanted to escape into the lavish dances and parties she was used to. What makes this story fascinating is finding out how the nutcracker was able to feel essentially human. With the nutcracker finally receiving his wish, the story ends with a summary of what happened to the family and a familiar phrase spoken to a familiar, yet different figure.
– This story brought such nostalgia. It reminded me a lot of the nutcracker.
– So, Drossen is this master sculptor who also may posses magic?
– Oh, Clara, sweet Clara you really cannot be that naive can you? – Oh, yeah you can.
– So the nutcracker can turn into a real human soldier and bring Clara to magical adventures. Does this occur in Clara’s subconscious as she sleeps or is there some actuality to these events?
– I really enjoyed when the nutcracker with the help of the rat king realized he wanted something more. This began his journey of figuring out how to live and hurt the one he cares most about
– I wished Clara did grow up a little. Although she was a women, she had such an escapist mind that she didn’t realize she was fighting for a toy
– [SPOILER] I was not expecting how much Drossen was involved in the mind of the nutcracker. I thought it was a little magic, but didn’t realize a real sacrifice of his own soul created the soldier prince
– Walking down memory lane was great and this was definitely a delightful read.
When Water Sang Fire [5 out of 5 stars]
Summary: The last fairytale and one that was definitely a clever one was the fire sings in the water. We are introduced to two mermaids who form an unlikely friendship. One as beautiful as fire and one with hair as dark as midnight and voice almost too human. In this story, their voices and their signs can create spells for them. The two young maidens sing a spell to make them human to go above water. During their time on land, they are partying with a prince and living a human dream. However, not all seems as good as it looks in this tale. One girl is enticed into believing that creating a spell by killing a human can make the king see that fire can be made underwater. When the secret is out that Ulla has been fooled by the prince and betrayed by beauty, her true powers are brought to life and she wreaks havoc.
– Ulla is such a powerful character form the beginning that seeing her in the end just add more excitement to the anticipation leading up to it
– Signy felt like the typical character where her beauty would make her noticeable but as a person she wasn’t the greatest.
– I was disappointed with how Signy betrayed Ulla. Ulla just figured out her lineage and also the true plans of the prince. She needed a friend and warned Signy, but Signy only saw the crown and blind love
– I really enjoyed how their magic was through the power of their voices. This story definitely gave me the Disney version of little mermaid vibes.
– Ulla as the personification of Ursula was something I was delighted to see her to life.
– Finding out Ulla’s parentage was surreal, especially since it proved the rumors true that she grew up with her whole life
– Ulla’s wrath was intense, but logical. She had the ultimate betrayal form both her best friend and the prince. I essentially felt sorry for Ulla because the whole time she believed what she was doing was right.
Book Title: The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Imprint Publishing
Page Count: 288 pages
Where to buy: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, The Strand, Books of Wonder, Mysterious Galaxy