Favorite Quote: “Love speaks in flowers. Truth Requires thorns.”
This was one of my favorite reads of the whole year! While usually, I’m not a huge fan of short stories, Bardugo’s writing had me hooked from the very first page. Styled in the tradition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, The Language of Thorns contains six fantasy tales and retellings that spark the imagination and re-illustrate some of the most famous and beloved stories with a beautiful dark twist. Rather than a usual review, this will serve as more of spotlight in which I will emphasize my thoughts and favorite (spoiler free!) aspects of each of the stories listed below.
Ayama and the Thorn Wood-This opening tale is loosely based on the greek mythological story of the minotaur, and it was absolutely brilliant! Rather than placing a high value on physical beauty like so many fairy tales, this story prizes the main characters’ uniqueness and compassion—an aspect that I found made it infinitely more touching and memorable.
The Too-Clever Fox-Like the title, this tale is very cleverly told. It revolves around a fox who believes he can outsmart a famed hunter. Without giving away any spoilers, his pride ends up costing him dearly in the end, and one of the things I liked about this one was that it reminded me of the countless parables and folktales I read in storybooks from when I was younger.
The Witch of Duva-This disturbing tale seems to be based loosely on Hansel and Gretel, and was every bit as dark as the comparison implies. While fantastical, this story, however, explores the horror and darkness within the ordinary and is made every bit as enthralling and disturbing because of it.
Little Knife-Like The Too-Clever Fox, this story reads more like a parable than a regular short story or fairy tale complete with a simple but powerful moral at the end. I also love the way Bardugo speaks directly to the reader as if relating an old haunting folktale while sitting by the fireside on a chilly winter night.
The Soldier Prince – I absolutely loved this retelling of the Nutcracker from the titular character’s point of view. In this tale, the “Soldier Prince” longs to be human and gain freedom over his own fate, and the way Bardugo recreates all the other well known characters such as Clara and the Mouse King while also beautifully illustrating the poignancy of time passing and life’s choices is as real and raw as it is enchanting.
When Water Sang Fire -How can I adequately describe this without giving the ending away? All I can say is that it’s a retelling of the Little Mermaid but with some dark and heartrending twists that leave you thinking about the story long after the story has ended. This is a great haunting tale to end this anthology!
📚✔︎ Would recommend for fans of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Hans Christian Andersen, and dark fantasy.
If I could summarize this book in two words: darkly mesmerizing
Check out the official summary of the Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo on goodreads.
My rating (out of 5 stars): ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️