language of thorns

The Language of Thorns

by Leigh Bardugo

Illustrated by Sara Kipin

Imprint, 2017

YA Fantasy Short Stories

4 cups of tea out of 11

Summary: There are six stories total and the premise of this collection is that they would have been tales that characters in her Grisha series would have heard. Most are mixes of multiple well-known fairy-tales and myths. The last, “When Water Sang Fire,” was more like a villain origin story for Ursula from The Little Mermaid though.

Like: The art. It was really pretty and fit the tone of the stories. It was also clever how the illustrations built on themselves and changed as the stories progressed.

Dislikes: There are many. None of these stories felt like tales that the Grisha series characters would have known. They don’t fit within the world already established. “Little Knife” was the only one with Grisha world terminology. One of the characters is a Tidemaker and one of the people he goes to is a Fabrikator. As mentioned before, “When Water Sang Fire” had more of a connection with the Disney movie than the world Leigh Bardugo has created. Also, they were too long with too many elements being smashed together. “The Soldier Prince” in particular was a confused mess of threads, none of which were resolved. Leigh Bardugo says in her author’s note how frustrated she was with the father in “Hansel and Gretel,” I totally agree with those frustrations, but what she decides to do with the father in “The Witch of Duva” in response made me really angry. There was also a villain monologue in “The Too-Clever Fox” that was awkward. In general there was a lot of moralizing and lessons to be learned. The twists in general felt poorly executed…

Overall this collection did not impress me. Here are some darker short story collections I’d recommend instead: Tanith Lee’s Red as Blood, Slasher Girls and Monster Boys, The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, and The Vampire Archives.


Violence: Medium – the most violent was “When Water Sang Fire” because there’s blood magic: internal organs being taken out for a spell plus the process of how they turn their tails to legs

Sexual: Medium-high mostly because of the pedophile and murderer in “The Witch of Duva”

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