Book Review: The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

I want to preface this review by saying that you don’t need to read Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy or Six of Crows duology to appreciate this book.

This book is for anyone who has ever been made to feel like their worth was determined by their beauty. It’s for anyone who has ever felt like they weren’t loved by the people who were supposed to love them most. For anyone who has been betrayed by someone who claimed to love them. It’s for anyone who’s ever felt like their own needs and desires didn’t matter, like they were just a tool to foster happiness in everyone around them. It’s for anyone who’s ever wanted something more than the role the world assigned them. It’s for anyone who’s ever felt tired of being stepped on and still being a good person anyway — anyone who’s ever had a cold, hard, little ball of resentment build in their chest because of it. This book is for anyone who’s ever been hurt, angry, lonely, trapped, or frustrated. And this book is for anyone who’s ever felt a little uneasy about the messages imparted by fairy tales, their general senselessness. The stories in The Language of Thorns are anything but conventional. “Ayama and the Thorn Wood” is something like a cross between “Beauty and the Beast” and The One Thousand and One Nights, with Ayama’s own tales subverting the conventions of the fairy tale. “The Too Clever Fox,” as far as I can tell, is not based on any other story, but is its own clever, sorrowful little thing. “The Witch of Duva” is definitely the most disturbing story of the bunch, but it’s gorgeous and it has Baba Yaga undertones. “Little Knife” is a small feminist masterpiece that probably has roots in many fairy tales and turns them all on their heads. “The Soldier Prince” is a surprising and sympathetic take on The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. “When Water Sang Fire” is a sort of prequel to “The Little Mermaid,” and can almost be considered a novella. I can’t choose a favourite from the collection, but it’s between “Ayama and the Thorn Wood” and “When Water Sang Fire.” Each story is beautifully illustrated, but even more beautifully crafted through Bardugo’s writing. You don’t need to read any of Bardugo’s other works to appreciate this one.

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