The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

This book is beautiful.

I don’t mean the writing (although that’s great too), I mean the cover is gorgeous, the pages are illustrated, and the font is all coloured to match the illustrations.

It’s beautiful.

The stories inside are all from Bardugo’s Grishaverse, the universe of Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows. These aren’t short stories that follow around beloved characters after another series is done. The Language of Thorns explores the fairy tales of this world and some of them are quite a treat.

I’ll be picking a few of my favourite stories and giving in depth reviews of them, but also giving the overall collection a score.

Ayama and the Thorn Wood

This story has all the classic makings of a fairytale. A cruel king, a beast exiled beneath a castle, and a girl who is the only one who can soothe him.

The king marries a peasant girl and instead of giving him a healthy baby boy, she gives birth to a demon. Horrified by his son’s appearance, he locks him in a labyrinth beneath the castle. But what happens when the monster breaks free and starts to terrorize the countryside?

I’ll leave it at that, and let you finish the story on your own.

Ayama and the Thornwood gets a 4/5 from me for a beautiful setting and a satisfying ending. I really enjoyed it.

The Witch of Duva

The town of Duva has long been terrified of the forest that takes its daughters in the night, even though the forest has been quiet for years. One day the disappearances begin again, just as Nadya’s mother dies and her father remarries. Nadya gets lost one night and meets the fearsome Witch of Duva. Is this the creature who has been stealing away girls in the night?

Again, this story had a beautiful setting but was much more gruesome than others in the collection. This story gets a 4/5 from me and I highly recommend it.

Little Knife

Little Knife is the story of a Princess so beautiful, it’s more of a curse than a blessing. When she comes of age the King hopes to marry her off, but only to a worthy suitor. So he issues a challenge of increasing difficulty. Semyon the Ragged is determined to win the princess’ hand, so he enlists the help of the river, Little Knife, to complete each of the tasks.

Again Bardugo has given us a vivid setting that is particularly strong in this story. I like the personification of Little Knife and the ending was especially good. 5/5 for Little Knife.

Overall, this collection is a 4/5 stars. There were very few short stories that I didn’t think were exceptional and the illustrations really tie everything together. Highly recommend The Language of Thorns.

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