I can make this very easy for all of you! I love fairy tales, I love Leigh Bardugo, I love the Grishaverse and I love books with beautiful illustrations all lead to me adoring and falling in love with The Language of Thorns. There was no way around it and I honestly never really doubted it to begin with. However, I know that makes for a really poor review, so I am shortly going to review each of the stories.
Disclaimer: It is not strictly necessary to have read any of the Grishaverse books beforehand, although I suspect the tales will be more fun that way.
Ayama and the Thorn Wood
Rating: 5/5 stars
“You know how the stories go. Interesting things only happen to pretty girls, you will be home by sunset.”
Well, wrong! This one was my absolute favorite and I think it had a lot to do with the message of the story. It was like a mix between Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast but with the complete opposite moral – you don’t have to be beautiful or handsome to go on adventures, to be brave and strong and most of all to be appreciated. It gave me such a sweet taste of how Leigh Bardugo would continue to deconstruct these tales we all know so well and make them her own, a lot darker and in quite a few cases way better.
The Too-Clever Fox
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
“A lesser creature might have closed his eyes and prayed for nothing more than a quick death. But if Koja had words, then he had hope.”
I liked the idea of having a fox (by the name of Koja) as the hero of the story. His wit and fast thinking got him out of every situation until it didn’t. For this one I saw the twist coming, but I still appreciated how the story ended quite a bit.
Little teaser for this one: Koja is supposedly Kaz Brekker’s (Six of Crows) favorite, so if that is no reason to check it out then I don’t know.
The Witch of Duva
Rating: 3/5 stars
“Fly away now, little bird,” she said. “Some things are better left unseen.”
The closest fairy tale to compare it to would probably be Hansel and Gretel, however, I just want to point out that Leigh Bardugo goes far beyond all the traditional tales’ constraints. I don’t exactly know what it was about this one, but it definitely fell among the most disturbing ones for me and they are all … peculiar in that way. One thing is for sure, nothing is as it seems here!
Rating: 4/5 stars
“She never worried when her beauty faded, for in her reflection she always saw a free woman.”
While Little Knife has a lot of classic fairy tale elements, such as impossible tasks and suitors battling for the hand of the most beautiful woman in town, it still has such a positively refreshing message about female independence and women’s identity. I liked how Little Knife reinforced the idea that it is not necessary for every single being to end up in a romantic relationship in the end.
The Soldier Prince
Rating: 4/5 stars
“My life began with wanting something for myself.”
The vague resemblance to the nutcracker definitely peaked my interest for this story. Yet, instead of the transformative power of love being the main focus it is rather about finding your own wants and human desires; that need to live for yourself instead of the people around you. I enjoyed this little journey of self-discovery that very much reminded me of artificial intelligence becoming conscious. It also had one of the most eerie endings out of all the six.
When Water Sang Fire
Rating: 5/5 stars
“A thousand desperate wishes have been spoken on these shores, and in the end they are all the same: Make me someone new.”
Let’s face it, this was basically the very dark yet still incredibly beautiful original take on the origin story of Ursula from the Little Mermaid. I loved every single word of it!
So, those were my thoughts on the Language of Thorns! As a final statement, I just really want to praise Sara Kipin’s illustrations that beautifully unfold as you continue with each story. They made the tales truly special and assured that 5-star-rating in the end.
Fazit: 5/5 stars! The most beautiful addition to the Grishaverse possible!
Have you read The Language of Thorns or other books set in the Grishaverse? What are your thoughts?