The Language of Thorns

The Language of Thorns

Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic

Book - 2017
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Presents a collection of six short stories that transports readers to familiar and strange magical lands with haunted towns, hungry woods, talking beasts, and gingerbread golems.
Publisher: New York :, Imprint,, 2017.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9781250122520
Branch Call Number: TEEN FICTION Bardugo Leigh
Characteristics: 242 pages :,color illustrations ;,25 cm
Additional Contributors: Bardugo, Leigh


From Library Staff

Presents a collection of six short stories that transports readers to familiar and strange magical lands with haunted towns, hungry woods, talking beasts, and gingerbread golems.

Presents a collection of six short stories that transports readers to familiar and strange magical lands with haunted towns, hungry woods, talking beasts, and gingerbread golems.

List - Hebah's staff picks
JCLHebahA Apr 10, 2018

This short story collection is one of the most beautiful books I've read--literally beautiful with art reminiscent of illuminated manuscripts. And it interrogates fairy tale tropes and endings to boot, which is one of my favorite things.

List - Miss Charlou Reads YA
JCLCharlouL Jan 07, 2018

Ah, tales of deceit and cunning and and danger and blood, with a few brambles along the way. These are my kind of fairy tales where the wicked aren't just the witches. Beautiful illustrations change subtly on each page telling the story in their own way.

List - Hebah's 2018 Top Ten
JCLHebahA Dec 20, 2018

This is literally the most beautiful book I read this year. Each fairy tale in here is illustrated like a subtly evolving illuminated manuscript.

From the critics

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Mar 26, 2020

This book is a selection of six short stories retelling various fairy tales. These versions have a hint of the original story, but they take the darker, more twisted route than the usual "happily ever after" that is more commonly seen in fairy tales. Although these stories are interesting takes on the original versions, most of the stories tend to go towards the horror spectrum instead of the fairy tale spectrum. Each story is well written and the endings are not so clearly seen as they are being read. This book is for anyone who enjoys twisty tales that hinge on dark themes.

Feb 11, 2019

I love this author and both of her series, but this collection of stories did not pull me in.

Dec 06, 2018

I love fairy tales, but I often find that they lose something when they're retold. The Language of Thorns is that rare collection that manages to put unique twists on old stories without losing that vital spark of magic. I haven't read anything else by Leigh Bardugo, but these stories make me want to devour her Grisha trilogy immediately.

Dec 05, 2018

The illustrations are so amazing and give the stories a definite elevation over other short story fantasies. The stories never ended how I expected them and the last one blew my damn mind. I love a good throwback.

Jun 27, 2018

If you love dark fairy tales with a twist, this is an absolute must read! You might appreciate it more having read the author's Grisha trilogy, but even with my limited background (I'm only partway through the series) I loved this book. The stories were well-written and each story had a surprising twist at the end! My favourite stories of the six were "The Duva Witch" and "When Water Sang Fire".

Jun 16, 2018

These twisted fairy tales are dark and magical. I absolutely loved all 6 of them. While you can read these short stories with no prior context, I would highly recommend reading the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo first (as I did), because then you can truly appreciate the setting and subtle hints to the Grisha world building.

Feb 12, 2018

“This is the problem with making a thing forbidden. It does nothing but build an ache in the heart.”

I felt pleasantly unsettled while reading these stories (3 of which I had read before as ebooks over the past 5 years). I was happy to see them again. Bardugo does an excellent job making these tales her own, while keeping elements of the familiar in the background. Sara Kipin’s lustrous illustrations made this collection even more enticing and magical. Wish I could re-read the final story, “When Water Sang oFire,” again and again as though it were the first time.

OPL_KrisC Jan 31, 2018

I love reading anything by Leigh Bardugo and this was no exception. I especially enjoyed the illustrations in the margins and how they progressed with each of the short stories. The illustrations were gorgeous.

Jan 10, 2018

I don't usually read a lot of short stories, but found this dark, faerytale collection especially stunning. Well-crafted stories enhanced by unique and ever-changing art. Definitely worth picking up.

Nov 07, 2017

THE LANGUAGE OF THORNS by Leigh Bardugo is a gorgeous anthology of six fairytale-like illustrated stories set in the Grishaverse. Whether you’ve read every Bardugo book or the Grishaverse is entirely new to you, there will be a story to enchant and frighten you. The illustrations were stunning and truly made the stories.

The format of the book: the writing would be in the usual place, taking up most of the page with illustrations surrounding it.

I loved that as you turned the page, the illustration would be added to, as if you’ve been given another clue as to how the story will end. The more you read, the more hints you’re given. The pages that followed the end of the story would be a completely illustrated two-page spread. It just added so much to the anthology.

The only reason I didn’t give this book 5 stars was because sometimes I get annoyed with that common fairytale narrative “a couple had a daughter but she was boring/ugly/useless so they treated her more like a servant but the daughter became used to it so oh well” or “she was so beautiful everyone wanted to marry her but also very kind”. I know they’re central aspects of a fairytale but they still annoy me.

Here are my individual ratings and thoughts on each short story:

Ayama and the Thorn Wood – 4/5 stars – I liked this one and it was definitely the right story to start the anthology. Bardugo explains in the author’s note where her inspiration for this story came from, but I saw different fairytales and myths in this one.

The Too-Clever Fox – 5/5 stars – This is probably my third-favourite story in the collection. I loved Koja, the “too-clever fox” and I didn’t guess the plot twist until it was too late.

The Witch of Duva – 3.5/5 stars – I’ve read this one before so it didn’t entertain me as much as the first time but I still didn’t guess the ending until halfway through.

Little Knife – 5/5 stars – I absolutely loved this one! This is probably my favourite out of all of them, simply because the ending truly wowed me. I didn’t see it coming and now I’m imagining so many possibilities, of what happened after the ending. Just superb!

The Soldier Prince – 4/5 stars – I liked the last half more than the first. I really loved the way it ended. This one was set in Kerch and when I read Six of Crows (hopefully soon) I’ll be looking for hints of this story in the SoC duology.

When Water Sang Fire – 5/5 stars – This one would’ve been my favourite because mermaids! if the ending of Little Knife hadn’t wowed me so much. This story deserves a gold star or something for drawing the most emotion out of me. I felt joy, sadness, anger and a need for revenge!! The ending had closure and I can pretty much guess what a sequel would entail but I still need one.


That being said, the more I think about the ending, the more angry I am. I would’ve taken a happy ending over a character who’s fate is basically to become an anti-hero or villain. I actually thought Ulla and Signy would end up throwing the prince away and rule together as queens. I don’t know, that’s what I got from the way they interacted with each other.


I would still 100% recommend this book.

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Nov 24, 2017

"She remains to this day, waiting for the lonely, the ambitious, the clever, the frail, for all those willing to strike a bargain. She never has t wait long. "

-When Water Sang Fire

Nov 24, 2017

"You see, some people are born with a piece of night inside, and that holloe plae can never be filled- not with all the good food or sunshine in the world. That emptiness cannot be banished, and so some days we wake up with the feeling of the wind blowing through, and we must simply endure it."

Nov 24, 2017

"They pray their children will be brave and clever and strong, that they will tell the true stories instead of the easy ones. They pray for sons with red eyes and daughters with horns."

- Ayama and the Thorn Wood

Nov 24, 2017

Love speaks in flowers. Truth requires thorns.


Add Age Suitability
Jun 16, 2018

rapunzel454 thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

OPL_KrisC Apr 05, 2018

OPL_KrisC thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over


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