Book Review: The Language of Thorns

Language of Thorns

The Language of Thorns is a wonderful book for those who love fairy tales, or are fans of the great Leigh Bardugo.

This gorgeously illustrated book is comprised of six re-imagined fairy tales set in the Grishaverse, or the world of Shadow and Bone (if you haven’t read any of that series, no matter. You’ll easily be able to jump right in.). The tales range from a retelling of “The Nutcracker” and “Hansel and Gretel” to “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Little Mermaid,” which has a particularly intriguing title “When Water Sang Fire.”

In each story, the illustrations drawn by Sara Kipin grow page-by-page; words and pictures develop together. The stories themselves are deliciously dark. Traditionally unsympathetic characters are, sometimes, the ones we cheer on; for instance, in “The Soldier Prince” (obviously The Nutcracker), the Rat King is an ally. Conversely, the traditionally sympathetic characters become more sinister and wicked. One of my favorite stories in The Language of Thorns is “The Witch of Duva” which plays with the wicked stepmother archetype. Additionally, the main characters of each story are admirable, strong, and come to life off the page. They will stay with you long after you finish reading.

Among the many lessons that fairy tales teach readers, the biggest one to come out of The Language of Thorns is this: it is a harsh world we live in and you must learn to be strong in order to survive in it. And if that is too harsh a lesson to learn, you can at least enjoy the fantastic, magic world that Leigh Bardugo creates with her words.


Taraneh has been happily living in NYC for over a decade, but originally hails from the Midwest. Enamored with books at a young age, she grew up making stories, playing make believe, and loving the musical and performing arts. She is great at binge-watching TV shows. Some current favorites: Schitt's Creek, A Court of Mist & Fury, Prince Harry, and The Magicians.

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