It is such a shame that I’ve let this book sit on my shelf for MONTHS without reading it. I’m kicking myself for not picking it up earlier! I love the Grishaverse, utterly and completely, but I must say that The Language of Thorns is by far my favorite of anything Bardugo has produced in this universe. This book was absolutely amazing, and it’s definitely in my top three reads this year.
In this short story collection, Bardugo takes us back to the world of the Grisha, where magic, debauchery, and wickedness run as rampant as the wind. These fairy tales are the same that our beloved characters in the Six of Crows duology and the Grishaverse trilogy grew up on, and we can see how their personalities and cultures have developed around these chilling tales.
First we have a story from Novyi Zem, the western nation from which Jesper hails, called “Amaya and the Thorn Wood.” Then, we shift into Ravkan lore with “The Too-Clever Fox,” “The Witch of Duva,” and “Little Knife,” all of which harken to the wilds of Ravka which we traveled with Alina and Mal in the Grisha trilogy. Then, we sail back across the True Sea to Kerch, home to the infamous Kaz Brekker, with the story of “The Solider Prince.” The collection ends with a harrowing tale from Fjerda, “When Water Sang Fire.” Each story is rife with vivid imagery and lyrical prose, so its easy to be swept away again into the Ravkan forests and Fjerdan tundras as if we were back with the Dregs or on the march with the Darkling. Speaking of the Darkling, there is a wonderful cameo of my favorite character (of all time? For now he’s second only to Richard Campbell Gansey III), but where I least expected him to appear. The cameo, while never naming the Darkling, gives interesting insight into his past and his mother in new and exciting ways.
My favorite was probably “The Witch of Duva” because it caused me to sit in suspended silence for a while when I finished it. The ending was a terrible surprise, the plot was chilling, and there was some gore and magic that was just too wicked to resist. I also heartily enjoyed “Little Knife” as well. I can’t talk about why I loved them very much because of spoilers! I think a lot of the power of these stories are their twists and turns, and though I really want to examine them more closely, I don’t want to take away the joy of the first reading away from anyone!
I really adored every single one of the stories, for their themes of resistance, independence, and unbound power. The girl power in this collection was so moving, and Bardugo was able to have it manifest in some oblique ways that lent a lot of charm and character to the tales. Bardugo really proved herself a master of her world and the master of language in these lyrical and darkly beautiful stories.
On top of the beauty of the prose, the physical book itself is mesmerizing. It’s clear that Bardugo and her team were especially careful about each detail of this collection. The dust jacket cover with the gold-ish/orange foil is like flame, and the ice blue thistle work is so lovely against the foil and the black. The hardcover itself is likewise embellished with gold foil with the initials of the Grishaverse in the center. Each story is accompanied by an illustration by Sara Kipin as well, and their placement at the end of each tale allows the illustration to take on a life of its own. There are also illustrations on the margins of each page, which connect to the story and grow as you read. It’s the perfect balance between the mature readers walls of prose and the child’s story book pictures. The illustrations are so exquisite. Every aspect of this book is perfect and captivating.
I wasn’t planning to get back around to the Grisha trilogy for a while, but now I really want to get my hands back on those stories, armed now with more knowledge about the world and the cultures. I deeply love The Language of Thorns, and completely, from the bottom of my heart, recommend them to anyone who has dabbled in the Grishaverse, who likes fairy tales, or who loves how words can fit together.
Have you read The Language of Thorns? What did you think? Which tale was your favorite?