Wednesday 25 October 2017

THE LANGUAGE OF THORNS: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic by Leigh Bardugo, illustrated by Sara Kipin

Love speaks in flowers. 
Truth requires thorns.

Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid's voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy's bidding but only for a terrible price. 

 This collection of six stories includes three brand-new tales, all of them lavishly illustrated with art that changes with each turn of the page, culminating in six stunning full-spread illustrations as rich in detail as the stories themselves.

OMG. There's only one way to start this review: this book is beautiful. The  cover is so pretty, and the page illustrations are stunning.

Let's talk about the six stories...


In a kingdom where one handsome prince is treasured and the beastly one is trapped inside a labyrinth beneath the castle, there lived two very different sisters. One is beautiful and treasured, the other is treated like a maid.

Her name is Ayama, and she looks like an average girl but has more strength than most give her credit for, and a knack for telling stories that might end up saving everyone from an unseen threat...

Wow. What a great story! I loved Ayama's innocence and how smart she is. I also really liked the Beast. He's misunderstood, victimised and exiled by people too quick to judge others on how beautiful or ugly they are. These two are similar in so many ways, and together manage to change the world.

I love the beauty doesn't always equate to good moral in this story. It's a good one, that's for sure.


Koja is born an ugly, yellow-eyed, patchy-furred fox. His mother almost eats him, but he's very clever and talks his way out of an early death. Actually, he spends his life talking himself out of a lot of potentially lethal situations. And makes a string of friends because of it.

The day a skilled and silent hunter comes to the woods, the animals start vanishing. Koja knows he must do something, but for the first time, this too-clever fox might have fallen into a trap he can't talk his way out of...

Wow. This is another awesome story! So seriously awesome that I've read it several times already. This wasn't my first time.

Not only is it well written but it's riveting, and has a killer twist. I loved Koja so much. He was smart and always so willing to help others that he almost got himself caught in the worst trap of all. He might not be the prettiest fox, but he's certainly the kindest.

The true friendship that shines through at the end, put a smile on my face. And is the hidden gem in this tale.


Nadya lives in the little town of Duva. A place where the forest eats young girls. When her mother dies and her older brother is preparing to leave, her father is pursued by Karina and ends up marrying her.

Karina is cruel and doesn't like Nadya. Actually, she tells her to leave. And when she does, finds sanctuary in a hut. When Nadya eventually returns home after winter, she finds out the awful truth...

Wow. What a fantastic folk tale. It hooked me in right away. It's creepy, mysterious, and reveals a shocking ending.

Sometimes, the real monster isn't the one we first assume.


In the town of Velisyana, a stunningly beautiful girl is born. Yeva Luchova is the daughter of a wealthy Duke, but because everyone who looks her way becomes captivated by her beauty, she spends most of her days inside.

Until her father gets a selfish idea and starts setting tasks for the competitive men, making her hand in marriage the reward. Things don't go according to plan, and a man just as greedy as the duke uses the river to do his bidding. But in the end, the river might be the only one really listening to Yeva...

Another great folk tale! This time about how beauty can be a curse, how consuming greed can become, and being unheard.


Droessen is a gifted clocksmith with a miraculous touch of wonder. He mystifies wherever he goes, with whatever he creates. But what he longs for is a better, more lavish and secure life. That's when he sets his sights on a young girl from the wealthy Zelverhauses. 

He makes her a nutcracker and tells her to tell the toy all her secrets. For this toy soldier is meant to spy and entice her enough for Droessen to win her over.

But while Clara loses herself in the promise of magic and romance the nutcracker offers and real life loses all its allure compared to fantasy, the opposite happens to the soldier. He slowly begins to covet those around him and searches for a way to come to life. A way that might ultimately ruin everyone...

Wow. This is another amazing tale! One able to blend fantasy and reality so well they become tangled until no one knows what or who is real.

It also warns of what happens when we mistreat our own creations.


The sildroher live under the sea and wander out onto the shore periodically to learn the secrets of man and enjoy their company.

This is where Ulla lives a life full of rumours about her origins and why she looks so different to everyone else. But her voice and her songs are powerful, and when mixed with her eventual friend, Signy, they catch the eye of the youngest prince and become a tight trio.

When the girls are invited to be the prince's guests on shore, they're ecstatic. But strange turn of events start to change the trio, because where loyalty and friendship burn deeply in Ulla, ambition and cruelty burns brighter in Roffe. And that, plus finding out a few surprises along the way, make for a very dangerous combination that will transform all of them forever...

OMG. This story is amazing! This tale of mermaids and friendship and song and what ultimately tears them apart is beautiful to its wicked end.

I loved this retelling because it focuses on a well-known villain with a heartbreaking origin story.

The Language of Thorns story collection is truly special and deserves to be treasured. Each story is raw, heartbreaking and so beautiful in its characters and messages, that I couldn't help falling in love every time. The illustrations echo the words in a way that feels like two interwoven tales being told at once. And the conclusion for each artwork is breathtakingly beautiful. 

In case you can't tell from my constant gushing above, I LOVED this book. The stories within these gorgeous pages tell intriguing tales of family, friendship, love, betrayal, and all of them are full of good and evil. Because there can't be evil if there's no good, and there can't be good if there's no evil. But my favourites are the ones set in the nooks and crannies of the grey areas.  

This book of folklore and fairy tales is going on my keeper shelf right now! :)

The Language of Thorns, September 2017, ISBN 9781510104518, Orion Children's Books

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