Book Review: “The Language Of Thorns: Midnight Tales And Dangerous Magic” by Leigh Bardugo

Warning: This book review contains some spoilers for short stories from the collection “The Language Of Thorns: Midnight Tales And Dangerous Magic” by Leigh Bardugo. If you’re trying to avoid spoilers, back out now before you read more of this review!

Happy March, everyone! I hope your February was great, and that March is just as wonderful for all of you!

I’m back with another book review, and this time I’m reviewing the short story collection “The Language Of Thorns: Midnight Tales And Dangerous Magic” by Leigh Bardugo! I’ve read short story collections based off fairytales before, so I was glad to pick up something in that category to read again. Because this is a short story collection, I have to rate this a little differently than I would with a normal multi-chapter novel. Here’s the summary so we know what it’s about:

Cover of “The Language Of Thorns: Midnight Tales And Dangerous Magic” by Leigh Bardugo.

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.

Inspired by myth, fairy tale, and folklore, #1 New York Times–bestselling author Leigh Bardugo has crafted a deliciously atmospheric collection of short stories filled with betrayals, revenge, sacrifice, and love.

Perfect for new readers and dedicated fans, these tales will transport you to lands both familiar and strange—to a fully realized world of dangerous magic that millions have visited through the novels of the Grishaverse.

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.”

Plot Development: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Worldbuilding Development: 4.5 out of 5 stars

There are some rather unique concepts in this book. Some are obvious retellings of fairytales, like “Ayama And The Thorn Wood” and “The Witch of Duva.” However, others like “The Soldier Prince” and “When Water Sang Fire” explore other concepts, like: What goes on in the Nutcracker Prince’s head after Clara has grown up? How did Ursula come to be who she was? I thought those concepts were really fun read overall, and all of them, for the most part, were executed very well in its given storytelling and worldbuilding. There were a few instances where the magic system didn’t make as much sense as I felt it should, like in “When Water Sang Fire” for example, but it didn’t detract me entirely from the story as a whole.

Also, bonus points for the added illustrations helping guide the stories along! It didn’t distract me from reading any of the stories at all. In fact, it actually helped give the stories a lot more life. I just actually wish some of them were longer, and I think some concepts, like Drossem’s appearance and how he factors in “The Soldier Prince” for example, could be extended into novellas giving more detail on their backstories and various situations that impact them.

Character Development: 5 out of 5 stars

These short stories really stand out due to their characters. You have the trickster fox, the Ursula-in-the-making, the girl who isn’t loved due to her looks while her sister gets all the praise for said looks, another girl so beautiful that literally everyone fights over her (but they all get taught a lesson at the end, which I won’t spoil here). All of them are so well written in the short time the reader gets to know them in each story.

My personal favourite characters were the Nutcracker from “The Soldier Prince” as well as Ayama from “Ayama And The Thorn Wood” because I could sympathize with their backstories, and their own drives to do what they wanted to do for a change instead of going along with other people’s wishes. Unfortunately, that’s all I can really say or else I’ll give away major spoilers in their respective short stories as a whole.

Overall, I’m rating this collection 4.5 out of 5 stars!

If you’re looking for some dark takes on fairytales, this is definitely a collection you should check out. My personal favourite short stories out of this collection were “Ayama And The Thorn Wood” and “The Soldier Prince!”

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