The Language of Thorns
Short blurb: 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. A lavishly illustrated collection of six tales.
This is highly debatable because of my love for Six of Crows, but this may be my favorite thing that Leigh Bardugo has ever written. It’s dark and gorgeous and completely unexpected, and so beautifully written. By weaving in references to (or even whole chunks of) the fairytales we know, she uses our expectations against us to give stories with the aura of classic fairytales new twists.
Bardugo describes in the author’s note her inspiration for the collection (her dissatisfaction with the ending of many fairytales), and it’s very evident in these stories, in more ways than one. There is Ayama and the Thorn Wood’s in-text rejection of traditional endings, which sets the tone for the whole anthology, and there are stories such as The Witch of Duva and The Soldier Prince that reject the original stories’ status quo more subtly. Basically, I have nicknamed the collection Fairytales For Fuck The Patriarchy, because that’s what it is — bold and new and unrelentingly rewriting our stories.
Why should beautiful princesses be passive objects of quests and challenges? Why should these stories only include men who love women, and vice versa? The Language of Thorns answers its own questions: they shouldn’t.