The Language of Thorns

January 6, 2018

Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic. Author: Leia 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.

(Published Summary)

My Thoughts:

Oh, this is very pretty.

Each fairytale echoes an older, familiar tale, but they’re not retellings. Some of them are set before the story they echo, or after, and some of them just say what if. What if the girl realized that three impossible missions is an uncertain way to choose a husband, and said no? What if the stepmother wasn’t always evil, but assumptions were made and real culprits overlooked? What if the characters looked and saw the truth of life and didn’t believe in happily-ever-after, but still found a happily-right-now?

Leigh Bardugo is intimately familiar with fairy tales, with their language and their rules, with their heroes and their villains, with their slide from whimsical to bloody and back again. Anyone can craft a clever what-if twist, can claim to re-write fairy tales and fix their flaws; I rather think only someone who knows and loves them inside and out could craft such new tales as these, at once familiar and delightfully new.

The illustrations, by the way, are stunning. Each story has new edge-art to frame the story, the lines growing with the story – creeping out and out from the corner until it surrounds the entire page in an intricate framework setting for the climax – and every story finishes with a full-spread illustration.

Content Review:

Sexual Content: Girl can hear her parents together through the wall, “pants and moans” and thudding against the wall. /

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Language: None.

Violence: Character tells a brief story about a mother who poisoned her children. Vixen is hungry after giving birth, and “swallowed the two smallest pups right down”. Character snaps rabbit’s neck.

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