February 22, 2018

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The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo | SLJ Review

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redstarBARDUGO, Leigh. The Language of Thorns. 288p. Imprint. Sept. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250122520.

Gr 9 Up –This follow-up to the popular “Grisha” trilogy and its companion “Six of Crows” duology is a collection of atmospheric short stories and an excellent introduction to the Grishaverse for new readers and a satisfying expansion of the world for seasoned fans. The six entries (including three previously published by Tor.com) are inspired by the cultures found in the “Grishaverse” as well as traditional fairy-tales, folk tales, and myths. Every work is accompanied by Sarah Kipin’s border illustrations, which grow around the pages as the tales unfold, culminating in a double-page illustration at the end of each story. In “Ayama and the Thorn Wood,” a tale with nods to Cinderella and One Thousand and One Nights, Ayama ventures into the Thorn Wood where she must speak truth while placating a fearsome beast with fanciful stories. “The Soldier Prince” explores themes of identity and desire when a demon named Droessen creates a nutcracker soldier who comes to life—but is being alive the same as being real? The collection finishes with “When Water Sang Fire” about a sildroher mermaid named Ulla who dreams of being able to use her singing magic as she chooses, until her attempt to create a fire that will burn underwater ends in betrayal and heartbreak. Themes of feminism and empowerment color each story with heroes and heroines given the chance to choose their own fates and stir the pot, for better or worse. VERDICT Strong writing, compelling stories, and gorgeous illustrations make this collection a must-have for fans of the author and readers eager for new fairy-tale retellings to devour.–Emma Carbone, Brooklyn Public Library

This review was published in the School Library Journal October 2017 issue.

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