Spine Tingling and Surprising: The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo


  • my rating: 4 stars
  • published by: Macmillan
  • genres: fantasy, short story
  • diversity: Lesbian coded characters, depression representation (coded)
  • where to purchase: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads


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.

I feel a bit bad for Leigh Bardugo, because my bar is so high with her. Six of Crows is honestly so good, I actually expect nothing less then perfection from her. So when she said she was bringing out this collection of short stories from the Grisha universe I was pretty excited, and maybe a little nervous.

Let me establish a Fact: I love the Grisha universe. Everytime it grows it excites me a little more. I think what I love most about it is that it’s a little bit creepy, a little bit weird at times. Leigh Bardugo really goes out of her way to make this world gritty – so much about this world gives me the spine tingles. It’s got dark magic, shattered stories. This world is set firmly on dark foundations and I think Leigh Bardugo really emphasises that in her story.

The Language of Thorns surprises you at every turn. Each story is interesting, suspenseful and best of all: unpredictable. While the composition of the stories feels familiar, often mimicking the general set up of common fairy tales from our world,Leigh Bardugo undermines our expectations of them at every turn. Don’t expect any happy endings, any dashing princes or swooning princesses. The Grisha verse isn’t that kind of world, Leigh Bardugo isn’t that kind of author.

The deliciously dark atmosphere and stories aside, one thing I also loved about this collection was the rich and interesting array of characters here. Again, Leigh Bardugo shows us characters of all times – the good, the bad, and especially those who fall somewhere in between. Presenting those who fall into the cracks and those grey spaces in Bardugo’s specialty. I think each character was well constructed, deliberately given their own unique character arc that allowed us to see change over the course of their story. Not every characters grows in the positive sense, but all undergo a change, and I loved that.

I’m going to break down each story below if you’l like more detail – because I think thats the best way to tackle collections. But in general, The Language of Thorns is an interesting and gritty collection of stories, and each story will definitely surprise or shock you. Some of the stories are hair raising, and it’s the perfect collection for Halloween.

(and yes, the Darkling does appear. I know what y’all really all came for.)

(No Six of Crows though – I too am devastated)


Ayama and the Thorn Wood: 4.5 stars. This definitely reminded me of how we usually hear Grimm fairly tales told. It followed that familiar fairytale set up we’re used to. The three stories told by Amaya I absolutely LOVED. Each one definitely didn’t end how I expected and I loved how they were deliberately supposed to go against your expectations. I didn’t give it a full five star though because of the ending being a bit predictable. But, it was definitely dark and twisted, and interesting mash of up Beauty and the Beast and Little Red Riding Hood 

The Too-Clever Fox: 5 stars. I WAS SHOOK. I definitely didn’t see the end of this one coming, for some reason. This story gave me the absolute creeps, it was super creepy and kinda gross but I liked that about it. Definitely gave me the old spine tingles. I loved the characters in this, they were great and just the whole message of the story in general. I’m glad I hadn’t already read the short story for this (because I believe this one is already published?) But anyway, loved this one

The Witch of Duva: 5 stars.  This was my favourite one in the whole book. Oh my god, the plot twist got me okay. I was super freaked out and grossed out and jfghkjf. But I loved the female characters in this one and how they were written, the bond between the various characters, and the growth of the characters was amazing considering how short this was. I’d read this one again for sure I LOVED IT.

The Little Knife: Leigh Bardugo makes every single river in Ravka a lesbian? Obviously giving this one a five star bitch. I am SO GLAD people posted the artwork for this story on twitter because wow it’s gorgeous. So I loved the composition of this story, and the repetitive nature actually didn’t get to me at all? The quests were super fun, and I liked to see how each one was tackled. But BRUH that ending. The women establishing themselves and then destroying those who tried to control them my Aesthetic. Love love love

The Soldier Prince Eh. I didn’t like this one much I kepy waiting for it to end. I kind of just …. didn’t care? And I found the whole doll/kid thing kinda creepy, which I know I’ve been praising the creepy stuff but this one I don’t know I just didn’t like it much. The only bit I really liked was the Rat King’s appearance. Only gave this one 3 stars

When Water Sang Fire 3.5 stars, maybe? I don’t know, I’m very conflicted on this one. It had the Darkling in it, so that makes me happy. And I really loved the ending and what Ulla went out and did. But I felt kind of queer baited? I didn’t like how Signy and Ulla’s relationship went about, and I definitely felt the ending was the most predictable of all the stories. Pretty much the whole scene with Roth/Signy/Ulla annoyed me, but I was here for what Ulla did after that. I don’t know this one is hard for me, I loved bits of it and felt nothing for other bits of it.


The Language of Thorns is definitely one I’d recommend for fans of Leigh Bardugo’s books. It’s such an interesting expansion to the universe, and the short stories are super high quality.

xo jamieson

5 thoughts on “Spine Tingling and Surprising: The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

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