Review: The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

Having to wait on the release for this illustrated collection of original fairy tales since the start of the year was nearly excruciating. I even went ahead and read The Too-Clever Fox by Leigh Bardugo a month after the news to calm my eagerness. But here I am finally ready to dive into my long awaited review for this collection!

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.

“And what lesson am I to learn from this story?” asked the beast when she was done.
“That there are better things than princes.”

#1: “Ayama and the Thorn Wood.”

The Language of Thorns 1-- bookspoils

An original retelling of a forest that demands to hear only the truth and nothing but the truth, which made for a clever, wordy, high-spirited read. It also delivered a compelling mix of Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White, excelling at capturing the chilling and gleaming atmosphere.

“And can this ugly beast not speak for himself?”
The beast looked upon his father and said, “A man like you is owed no words. I trust Ayama to tell my story.”

#2: “The Witch of Duva.”The Language of Thorns 2-- bookspoils

A twistingly clever take on the wicked stepmother trope. Seriously, that ending couldn’t have messed me up more. Leigh Bardugo was making it quite the challenge to move on seamlessly from story to story while delivering such blows at each end.

“Karina who had given herself to a monster, in the hope of saving just one girl.”

Also, coming to the realization that AURORA’s Runaway fit like a glove for this tale was so fulfilling. From the lyrics to the visuals in the video, I was continuously mesmerized.

“I got no other place to go
But now take me home
Take me home where I belong
I can’t take it anymore.”

#3: “Little Knife.”The Language of Thorns 3-- bookspoilsBardugo once again succeeds to bring about an unexpected turn of events. And I have to note that I came to endlessly appreciate her for sharing the message that our heroine’s story doesn’t have to end with finding romantic love (not specifically talking about one tale here), even going so far as to make that the damn point of it all.

“It was I who built the tower of trees,” said the river.
“And I who earned the mirror from Baba Anezka. It was I who found the magic coin. And now I say to you, Yeva Luchova: Will you remain here with the father who tried to sell you, or the prince who hoped to buy you, or the man too weak to solve his riddles for himself? Or will you come with me and be bride to nothing but the shore?”

“The river carried her all the way to the seashore, and there she stayed. She said her prayers in a tiny chapel where the waves ran right up to the door, and each day she sat by the ocean’s edge and watched the tides come and go. She lived in happy solitude, and grew old, and never worried when her beauty faded, for in her reflection she always saw a free woman.”

Easily the best ending I’ve read in awhile.

Overall, I was enamoured by this deliciously feminist collection of atmospheric folk tales filled with betrayals, revenge, sacrifice, and love.

4.5/5 stars

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Review: The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am by Kjersti Annesdatter Skomsvold

“…there’s getting to be less and less of me. Where will it end?”

I was originally drawn to this novella because of the peculiarity of “The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I Am.” I mean, how am I supposed to pass up a title like that?? And I went on to give it a shot when I saw that the novel was barely over 100 pages. However, I think I misread the blurb, thinking this would be about an old lady discovering something new about life. It wrote: The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I Am is a macabre twist on the notion that life “must be lived to the fullest.” So I read this and assumed that somewhere throughout this read we would have an adventure-esque trip.

What I got instead was the day to day of Mathea Martinsen, who’s almost a hundred, loves rhymes, and has social anxiety.

“There will be a community gathering next Sunday,” it reads. “All residents must attend!!!!” I gulp and read the rest of the flier as quickly as I can, just in case there’s something even worse there, but I don’t know what could be worse than what I’ve just read.”

And her talents include sorting cards and “also good at starting new rolls of toilet paper, I could unstick the first sheet without tearing it. ”

The trouble was that little to no captivating things occurred throughout, unless you consider it fascinating that Mathea’s tooth got stuck in the cucumber she was eating… Like, here’s literally everything that happened over the course of 100 pages: “I stole from the grocery store, gave Åge B. the time, buried a time capsule, baked rolls, turned up the hot plate, tried to plan my own funeral, tried to become a tree, and then the most difficult thing of all—I used the telephone, which was really too much for me—and yet I’m still sitting here in my apartment and I’m just as afraid of living life as I am of dying.” That’s the whole of it. There’s no exciting adventures, no meeting kindred spirits, no engaging dialogue. Nothing.

The stream of consciousness writing, similar to that of Suicide by Edouard Levé, was unfortunately another negative in my book. It came off as disjointed and difficult to get into. This read would’ve been more enjoyable as a short story than a novella, in my opinion.

Ultimately, The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I Am just wasn’t what I was expecting, and it didn’t surprise me for the better with it. However, I am glad to have read my first translated Norwegian fiction with this, since I’ve been wanting to check that box off my list for awhile now.

2.5/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!