Post Mortem: The Language of Thorns - Leigh Bardugo
Post Mortem: A thourough investigation of a book after its passing. May be used to help determine cause and manner of death, and prevent repeat events in the future.
Subject: The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo (fairytale collection) Primary Cause of Death: franchise-fatigue Complicating Factors: mediocrity I’m going to be extremely critical in this post, perhaps to the point where some of you might deem it unfair to the book. Not because I hate it or that I hate Leigh Bardugo; in fact I love her and I think she is one of the most talented YA-authors currently working. I don’t think this book is on the same level as her other work though, and I feel it’s only fair to express so.
I was hesitant to read Language of Thorns from the start, as I generally don’t like this type of spin-off book, or the trend it represents. J.K. Rowlings Tales of Beedle the Bard, Cassandra Clares’ Tales of the Shadow Hunters Academy , plenty of authors like James Dashner and Sarah J Maas releasing novella’s “0.5 and 0.6” in a series… To me, it is always an indication of a downward spiral by the name of franchise fatigue.
Let me get this straight: if your bookseries could genuinely benefit from a spin-off novella or shortstory collection, by all means: go ahead. If this is a quick way for your publisher to make additional money of a popular series: please keep your integrity and say no.
There is nothing “wrong” with Language of Thorns other than that is was nothing special. 6 retold fairytales, as the characters from the Grisha-verse would have heard them growing up. At least; that was the idea. In reality, I didn’t see the connection between the Grisha-verse and some of the stories; they would have made just as much sense set in another world than they would here. What I love about fairytales is how much they can tell about the culture they stem from. Usually, they are stories told to teach values or morals that are important to that culture and way of living. These six stories don’t (all) have that trait. They were mostly adaptations of European folk-tales like I’ve heard them many times before, and had little to do with the Grisha culture all together. The final story “When Water Sang Fire” comes the closest, and therefore was the one I enjoyed most. Even though it’s clearly strongly inspired by the original Little Mermaid, it takes some turns that are befitting of the harsh magic system of the Grisha, and offers an origin story for one of the types of magic. I would have liked the other stories to do something similar.
It might not be the worst thing, if the stories were enjoyable enough on my own. I can’t help feeling that the only reason this collection was received so well, was because of the “Leigh Bardugo-Grisha-brand” that was slapped on it. Ask yourself the following question, in all honesty: if this collection had been published by an unknown (perhaps debut) author, would you have loved it the same? For me, I doubt it would have even been published if this were the case. The stories are just too average among the oversaturated marked of fairytales and retellings.
Preventable death: yes
Could this at any point have been saved? Yes. In a way it actually was, by none other than the illustrations by Sara Kipin. Each story is beautifully framed by a boarder of illustrations that pertain to the story, starting of simple and getting gradually more integrate and detailed as the story furthers, to end in a gorgeous full page illustration. They are far more than just a gimmick and really add to the stories.
Dear publishers, more of this please!
The use of this format is the reason I don’t regret reading this book, and the single reason I added a full star to my original rating of 2 stars. I truly think it’s one of the most visually stunning books I’ve read this year and I hope publishers take inspiration from this. A beautiful package however, does not excuse lackluster content. I really hope Leigh Bardugo doesn’t become a one-trick-pony with her Grisha-Verse, milking the francize to death. My hopes are high for her new release for 2019: I’m absolutely sure Leigh will find her way out of this temporary grave.
Final conclusion: hopeful for the future
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