Book Review: The Language of Thorns

The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic
By Leigh Bardugo
Illustrated by Sara Kipin

My Edition:
Hardcover, 274 pages
2017, Imprint
ISBN: 9781250167095

Do you enjoy tales of horned beasts, sentient wooden soldiers and mermaids who can cause mass destruction with a song? Do you also enjoy tales of unlikely friendship, tormented families, and betrayal? How about fantastic illustrations and full-color text?

Then, like me, you’ll realize this is the book for you!

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Book Review: Beastkeeper

Beastkeeper
By Cat Hellisen

My Edition:
Paperback, 224 pages
2016, Square Fish
ISBN: 9781250073648

Sarah is thirteen when her mother walks out of her life. Her father becomes distant and wild and soon leaves her in the care of her grandparents, whom Sarah didn’t know she had. Abandoned, living in a crumbling castle tower, Sarah discovers the curse that has tormented her family for generations and drove her mother to leave. Sarah is the only one willing to break the curse on her family, but it proves to be more difficult than she ever imagined.

This book. I can’t even. Sorry in advance for what’s going to be a mostly gushy review. But as soon as I finished this book, I wanted to read it all over again. It became an instant favorite of mine and is definitely on my top all time list for middle grade (yeah…that’s a thing?) fiction. I was already recommending it to people the moment I’d finished. It was just perfect for me. I hope it will be for you too, if you decide to give it a shot.

I was chatting about dark middle grade with Lindsay Smith (@LindsaySmithDC on Twitter) because I needed more of it (all of it!) in my life and she was the one who recommended Beastkeeper to me. I love fairytale retellings so I dropped it in my Amazon cart, and when it arrived the other day, I actually picked it up right away, which is not something I always do. I’m so glad I didn’t let this sit on my shelf for ages!

Hellisen wove a grim tale with beautiful, but simple imagery. I was completely living in this book, even when I had to put it down. This curse was all up in my head and I was eager to unravel it with Sarah. Sarah is a wonderful main character – she’s strong, determined and curious. As a character who was open to magic and actively dreaming about finding it, she still delivered a believable amount of apprehension and skepticism when confronted with it. (Personally it just bugs me when characters are faced with an amazing magical thing and they’re just like “ok.”)

This book is everything I want in a dark middle grade. I need more books like this in my life, stat. Hellisen delivered me the darkness I’ve been craving lately, but also maintained a tone that is appropriate for younger readers. Yet, she also doesn’t talk down to her audience, which I think makes it easier for older readers to enjoy this tale as well.

I fully, 100%, loudly recommend this book for any and all fairytale lovers looking for a grim edge to their retellings.

Also the design is simply lovely:

Judging A Book By Its Cover: The World Guide to Gnomes, Fairies, Elves and Other Little People

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This is my weekly post where I choose to appreciate a book for its cover art or overall design – to me, a well designed book is like a piece of art. We all judge book covers to some extent. Personally, it’s usually a title/cover combination that pulls me in when I’m browsing in a bookstore. I can’t say that I’ve ever decided against a book with terrible cover art if I liked the sound of the plot, but I have purchased special editions of books, or multiple editions of books based on their cover art. If book covers didn’t matter, publishers (looking at you, Penguin!) wouldn’t put out so many beautiful editions!

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This is a book that used to belong to my mum (and I’m not 100% sure she knows I’ve adopted it) and it contains various lore and poems about mythical creatures (like gnomes, fairies and elves!) as well as lovely illustrations. Published in 1978 by Avenel Books.

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Judging A Book By Its Cover: The Red Fairy Book

We all judge books by their covers, whether we realize it or not. If we didn’t, why else would cover art exist? I don’t know about you, but part of the appeal of books for me is their appearance. This is my weekly segment to appease the more superficial reader in me and showcase some of my more visually appealing books.

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Book Review: The Red Fairy Book

The Red Fairy Book
Edited by Andrew Lang

My edition:
Paperback, 376 pages
1966, Dover Publications, Inc.
ISBN: 048621673X

3/5 stars

I don’t have as much to say about this book as I did about The Crimson Fairy Book, because a lot of my thoughts are still the same – as a modern reader, I often find myself asking “why” when a character randomly does something. I long for more plot, character motivation, sound reasoning! I tried hard to leave those thoughts aside and just enjoy these wacky little tales.

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Book Review: Sunlight and Shadow

Sunlight and Shadow
By Cameron Dokey

My edition:
Paperback, 184 pages
2004, Simon Pulse
ISBN: 0689869991

2/5 stars

Mina is the child of the Queen of the Night and the Mage of the Day. They’ve married to complete the world and join light and dark forever. Mina spent the first sixteen years of her life with her mother before being abducted by her father to marry a man of his choosing, due to a prophecy he overheard. Mina’s mother enlists the help of Mina’s childhood friend, Lapin, and a prince, Tern, to save Mina. Together, Mina and Tern must face deadly trials to prove their love and wisdom.

This book is part of a series of novels called Once Upon a Time, which are all retellings of fairy tales featuring teenage heroines and written by female authors – Cameron Dokey, Tracy Lynn, Debbie Viguie, Nancy Holder and Suzanne Weyn. Sunlight and Shadow is a revamp of a work by Mozart called The Magic Flute, which premiered in 1791.

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Book Review: The Crimson Fairy Book

The Crimson Fairy Book
Edited by Andrew Lang

My edition:
Paperback, 371 pages
1993, Dover Publications, Inc.
ISBN: 048621799X

3/5 stars

Andrew Lang put together twelve Fairy Books filled with fairy tales from around the world, each named after its own color. Personally, I’ve arranged my collection according to the rainbow and that’s the order I’ll be reading them.

As described on the back of the book, “The Crimson Fairy Book contains a fascinating collection of tales from many countries: Hungary, Russia, Rumania, Finland, Iceland, Japan and Sicily are only some of them…All in all, the collection contains 36 stories, all narrated in the clear, lively prose for which Lang was famous.” This book is an unabridged copy of the original 1903 edition and contains a total of 53 illustrations.

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