The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

Have you ever imagined the fairy tales you read as a child having different endings, different villains, different heroes? Have you ever wondered how Ursula became so evil, why kings like to assign three impossible tasks to win their daughters’ hand in marriage, or if the Minotaur was really the monster he was accused of being?

Though inspired by fairy tales, mythology, and classic stories, the six stories in Leigh Bardugo’s The Language of Thorns go beyond the basic tales. They are all short stories written in the style of a fairy tale. Although these stories are set in the same world as Leigh Bardugo’s other novels, they made sense even though I hadn’t read any of her other work (now, after reading The Language of Thorns, I look forward to reading Leigh Bardugo’s other books).

Leigh Bardugo creates such a detailed, beautiful, and sometimes dangerous world, and in it she expands upon and adds her own ideas to well-known tales. These stories are elegant and some are a bit creepy (if I had known this before reading, I may not have picked up the book, but now I am glad I did–I really enjoyed reading this book despite the darker parts), and the excitement of the stories combined with the amazing writing makes the book so hard to put down.

I loved how each of the stories had a twist at the end—maybe the villain in a story was not the same character in the original fairy tale (or someone you hadn’t even considered) or the real source of the conflict was an immense surprise. These stories did not always end with a happily ever after, and although I do like happy endings, this was a refresher from the widely expected endings of fairy tales. It made the stories a bit more exciting and unpredictable.

Some of the parts I loved most about this book were the illustrations and borders created by Sara Kipin. At the start of each story there are one or two small illustrations in one corner or part of the page, and as the story continues, new images that connect to the story are added on to the illustrations. At the end of each story you can almost see the tale in the pictures that make up the border. There is also one big picture at the end of each story that shows a scene in the tale. The pictures are beautiful, so thought out, and I really liked seeing the story show through them.

If you are a fan of fantasy, fairy tales, or even just someone looking for fascinating tales to read, I would definitely recommend this book. Not only is the writing magical and detailed, but the world, characters, and illustrations are so well-developed and seem to fit together wonderfully. However, be warned: in this collection of tales the faint may not always be as they seem, and the real villains may have a story of their own.

– Mia T.

The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby is one of those rare novels that remains enduring long after publication and lives immortally within the minds of its readers. Crafted with frothy and beautiful prose, Fitzgerald proves himself to be one of the greatest American authors of all time.

Set in the lost empire of the Jazz Age, Fitzgerald weaves a tale with poetic and fluid words about the longings and desires of humankind. It’s slathered in lavish parties and flamboyant characters but maintains a darkly whimsical nature, one that is utterly timeless. And, unexpectedly rising from its seemingly superficial exterior, The Great Gatsby teaches us about the intrinsic nature of humanity.

We are brought to the stage by Nick Carraway, whose ever-observing eye captures the details of our story with unrelenting vividness. Jay Gatsby, whose five-year purgatory awaiting redemption with silver-voiced Daisy Buchanan, possesses unfathomable charisma that jumps out at you from the page. By the end of the novel, the reader is stunned by the burning revelation that all people are exactly the same as Gatsby—reluctant to let go of the past and stagnant between ghosts and the present.

If you’ve already watched the movie, it’ll be hard to disassociate Leonardo DiCaprio’s disarming smiles from Gatsby’s arresting charm – but DiCaprio and the partygoer seem to diverge once pulled into the mystery that is Jay Gatsby. Upon climax, Gatsby ventures darker than did ever the reputation of sunshiney Leo, but that is a debate for another article.

Altogether, I’d have a grand total of two words to say in conclusion: read it. Read it and marvel at the literary artisan that is Fitzgerald, then wonder what ever did happen to his wayward characters.

– Esther H.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is available at Mission Viejo Library.

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

We all know about Romeo and Juliet. The famous star-crossed teenage lovers and “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art that Romeo?” sort of stuff. Personally, I didn’t like the play. Romeo and Juliet, as actual characters, were plain and the best character is Mercutio, who not only dies halfway through, but is the reason why the play became a tragedy.

On the other hand, I really liked Shakespeare’s style of writing. He writes all about death, blood and of the era when stories of knights and magic were popular. So I thought, “gee, is there a story that is dark, has fantasy and a lot of blood and death, but also has a decent romance and lively characters? And I didn’t have to look any farther than Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”

For those who like dark themes, like myself, there is a lot in this play from duels and poison to talking to skulls. Hamlet, the main character of this play, is told by the ghost of his father that he was murdered by Hamlet’s uncle, who is not only the new king of Denmark, but is married to Hamlet’s mother (a sinful act in its time). Hamlet spends the rest of the play not only facing the burden of a promise that he is not sure to keep, but additionally has to deal with the depression and suicidal thoughts leading up to the start of the play, something that a lot of teenagers could possibly relate to. And of course, it’s one of Shakespeare’s tragedies, so almost all of the named characters die by the end. There’s a lot of troubled minds to question and analyze, so fans of psychology would love this play. On top of that, despite the frequency of death, “Hamlet” is actually a better love story than “Romeo and Juliet.” Hamlet and Ophelia are the only link to each other’s sanity.

Finally, the characters are amazing. I loved their development throughout the play and how they appeal to the audience in their decisions. Ophelia, although a dutiful daughter in the end, sasses her father and brother when they tell her to stay away from Hamlet. Polonius, being the nosy parent, spies on everyone and knows their private business. Hamlet, who not only has the role of the emo teenager, but also is clever enough to make fun of every single character in the play. And poor Horatio, who wonders how he got caught up in this mess.

All in all I really enjoyed this play and hope that you get the chance to read it.

Hamlet, and all of its printed and film incarnations, is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.