As an 8-time Cannonballer, I can’t believe this is the first Leigh Bardugo book I’ve ever picked up. I think I’ve meant to read some of her stuff before…but I guess life just got in my way.
I first heard about this book when the great Rainbow Rowell was raving about its utter gorgeousness on her Instagram. I had never heard the term “progressive illustrations” before, so my interest was quickly piqued. (FYI, a progressive illustration is exactly what it sounds like. In this book of short fairy tales, the margins of each page are illustrated with additional art as the story goes on…so that at the end of the story, a full and glorious picture wraps around the entire page.)
The art is absolutely stunning. I borrowed this from the library, but will be buying a copy of my own.
But what of the stories? Yeah, they’re pretty amazing, too.
Dark and unsettling, with an Eastern European flair (I read that they take place in the world of her Grishaverse books like Shadow & Bone), Bardugo’s six fairy tales are more Grimm than Disney.
My favorite was The Witch of Duva, which had a little bit of a Hansel and Gretel feel to it. Nadya lives in a village where sometimes, the forest eats little girls. When famine comes to town, her beloved mother sacrifices herself so that Nadya and her brother have more to eat and can survive the long winter. Nadya’s father, a cheerful carpenter, then marries a local widow, and Nadya is positive she is an evil witch, potentially responsible for the deaths of all of the local girls.
When Nadya’s new stepmother begins to threaten her, Nadya heads for the forest and eventually finds herself the apprentice of a real witch, a kind woman who feeds her and teaches her and keeps her safe.
But this is a dark tale, so the ending didn’t go the way I expected it to, and the ending wasn’t happy. But man, it was good.
Get it, read it (but not to your kids!), savor it. Its lovely.