The Witch of Duva
The monsters of Langauge of Thorns seem to always be closer than you think. In this short story, in the town of Duva girls start disappearing as winter begins. Whispers of a Khitka, a vengeful spirit, start sweeping the town. The main character is a young girl named Nadya. When her mother dies, a widow in town decides she wants to marry Nadya's father, Maxim. Karina, the widow, doesn't seem to like Nadya very much and the story takes the feel of the evil stepmother. Before their marriage, Karina warns Nadya that she must leave her home and her father. Nadya believes that it's because Karina doesn't want to have to take care of her through the winter. After they marry, Maxim starts to ignore Nadya, spending his time gambling, drinking, or with Karina.
With the seeming goal of getting rid of Nadya, Karina begins sending Nadya to the woods each day to check the traps for food. One evening, Nadya gets lost in the woods and meets Magda. Nadya learns that Magda mixes tonics and potions for people who need them as the Witch of Duva. Yet, Nadya stays with Magda instead of returning to her home. For the price of two fingers, Magda helps Nadya make her home safe for her return. But again, like many of Bardugo's stories, the monster isn't the one readers have been led to believe. Nadya learns that her father was responsible for the disappearing girls. After her father's death, Nadya continues to live with the witch, learning potions and tonics, deep in the woods.
This story, like the two before, shares the message that what you think about people isn't always the truth and those you trust may not be trustworthy. However, the end of this story is a bit more disturbing than the others. It seems in the Grishaverse, monsters are always hiding in sheep's clothing which brings to focus the overarching theme of danger hiding in the least likely of places. One thing that I like about these stories is that many of the character's motives and goals are unpredictable. I like that Bardugo offers twists in her stories through both action and characters. I'm also starting to notice that none of the parents in any of these stories are good. They don't seem to actually care about their children or something causes them to stop caring. There is also the reoccurring instance of the main character being female (in the first story and this story) causing me to wonder if the morals of these stories are gender-focused. We'll see if these patterns continue in the final three stories.
Next Story: Little Knife
Read about the first two stories: