TITLE: Girl, Serpent, Thorn
AUTHOR: Melissa Bashardoust
AGE RANGE: YA
RELEASED: July 7th, 2020
There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.
As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.
Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.
She had read enough stories to know that the princess and the monster were never the same. She had been alone long enough to know which one she was.
Friends, no matter how excited I was to read this gorgeous Persian fairytale retelling with queer girls and demons — a description that had all of my interests piqued entirely on its own — and no matter how many rave reviews I’d already seen, nothing could have prepared me for how utterly captivating and entrancing and gorgeous Girl, Serpent, Thorn was.
Beautiful yet deadly, he had called her. Somehow, he made one sound as sweet as the other.
First of all, the entire atmosphere and aesthetic of this story — please, this has to be made into a film, because I think it would be breathtaking. And the characters? They’re genuinely complex, even some of the minor roles we don’t see often, but don’t even get me started on Soraya and Parvaneh, and how dear these two women are to my heart. Soraya is an incredibly three-dimensional protagonist with flaws and values, fears and desires, and my heart absolutely ached for her, all of the time — but don’t get me wrong, she’s tough as nails and a fierce protector, too. And Parvaneh? What I wouldn’t give for a prequel novella about her before meeting Soraya! I’m such a sucker for demons as characters in the first place, but when you add in the complexities of the div types and the sisterhood of the parik, on top of Parvaneh’s charm and general existence as a total badass? I, like Soraya, was doomed from the start.
“There’s something restless growing within you. We’re all very curious to see what happens when it breaks free.”
As far as the plot goes, while the characters shone for me, I loved the entire storyline, too. I felt like Melissa Bashardoust took an arc that could’ve been dragged out into 2 or 3 books easily, yet she slimmed it down into just a few hundred pages without leaving me feeling as though anything was missing, and that’s an incredible talent in my eyes. I couldn’t get enough and the pacing kept me interested from cover to cover. I loved the exploration of Soraya’s curse, but even more, I loved the familial aspect to it and her gradual understanding of why these things came into being. Nobody is innocent here, but everyone has a genuine motive, and it makes it hard to dislike any of these characters — even the villain.
“I’ve been expecting you. And you are very, very late.”
I also have to mention one particular plot point about three-quarters through that I won’t spoil, but if you’ve read it, I’ll just say a character is introduced who absolutely broke me. Watching Soraya reach this depth in understanding her ancestry, and the connection she is granted… It’s hard to be vague here, because all I want to do is weep incoherently about how powerful the entire final act of this book was and how beautifully it all wrapped up.
If I am being cruel, she decided, then it’s because he taught me how.
I’ll wrap this up in a moment, but finally, the discussion of betrayal and manipulation in Girl, Serpent, Thorn is so subtle and eloquent. Too often, we see princesses in fairytales who are tricked by wicked men and blame themselves, or are blamed by others; finally, Melissa Bashardoust has given us a princess who has been tricked and grows to recognize that she didn’t deserve this behavior, and that if her only fault was trusting a cruel man, the blame resides in his cruelty — not her kindness. Truly, what an empowering story of hope and strength, and I know this one will stick with me for a long time to come.
violence, death, betrayal, manipulation, war, kidnapping, torture (in reference only)
Girl, Serpent, Thorn is inspired by the Persian epic Shahnameh and the author’s exploration into her own culture. Soraya and Parvaneh are both queer (while Soraya is attracted to multiple genders in the context of the book, no labels are used for either character).
This was an incredible, lush, captivating fairytale that I will carry in my heart for a long, long time to come.
WOULD I RECOMMEND IT? YES!
— destiny ♥
twitter | booktube | bookstagram | facebook | goodreads