Girl, Serpent, Thorn
by Melissa Bashardoust
Release Date: July 7, 2020
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Number of Pages: 336
Ages 13 and up
Read 5/31/21 to 6/6/21
A captivating and utterly original fairy tale about a girl cursed to be poisonous to the touch, and who discovers what power might lie in such a curse…
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.
This book has been on my TBR since before it was published almost a year ago, when I saw a review by Julie at One Book More. I kept putting it off for one reason or another…my mood, other commitments, time. I’m glad to have finally gotten around to reading this story. It’s beautiful and tragic and hopeful and devastating. I loved it.
The author does a wonderful job with the world building. Every time I picked the book up I was immersed in the land of the shahzadeh and shahmar, divs and curses, hidden passageways and a mountain fortress. It was no surprise to me to learn, through the author’s notes at the end of the book, how much thought she put into every aspect of this story. Or that fairy tales, myths, and legends were always a huge part of her life.
Soroya was by turns strong and weak. Yet even when she was weak, there was an underlying strength she didn’t realize she had. This girl was mistreated her whole life. Neglected and made to feel as if she was the shame of her family. Always left alone, untouched and unloved. It’s a wonder she hadn’t become evil and vindictive long before her world got wrapped up in life outside the castle walls.
While this story, in a broad sense, is about Soroya finding out the truth of her curse and ultimately having to make the choice of saving her kingdom or staying where she’s accepted. It’s a path that’s riddled in lies and half-truths. There are so many choices Soroya has to make with only half of the information she needs. Who can she truly trust? Who really cares for her ultimate well-being?
I found it quite interesting that when Soroya needed to be given the benefit of the doubt, when she was doing things to save lives even when it didn’t seem that way, it was never the men in her life that extended her any such courtesy. They only ever remembered what she had been on the outside, her poison touch making her other which equated to bad in their eyes. It was only ever the women who realized, for the most part, she was between a rock and a hard place with her decisions and actions. And even then, there were times the women even let her down.
Something I appreciated and loved about this story is the romance. The romance, for the most part, is subtle. Creeping up on you here and there throughout the tale. Soroya finds herself having feelings for more than one person in this story. The fact that she is bisexual is not made an issue at all. It’s not even addressed. The only reason I am addressing it here is to let young (and not so young) people who could use an inclusive story in their lives that this book has that for them. Soroya’s love interests have absolutely no issue with the person in the running for her affections is a different gender than them, just that they have competition for her loyalties.
The strength and skill in her writing in this, her sophomore published work, really impressed me. I’m looking forward to more fantastical tales from this author and will definitely be seeking out her first book which I haven’t yet read.
Great review – I must go and read Julie’s too as I’ve read several books from her recommendations.
I don’t often remember to write down where I get a recommendation from, but this time I did! I’m trying to do better with that.
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