Title: Girl, Serpent, Thorn
Author: Melissa Bashardoust
Release Date: July 7, 2020
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Retelling, LGBT
Thank you to Goodreads and Flatiron Books for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!
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.
Inspired by ancient Persia and its folklore Girl, Serpent, Thorn follows the story of Soraya who is cursed with poison in her veins by the evil divs (demons). She is unable to touch anyone without killing them and has been hidden away her whole life so that people will not question if her family is still blessed or if they should still even rule. Her family only visits in the spring and every year Soraya feels more abandoned and forgotten, trying her best to not let the poison turn her into something monstrous. Then one day a div is captured and the solider who caught it takes a special interest in Soraya. The div could have the answer on how to break the curse, but should Soraya break it or finally embrace who she really is?
So. Many. Monsters. Actual monsters and the people can be just as monstrous. The book really dove deep into what it means to be moral. Soraya herself is a morally grey character and makes some questionably selfish decisions. The love interest is no different and has a dark past, one that she is trying to atone for.. or is she? The overall message I got was we all have flaws and we’re all capable of making mistakes.
We did have a villain though and what a nasty one he was. The Shahmar, or snake king, was so complex and intriguing. I really liked him and wanted to forgive him. While some of the other characters realize their mistakes and want to do the right thing, this guy just continued to make bad choices. I loved it and him.
So in order to have an agonizing slow burn romance, you have an MC who can’t touch anyone and then have her be screwed over so much that she can’t tell who her real love interest is. There is a f/f romance that didn’t even start until halfway through the book, but it was worth the wait. Girl, Serpent, Thorn was marketed as a queer monster love story so I knew who the love interest really was and I loved the moments Soraya had with her before realizing it herself. After hiding herself away for so long and believing herself to be too monstrous to ever be loved the little tender moments were heartbreaking and beautiful. The romance was definitely a subplot though with the story being more focused on Soraya and her character development.
Soraya was such a unique and interesting character. In the beginning she’s isolated because of her poisonous touch, feeling more and more forgotten as she lives her life in the shadows. She appears as this meek little girl who makes herself smaller who away to protect people. Soraya wants nothing more than to join her family instead of being an outsider. It’s hard to see your flaws as a strength and something that make you unique as a person. We get to follow Soraya on this journey though as she starts to accept herself and the power she wields.
Girl, Serpent, Thorn was a beautiful Persian story that interwove years of folklore and fairytales into a book about learning how to accept yourself as you are and finding strength in what makes you different. It was a enthralling tale full of monsters and love along with a diverse cast of characters and a strong message about loving yourself all wrapped up into this amazing book that all YA readers should have on their shelves.