Publication date : July 7th, 2020
Publisher : Flatiron| Macmillan
Genre : Young Adult | Fantasy
Page Count: 336
Synopsis : 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. (from goodreads)
CW: manipulation, murder, death, battle, intrusive thoughts.
Since the day I finished Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust, I have been looking forward to whatever book she’ll be putting out next. So knowing the premise of Girl, Serpent, Thorn combined with how much I adore her writing I really couldn’t see how anything could go wrong with this book. And I was 110% right, Girl, Serpent, Thorn sucked me in from the first page, took me on a whirlwind of an emotional journey and I loved every second of it.
The most accurate way I can think of to describe Melissa Bashardoust’s writing is that it reads like a fairytale. That was the case with her debut and this sophomore novel proved to be no different. All of this to say that the writing still is jaw-droppingly beautiful, with many quotable lines. It’s also atmospheric and enchanting with just the slightest hint of a dark eerie feel to it, it transports you to the world of the book with the lush descriptions, makes you feel every single emotion the main character experiences and gets you invested in everything happening. The lore in this book is also so rich but equally easy to understand and to immerse yourself into. Everything was well thought out and meticulously put together, no element of it was vague or left to chance.
The way I like to pitch Girl, Serpent, Thorn is “Persian inspired fairytale with a morally grey main character and monster girlfriends” and although that sums up the key elements of the story of the story, this book is so much more. At it’s core, it’s a story that explores loneliness and the way it can affect people, the way isolation can mess with anyone’s head, the way secrets fester, grow and keeping them, even with the best intentions can do much more harm than good. And how all of this eats at a person’s soul until they start wondering if there’s anything of them left, and if there is, if any of it is worth keeping. And that character exploration was my favorite thing about the book.
At the center of it all is Soraya, a princess whose touch is poisonous and as a result, she’s always kept hidden from the world, all alone in her room, or hiding in passageways where no one can see her. No friends, only seeing her family very sporadically and crushed by secrets and questions about her curse she has no answers to. So you can imagine what that kind of isolation as well as touch starvation can do to a person. As the book starts Soraya harbors a lot of resentment towards people around her and as the book goes we get to see that resentment grow and transform into anger and Soraya starts playing with the idea of leaning into the darkness and becoming that monster everyone thinks she is.
Seeing her battle those thoughts and feelings, go back and forth between good and bad, teetering on the edge of villainy all throughout the story got me so invested in her character arc and growth. And the way her story is written, the way her soul is laid bare and her emotions are so raw and exposed, you can’t help but feel for her and love her. At least that was the case for me. This is, in my opinion, one of the best exploration of moral grey-ness I’ve ever read, showing the moral battles, that constant raging war inside of the main character between good and bad, and each one winning in turn. It was really fascinating to read because I really couldn’t tell which side Soraya will fall into with every decision, and it really shows that one decision doesn’t make you a hero, nor does it make you a villain, what shapes a person goes beyond that.
This book raises the question of “What makes someone a villain?”, how far is too far? how much is unredeemable? where does one draw the line?
Soraya is either bi or pan or something along those lines, as she attracted to multiple genders, and I loved how casually that as shown in the story. The endgame is a sapphic romance but there are definitely some twist and turns before we get there. And the romance itself doesn’t take a central part in the story. Even though I wish there was a bit more of it, the more pragmatic side of my brain says that there was just the right amount of it for it not to overtake the story and to still give Soraya the space to go through her character journey the way she’s supposed to, and to interact with other character that would help her get there. What we got of the romance though was absolutely phenomenal and beautifully written. The way Soraya talked about Parvaneh and described her, the yearning, slowly developing feelings and the tentative trust made my heart ache.
This story gave me everything that I wanted from it even if I didn’t now at the time of starting it that this is what I wanted to get out of it. And the ending was so deeply satisfying to me.
Do I recommend?
Enthusiastically so!! This was such a phenomenal story not only in its characters but also in the themes it explored.
About the author
Melissa Bashardoust (pronounced BASH-ar-doost) received her degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, where she rediscovered her love for creative writing, children’s literature, and fairy tales and their retellings. She currently lives in Southern California with a cat named Alice and more copies of Jane Eyre than she probably needs. Melissa is the author of Girls Made of Snow and Glass and Girl, Serpent, Thorn.
That’s it until next time.
Did you read Girl, Serpent, Thorn? If so, what did you think?
Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.