Review: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

Posted August 18, 2022 by Kate

Review: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa BashardoustCheck out on Goodreads | Buy on Amazon
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Fairytale Retelling, High Fantasy, Mythology, LGBTQ, Young Adult
Publisher: Flatiron Books, Macmillan
Source: Book Box, BOTM, My shelves

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.

I’ve had Girl, Serpent, Thorn on my shelf since it released in July of 2020. Somehow, I have two copies (which is not a common problem!), from BOTM and from somewhere else, perhaps a book box? And it’s taken me this long to actually pick it up. And it was so, so, so good!! Like so good!

I’m obsessed with the lethal-to-the-touch premise (hellooo Shatter Me, a desperate fave), and I love the distinctive direction this took. Instead of her lethal touch being a mere magical power in her arsenal (willing or not), Girl, Serpent, Thorn, perhaps unsurprisingly, considering the title, chose to have conversations about what it means to be a monster, and embracing your dark side. Which I LOVVED!!! With the glittering, sumptuous style reminiscent of The Wrath and the Dawn but with the creepily effervescent fairytale feel of Uprooted, this Persian-inspired modern Sleeping Beauty Retelling high fantasy story had me enthralled. I was thinking about it all day, eager to pick it up again, fully willing to lay down alllll my chores for the day and indulge in this story.

Soraya (gorrrrgeous name btw) was really going through it in this book πŸ˜‚ Poor girl was turned around, upside down, flipped over, only to be spun around again. This story was full of desperation, manipulation, empathy and a delicate, wrathful rage as she claims her identity, and embraces the monstrous. Our poor princess had lived as a hermit, largely in seclusion, and she did everything wrong in her quest to set things right again. I welcomed her anger and indignation as much as I enjoyed her personal quarrels with piety goals versus envy and a seething, poisonous bitterness. So much power at her fingertips (literally), and she was fearful of her own shadow. Don’t worry… she eventually got there :) We love a morally grey, proud Queen. I especially loved her choices at the end, where she carved out her own space in the world and chose a new path.

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.

Speaking of proud…. it’s a SAPPHIC enemies-to-lovers, let’s-make-a-deal monster story πŸ˜­πŸ˜­πŸ˜­πŸ™ŒπŸΌ This was exactly what I needed. It was gorgeous!!! I adored the gentle courtship amid and in the background of the spying, tragedy, and life-threatening quests, and the constant struggle of a forbidden attraction across enemy lines and deals already struck. This unique twist on the age-old trope of villainy was so refreshing. Gah! Azad could jump in a lake, and I loved that he was so convinced at their inevitability *cue eye roll* I would have relished if she just turned around, looked him in eyes and was like “well I like girls, so. Oops?”

Can we also address that this is a standalone?! Not typically my favorite medium, but it was surprisingly refreshing. The story felt so vast and exquisite while in it (thanks to the incredible world-building), but was a complete story that easily wrapped up in 336 pages. It was an awakening, it was emotional, and it was perfection.

Melissa, I bow to you πŸ’› I haven’t been vibing with YA high fantasy very often lately, and this felt like such a lovely gift. Read this!!!!!!


Other YA high fantasy stories you may enjoy…

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πŸ’› Thanks for stopping by! πŸ’›

Have you read this book? Do you enjoy standalone fantasy stories? Let me know in the comments down below, I’d love to hear from you!

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