Review: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

Girl, Serpent, Thorn

Author: Melissa Bashardoust

Published: July 7, 2020

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Format: eBook

Source: NetGalley

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.

Girl, Serpent, Thorn is a new YA novel inspired by ancient Persian mythology, Zoroastrianism, and it’s got an f/f romance!  This is Melissa Bashardoust’s second book and it blew my mind!  I’ve got to get a physical copy when it releases.

A quarter of the way through the book and it felt like it had been really heavy on the information dumping.  I still liked the information as it contributed to the story, but it felt heavy at the beginning.  Around the 25% mark the story really started to pick up.  Whatever qualms I had in the beginning, they were completely gone by about 1/4 of the way into the book.  Seriously, it got really, really good. 

There is a lot of imagery and some vocabulary the reader will need to learn, but that’s typical for a fantasy book.  As Shadow and Bone has a quasi-Russian setting, and City of Brass has a quasi-Persian setting, both with mythical creatures, Girl, Serpent, Thorn has a similar setting with the power structure being a Shah with patrilineal inheritance and the main antagonists being divs, who are magical beings created by the Destroyer.  In this world, the Creator gave human life and the Destroyer created divs, who were intended to destroy humans.  The world is intricate and interesting and I had a wonderful time learning all about the world of Atashar.

Of course, Saraya is the main character and I was so happy to read a book that follows one person, rather than switching between characters every chapter.  I’ve read so many of those and it’s really in vogue right now, but man was I tired of it.  This books works much better as a singular point of view and kudos to the author for this!  Other characters include Saraya’s brother, a few divs who make up the antagonism, and of course a big, bad villain who wants to take over Atashar and dethrone the shah.  There is romance in this book, but it isn’t overt or pushed on the reader, rather it is threaded just underneath the  surface of the narrative and I had a great appreciation for it!  I don’t want to say much more because I’ll get into spoiler territory, but trust me that this is a great book!

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Girl, Serpent, Thorn and would encourage readers of YA who are fans of Leigh Bardugo, S. A. Chakraborty, Sabaa Tahir, Holly Black, Sarah J. Maas, and others to read this book!

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