Title: Girl, Serpent, Thorn
Author: Melissa Bashardoust
Audience: Young Adult
Length: 319 pages
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Release Date: July 7, 2020
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: fairy tales, folklore, mythology from different cultures
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 standalone YA fantasy is a fantastic fusion of fairy tales and folklore. It is a loose Sleeping Beauty retelling (although I also picked up a few hints of Beauty & the Beast) set against a lush backdrop of Persian culture and mythology. I’m so glad I chose this for my Carolibrary Book Club in March because it is a new all time favorite.
This is exactly the kind of story I love. This story is very character driven, so if you’re looking for action and adventure this might not be the book for you. I was fascinated by the explorations of what it means to be a monster and how Soraya, Azad, and Parvaneh were all different sides of the same coin. Just about every character was morally gray. The story has hints of romance, but it was not the main focus, which is exactly what this book needed to focus on individual character growth and development.
Some readers in my book club complained that the story could be repetitive due to Soraya’s naivety, but I found it completely plausible due to her incredibly sheltered upbringing. I was so invested in her journey of understanding and embracing who she is, and I loved the way everything came together in the end.
I also appreciated the author’s note at the end of the book. Melissa Bashardoust explains the Persian mythology that influenced this story and how her version differs from the original tales.