Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust is a YA fantasy novel that use Persian stories as an influence to tell a tale about someone deciding who they are and their place in their world.
Now to talk about this book, I will need to talk spoilers. So if you don’t want to know anything more, here’s my loose overall review about why you should read Girl, Serpent, Thorn.
Girl, Serpent, Thorn Review
Girl, Serpent, Thorn is a clever tale about Soraya, a girl who is cursed to be poison to anyone who touches her (she can kill with one touch anything human, beast or demon) and how she discovers the truth of her curse and the path she will take to decide her own future.
Full of betrayal, lies, secrets, manipulation, and family, I really enjoyed Girl, Serpent, Thorn. The Persian background gave it a refreshing influence to build the plot upon. There are full notes at the back of the book to help explain details that you might want about the demon hierarchy.
Though it has some tropes in it that could be considered weak, they become clear as the story unwraps and truths are discovered.
Simply, Girl, Serpent, Thorn is a very magical story with a plot that sweeps you along. And it’s a standalone. Perfect. Well worth reading.
Now the spoilers.
Girl, Serpent, Thorn Spoilers
Seriously, do not carry on if you do not want details.
Girl, Serpent, Thorn starts off as a fairy tale. Soraya has spent her whole life isolated from the world around her. She is the family’s secret, talked about in whispers.
She has been cursed as a baby to have poison running through her veins and this means she cannot touch anyone. She curls in on herself, holds her feelings inside, keeps quiet when she is insulted and ignored, out of fear and shame of what she can do.
And then she meets Azad, who is infatuated with her, who wants to free her, who is drawn to her. And Soraya is drawn to him. Naturally, the first person who is not afraid of her, who actively attempts to physically comfort her, is the one Soraya is going to fall for. And this is the big plot point that will have people screaming YOU CAN’T TRUST HIM!
And you can’t.
Azad is the big bad, but the way he twists everything so that Soraya feels for him, confuses her own thoughts and makes her do terrible things because she thinks she wants to do them, but Soraya’s been talked into it. Azad plays her the whole time.
And, to be honest, I really liked that. We see Soraya take the dark path, become the monster she has feared she has always been. And when things get really out of hand, when she betrays her family in order to have a life she wants, then she starts to see the monster.
But still a part of her craves her freedom, she even finds reasons to blame others for her actions, though she knows deep down, this is what she has always been coming to.
To see a character I actually quite liked and empathised with, fall so massively, was satisfying and new. If you like your heroes pure and clean, then no, you’re not going to enjoy this hugely. But I think you would.
The romance is this book is clever. Not only do you have the main insta love/emotionally abusive relationship, but our leading lady also has feelings for others. Yes, we have F/F representation people.
Soraya confessed her young love for her only childhood friend, but it wasn’t to be and Soraya marks it up to her being a monster. But when she starts to discover who she really is, she meets Parvaneh, a Parik (a beautiful winged, female demon in this world) and Soraya is attracted to her.
It’s a very sensual bloom of love, especially as Soraya has just broken her curse and can finally touch another living being. The healing of wings scene is very charged, and paves the way for a warm relationship to blossom, though it takes time.
I liked how Melissa Bashardoust uses Soraya’s new freedom of touch to describe her feelings towards others, notably Azad and Parvaneh, and how it changes over the course of the story as Soraya’s feelings about herself and these two clarifies. Keep an eye out for it.
Because, Girl, Serpent, Thorn relies upon the fact that truths are half told or with-held completely, causing mistrust and resentment to set in. The whole tale would probably have not have happened is Soraya’s mum had told her the truth of her curse, if her brother had spoken to her, if Soraya herself had spoken her feelings. But where’s the fun in that?
I can forgive the withholding of information from characters because people react hastily when they trying to protect those they love. Soraya learns that secrets are harmful and you need to be true to who you are to be truly happy.
And in the end, she gets her happy ever after, though possibly, not in the way she thought she ever would.
Do you like this cover?
Check out my article about the ideal YA fantasy book cover.