Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust
There was and there was not. So begins the story of Soraya, a princess cursed to kill all she touches. Hidden away in her own palace, she longs for human contact, for friends and the touch of a lover. When her twin brother the shah becomes engaged to her best friend and starts planning their wedding, jealousy builds in Soraya’s heart. Soraya is tired of being the monster in someone else’s story—but if the only way to free herself is to be a monster, then she will become the worst.
A beautifully written story about a poisonous girl who finds her strength—and love—and is loosely based on Iranian folklore. It took a minute (or days) to really get into it, but ultimately it twists the stereotypical YA fantasy lore in some interesting ways.
I’ve always wondered who I would have been without my curse, what kind of person I would be if I hadn’t grown up hidden and ashamed.
Granted, my summary makes Soraya out to be a villain, but she is not. She is the product of her family’s treatment—her mother’s distance and past actions, her brother’s aloofness, and her friends forsaking her for someone less of a hassle. She has been isolated and alone her entire life, craving attention from someone, literally anyone, and the minute a person rolled in who showed her affection, her heart leapt straight for them.
She’s terrified of becoming the monster everyone acts like she is, but worries that if she goes to the lengths it will take to free herself of her curse—it quite literally means she has to unravel the magic protecting her family and her country from the devs—it will make her into the monster she fears.
“Trust me when I say that if I were you, I wouldn’t shed my armor for the sake of a kind word or a gentle touch. That’s my advice to you, from one monster to another.”
I’ll be honest. I wasn’t bowled over by the romance aspect in this book.
I did believe Soraya’s attraction to what’s-his-face (it’s been a minute since I read the book—Azad, that’s it), since he was literally the first person to say something nice to her and act like he wanted her. She was so filled with self-loathing that she didn’t see beyond his words or really take into consideration his motivations for pushing her to free herself. And (mild spoiler) when that went south, it felt real, although a bit YA tropey?
Soraya’s budding relationship with Parvaneh, a female dev captured by Azad as his way into the shah’s confidence, felt more forced. I loved loved loved that Soraya was biromantic and that this was not an issue, but I felt that the juxtaposition between Azad and Parvaneh as love interests was a bit forced, and that the romance aspect between Parvaneh and Soraya was…lacking chemistry.
She moved through the entire garden in a frenzy of destruction, pulling the rosebushes apart and crumpling them underfoot until she had laid waste to it all. She knew she’d feel ashamed when she confronted the wreckage in the morning, but now—now—she felt nothing but the purest relief. She lost herself, and yet for the first time she was herself, more than she had ever been before.
Anywho, on to things that I loved.
I loved the descriptions, which were breathtaking and devastating and beautiful. The food all sounded fucking delicious (never read on an empty stomach) and Soraya’s garden sounded so beautiful and lonely.
And Soraya’s pure, pure emotions. It’s been a long time since I have connected with a YA heroine like Soraya. Her isolation, her self-loathing, her deep seated rage always bubbling under the surface, that rage that she kept tamping down until it no longer could be contained. And how she grew, when she was finally let free—when she learned the truth of the past and that past came billowing up to smack her family down. I loved her character arc.
Welp, that was a lot longer than I planned on writing.
I wouldn’t recommend reading it for the lackluster f/f romance, but instead for the constant feeling of a fairytale, the twists on several YA tropes (which I didn’t mention because #spoiler) and a main character who starts small and finds that she is so much bigger than she could ever have dreamed.
I received an ARC from NetGalley for an honest review
Girl, Serpent, Thorn released July 7, 2020, from Flatiron Press