Book Review: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust (ALC)

Girl, Serpent, Thorn

Author: Melissa Bashardoust

Narrator: Nikki Massoud

Publication Date: 07 July 2020

Genre: YA – Fantasy

Length: 10 hours and 6 minutes

Publisher: Macmillan Audio

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 was drawn to this story for two reasons, the premise and the cover. Let’s be honest, the cover is absolutely striking. That being said, while I thought that this was a solid story, I wanted more from the execution of this premise.

Soraya has spent her entire life hidden away. A princess that literally has a poisonous touch. We aren’t talking the King Midas turning into gold myth. Instead, this is the Persian inspired version where one touch from Soraya renders anything with a pulse, dead. Utterly terrifying.

Soraya wants nothing more than to escape the cursed life that she has to live. She knows the poison is controlling her, and she wants it to stop. An opportunity presents itself when Azad, a young soldier, captures a female div (demon) named Parvaneh. Parvaneh claims to have the information to cure Soraya of her curse, but the consequences of lifting her curse may doom her loved ones.

I’ll be honest, for the first 60% or so of the book, I wasn’t Soraya’s biggest fan. I understand that her being hidden from the world and even unaccepted by her own family members would have a huge psychological toil on her, but there were times that I just found her so meek. She’s so scared of the curse that has been placed upon her that she is unwilling to even accept what it means. That being said, Soraya undergoes a major metamorphosis towards the end of the book that really made me grow to love her and understand her.

One thing Bashardoust does brilliantly in this book and constantly makes you question who is the good guy versus the bad guy. In the world of morally grey characters, I would argue almost every single character in this story fits the bill, but it really makes for an interesting journey when Soraya decides to invoke the help of Parvaneh to undue her curse. Every time I thought I understood who was good and who was bad, I was wrong.

So the reason why this book doesn’t hit the full four or five stars for me is because this story is sold as a dark and twisted fairytale, but I felt that the author definitely played it a little too safe on some of the plot lines, which I don’t want to go into too much detail because spoilers. There was a real opportunity to let Soraya embrace how lethal she was, but I felt that we never see the full potential.

Overall, I do think that Girl, Serpent, Thorn has some really great magical elements, fantastic world building, and shows character evolution, I just wanted a bit more in the execution.

Thank you to Macmillan Audio for providing an advanced listening copy. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.

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