Review | Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

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.

She had read enough stories to know that the princess and the monster were never the same. She had been alone long enough to know which one she was.

Girl, Serpent, Thorn pulls from Persian mythology to create a new, imaginative fairy tale reminiscent of Sleeping Beauty. Unlike traditional fairy tales, the hero and villain aren’t clear-cut; all of the characters are complex and morally grey, leaving readers to wonder who truly is the “monster” of the story.

Soraya, our main character, is a princess with poison coursing through her veins, leaving her deadly to the touch. Years of being confined to her room, alone, have left her feeling lonely and filled with self-loathing – all of which motivate her actions. It was fascinating to watch her oscillate between feeling shame at her abilities and wanting to embrace them, even if it does mean becoming the monster she fears she is.

I had heard a lot about the romance before picking this up, and I was surprised to see that it was quite understated. The pieces of the relationship that were shown were lovely, and I especially appreciated how Soraya’s sexuality just was what it was, instead of needing to be labeled and explained.

Overall, I really enjoyed Girl, Serpent, Thorn. I wish this had been told over 2 books instead of as a standalone, since I truly did not want to leave the rich world that Bashardoust had created.

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