Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Review: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

Girl, Serpent, Thorn
Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust 
Flatiron Books
Publication Date: July 7th, 2020
Hardcover. 336 pages

About Girl, Serpent, Thorn:

"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.."

Girl, Serpent, Thorn has a compelling premise with some beautiful storytelling, but unfortunately as the story progresses the plot loses more and more of its compelling nature devolved into a story that I eventually found myself wanting to rush through to finish. 

Soraya suffers from a curse that renders her touch deadly to living beings, which results in her living secluded from her family and friends in a life of loneliness and solitude in the city of Golvahar. Her curse is also kept strictly secret to the public and anyone outside of her immediate family, as her family holds a position, her being the sister to the shah of Atashar himself. Soraya would do anything to get rid of this curse, even if that means meeting secretly with a demon whom her mother has forbidden her from talking to. Around this time, Soraya also happens to meet a young man who, surprisingly (surprisingly to anyone but us readers, of course), does not appear to be afraid of her curse and instead wants to spend time with her and help her pursue a cure.

The story is told from Soraya's third person POV, which allows us to dive into the mind of Soraya and experience her woes. I appreciated the bisexual representation in this book from Soraya, though on a personal basis I do wish the romances had been explored a bit different. I liked her romance with one character, but the other felt far too rushed and implausible for my liking. I've seen some reviews complain about Soraya's incessant moping about as well, and I have to agree that I found it a bit annoying, though I will say that I also think it comes from an understandable place from living such a frustrating life. That being said, some of the other struggles that Soraya deals with felt as though they were explored really carefully and I appreciated the time and thoughtfulness Bashardourst put into conveying such authentic experiences.

I loved the fairytale-like quality of this story and the Persian mythology and folklore that was explored! I love when I get to read books inspired by different cultures' mythologies and although I can't speak from firsthand experience, I felt that Bashardourst executed this aspect beautifully. This content also contributed to the strong atmosphere of the story that really helped to keep everything feel cohesive when the plot seemed to fail to do so.

One of my biggest issues with this book, however, had to do with the somewhat messy pacing. When I think about the pacing of this book, half of me thinks it was too fast, and half of me thinks it was too slow. It covered a lot of ground really quickly, but at the same time I often feel like I'm not entirely sure what happened or why it escalated in the way that it did. It's not there is a lot of downtime in this book, but rather there seemed to be a decent amount of info-dumping and descriptions or explanations that I think tugged down the pace... but at the same time when there was action or more events occurring, they just seemed to be thrown together quickly. Similarly, I felt Soraya's relationship with some characters seemed to develop at a good pace, but others were rushed, and her character development improved a lot over the novel in some respects, but not in others. I know all of that probably sounds confusing, but that's how it felt reading the book as well for me.

Overall, I've given Girl, Serpent, Thorn three stars! I really struggled with whether or not to give this more or less than three stars, but I do think that there were some very promising aspects of this story that really boosted it up to three stars. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA fantasy and/or stories with some strong cultural elements and non-Western mythology.


  1. I know what you mean about wanting to rush through a book to finish it, I've had a few of those lately! Sorry this didn't quite work. Yours isn't the only review of this book I've seen with similar thoughts.

    1. I'm sort of glad to see it's not just me then--and I'm sorry to hear you've been dealing with that with other books also!