Girl, Serpent, Thorn – 4 Star Review

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“There’s something restless growing within you. We’re all very curious to see what happens when it breaks free.” 

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust 

Girl, Serpent, Thorn is a story about a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. It’s about a girl who sees herself as a monster, and what happens when she fights back against her curse while she discovers more about her past. 

I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I went into this book. I knew what the summary said, and that it was a Persian-inspired fantasy standalone. That’s about it. I’m glad I decided to get the ebook when it went on sale–and I’ll be purchasing a physical copy for my shelves. 

First and foremost, I found this to be a really accessible fantasy in that there weren’t a million characters to keep up with, nor were there a million locations to try to figure out. While the book could have benefited from a map and a glossary of terms, it’s still relatively easy to follow along with.  I should clarify that there really were a lot of unfamiliar terms, but they became easier to grasp as the book went on and weren’t overwhelming. Since the book really only utilizes two main locations, it wasn’t too hard to get a sense of it without a map. Even with only a couple of locations shown to us, the world felt rich and believable. The use of magic and presence of magical creatures made the story interesting and diverse. 

Second, I loved the characters. Soraya learns to be angry at her situation and decides to take things into her own hands. She has complex emotions that aren’t always easy, or even easy for her to understand. She is utterly human despite her curse and reacts to things in a believable way. I love that her actions always had consequences (positive and negative), and that throughout the story she has to take things into her own hands to save herself, her loved ones, and even her country. 

I also loved Soraya’s dynamic with the Shahmar. As I was reading, I found a lot of similarities between their dynamic and that of the Darkling and Alina in the Shadow & Bone books. They deeply understand each other, the good and bad parts, even though they’re both working towards different ends. There’s a lot more to say about this, but it’s pretty spoiler-y so I’ll leave it at that. 

Soraya’s relationships with the other characters were so well done. I loved her story with Parvaneh (small spoiler–this book has LGBTQ rep!). Parvaneh’s character is well developed and complex–like every other side character. She’s made mistakes, had to deal with the consequences, and is fighting fiercely to change her circumstances. I also really loved that her character is an insight into the magical creatures of the world–the divs. 

Soraya and her family are understandably complicated since she’s poisonous to the touch. Her mother loves her, but does not understand her at the beginning of the story. Her mother’s past–and how they both grow around it and because of it–gave so much to the depth of Soraya’s character. Similarly with Sorush, her twin and the shah (ruler) of the kingdom. They may be twins, but Sorush leads a relatively normal life. He and Soraya love each other, but do not understand each other in the slightest. Soraya’s dynamic with her family is another one that gives a lot to the story and to Soraya’s overall arc and character development. 

The only reason I didn’t give this book 5 stars is because it does start pretty slowly and is hard to get into. It also doesn’t have a very deep, rich world. Because our narrator, Soraya, has been confined for most of her life, her world is small. That means our scope of the world of the book is small, too. We only see a couple of locations and get to know a very small portion of the world overall. The magic, while integral to the story, is barely touched upon. I could definitely see more stories set in this same world, and would love to know more about it. I would have enjoyed the book a lot more with a map, glossary, and a more in-depth look at the locations within the world and the magic. 

In short, if you like the idea of Persian-inspired fantasy, you’d like this book. Or if you like badass, angry, and complex female characters that change their circumstances themselves , you would like this book. If you find the Darkling and Alina interesting, you’d like this book. And if you want a subtle, sweet queer romance, this book is for you. I definitely recommend this book as a really good and easy to read fantasy standalone! 

Review by Shelby

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