Title: Girl, Serpent, Thorn
Author: Melissa Basherdoust
Release Date: 7/7/2020
E.S.C.A.P.E Score: 39
(see below for breakdown)
I received a free eARC copy from Hodder and Stoughton Books, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
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.
This was a really interesting take on the traditional fairy-tale princess story. I am not overly familiar with Persian mythology but this has really sparked an interest, (Bashardoust has included from referenced at the back of the book which I am going to check out, this is really appreciated.). It is somewhat hard to describe this book. It is like an amalgamation of rapunzel, sleeping beauty and mythology into a flowing story which has Soraya battling with all the various images she has of herself to find who she truly is. All the tales are seamlessly blended into a single narrative.
I really enjoyed Soraya as a character, she really explores the depths of her emotions during the course of the story, from acting in hot headed irrational anger to contemplating simple and beautiful moments we get the full scale of her emotional journey. This is something that is truly beautiful about the writing. It really does expertly capture the emotional battle that Soraya is having within herself. However, this also makes the pacing rather slow. As we weave in an out of the various tales it could occasionally get repetitive with the wording of Soraya’s internal monologue. She would often repeat the same sentiments to her self and occasionally that would become a little stale. As while she did learn from the various moments in the narrative, it was at a slow and steady pace, again with a lot of introspection for the character.
We also get a rather interesting love triangle that intermingles though out all the story weaving just a complex web as the blending of the fairy-tales. The Bisexual rep is prominent from the beginning, which is a big plus, but the triangle was not the one I had originally predicted from the first few chapters. The overlapping storylines for the love interests is also really interesting and I did enjoy reading the romance, however there was a little too many who will she choose flip flopping overall, which again slowed the pace.
One aspect that did disappoint me is we do have a real lack of world building. If you are looking for a story with rich description of the Persian setting you will not find it here. we get lots of information about the various div throughout the novel, and some description of the customs and beliefs of Soraya’s world, we get little to no description of the world its self. This made it a little difficult for me to imagine and place the characters in. I am very fond of rich world building that envelopes me in the world and I just didn’t find it here. It kept me distant from the story and I just didn’t feel as invested.
I still think this is a great read! Its so well structured that is it easy to just ride along with the story. It really has sparked an interest in the origin tales that this retelling has stemmed from. I am also keen to pick up other work by Bashardoust as she really does have a unique quality to the writing.