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.”
Before I say anything about the story itself, can we just appreciate the gorgeous cover and the YA snake making her grand return? Because yes, it really is perfect. I was intrigued by the premise when this book was announced and after the first chapter I was absolutely hooked, because it seemed to have the kind of atmospheric, fairytale-like narration that I look for in fantasy, but it also played with tropes and subverted genre expectations. With worldbuilding and magic elements inspired by Persian myth and epics, particularly the Shahnameh, Melissa Bashardoust has breathed new life into a tale as old as time.
Princess Soraya is faced with the family who abandoned her when the court returns to Golvahar, the palace she has spent her life hiding among the shadows in. The lethal venom in her veins not allowing her to touch any living creature without killing them has rendered her bitter, alone and angry. This resentment builds up considerably during the course of the first portion of the book and finally, tables are turned. They are turned big time. No matter how predictable it was, I still think the twist was done well because I was dreading it the whole time and once it did happen the dread just turned to panic as I kept wondering how it would all come to a resolve. I found myself rooting for Soraya more as well, because her grief over what she could have had, grappling with her self-image felt all too real to me.
Another thing I want to point out: complex relationships between women in fantasy, whether it be the sometimes thorny connection Soraya has to her mother and her ultimately falling for another girl (yay bi heroine!) and it being given due weight through the narration is definitely something I loved seeing in Girl, Serpent, Thorn and want to see more of in other books.
Girl, Serpent, Thorn is hitting shelves on July 7th. Thank you to the publisher for the eARC in exchange for an honest review!