Girl, Serpent, Thorn – Melissa Bashardoust

Another victim of the COVID-19 release date delay, Girl, Serpent, Thorn was originally supposed to be published in May, and has now been moved to July instead – I’m running out of books to feature for my May Hype Post as all of the ones I was planning on writing about keep having their dates moved! But never worry, Girl, Serpent, Thorn is worth the wait. A lavish retelling of a Persian myth, featuring the most amazing bi protagonist? I’m so in. And the cover is simply stunning – I’ve been drooling over this book ever since I first heard about it!

Many thanks to Netgalley and Hodder for the advance copy in exchange for this honest review.

RELEASE DATE: 07/07/20

STAR RATING: 4.5/5 ✶

SUMMARY: 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 from everyone, 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. (from Hodder & Stoughton)

OPINIONS: Over the past couple of years, I’ve been noticing that among the books I enjoy most are the ones that are based on mythology and fairy tales. Having a gem like Girl, Serpent, Thorn be based on myth from a culture that is all too rarely represented in YA fantasy is refreshing and made me love the book from the beginning – before reading this, I had never considered that ‘Once upon a time…’ is a Western concept, and of course stories based in other cultures would follow different rhetorical conventions. I had simply not interrogated the customs of storytelling – which is silly, given that I have done multiple university degrees in literature, history and related subjects – and I now want to go back and read as much traditional storytelling in a form as close to the oral tales as possible, because I am curious about how these customs of storytelling differ between cultures. So what I mean to say is that Girl, Serpent, Thorn is an amazing book, and has already affected me in ways I haven’t thought possible for a single book. Or maybe quarantine is doing funny things to my brain.

Anyway, Girl, Serpent, Thorn is full of beautiful, lavish prose, evoking a world of mystery and betrayal. It is compulsively readable, and the pacing works well. The plot is twisty and not what you expect – there is no rescuing the princess in this book! Soraya makes for a great main character. Over the course of the story, she undergoes character growth, and develops from a mostly weak and scared princess into a complex, morally gray character to be reckoned with. She is also obviously bi – and I’m all here for that rep! She also forces her way into so much agency, something which is all too often sorely lacking in YA fantasy. Not only does she make mistakes, she owns them, she lives with them, and she actively tries to do better. We need more characters like her. The romance is slow-burning and seductive, which is wonderful too, but I don’t want to say too much about it because I don’t want to spoil anything…

This is it. We need more books like Girl, Serpent, Thorn. Publishers, listen up, and commission them, please! I recommend you help me shout about it, and add this to your Goodreads, and pre-order it from Hive, Waterstones, Book Depository or your favourite indie.

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