ARC review: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

girl serpent thorn

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.

Release date: July 7th

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When I first started this I knew I would love it. This is the type of book that expands and expands as you turn page after page and at any point if you go back a few chapters you will see how much more narrow-minded you were back then.

For this reason it’s hard to talk about it without taking away something from the reading experience of future readers. There’s a lot of depth to the events of this book and I really appreciated how there’s probably not one thing that two people would agree on if they were to discuss some spoilery things that happen here. I think it’d actually make a perfect book to discuss with a book club because I feel like everyone would be able to contribute with something.

It is at its core a book about self acceptance, and about how even when you have lost something you didn’t even realize meant a lot to you, it’s still possible to find new parts of yourself, something better or transformed within you that you can embrace, this time without fear.

I also really liked the villain here, in that way that a villain can be fascinating because you see something in them that you know you would fall for, too. Or perhaps, scariest thing of all, you see how you, or anyone, could have become them. Those are the best villains to me, personally, and that’s the reason I couldn’t be mad that the protagonist spent so much time with them.

This is a rather short book in terms of pages but it seemed to take me a long time to go through. I think it felt that way because something was always happening, not in a very adventurous way but in a way a standalone fantasy has to be packed with everything within 300 pages or so. And I think the pace was actually really good, it managed to be slow enough for you to get to know all the players on the board and fast enough to pull you in to see what the next event would be. The only aspect that suffered a bit is the f/f romance, not in terms of how believable it was (I think it was very believable actually) but just in terms of timing. But I understand why it had to be that way and I really liked it. What it might have lacked in terms of page time it made up for in intensity of their scenes together.

I’m not knowledgeable enough about ancient Persia, the culture that inspired this story, but I really appreciated the author notes at the end of the book. All I can say is that it felt like a well researched and rich world that I felt like taking my time trying to get to learn about, instead of skimming paragraphs or shrugging when meeting a name I didn’t remember.

All in all I can say that while this book won’t be perfect for everyone I also think everyone can enjoy it because of how many different elements it had and how well balanced they all were. The writing was also gorgeous and the characters not easily forgettable, so it’s worth trying to read for yourself.

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