Review of Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

Read: 26th June 2020 – 4th July 2020

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Spoilers in review: Extremely mild

Soraya is the twin sister of the Shah, the king of her country. She should’ve grown up as a princess and member of court, but instead she was hidden away and most people don’t know that she exists. Soraya is poisonous to the touch, and anyone that she comes into contact with dies in seconds.

I loved this book!

Firstly, this book draws from Persian myths, which was an immediate plus before I’d even started to read! The world that Bashardoust built up was vivid, and I loved learning more about it. At the end of the book, Bashardoust includes an appendix of sorts, where she goes over what each element of the novel was based off of, and gives summaries of the original stories that went into the making of this book. I really appreciated that. It provided more context to what I’d just read, helped me understand what aspects had come from the myths and what aspects hadn’t, and also served as a pronunciation guide. I came away from this having learned something new!

I’ve been burned before by another book that had a similar premise to this one, there being a princess who’s poisonous to the touch, when it turned out that the princess in question was not in fact poisonous at all. This book follows through on its premise. Soraya is indeed poisonous. Any people or animals that touch her die within seconds. Following through on the premise is a very low bar, and it shouldn’t be notable that this book crosses it, but my relief when it did cross that bar was enough that I have to mention it.

Soraya is bi and – mild spoiler but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ – this book hetbaits. I’ve only read one book before that hetbaits and it’s honestly such a glorious and underused trope. The summary implies that the ‘young man who isn’t afraid of her’ is going to be the romantic interest. He’s not, and we love to see it. This isn’t to say that bi people in m/f relationships are less valid than bi people in f/f or m/m relationships, it’s just a fun time whenever a book or series pretends to be het and then turns out not to be. If you randomly picked this book up off a shelf, you wouldn’t know that it was queer.

Nobody was perfect in this book. Everybody made bad decisions at some point, or made an assumption about someone that wasn’t true, or something else along those lines. They were all people, and they all felt real. I have Opinions™ about certain characters’ actions, but I understand why each of them did what they did. That kind of complexity is exactly the kind of thing I look for in stories. Even the villain was understandable to a degree.

Something that I really liked was the exploration of emotional abuse, and the tactics that abusers use to manipulate, isolate, and control their victims. I can’t go into much more detail without spoiling a large amount of the book, but Bashardoust handled this extremely well. The Darkling wishes he had what Azad has. But if emotional abuse is a trigger for you, then be aware that it’s very present throughout this book.

Also, the true romantic relationship in this book was lovely! Soraya needed someone who accepted her for who she truly was, and it was great to see her give that acceptance right back. I love these two a lot and I hope they live a long and happy life together!

In case it wasn’t clear by now, I recommend this to everyone. It’s well written, you’ll probably learn something new, it’ll help you learn how to spot abusive behaviours, and the main relationship was a joy to read!

I recieved an e-arc from Netgalley in return for an honest review.

Review originally written in 2020, prior to this blog’s creation

Goodreads | Amazon UK | Waterstones | Hive

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