Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust
Published: Flatiron Books (July 7th2020)
Genre: young adult; fantasy
Rep: Persian cast & settings, bi mc, sapphic li
Rating: 4/5 🍑
Girl, Serpent, Thorn is revolutionary in more than one respect and for that we should all be grateful. It’s a feminist fairy tale for the modern times, even though it’s set in ancient Persia, even though it’s full of magic and monsters.
The plot is influenced by Sleeping Beauty, but at every turn twists the the well known story into something new and unexpected, and extraordinary. The princess isn’t a damsel in distress, she’s a monster and it is she, who does most of the saving. “The evil witch” learns new tricks and gets a backstory. The prince? There’s no prince in this fairy tale; who needs him, when you have a group of women who love each other and would sacrifice everything for one another?
The titular girl (who is also a serpent and a thorn) is poisonous and her curse literally makes it so that anyone who touches her, dies. Not only is that terribly romantic and a great premise for a story, it’s also an incredible concept for a girl character. A young girl who doesn’t have to worry about men touching her without consent? A young girl who doesn’t have to feel afraid of men around her? It’s quite frankly groundbreaking.
The most obvious change between the folk tale and Girl, Serpent, Thorn is the moment the princess falls asleep. They both prick themselves on a finger and draw blood, but the first (original) one does it unknowingly, while Soraya soughts that ending out. And no, she doesn’t magically fall asleep for a hundred years, but it’s a close thing, with the way she loses a vital part of herself in that process.
Girl, Serpent, Thorn isn’t just a retelling of a fairy tale, though. It adds so much to the story, they’re more like cousins thrice removed. And what makes it the most unique, is the Persian setting. Bashardoust created a magical, rich gold world inspired by her own cultural history and the love she poured into it is visible in every little detail.
If you’re looking for a diverse feminist story with a cast of strong yet flawed women, and an intense sapphic relationship at the heart of it, you should definitely start reading Girl, Serpent, Thorn right this second.
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.
What’s a good young adult novel you have read recently?