Book Review: Girl, Serpent, Thorn

Melissa Bashardoust

Rating: 5 out of 5.

published: 7th July 2020
spoilers? no


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.

So tell me, what do I owe my family? My loyalty? My affection? When have they ever given me either of those?

Galley provided by publisher

Girl, Serpent, Thorn is a gorgeously written, lush fantasy about a princess whose very skin is poisonous to the touch. As such, she is kept isolated apart from her family. But her brother is getting married, and a confluence of events brings Soraya’s greatest desire into touching distance (pun not intended).

You know that feeling when you find a book that brings together all of your favourite aspects wrapped up in brilliant writing and worldbuilding, hands it to you on a plate, and then makes it sapphic? Nothing like it, and that’s what Girl, Serpent, Thorn does so well. It takes a trope that’s alright as a het trope and makes it gay.

(The trope I mean is human girl falls for someone supernatural. Yes, it is better when it’s sapphic, I won’t be taking any questions.)

So obviously that the book revolves around this trope is the best part of it. How many times have I read a het trope like that and thought it okay but would be better when it’s sapphic? Too many. It’s about time we got it for ourselves. (Side note: I can never go back to reading it in a het context now, I’ve been ruined for it.)

I didn’t actually make any notes while reading this book, so a lot of this review is just winging it (hence the obsessing over the trope so far). And that’s because I was just too absorbed by reading to actually write anything down. It’s been so long since I read a book like that, to be honest, one that I genuinely did not want to stop reading even for the second it took to write maybe ten words. It just wasn’t happening. So that’s how you know this book is amazing.

If there were any tiny (tiny) gripes I had, it’s honestly that Soraya doesn’t have nearly enough scenes with her love interest. I mean, that’s most of what I’m here for, and yet! But really that comes back to the trope thing – I’m so enamoured by it I want to see more, and more, and yet more. Secondly, the plot does kind of drop off a little it felt like around the halfway mark. I was still absorbed and couldn’t put it down, but it felt like a noticeable difference between the third quarter of the book compared to the first half and final quarter.

But anyway. The conclusion of the book alone was more than enough for me to rate this the whole 5 stars.

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