Book review: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

Title: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

Publisher: Flatiron books

Publication date: 7 July 2020

Genre: Young Adult | Fantasy

Page extent: 336 pages


Goodreads blurb: 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.

Fairytale retelling? Check. Descent to villainy? Check. Sapphic slowburn romance? Check. Monster girlfriend? Double check. Girl, Serpent, Thorn was every bit as magical as I wanted it to be. It has such a wonderful fairytale vibe to it, with picturesque forests and carved out mountains, and I want nothing more than to read f/f villain monster romances forever.

Girl, Serpent, Thorn is inspired by Persian mythology and tells the story of Soruya, a girl poisonous to the touch. To protect her family’s reputation, she has been hidden away, alone and untouched, for all her life. When a young man begins to see who she is beyond her poisonous skin, she vows to rid herself of her curse, no matter the cost.

One of my favourite parts of this story was discovering all the mythology. Bashardoust goes into a detailed authors note at the end of the book to speak about her inspiration, but throughout the book, I just loved getting to see more of the mythology of Persia. From the creation stories, inspired by Zoroastrian beliefs, to the divs, demons who want to destroy the world, the world is magical. I would’ve loved to hear even more about the creation story and the origins of the divs, but that’s probably because I came to this book after The Unspoken Name, a large fantasy book that has intricately detailed religion and hence am dying to read some more books like that.

I found Soruya’s character particularly well written. There’s something so familiar about her. I think we have all felt that edge of resentment, have felt the awful emotions and thoughts it evokes in you, and so I found her incredibly relatable and understandable. Her actions made so much sense. And that made it very easy to root for her (whether you want her to be good or evil!) My favourite character however was Parvaneh. I have a thing for wings okay. I just loved her energy! She seems at times so mischievious (trying to work up Soruya’s anger), but also so full of regrets for her past. Her relationship development with Soruya is brilliant – I loved how both are so hesitant and yet so passionate at the same time. Both have been trapped by their circumstances, but together they’re able to explore freedom and just, this is the f/f content we need and we deserve!!! Bear in mind this is VERY slowburn. For the first 50% of the novel I was literally that John Travolta gif going WHERE IS THE F/F I WAS PROMISED.

The only real issue I had with this book was the enemy. I found their reveal abundantly obvious from literally their first moment on page and so I spent half of the novel going are we seriously meant to belief this?! I wish it had been so much less obvious because if it had been a shock, that would have been one of the most epic plot twists off all time. Sadly, because of this, I did feel a bit meh about the first half of the novel because I was dying to just get the reveal over with already. But after it happens, everything picks up and the story starts speeding forward with lots of drama and action and plenty of naive, foolish plans from Soruya.

Most of all, I loved the change in Soruya and her growth from a girl terrified of hurting someone with her poison, to someone who embraces her differences and learns to see their power. Sapphic goddess win. Girl, Serpent, Thorn is a wonderful YA fantasy, and seriously, I hope Bashardoust writes more monster girlfriends in future, cause this shit is good.

30 Days of Pride: The Tropes to Top all the Tropes

Hi everyone,

And finally we’re here, day 3 of my ode to tropes. Today we’re featuring two brilliant tropes. First up, is monster romance (which rather got out of hand as it turns out I love quite a few). Secondly, we’ve got a trope hugely important to all of us in the queer community: found family.

Monster romance

I am a sucker for monster romance. Give me dark monsters falling in love with soft, cinnamon rolls everyday.

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

Let’s start with a book I’m pretty sure might be THE sapphic book of the year. Releasing in July, Girl, Serpent, Thorn is about a princess who is poisonous to touch. When she tries to rid herself of her curse with the help of a demon, she unleashes unimaginable consequences and must question everything about herself. Girl, Serpent, Thorn is a book with a monster girlfriend, a morally grey princess, a descent to villainy, and wings!

Blood Countess by Lana Popović

So whilst Blood Countess doesn’t have a typical ‘monster girlfriend’, you can’t get more monsterous than the most prolific female serial killer of all time. Hence I think this book deserves to be included in this trope! This is a dark, horror retelling of Countess Elizabeth Báthory, the inspiration for Countess Dracula from the POV of Anna, a servant in Elizabeth’s castle. Check out my full review here.

Missing, Presumed Dead by Emma Berquist

In Missing, Presumed Dead we have a ghost, Jane, who’s out for revenge on the person who killed her. Lexi, a woman who can see how a person dies, sees Jane’s death but doesn’t do anything to stop it. So when Jane sticks around to destroy her murderer, she enlists Lexi’s help. And monster romance begin. Check out my full review here.

Beyond the Black Door by A.M Strickland

In Beyond the Black Door, not only do we get a gorgeous asexual biromantic heroine, we also get a monster romance! This is a dark and lush YA fantasy with people who can walk through the souls of others, and I’m not going to say anything else about the monster romance because spoilers!

Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand

In Sawkill Girls, there’s a dark and spooky island setting, where girls keep going missing and there’s lots of talk about a monster hiding in the woods. This books has a horrory-mythical vibe, a focus on female friendship and monsters to fall in love with.

The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht

Does a gothic horror tale about murder and monsters and a man who loves himself some of both sound interesting? Then this is the novella for you! The night is dark and full of corpses. The town of Elendhaven was left to die thanks to a plague outbreak and then stripped of all its industry. But the people in Elendhaven are going to have their revenge. Enter evil, murderering magicians and monsters.

In the Vanisher’s Palace by Aliette de Bodard

A dark sapphic Asian retelling of Beauty and the Beast inspired by Vietnamese mythology beats all other Beauty and the Beast retellings, I said it. Even more so when the Beast is a motherfucking dragon.

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

And we’re ending with another ghost romance, one that is already one of the most talked about books of the year! Not much gets better than a gay, trans, Latinx brujo accidentally summoning the wrong ghost then falling in love with him.

Found Family

Found family is quite possibly the most important and queerest of all these tropes I’ve talked about, which is why I’m leaving it to last. It’s a trope that resonates with those of us who can’t trust the family we’re born into, and instead must find our own in life to keep us going. It’s such a powerful, hopeful trope and I think these books really emphasise that positivity.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J Klune

This is one of the most gorgeous, wholesome, joyful, queerest books in the whole world, I love it! Featuring found family at it’s very best, The House in the Cerulean Sea follows Linus, a caseworker who goes to investigate an orphanage with some very special magical children (of whomst one is the Antichrist). This book is warm and cosy and utterly delightful. Check out my full review here.

The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum

K.Ancrum is an absolute genius and one of my auto-buy authors, no matter what she writes. Her debut The Wicker King was incredible, as is her second novel, The Weight of the Stars. This features a group of rough kids who’ve found each other thanks to Ryann, a girl who dreams of going to space. It has a soft sapphic relationship, Ancrum’s usual lyrical writing, and a beautiful page design!

Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

I’ll take your found family and raise you a found family made up of queer, librarian spies fighting fascists in a Western-style dystopian future. Yes that does sound as incredible as you think it is. This story is told from the POV of Esther, a stowaway who catches a ride when the librarians come to town and then realise she’s in the place she’s always needed to be.

The Affair of the Mysterious Letter by Alexis Hall

This is an absolutely weird and wild Sherlock Holmes retelling where Holmes is a pansexual female sorceress and Watson is a trans man who just can’t catch a break as he’s beset by vampires, pirates and sharks during his efforts to help out his fellow lodger. Full of fun and friendship and acceptance, everything the found family trope is known for.

And that’s a wrap on my trope posts! What’s your favourite trope? Are there any you love that I’ve missed?