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Girl, Serpent, Thorn

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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.

336 pages, Paperback

First published July 7, 2020

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About the author

Melissa Bashardoust

4 books1,579 followers
Melissa Bashardoust (pronounced BASH-ar-doost) received her degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, where she rediscovered her love for creative writing, children’s literature, and fairy tales and their retellings. She currently lives in Southern California with a cat named Alice and more copies of Jane Eyre than she probably needs. Girls Made of Snow and Glass is her first novel.

As much as I appreciate you all, I'm not active on Goodreads, so if you'd like to get in touch, please see the contact page on my website above. Thanks and happy reading!

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,849 reviews
Profile Image for chai ♡.
321 reviews153k followers
August 11, 2022
The story of the Shah’s twin sister came to the people of Atashar as most rumors do, as a drifting set of jokes and have-you-heards that combined and recombined themselves slowly into a single tale: a poisonous girl with the blood of a div moving in her veins, a burden to her family, living in the shadows, cursed and reviled. But unlike most rumors, this one is true.

Soraya, our protagonist, knows fear in the shape of her own face, in the monstrous thing that prowled inside her. For years, she walked the edges of her curse, looking for a crack, but it held on. Until Azad, a handsome young soldier captures a female div named Parvaneh, and all the hope Soraya had shut out comes roaring back in. Parvaneh might be the only one who can show Soraya the gaps between the bars of her curse, but to escape her life, Soraya might have to tear a hole in her family’s.

The premise of Girl, Serpent, Thornpromises a story that gathers Persian mythology into an exhilarating antiheroic slant and bears the indentations of a dark and twisted fairytale with all the rich density of horror—and the potential is definitely there.

One of my favorite things about this novel is how heavy it is with the foreshadowing: the story often feels like a clock winding tighter as the ending draws near, and the world—though only delicately sketched since the author does not explain or engage with every aspect of its nature—is sharpened with urgency.

Soraya too is an interesting protagonist, and the narrative hints too at how far more powerful she is than she gives herself credit for. The question of “What will Soraya allow herself to become?” kept me turning the pages. Will she remain the helpless girl, locked away and withering on the vine of life? The quiescent serpent, ignoring the coiled thing inside her, that gathering of something hard and unyielding? Or the girl made of thorns, with a sting like fire? For a while, I thought the story would balloon in that latter direction. The narrative, unfortunately, often retreats into a flimsy plot populated with characters that could have been more substantially fleshed out, and culminating eventually into a big reveal that’s obvious from the book’s earliest pages—and one that isn’t all that gripping in the first place.

Ultimately, this is my biggest quibble with the story—that it cries out for a more challenging, better developed execution of a really promising premise. Still that’s not enough to put a permanent dent in the novel’s spell. As the story powers forward, and Soraya is forced to brush with her moral code, the novel probes, painstakingly, at Soraya’s desire to be just, to somehow behave well despite the contradictory desires of the heart. The author also affectingly articulates the ways that humanizing and dehumanizing those we love can be flip sides of the same coin. Here, I wish the novel had dwelled longer on the sapphic romance that blossoms between Soraya and Parvaneh who, amid the swirling chaos, have looked at each other and found a possibility of something.

All quibbles aside, this was a solid read. I just wish I enjoyed it more.
Profile Image for Cindy.
407 reviews112k followers
November 22, 2020
A simple Persian fairytale based on Sleeping Beauty. My favorite part about this was the sapphic romance; this was the main thing driving me to keep reading because I was like "wait... is it...?!" I wish the protagonist wasn't so wishy-washy though; this dragged the story a lot and made it hard to believe her struggle with being "monstrous" (nothing about her really was evil or monstrous; she's just very indecisive lol).
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,194 reviews40.5k followers
January 26, 2022
A poisonous girl threatens the people’s lives who dare to touch her (intentionally or accidentally) Poor Soraya suffers from loneliness, is exiled from her inner circle, living in the shadows because poison flows through her veins and she can kill somebody anytime. But a mysterious boy gets interested with her situation and he seems like he is not afraid of her.

You may think what a great pilot, the boy will break the curse, fight with the demons and ride to the sunset singing “take my horse to the Old Town Road, duct taping Billy Ray Cyrus’ mouth not to join him singing! Nope, when you reach half of the book, you just say “oh, I didn’t see it coming, it just moved to the different direction! Actually this book makes you feel like you read more than one books (I think a trilogy is hidden inside of this story and I wish the author told Soraya’s beautiful, emotional, awakening, self-discovery story in more than one book.)

So this fairy tale mixed with Persian culture and magical elements kind of story. A girl does not want to use her curse to gain power and threat people’s lives. She accepts her unfair faith and we catch glimpses from her early life and witness that she had a crush to a girl which is reciprocated. (Yes, we have a bisexual heroine on the board which is a different and unique touch) And yes, Soraya loves to see the roses’ growing because instead of killing or hurting any living thing, she wants to give them live and see them grow.

Second part, we just realize, main love interest of this story is f/f relationship. But as I said from the beginning, this is not romantic fantasy about a girl who needs to love for breaking her curse and having her HEA! When we learn more about both of their skeletons they hid in their closets, we may see they are so flawless, pure, golden-hearted characters. So we have two realistically developed female characters’ uniquely developed story, are ready to atone their sins because they are not the villanelles. They are just humans who made mistakes and wrong choices in their pasts and now they want to correct them.

Overall this book is definitely not only a love story, it’s about a girl’s evolution, learning from her mistakes, choosing what she wants from her life, discovering her own strengths, sensibilities and forming her own path story . World building with Persian cultural elements and magical touch is also one of the best parts I truly enjoyed about the book.
I have to admit longevity of this book made me a little hesitated before I decided to start it. I still wish the story could have told in more than one book because the writing is intriguing, characters are easy to connect, pacing is balanced ( not too fast or slow).If you keen on reading some original, different approach with feminist vibes to the fairy tales, this book is definitely a great choice.

I gave 3.5 stars and of course the author’s hard efforts and lyrical, magical story-telling forced me to round it up to 4 stars.

So much thanks to NetGalley and Flatiron Books for sharing this unconventional, unique ARC COPY with me in exchange my honest review.

Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,536 reviews9,776 followers
May 17, 2023

Sometimes the Princess is a monster.

Girl, Serpent, Thorn is Melissa Bashardoust's sophomore novel; one I was greatly anticipating.

Her debut, Girls Made of Snow and Glass, a wildly-creative reimagining of Snow White, blew me away when I read it in 2018.

I was enchanted by Bashardoust's vivid imagination and ability to uniquely recreate a well-known tale.

This latest story is an original fairy tale following a princess, Soraya, who due to a curse is poisonous to the touch.

Because of this, her family has kept her a secret; locked away from the rest of the kingdom.

As Soraya grows up, she watches life go by around her from high atop the castle. As the years go by, she begins to grow resentful.

Her brother, the Shah, is set to marry a girl she once considered her best friend; her only friend, really.

When circumstances arrive that bring a captured Div, a magical demon, into the castle’s dungeons, Soraya believes they may hold the answers she seeks. The cure for her curse.

Little does she know, that one bit of information could actually be the downfall for them all.

I really enjoyed this. Bashardoust continues to impress with her writing skill.

The world-building was fantastic and I loved the Persian atmosphere.

Although this is an original story, I could feel the influences from many other myths and fairy tales. I thought it was executed beautifully.

There were moments when I could see influence from Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Arabian Nights, and Rapunzel, to name a few.

Although it is a story full of magical powers and beings, the writing didn’t suffer from trying to be overly whimsical.

I find with some stories, they try to up the magical feel in a way that ends up overshadowing the actual plot. That wasn’t the case here!

As Soraya discovers the truth of her curse, she begins to question her entire life, what she has been told and who she can trust.

There was a lot of back and forth between different characters, where as the Reader, you weren’t even sure who she could trust.

There were a few deep deceptions, a lot of plotting and even more monsters. The stakes were high and I was definitely cheering for Soraya the whole way through.

She has a great arc over the course of the story, growing in confidence and courage.

I would highly recommend this to YA Fantasy readers, especially if you are looking for a diverse Fantasy.

Soraya is a bi-MC and the Persian influence can be felt throughout. I think this book really has something for everyone.

There is a lot more I could talk about with regards to the plot, it has plenty of depth and intricacies to explore, but I think it is best to go into the story knowing as little as possible.

You can enter this one confident you are in the hands of a skilled storyteller. Bashardoust has never let me down and I will continue to pick up anything she has published.

I would like to thank the publisher, Flatiron Books, for not only providing me with a copy of this read and review, but also including me on the blog tour for its release.

It is an honor to be able to help promote Bashardoust and her beautiful stories!

Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews155k followers
April 5, 2021

A new BookTube Video is Up all about whether you should buy, borrow or burn 2020 YA books! Let me know what you think!
The Written Review

Stories always begin the same way. There was and there was not. There is a possibility in those words, the chance for hope or despair.
Soraya is a princess but she has spent her life in fairytales and hidden away because of her deepest, darkest secret.
...the div cursed her firstborn daughter, making her poisonous, so that anyone who touched her would die.
After a lifetime without touch, Soraya finds herself yearning ever-more for someone - anyone - to break her isolation.

When a div (demon) is taken into the dungeons, she finally realizes that she might have a chance to learn more about her curse and possibly break free...but she knows demons lie.

Is she willing to risk it all for a chance at freedom?
"Do you see now why I recognized you? You're my favorite story. I feel like I've known you for a long time."
First of all - GORGEOUS cover on this one. I absolutely LOVED the color scheme, the roses, thorns and snakes. Really eye-catching.

I loved the concept of this book - the poisoned princess, the demon-in-the-dungeon, and the mysterious stranger who loves her.

The three major characters played well off of each other and had a pretty good balance between the three of them. There were a few moments that felt a bit predictable but overall I was entertained by the direction of the book.

The plot was interesting but it was missing a little sparkle. I think it's because we spend a lot of time inside or hiding, which is confining to astory.

The pacing felt a bit slow as Soraya waffled about whether she should take a plunge or stay in safety (which got...a little annoying after a bit) but once she finally made up her mind, the plot took off like a rocket.

All in all, I quite liked this one and I'm looking forward to what the author writes next!

With thanks to Netgalley, Flatiron Books and Melissa Bashardoust for sending me a free copy in exchange for an honest review

YouTube | Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Snapchat @miranda_reads
Profile Image for may ➹.
480 reviews1,938 followers
November 3, 2020
[slams hand on table] I wanted more GAY.


Girl, Serpent, Thorn is an enthrallingly written fantasy drawing inspiration from Persian mythology and Sleeping Beauty. Soraya, the twin sister of the Shah, should be able to walk the streets of her country freely and touch anything without the worry that it will wither away. But for her entire life, she has been cursed with a poisonous touch, with the blood of a div (demon) coursing through her. When a div is captured in a local village, Soraya may find the cure to her curse—or a threat that endangers her family and country.

After reading the first few chapters, I was afraid that I might end up disappointed. There is a plot twist—though I’d say it is more like a plot reveal since it wasn’t particularly surprising—and when it happened, I feared that its obviousness would ruin the rest of the story for me. Fortunately, the remainder of the book unfurls deliciously without as much predictability.

I flew through this book in a matter of only a few days. I remember staying up late in bed to read this, with only the warm light of my lamp and this immersive, twisting story to keep me company. Something about Bashardoust’s writing is gripping and lends this book a classic fairytale feeling. While I may have liked her previous book, Girls Made of Snow and Glass, more, I think her writing definitely improved in this one and it is utterly transportive.

She had read enough stories to know that the princess and the monster were never the same. She had been alone long enough to know which one she was.

Soraya was a fascinating character to follow throughout this book. She grapples with her inability to become close with anyone—from a fear that stems both from herself and everyone around her, a fear that she is nothing more than her curse and a blight on her family. Her loneliness became a part of her, as did her feelings of shame and self-loathing, and all of this only contributed to the questionable decisions she made.

Honestly, I found myself wanting more from her—perhaps it’s the lady villain lover in me, but I just really would’ve loved to see her give in to the idea that she was a monster and relish in it. But that truly was an issue with my own personal taste, and I also realized that that isn’t the point of her character. Soraya is someone who is learning how to be herself and how to love herself after fearing what it means to be Soraya. And all of this growth happens as she gets closer to a villain that she can actually envision herself becoming, which just makes her development even better: She explores her own monstrosity and reclaims what it means for her after having it defined by everyone her entire life.

I also had the same issues with the side characters; I wanted to see more from both the villain and Parvaneh. They certainly didn’t feel two-dimensional and were both interesting characters, and I enjoyed learning more about them and their backgrounds. But for me, there was still something missing from them.

Probably my biggest source of dismay was that the romance between Soraya and Parvaneh did not deliver everything I wanted, and I ached for more from it. I think this was due to the false advertising that this would be pretty focused on the f/f romance. While the romance is there (and it is wonderful and lovely and I adore it), it definitely wasn’t as central as I was expecting, and I really wish it had been. I felt the same way with Bashardoust’s previous book, so perhaps it is a stylistic choice of hers to not write too much romance in her books? But I think their relationship would have benefited from more development/scenes regardless—I loved the scenes between them and I simply wanted more sapphic goodness!!

She had thought nothing would be more incredible than the simple sensation of touch, but she’d been wrong: more incredible still was the idea that she could be dangerous, all her thorns on display, and that someone would dare to touch her anyway.

Even though I don’t think the full potential of this book was reached, I still found it to be a captivating story, and I thought it was a well-done exploration of loneliness, self-loathing, and the impacts of being raised to fear yourself. If you’re looking for an entrancing fantasy that feels like a fairytale, with an antiheroine who goes on a journey to learn and love who she is, this book is for you! Unfortunately, I just wanted a little bit more from it.


:: rep :: Persian-coded cast, wlw MC (multi-gender attracted) and LI

:: content warnings :: violence, murder/death, imprisonment, war, depictions/mentions of blood

All quotes are taken from an advance copy and may differ in final publication.
Profile Image for Chelsea Humphrey.
1,438 reviews78k followers
June 24, 2020
"I am both the Sleeping Beauty and the enchanted castle; the princess drowses in the castle of her flesh."
-Angela Carter, Vampirella

As someone who is new to Melissa Bashardoust's novels, I can't really say how this novel compares to her previous one, but what I can say is that Girl, Serpent, Thorn is a delightful breath of fresh air in the YA fantasy genre. I'm always on the search for fairytale retellings that incorporate non-Western stories, and this Persian inspired spin on "the poisonous girl in the garden" was truly incredible.


It's really hard to touch on the plot, aside from what is shared in the synopsis, because there were many twists and turns that I wasn't expecting across the length of the book. Let's just say that secrets abound and characters can't always be trusted. Your emotions will be tested, not only by the (sort of) love triangle, but by Soraya's inner battles with the affliction that holds her. I cannot imagine not being able to touch or be touched by another soul, and I was intrigued by the physical and mental consequences that this brought on our main character. I think I'm going to stop here, and leave it up to you to decide if you'd like to read this story for yourself, but I'm really glad to have read this one, and I'm very interested in going back and picking up Girls Made of Snow and Glass while waiting for whatever she decides to write next.

*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my review copy via NetGalley.
Profile Image for destiny ♡ howling libraries.
1,655 reviews5,127 followers
October 8, 2021
She had read enough stories to know that the princess and the monster were never the same. She had been alone long enough to know which one she was.

Friends, no matter how excited I was to read this gorgeous Persian fairytale retelling with queer girls and demons — a description that had all of my interests piqued entirely on its own — and no matter how many rave reviews I'd already seen, nothing could have prepared me for how utterly captivating and entrancing and gorgeous Girl, Serpent, Thorn was.

Beautiful yet deadly, he had called her. Somehow, he made one sound as sweet as the other.

First of all, the entire atmosphere and aesthetic of this story — please, this has to be made into a film, because I think it would be breathtaking. And the characters? They're genuinely complex, even some of the minor roles we don't see often, but don't even get me started on Soraya and Parvaneh, and how dear these two women are to my heart. Soraya is an incredibly three-dimensional protagonist with flaws and values, fears and desires, and my heart absolutely ached for her, all of the time — but don't get me wrong, she's tough as nails and a fierce protector, too. And Parvaneh? What I wouldn't give for a prequel novella about her before meeting Soraya! I'm such a sucker for demons as characters in the first place, but when you add in the complexities of the div types and the sisterhood of the parik, on top of Parvaneh's charm and general existence as a total badass? I, like Soraya, was doomed from the start.

"There's something restless growing within you. We're all very curious to see what happens when it breaks free."

As far as the plot goes, while the characters shone for me, I loved the entire storyline, too. I felt like Melissa Bashardoust took an arc that could've been dragged out into 2 or 3 books easily, yet she slimmed it down into just a few hundred pages without leaving me feeling as though anything was missing, and that's an incredible talent in my eyes. I couldn't get enough and the pacing kept me interested from cover to cover. I loved the exploration of Soraya's curse, but even more, I loved the familial aspect to it and her gradual understanding of why these things came into being. Nobody is innocent here, but everyone has a genuine motive, and it makes it hard to dislike any of these characters — even the villain.

"I've been expecting you. And you are very, very late."

I also have to mention one particular plot point about three-quarters through that I won't spoil, but if you've read it, I'll just say a character is introduced who absolutely broke me. Watching Soraya reach this depth in understanding her ancestry, and the connection she is granted... It's hard to be vague here, because all I want to do is weep incoherently about how powerful the entire final act of this book was and how beautifully it all wrapped up.

If I am being cruel, she decided, then it's because he taught me how.

I'll wrap this up in a moment, but finally, the discussion of betrayal and manipulation in Girl, Serpent, Thorn is so subtle and eloquent. Too often, we see princesses in fairytales who are tricked by wicked men and blame themselves, or are blamed by others; finally, Melissa Bashardoust has given us a princess who has been tricked and grows to recognize that she didn't deserve this behavior, and that if her only fault was trusting a cruel man, the blame resides in his cruelty — not her kindness. Truly, what an empowering story of hope and strength, and I know this one will stick with me for a long time to come.

Representation: Girl, Serpent, Thorn is inspired by the Persian epic Shahnameh and the author's exploration into her own culture. Soraya and Parvaneh are both queer (while Soraya is attracted to multiple genders in the context of the book, no labels are used for either character).

Content warnings for:

All quotes come from an advance copy and may not match the final release. Thank you so much to Flatiron Books for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for Melanie.
1,165 reviews98.2k followers
October 21, 2020

Fairyloot's May 2020 Box - DESERT DREAMS 🖤
My Rep Code: MELANIE5 ❤️

Oh, I wanted to love this one so very badly! Sadly, most of the characters just felt so insufferable and their actions felt so convenient and questionable. This is ownvoices for the Persian mythos, and does star a bi MC (the author is queer, but I’m not sure what they ID as!) But this is a story about a princess who is cursed with a poisonous touch, and because of that she is constantly alone and locked away by her family because they don’t want anyone to know and she doesn’t want to hurt anyone on accident! That is, until she meets a boy named Azad who not only finds out but is not scared of her or her touch! You know, until bad things happen and her, her family, and her entire kingdom is in grave danger!

Now, this is where the insufferable MC comes in, because Soraya truly just makes the most questionable of choices, while the other characters just magically choose to believe her for progression of the story. Meanwhile, a demon girl named Pavenah is everything and I loved her with the sum of my being!

This had a lot of potential, and I liked the talk on power dynamics and imbalances a lot, but the story just never made me feel like there were any risks because they always conveniently worked out over and over again. Truly, even the villains in this book were the most trustworthy for no reason. Yet, I will say that I am very much in the minority with my feelings on this book, so maybe check out some other reviews! Also, I never want to read about convenient secret passages again either!

Content and Trigger Warnings: blood, gore, violence, captivity, & panic attack/anxiety depiction.

Blog | Instagram | Youtube | Ko-fi | Spotify | Twitch

Buddy read with Romie, Maëlys, & Amy! (we love an accidental Dragons & Tea buddy read!) ❤

Reading Rush 2020
September 12, 2020
Dark, Unexpected and Completely Original!

This book was totally different than I thought it would be. I expected something along the lines of Rapunzel, with a princess locked away in a castle only to be rescued by a prince who is able to see who she really is despite her differences. However what I got was a girl who didn’t just sit in her room locked away and waiting to be rescued, but one who did what she could to rescue herself and she didn’t always do what was right or proper. She makes mistakes, big mistakes with far reaching effects.

I couldn’t always tell who was good and who was bad in this fairytale and it made it truly suspenseful and original. Soraya is the lead character and she is a twin to Sorush, the current Shah of Golvahar. She is cursed with poison in her veins and is unable to touch any living thing without killing it. She longs to get rid of her curse and be normal.

Her family travels every summer and she is left behind, only able to watch them return each fall from her tower where she is hidden away. After their return one season she sees a new face, among her brothers guard and looks to the tower and sees her as well. His name is Azad and he is a commoner that has become a royal guard because he saved the Shah when a div attacked him. Div’s are from Mount Arzur.

Everyone there knew never to go wandering too close to the mountain, because it was the home of divs—the demonic servants of the Destroyer whose only purpose was to bring destruction and chaos to the Creator’s world.

Soraya learns that the div that attacked her brother was caught and now resides in the dungeon. She believes that the div might have the answer to reversing her curse. Soraya uses the tunnels in the castle to sneak down and speak to the div. she meets Azad who helps her and she finds information that may help her.

I don’t want to give any more away than that. However Soraya, the div named Parvenah and Azad become entangled and what happens after that is quite a tale. There are many other characters is this story and the character development and world building is terrific. This was a dark fairytale with monsters, curses and evil, but the Soraya’s journey is quite different than I have seen in other fantasy novels and fairytales. Sometimes it is hard to tell if she is good or bad, and the same is true for many of the other characters.

Though it wasn’t the best I have read, it was definitely very good and worth reading. I have this book 4 stars for all the things I truly liked about it. I would definitely watch a movie of this one! I love fantasy and fairytales and this is one of the most original I have read, though it is a retelling. I’ve never heard the fairytale before. It is nice to see a flawed heroine, especially one as strong as Soraya!

I voluntarily read & reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts & opinions are my own.

Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,460 reviews9,615 followers
July 8, 2020
4.5 Stars

This book wasn’t on my radar but it came today in my MAY FairyLoot (yes, still covid late)

Here’s a pic of the stuff with the exception of the bath salts. I tossed them off to the side and forgot to add them. Anyhoo...

1. Bookish Tin inspired by We Hunt The Flame
2. Bookish Wooden Spoon with a quote from Hero Of The Fall
3. Tea Towel inspired by The City Of Brass
4. Desert Bath Salts
5. Tribal Desert Candle inspired by An Ember In The Ashes
6. Sunglasses Pouch with quote from The Forbidden Wish
7. Tarot Cards inspired by Throne of Glass

I’m so glad I got this book in my FairyLoot box now! It was soooo freaking good! I loved the poisonous girl with all the fairytale goodness!

I loved the characters even though I wanted to smack them around a few times, but I digress!

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾

BLOG: https://melissa413readsalot.blogspot....
Profile Image for Ellie.
575 reviews2,112 followers
September 28, 2020
did someone summon me? I heard the magic words . . . antiheroine arc and f/f and bisexual mc.

The first thought I had immediately after finishing this (and throughout, really) is that I think it would have thrived as a duology. That is not to say it does not make a satisfying standalone (it does), but there are two identifiable parts to the book and I felt like the antiheroine arc could've been really good if pulled over two books, as would the development of the romance with Parvaneh.

The other thing was that I kind of wished it was a lot darker. There is a clear antiheroine bent to Soraya, and sometimes she slips into a crueller mindset, but most of the time there's regret and hurt at how people treat her and at points I was honestly like RISE UP AND BECOME A DARK QUEEN WITH THE SHAHMAR. She also never really had that manipulative or morally grey bent I like to see in my antiheroines, but then again, her true purpose was not to go out and amass power for herself even though I kind of wish it was but lol. She was, in a way, a reluctant antiheroine who wanted to belong rather than feel like she was remotely evil in anyway.

This kind of leads me onto the Shahmar, who I . . . loved? I actually saw the entire twist in the middle of the book coming when it was revealed that that character was actually the cursed snake king. You don't usually build up a romance with a character early on unless you're going to have a big twist in the middle of the story. And besides, aforementioned character was too nice and the foreshadowing with viper comparisons was there right in the beginning. For some readers, I do think it'll be a fun surprise though unless you read this review in which I'm trying to be vague but you'll know when you start reading who I'm on about, rip.

I don't want to write tons about the Shahmar (okay maybe I do), but as a villain I really liked him. I love seeing villains explored and working as a kind of mirror to the hero/antihero, and that's done here. "You and I don't belong fully to either world," the Shahmar says to Soraya, and I'm a sucker for the cursed prince, the villian with understandable but flawed motivations. His actions towards Soraya were strangely kind, as he believed he finally had met someone who saw and understood and was just like him. In fact, because he was weirdly nice to Soraya throughout he sometimes didn't even seem like a big evil villain and look, I shipped it. Again, that's my own enjoyment of villian love interests coming in; he wanted someone to understand him and I'm a bit weak for that. Because of that, I was hoping, perhaps, for some kind of resolution or atonement for him at the ending. He cut Soraya a lot of slack when I thought it seemed clear she was acting against him, and when he assumed power, there was not a mass slaughter and the onset of a reign of utter terror. This kind of complexity in both villain and antiheroine characters is something Barshadoust does really well: it brings to mind Mina from her prior book, GIRLS MADE OF SNOW AND GLASS (who was my favourite character from that book, unsurprisingly.)

I realise I haven't talked a lot about Parvaneh, but yay for monster girlfriends! I did like her, yes, and I liked her romance with Soraya and yay for f/f honestly, but I don't feel deeply invested in Soraya x Parvaneh like I do with my favourite f/f couples. There was nothing wrong with the development of Soraya & Parvaneh's relationship (it was primarily moved into the second half of the book and didn't have that slow torturous unwind that I love in romances, tbf), but I also didn't really know enough about Parvaneh to feel closely connected to her beyond a superficial level and that affected how much enjoyment I took from things. I feel like I know more about the Shahmar than I know about Parvaneh, really. Again, this could have been solved if this novel was split into a duology and the development of the sapphic romance was given time to expand in the second book, but hmm.

To be honest, for a standalone that's not overly long (just over 300 pages for my arc), GIRL, SERPENT, THORN is cohesive and well-developed. Not extensively, and like I said I wish it had been split into two books and the antiheroine potential of Soraya examined more, but Barshadoust has done really well in including it all. It works. It doesn't feel underdeveloped. The pacing is great. I loved the worldbuilding, and Soraya's rose garden. The Sleeping Beauty influences are minimal, but there are clear ones towards the end. I would definitely recommend it for people looking for a #ownvoices Persian fantasy.

In addition, this book is my favourite book with snakes on the cover so far, besides NINTH HOUSE. I mean, LOOK AT IT. The white snake, the pink flowers, the thorns, the clean minimalism that is beautiful . . . yes.

> 4 stars

I received an arc from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Profile Image for Lucy.
415 reviews610 followers
June 27, 2020
”You could kill me with a single touch. Why should you ever be afraid of anyone?”


This book was captivating and unexpected, filled with Persian mythology and culture. Our main protagonist, Soraya, the sister of the Shah, is cursed- she is poisonous to the touch causing almost instant death to most living and breathing things she touches. Living a life of exile in the palace, we witness her loneliness, jealousies and fear of her own power.

When Soraya hears that a Div has been captured, she immediately sets out to find answers about her curse and how to get rid of it. She also captures the attention of a new soldier along the way providing her with new opportunities to explore a whole new world outside the confines of the Palace.

This wasn’t a romance book so much as a book of a character’s evolution and discovering her power. We witness everything from Soraya’s perspective; how she has jealousies, loneliness, anger, love. She is not the perfect princess that most fairytales portray, and this story instead shows her villainous side as well.

This book features a bisexual heroine (which was a unique touch as this still does not always arise in YA fantasy) as she tries to navigate her feelings despite being cursed. This is her discovering the truth of the past, why she is cursed, and the awakenings and longings that arise outside of the Palace that she is kept in.

I adored the use of Persian mythology in this. This is the first book that introduced me to Persian myths and I was fully immersed in reading it. This book also featured a girl who is poisonous to the touch which had me highly interested to read this book.

This book had different twists and played out in ways that I did not predict- which was a nice surprise.

A fantastic magical standalone!

Profile Image for ✨    jami   ✨.
660 reviews3,881 followers
May 2, 2020
inspired by Persian mythology, has a morally grey bi mc who is spending the book teetering on the edge of villainy, monster girlfriends, transportive writing that sucks you directly into the world and SO many twists and turns, please add it to your pre-order lists

full review to come
Profile Image for Emetis.
97 reviews35 followers
August 21, 2020
Buddy read with the amazing @Naomi Waters!!! I loved reading this book with you!

There was and there was not. A girl living in a castle hidden away like a secret or a treasure. Most people didn’t know about the Shahzadeh, the Shah’s twin sister. And there was a good reason for that, for the girl was cursed. Everything she touched was meant to die, for she was poisonous.

I’m so emotional right now. This book means everything to me. As someone who comes from Iran reading a book about my own culture, tradition, and myths was something that I didn’t know I needed in my life until I came across this book.
Yes, I have read books about my culture in persian but to read it in a language that is not my mother tongue, knowing that other people are also able to read it and get a glimpse of what my culture is like... that just made me so happy.
I know that there are other books written by Persian authors in English but so far non of them have stuck out to me the way this one has.

The author has indeed done her research on the mythological aspect of this book. Most of the creatures come from the Shahnameh. And as someone who began reading the Shahnameh at a young age, I can tell you that the myths and the creatures are 100% accurate.

The culture representation was my favorite thing about this book and to be honest, that’s the main reason why the moment I opened it, it became my all time favorite.
All those festivities, colors and food... they made me so nostalgic.

Parvaneh is by far my favorite character. She was so fascinating to read about and I loved her the moment she appeared. I loved how complex her character was.
I loved how she willingly sacrificed herself in order to save Soraya’s family.

Although, in the end Soraya did come close to being my favorite!
The one thing I love about Soraya the most, is that she is unlike other female heroines. She isn’t trained in combat and she isn’t particularly clever. There is just something about her, that although I can’t find the right words to describe it right now, I loved about her.
Her character development was my favorite. In the beginning she said that the poison in her veins was a curse and in the end she embraced it.
Oh, and did I mention that she is Bisexual?
What a queen!

The romance was very well done. It wasn’t rushed, it was a slow burn in fact. And I loved every second of reading about Parvaneh and Soraya. This book is by far one of my favorite books with a f|f romance.

And Azad...
In the end I kinda pitied him to be honest. That’s the thing with this book. Most of the characters are morally gray.
Even if he did do some questionable things, I believe that there was still some good in him.
Profile Image for J  (Midnight Book Blog).
161 reviews546 followers
February 6, 2021
Plot: The plot felt suuuuper slow. There was just so much inner dialogue and description, and it didn’t seem like that much happened outside of it, especially for the first half of the book.

Characters: Soraya was painfully naive, which I guess makes sense since she had been isolated her whole life. But still, yikes. The villain was very predictable, and I didn’t feel anything strongly for them or the MC. The pariks were the best characters, but had a small role.

Overall: This book is based on Persian mythology, which was super interesting and new to me. The message was nice, but I wish the world, plot, and characters had been more thoroughly developed. They weren’t bad, but left me wanting more.

Content warnings: None that I can think of

Click here for the full review on my blog!
Profile Image for Fadwa (Word Wonders).
547 reviews3,543 followers
October 19, 2020
I received an earc of this book from the publisher in exchange of an honest review

CW: manipulation, murder, death, battle, intrusive thoughts.

Since the day I finished Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust, I have been looking forward to whatever book she’ll be putting out next. So knowing the premise of Girl, Serpent, Thorn combined with how much I adore her writing I really couldn’t see how anything could go wrong with this book. And I was 110% right, Girl, Serpent, Thorn sucked me in from the first page, took me on a whirlwind of an emotional journey and I loved every second of it.

The most accurate way I can think of to describe Melissa Bashardoust’s writing is that it reads like a fairytale. That was the case with her debut and this sophomore novel proved to be no different. All of this to say that the writing still is jaw-droppingly beautiful, with many quotable lines. It’s also atmospheric and enchanting with just the slightest hint of a dark eerie feel to it, it transports you to the world of the book with the lush descriptions, makes you feel every single emotion the main character experiences and gets you invested in everything happening. The lore in this book is also so rich but equally easy to understand and to immerse yourself into. Everything was well thought out and meticulously put together, no element of it was vague or left to chance.

The way I like to pitch Girl, Serpent, Thorn is “Persian inspired fairytale with a morally grey main character and monster girlfriends” and although that sums up the key elements of the story of the story, this book is so much more. At it’s core, it’s a story that explores loneliness and the way it can affect people, the way isolation can mess with anyone’s head, the way secrets fester, grow and keeping them, even with the best intentions can do much more harm than good. And how all of this eats at a person’s soul until they start wondering if there’s anything of them left, and if there is, if any of it is worth keeping. And that character exploration was my favorite thing about the book.

Read my full review on my blog Word Wonders
Profile Image for Valentina Ghetti.
160 reviews1,654 followers
November 7, 2021
Generalmente riesco a trovare sempre, per quanto un libro non mi piaccia, un punto a favore per proporre la lettura a voi. Eppure in questo caso non ci riesco proprio.

Non posso consigliarvelo per il worldbuilding: è inesistente (non so nemmeno come si vestano i personaggi, per farvi capire). Vengono snocciolati una serie di termini incomprensibili (shah, shahmar, shahzadeh) che non vengono minimamente spiegati. Viene presentata una geografia del tutto illogica (i tempi degli spostamenti da un luogo all'altro non sono coerenti) e che non si accompagna a una mappa.
L'autrice commette un errore a parer mio imperdonabile: inserisce le due spiegazioni in croce sul suo incomprensibile worldbuilding nelle note finali. Non capisco veramente come sia stata reputata una buona scelta quella di non inserire il worldbuilding all'interno della narrazione, ma di relegarlo a due incomplete paginette con la scritta "per approfondire" in chiusura, ridicolo.

Non posso consigliarvelo per la trama, che è prevedibile e presenta un ritmo veramente assurdo (soprattutto all'inizio troppo veloce, con buchi di trama pazzeschi).
Non posso consigliarvelo per i personaggi che sono assolutamente inverosimili e odiosi.

Non posso nemmeno consigliarvelo per gli intrecci sentimentali, ciò su cui si è spinto maggiormente in fase di promozione, perché il triangolo amoroso è ridicolo, l'enemies to lovers veramente blando e il romance f to f è paragonabile all'affetto tra due amichette delle medie.
Ovviamente abbonda l'instalove.

Non riesco nemmeno a dirvi: "leggetelo perchè è trash, è intrattenitivo", perché non è affatto trash ma solo molto noioso.

In conclusione, per me "Ragazza, serpente, spina" è un ottimo articolo per decorare casa propria, ma a questo punto se dovete spendere soldi vi consiglio di comprare un portafrutta di design per l'arredo e un buon libro da leggere.
Profile Image for Dahlia.
Author 19 books2,392 followers
April 1, 2020
This was so. Good. If you love queer fairytales, especially of the non-Western variety, do not do not do NOT miss this Persian-influenced bisexual one.
Profile Image for Chelsea (chelseadolling reads).
1,478 reviews19.2k followers
August 13, 2020
This was fun! I didn't have super high expectations going in because YA fantasy isn't typically my favorite genre, but this was pretty fun to read. It wasn't a perfect story, and I do think that A LOT of the conflicts had very convenient and easy solutions, but overall this was a fun time and I'm happy that I spent the last few days in between these pages. I did end up listening to this one as an audiobook while reading along in the physical book and I think that added to the experience for me. I liked the narrator and listening to this really made it feel more like getting told a fairy tale and I am not mad about it. Definitely recommend if you want to read a fairy tale-esque queer fantasy!
Profile Image for Vee_Bookish.
1,333 reviews299 followers
December 18, 2020
I'm also a book blogger: Vee_Bookish
(ARC provided by NetGalley, my opinions are unbiased)

This was one of two books I read at the same time, that I found difficult to finish because I was just so incredibly bored (the other one was Havenfall). Originally I thought that this may because we've just hit the Coronavirus epidemic, but after finishing the books I realised that they both have major issues that affected my reading.

This book sounded so, so good with hella Medusa vibes. It's based around Persian mythology about a princess that cannot touch anyone cos they drop dead, presumably dramatically. It sounded cool as hell and I wanted to read it for a couple of months before it made an appearance on NetGalley.

This just did not have the kick that I wanted. Like many readers, I'm tired of woe-is-me main characters that spend most of their books moping about how hard their lives are. I'm sorry, it just doesn't make for interesting reading. This character is supposed to be embracing her darker and lighter sides and she just came across as pathetic. And really, really annoying.

The plot was both fairly easy to guess and overcomplicated, as well as all over the place. The various demons needed a full colour illustrated guide because I could not picture them in the slightest. The plot weirdly reminded me of Labyrinth in some places and it's really hard to discuss it's issues without giving major spoilers, as the second half is where everything happens and the first half is Soraya just mooching about the castle, moping about the one time she poked a butterfly and it died.

Azad? Annoying and almost cartoonish. Soraya? Annoying. Parvaneh? Honestly kinda cool, the book would have been better from her perspective. The world building... honestly outside of Soraya's immediate area I have zero clue how that world functions and the harmony between the creatures and humans (or lack of it) is kinda glossed over. It was an interesting book with maybe a few too many things thrown at it.
Profile Image for solanne.
196 reviews476 followers
December 4, 2020
imagine not having the attention span of a goldfish and being able to actually follow a storyline while listening to an audiobook,,, lmao I could never
Profile Image for Lucie V..
971 reviews1,769 followers
June 9, 2022
✅ Original concept
✅ Characters
✅🆗 Pace
✅🆗 Plot
🆗 World-building
🆗 Romance

“Stories always begin the same way: There was and there was not. There is possibility in those words, the chance for hope or despair.”

Soraya was cursed by a demon when she was only a baby: anyone who touches her dies instantly. She has spent her life hidden away so she wouldn't tarnish the royal family's reputation (she is the Shah's twin sister after all) or accidentally kill someone and now more than ever, she yearns for warmth and touch. She wants more than this sad isolated life where even her family does not really know her or talk to her. It all seems hopeless until a div (demon) is taken prisoner and brought to the palace. Soraya learns that the only way for her to get rid of her curse would mean betraying her family. Now she needs to decide if a chance at freedom is really worth it.

“She had read enough stories to know that the princess and the monster were never the same. She had been alone long enough to know which one she was.”

The characters in this book are well developed. Soraya is a complex girl with loads of emotions (good and bad). She spent her life in isolation so she is a bit naive and she wants to be able to touch other people so much that it might lead her to bad decisions, but on the other side, she is not stupid enough to throw everything away simply for a pretty smile. The other two more important characters are also well developed and they bring different aspects of Soraya to light. We can see her grow from a girl who is afraid and tormented by the poison in her veins to a determined and brave woman.

The world-building remains basic, but the story focuses more on the characters so it does not affect the quality of the plot. There is action, deception, betrayal, and also a hint of romance, and all in all, it is well balanced.

The beginning of the story is a little slow, maybe because Soraya spent so much time hiding inside, wondering what to do, but once she made up her mind the pace picked up and the rest of the book was very enjoyable. Still, I couldn't get that involved in the plot, maybe because of the slow pace at the beginning. I still enjoyed reading this book, but I was expecting more.

Fanart by LayaRose

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Profile Image for Ashley.
800 reviews442 followers
October 25, 2020
Star Rating: —> 4.5 Stars

Well, I have to say I was a bit nervous going into this, given the mixed reviews and total GR rating being just under 4 stars (which btw this confounds me— I truly believe this deserves AT LEAST 4 solid stars, but 🤷🏼‍♀️) ...

I have to say, though, that this was absolutely magical, fantastic & everything my mythology/folklore loving heart could’ve asked for! Such an awesome look into Persian mythology, which is one culture whose folklore tales I was not at all familiar with before this novel.

It was very much told in a beautiful, atmospheric, & layered fairytale format and I loved every second of it— it was utterly transportive!
The plot consistently keeps you on your toes, twist after twist, & deception after deception; you literally never know who you could actually trust— sometimes even the main character, Soraya, was suspect!
Soraya is very much a morally grey character & I dig that SOMUCH.
Give me a complex, morally grey character any day, any time, anywhere.

Plus Soraya & Parvaneh... ahhh BE STILL MY HEART; so COMPLETELY in love with some queer romance in this wonderful fairytale .

I know this brief, I but I do not want to spoil anything about this wonderful, wonderful myth-like fairytale. I truly loved this dark romp in Persian mythology from start to finish.

I highly recommend this to any fantasy lover, world mythologies lover, fairytale lover, & well, anyone at all !

10/ 10 Recommend!
Profile Image for tappkalina.
649 reviews400 followers
April 7, 2023
I don't even know what was the problem. Maybe I've just read so may ya fantasy that I can't enjoy them unless they are really unique or I deeply fall in love with the characters.

With this one, based on the reviews I wasn't sure I'll like it, but it was a must because of the sapphics. And the sapphics were the only reason I didn't dnf it pretty early on, and they were the only thing I actually liked. I didn't care about this particular plot, but now that they went together into the sunrise (more like into the forest), I would totally read an adventure story with them in the focus.
Profile Image for anna (½ of readsrainbow).
587 reviews1,784 followers
July 9, 2020
rep: Persian cast & settings, bi mc, sapphic li

Review also on my blog. ARC provided by the publisher.

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.
Profile Image for Brittany Lee.
Author 1 book113 followers
September 1, 2020
Sweet and beautiful like a rose on the outside, prickly thorns line the inside. This is a fairytale gone rogue. She is a princess, she is a monster...

GIRL, SERPENT, THORN is a queer (female/female/bi) YA fantasy inspired by Persian mythology, the American fairytales- SLEEPING BEAUTY, RAPUNZEL, and RAPPACCINI'S DAUGHTER, and the author's exploration of legends and myths of her own culture and heritage, with particular attention tributed to the Persian- Sasanian era.

All of the historical words foreign to me were in a different language (Persian) and described briefly in the context of the story, but also defined thoroughly in the author's note at the end of the book. There weren't too many foreign words, but they make a bold statement. I enjoyed learning terms in the Persian language, such as calling demons- divs (pronounced DEEVS) and calling the New Year- Nog Roz. They were easy to remember and fun to come across.

I admired Melissa Bashardoust's spin on the folklore. It was well written, keeping me engaged the entire time! The story kept twisting and turning, continuously keeping the suspense high, I loved all the action that was going on! I couldn't wait to see what was happening next. The characters had depth and real emotions.

"I think you have so much power within you that it scares you, and that you make yourself small on purpose because you don't know what you'll become if you ever stop."

The storytelling through the imagery of roses, thorns, scales, poison, incense, divs, mythology, emotions, and characters, it was all so VIVID. Highly imaginative and gorgeous scenery! The magical elements were incredibly creative.

"Was she destined always to grow close to people who would betray her? Or perhaps the problem was that she wasn't growing close to people, but to demons."

As someone who doesn't normally read the fantasy genre, I was shocked by how much I liked this. I love retellings of fairytales/folklore, anything with monsters, demons, villain-ery, and heroism. I guess it's safe to say that I like a very limited amount of fantasy. I'm happy to add this one to the collection.

This was more than just a pretty cover! I expect this book to be a HUGE success. It was magical, thrilling, and sweet.

Much gratitude to the publisher Flatiron Books, compliments of the Goodreads Giveaway Program for the paperback ARC I received. I was under no obligation to write a review, my honest opinion is freely given. The quotes I chose may not reflect the final publication, as the author may have made changes prior to print.
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