Zoë Marriott's Reviews > Girl, Serpent, Thorn

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust
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it was amazing

Loved, loved, loved this. It's essentially a novel about cycles, about the way people - well meaning people, often - perpetuate these patterns of dishonest, fearful or manipulative behaviour over and over in their own lives, and then, trapped, pass the same patterns onto their children or families. The echoing/repeating stories of the main characters - the way that the author was able to show through three different characters how excluding and ill-treating people (especially for 'their own good') will rob them of their sense of self, of right and wrong, and eventually lead them to lash out, creating the cycle all over again, was breath-taking.

The main character - a princess cursed to fatally poison anyone who touched her, or who she chose to touch - was so deeply human. Her poison curse and the way it evolved was fascinating, but it was not the most interesting thing about her. Anyone who struggles with anger, with that endless, tiring process of trying to keep their fury in check, then the explosive satisfaction of letting go, followed by guilt and self-loathing that forces them to go back to repressing it again, will be struck to the heart by reading Soraya's journey. It was incredibly honest and real.

It's also a very timely reminder that when you've been victimised yourself, you can easily begin to think you're justified in victimising others - that your actions don't count because you are the underdog and you're always punching up, fighting for survival. Anyone who opposes you must be a bully or a bad guy, and that sense of satisfaction you get at lashing out at them is justice. But it's not justice. It's exactly the same satisfaction that other people felt at using whatever small amount of power they had to hurt and oppress you. This was so beautifully demonstrated in her relationship with a boy whom Soraya (and the reader!) always considered to be a bully, and how she treated him when she finally had him at a disadvantage.

This is a high fantasy, and its magic and world-building are based on Persian mythology. I adored Samira Ahmed's recent 'Art of Persia' series on the BBC, but hadn't known that this book was inspired by the Shahnameh (a legendary repository of Persian history and myth, compiled by a single author, Ferdowsi, in the first century CE) so the worldbuilding in this came as a delightful surprise. I could have done with more world-building and more mythology, honestly - but when can I not? I'm just a geek that way.

The pacing and prose of this novel are elegant, but the author's real strength here is character. Her characters, from viewpoint to major to supporting, absolutely glowed with nuance, complexity, and inner life.
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Reading Progress

August 1, 2020 – Started Reading
August 1, 2020 – Shelved
August 1, 2020 – Finished Reading

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