First and foremost: the prose of Girl, Serpent, Thorn is sprawling, luxurious, and handsome without ever sacrificing the fast-paced narrative tension it constructs via constantly evolving intrigues. Bashardoust combines evocative, mythopoetic description with an intimate point of view that links the personal, emotional experiences Soraya has to the wider world she inhabits ... I’m pleased with this novel’s willingness to engage ethical complexity, the labor of atonement, and the damage well-meaning people do to one another ... a delicious tale of desire, mistakes, anger, violence, and growth ... Women don’t get to be this kind of messy often in fiction ... Girl, Serpent, Thorn balances a raw, human core of emotion with a fast-moving, intriguing plot that draws fresh inspiration from Iranian culture past and present. Soraya is a fascinating protagonist whose approach to the world is always-engaging, even as her constant missteps drive the novel forward.
This opulent novel, inspired by traditional Persian stories, combines all the romance and intrigue of high fantasy with a deep exploration of the main character’s emotional world and relationship to her own strength ... The story is sexy, bloody, and luxurious, but perhaps the most interesting part is the way Soraya slowly begins to see the things that have always made her different as not a weakness, but a strength ... In a story about a protagonist who experiences attraction to more than one gender, this character arc is especially affirming.
Girl, Serpent, Thorn is YA literature at its best. Characters suspended between two forms—here, human and demon—are ideal metaphors for the half-child, half-adult nature of adolescence. The book’s queer romance conveys the headiness and sensuality of falling in love for the first time ... Girl, Serpent, Thorn is a richly metaphorical story of a teen claiming her identity and her place in the world.
... a lush stand-alone fantasy inspired by the courts and lore of ancient Persia. Woven through with conflicts of desire and power, loyalty and self-interest, the novel presents a coming-of-age tale that is subversive, queer, and rife with danger ... the prose of Girl, Serpent, Thorn is sprawling, luxurious, and handsome without ever sacrificing the fast-paced narrative tension it constructs via constantly evolving intrigues. Bashardoust combines evocative, mythopoetic description with an intimate point of view that links the personal, emotional experiences Soraya has to the wider world she inhabits ... Bashardoust distinguishes the type and feeling of desire Soraya experiences between the genders of her partners while emphasizing that each is legitimate, something I suspect many bisexual readers will appreciate. It’s worth noting that while Soraya reaching for her desires does cause strife in the novel, the resolution also turns on fulfilling desire, except with more attention to other people. That’s a delicate balance to strike, one that allows for emotional complexity as well as struggle to determine what’s right and wrong for Soraya, whose life has been challenging from the start. While the initial conflict comes out of Soraya’s desire to fix herself, the conclusion involves her accepting herself in her whole monstrous glory—thorns and all ... I’m pleased with this novel’s willingness to engage ethical complexity, the labor of atonement, and the damage well-meaning people do to one another ... balances a raw, human core of emotion with a fast-moving, intriguing plot that draws fresh inspiration from Iranian culture past and present. Soraya is a fascinating protagonist whose approach to the world is always-engaging, even as her constant missteps drive the novel forward. I also want to reemphasize how significant it is to read a novel about a queer young woman in a Middle Eastern-inspired setting pursuing men as well as women—and ending up in a relationship with another monster-woman. For so many of us who grew up identifying with villains, challenged by the desire to get a little revenge (or a lot), Soraya provides a beautiful touchstone.
... there are a few massive twists at the centre of the story that truly need to be experienced. These twists kept me on my toes and even had me gasping in spots. I especially enjoyed the way they got me thinking about the idea of heroes and villains ... My only complaint is that I found the beginning to be a bit slow, which made it pretty easy for me to put down during the first 15% or so. Once I got past that and was fully invested in learning about Soraya’s journey, I had a hard time putting it down ... I adored Girl, Serpent, Thorn. It’s beautifully written, has a complex protagonist who goes on a hell of a journey, and it left me with a book hangover that’s made it hard to get into anything else since I finished it.
Not only does this story combine some beautifully dark fairytales, but does so with such a talented hand. I finished this story and was desperate for more from Melissa Bashardoust. I cannot wait to be able to share this read with more people! I encourage you to add it to your TBR. Pre-order it if you can. This is a dark fairytale you won’t want to miss out on ... this story begins with such a delightful prologue ... Nothing is black and white in this story, and I loved that aspect of it ... The romance! Swoon worthy and so lovely. Each romantic scene is just stunningly crafted, glittering with beauty and potential betrayal. I loved trying to figure out where the loyalties truly were for these characters. I was definitely on my toes the whole time ... Curiously, there was one character that I truly wish I had seen much more of throughout the story and that is Laleh, Soraya’s childhood friend. I feel like there was so much to explore there, but at the same time, I do like what occurred between her and Soraya. I guess I just wanted more of her in the story. However, if I had to choose between her and the incredibly lush descriptions of this world, I’d likely go with world-building. Melissa Bashardoust’s world is lovingly crafted and gorgeous. It rings true to the Persian influences that this story stemmed from ... verything is woven together so well, that you would swear there was no other way that this story could be told. It makes it truly unforgettable. You’ll definitely want to have a copy of this on your shelf. I don’t often re-read stories (save fairytales), but this is definitely one that I’ll likely be coming back to in the years to come.
It’s a delightful and energetic book, one that effortlessly avoids any hint of a sophomore slump to present us with a vivid world, a compelling cast, and a narrative that managed to deftly surprise me at least once ... Girl, Serpent, Thorn draws – as the author acknowledges in her afterword – on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 19th-century story Rappacini’s Daughter and on the deep and fantastic well of the eleventh-century Persian epic Shahnameh. The novel’s setting draws strongly on its Persian influences to build a rich, strongly-drawn world of mythical protective birds, demons, legendary wicked kings, and people doing their best ... This is partly a novel about loyalty, for Soraiya’s relationship with her family is mirrored by Parvaneh’s relationship with her sisters, which is again mirrored by Soraiya’s relationship with Parvaneh: all of them are marked by betrayal, and all of them require choices about how, and whether, to make restitution – or if one should carry that betrayal through to an ultimate conclusion. It is, in short, an excellent story. Bashardoust has written a twisty, fascinating, well-paced novel that builds to a conclusion that is more than well-earned. Soraiya is a compelling protagonist, and one whose struggles are very relatable. It’s hard not to empathise with her isolation and her desire for a wider world. All told, it’s a very satisfying book, and I really look forward to reading more of Bashardoust’s work in future.
... a world simmering with magic and treachery where no one is quite what they appear to be. With crystalline, sometimes sensuous prose, she digs into her characters’ motivations and manipulations, deftly keeping readers on the hook until the final, stunning turn.
Bashardoust draws from Persian mythology and fairy tales to portray this morally complex biromantic heroine’s quest for identity, with support from strong female allies. Although the prose is occasionally heavy-handed and the emotional shifts sometimes abrupt, the narrative’s strengths lie in an intricate and unpredictable plot that resists easy tropes and textured and evocative worldbuilding ... An alluring feminist fairy tale.
Scenes are lavishly detailed, Soraya’s inner turmoil is rendered with drama...and the connection between Soraya and Parvaneh is stirring. Though weighty foreshadowing mars plot twists, Bashardoust’s exceptional attention to folktale structure and Soraya’s hard-won acceptance of herself make for a lyrical, inspiring read.