Girl, Serpent, Thorn is a Persian-inspired fairytale about a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. Kept locked away in a tower, she dreams of the day a handsome prince will come and rescue her – but when someone does, it doesn’t quite go how she expected.
The first quarter of this is a slow read and feels very trope-y, but then the story starts to take twists and turns and becomes much more fast-paced and enjoyable. I predicted several of the twists but still found the plot holding my attention. It helps that the setting is gorgeous, and the Persian-inspired elements are intriguing and give this a fresh feel even when the plot treads over familiar ground.
The main character, Soraya, is the twin sister of the Shah – the ruler of the land, blessed with the protection of the Simorgh to protect his people from evil divs. Cursed shortly after her birth to kill every animal – including humans – that she touches, Soraya stays shut in her room at the palace with very minimal contact with the outside world. As such, she’s innocent and naive, coming across younger than her years and very vulnerable. She also has a great deal of anger and resentment – at herself, her situation, and the world. Whilst at times she’s a difficult character to like, her immature emotional outbursts and naivety felt realistic and she grew significantly as a character throughout the book. I particularly enjoyed her relationship with her mother, Tahmineh, and how that changed as secrets were revealed.
With the exception of Soraya – and to an extent Tahmineh – none of the other characters felt quite as three-dimensional. I would love to read the full story of Azad, and equally the story of Parvaneh – two highly intriguing individuals who weren’t quite utilised to their full potential. The childhood relationships between Soraya, Sorush, Laleh, and Ramin would also be interesting to know about in more detail – especially the dynamic between Laleh and Soraya. But the book would not have been as fast-paced and exciting if it had stopped to delve into side characters, and they all played their part.
Overall, this is a solid addition to the YA fantasy genre and worth a read for anyone looking for a story that’s a little bit different. It takes a while to get going, but once you get past the first part it grows into itself and takes you on a journey.
Published by Hodder & Stoughton
Hardback: 7 July 2020