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Melissa Bashardoust's Girl, Serpent, Thorn is “an alluring feminist fairy tale” (Kirkus) 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.
Named a Best Book of the Year by Booklist, BuzzFeed, Tor.com, Amazon, and more
Book of the Month Club selection
Junior Library Guild selection
ALA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults List
ALA’s Rainbow Book List
Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year
“A lush, dream-like tale about a princess whose very skin in poison, and whose isolation leads her to a journey of discovery that is both harrowing and beautiful. The author dives deep into ancient Persian myth. At the same time, she subverts fantasy tropes while delving into philosophical questions of personhood, individuation, and societal impositions—all with a narrative that is perfectly paced.” —Sabaa Tahir, author of An Ember in the Ashes
“A can't-miss LGBTQ+ YA fantasy that gleefully rewrites the fairy-tale playbook.” —PopSugar.com
“Bashardoust draws from the myths and religions of her own Persian culture to create a world simmering with magic and treachery where no one is quite what they appear to be. With crystalline, sometimes sensuous prose, Bashardoust digs into her characters’ motivations and manipulations, deftly keeping readers on the hook until the final, stunning turn.” —Booklist, starred review
“Bashardoust again draws elements from multiple folkloric and literary precursors for a relationship-driven tale in which sexual undertones are no less intense for being kept between the lines. Alert readers will spot nods to other classics as events whirl to a climatic close amid cascades of poisoned thorns, just deserts, and self-acceptance. Surefire for readers fond of princesses capable of embracing actual demons as well as the inner sort.” —School Library Journal, starred review
“Melissa Bashardoust’s Girl, Serpent, Thorn has the lushness of a fairy tale and the boldness of the best contemporary YA fantasy. 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.” —Lamba Literary
“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...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.” —Locus
“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.” —Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
“Girl, Serpent, Thorn is YA literature at its best.” —BookPage
“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...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. She does wrong; she does right. She chooses.” —Tor.com
“Readers who like their female leads with a few thorns will appreciate this dynamic female lead. This is a perfect match for readers who love immersive fantasies influenced by world mythologies and cultures, like Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes or Rosanne A. Brown’s A Song of Wraiths and Ruin.” —YALSA.org, Best Fiction for Young Adults nomination
“A compulsively readable modern queer fairy tale that is part fantastical adventure and part allegory.” —Horn Book Magazine
“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. An alluring feminist fairy tale.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Scenes are lavishly detailed, Soraya’s inner turmoil is rendered with drama as she chooses whether to be a mouse or a viper, and the connection between Soraya and Parvaneh is stirring. Bashardoust’s exceptional attention to folktale structure and Soraya’s hard-won acceptance of herself make for a lyrical, inspiring read.” —Publishers Weekly
“Melissa Bashardoust’s Girl, Serpent, Thorn is so much more than a fairytale—it’s a fantasy story about human complexity. Plus, the presence of a queer princess who saves herself from herself is nothing short of excellence.” —Paperback Paris
“A lovely entwining of Persian culture and myth with well-known fairy tales. One of the best books of the year, hands down.” —BuzzFeed
“Girl, Serpent, Thorn is the fairytale we knew we needed, but haven’t heard till now: a love letter to fantasy readers with poison in their veins and fear in their hearts everywhere.” —The Young Folks
“A lush, atmospheric fantasy with an intriguingly complicated heroine, Girl, Serpent, Thorn presents us with a princess who may well be a monster herself...This is a story that takes multiple unexpected turns, from subverting established fairytale tropes to exploring issues of family and sexuality. Several of your initial assumptions about this book may well turn out to be wrong by its final pages.” —The Culturess
“Captivating.” —Harper’s Bazaar
“Girl, Serpent, Thorn takes your expectations of a fairy tale and turns them on their head, creating an elaborate, unconventional and fascinating story, complete with heroes who are morally questionable and villains who you’ll fall in love with. Will they live happily ever after? We’ll let you find out for yourselves—but it probably won’t work out the way you expect.” —SciFiNow
“Not only does this story combine some beautifully dark fairy-tales, but does so with such a talented hand. I finished this story and was desperate for more from Melissa Bashardoust. This is a dark fairytale you won’t want to miss out on.” —The Nerd Daily
“An inherently fascinating, impressively original, deftly penned, and engagingly entertaining novel.” —Midwest Book Review
“Girl, Serpent, Thorn is a deliciously lush fairy tale of a novel. I was swept away by Bashardoust’s prose and found myself losing track of time as I read, turning every page, sinking into her magnificent world, wishing it would never end. At its heart, it’s a book about a girl who may be monstrous claiming her own power, filled with twists and a fascinating queer romance that stole my own heart.” —Patrice Caldwell, editor of A Phoenix First Must Burn: 16 Stories of Black Girl Magic, Resistance, and Hope
“Gorgeously written and quietly powerful, Bashardoust’s latest is an enthralling tale of family, monsters, and the things we do for love.” —S. A. Chakraborty, author of City of Brass
“Every passage is a fine cut gem, each facet brilliantly rendered to create a stunningly crafted fairytale about a girl and monsters and a girl who is also a monster. I truly loved this book.” —Emily Duncan, author of Wicked Saints
“This is a gorgeously written book set in a beautiful and dangerous world. I loved the vividness of the story, and the way Bashardoust makes stories matter in this book. I was captivated from the beginning, and absolutely thrilled with the end.” —Kat Howard, author of An Unkindness of Magicians
“The queer, good-monster book of my dreams. I loved this heroine with my entire soul.” —E. K. Johnston, author of Star Wars: Queen’s Shadow
“Monstrously beautiful and enchanting, Girl, Serpent, Thorn is a fairytale for anyone who has ever feared the poison in their own heart. I loved this queer, subversive, lyrical and deeply affirming book.” —Tasha Suri, author of Empire of Sand
“Girl, Serpent, Thorn is a tale a rose might tell, lushly perfumed and lined with thorns in all the right places. With complex women, Persian demons, a gorgeously twisting narrative, and the age-old question of what it means to be a monster, it had me eagerly flipping pages until the very end. I only wish there were more!” —Shveta Thakrar, author of Star Daughter
“Like a jeweled fairy tale, Girl, Serpent, Thorn glitters with twisty revelations, curses and dangerous transformations, magic and monsters and love—and at its heart, a girl who can kill with a touch. A thrilling, moving story of what it means to come into one’s own power, this book is utterly captivating.” —Gita Trelease, author of All That Glitters and Everything That Burns