Rating: ★★★★☆

Genre: YA Fantasy

Available On: Amazon

Girl, Serpent, Thorn, written by Melissa Bashardoust, is a captivating and enchanting fantasy novel that weaves a mesmerising tale of deception, self-discovery, and the complex nature of humanity. With its rich world-building, intricate plot, and thought-provoking themes, the book effortlessly draws readers into a world of mythical creatures, curses, and the search for identity.

One of the strongest aspects of this novel is the protagonist, Soraya. As a princess cursed with a touch that is deadly to all living things, Soraya’s character is beautifully crafted. Bashardoust delves deep into Soraya’s internal struggles, fears, and desires, making her a relatable and compelling protagonist. Soraya’s loneliness and longing for connection are palpable, and her journey to discover the truth about her curse and herself is both harrowing and emotionally charged. The author deftly explores themes of self-acceptance, the consequences of one’s choices, and the power of embracing one’s true nature.

Bashardoust’s world-building is intricate and immersive, creating a vivid and enchanting setting. The Persian-inspired backdrop adds a unique and refreshing flavour to the story. From the opulent palaces to the lush gardens, the author’s descriptive prose brings the world to life, allowing readers to fully immerse themselves in the rich tapestry of this fantasy realm. Furthermore, Bashardoust seamlessly weaves Persian mythology and folklore into her narrative, breathing new life into ancient legends and introducing readers to captivating creatures and magical elements.

Not to mention the book itself is simply stunning. My copy is a Fairyloot special edition, featuring a pink cover, however the standard white version is just as evocative (perhaps more so if you’re not a fan of pink!). The artwork echoes the Persian elements of the tale while giving some pure ‘original sin’ vibes with a pair of central serpents twining through rose vines. Definitely one to get in hardback!

An Intricate (If Slightly Predictable) Tale

The plot of Girl, Serpent, Thorn is intricately woven, filled with twists and turns that keep readers engaged and guessing until the very end. The pacing is skillfully managed, allowing for moments of reflection and character development while maintaining a sense of urgency. Bashardoust employs well-timed flashbacks that provide crucial insights into Soraya’s past, deepening the emotional impact of her journey. The exploration of identity, the consequences of secrets, and the complex interplay between power and morality adds depth to the narrative, elevating it beyond a simple fairy tale retelling.

One of the novel’s standout features is its portrayal of morally ambiguous characters. The author skillfully presents individuals who defy traditional notions of heroes and villains. Each character has their own motivations, secrets, and flaws, making them multi-dimensional and realistic. This nuanced approach to character development adds complexity to the story and challenges readers to examine the grey areas of human nature.

While Girl, Serpent, Thorn excels in many aspects, it does have a few minor shortcomings. Some readers may find certain plot elements predictable, and the pacing occasionally falters in certain sections, causing the narrative to lose momentum. Additionally, while the side characters are intriguing and play important roles, their development could have been further expanded upon to enhance the overall narrative.


Gender And Bisexuality

The novel’s exploration of gender and societal expectations adds another layer of depth to the story. Bashardoust skillfully navigates the complexities of gender roles and the limitations they impose on individuals, particularly on Soraya. As she grapples with her cursed touch and the perceived weakness it brings, Soraya questions the societal norms that confine her. This theme of challenging traditional gender roles resonates strongly and adds a relevant and empowering dimension to the narrative.

One significant and notable aspect of Girl, Serpent, Thorn is the exploration of bisexuality within the narrative. The representation of bisexuality is an important and welcome addition to the story, as it contributes to the book’s themes of self-discovery and acceptance.

The protagonist, Soraya, experiences attraction to both men and women throughout the course of the novel. This aspect of her identity is handled with care and sensitivity by the author, Melissa Bashardoust. Soraya’s bisexuality is not sensationalised or reduced to a mere plot device, but rather it is presented as an inherent part of who she is as a complex and multifaceted character.

The portrayal of Soraya’s bisexuality is significant for several reasons. Firstly, it contributes to the overall diversity and inclusivity of the story. By including a bisexual character as the central protagonist, Girl, Serpent, Thorn showcases the experiences and challenges faced by individuals who identify as bisexual. This representation helps to validate and normalise bisexuality, promoting understanding and acceptance among readers.

Secondly, Soraya’s bisexuality adds depth to her character and personal journey. Her attraction to both men and women influences her relationships, choices, and understanding of herself. It allows for exploration of different types of connections and complicates the dynamics between characters, contributing to the complexity of the story.

Respectfully Challenging Stereotypes

Furthermore, the inclusion of bisexuality in the narrative challenges common stereotypes and misconceptions about bisexuality. Soraya’s attraction to both genders highlights the fluidity of sexuality and the fact that bisexuality is a valid and legitimate sexual orientation. By featuring a bisexual character in a prominent role, the book helps to break down barriers and fosters greater understanding and acceptance of diverse sexual orientations.

It is worth noting that Girl, Serpent, Thorn treats Soraya’s bisexuality with respect and authenticity. Her feelings and attractions are portrayed in a nuanced and genuine manner, reflecting the varied experiences of bisexual individuals. The book demonstrates the importance of self-acceptance and embracing one’s true identity, regardless of societal expectations or limitations.

It’s refreshing to find a novel that handles bisexuality so eloquently, Yet it also portrays the other relationships depicted in the novel as nuanced and realistic. The complex dynamics between Soraya and her family, particularly her sister Parvaneh, are explored with sensitivity and authenticity. The bonds of love and loyalty are tested as secrets unravel and truths come to light. These relationships add emotional weight to the story, highlighting the complexities of familial ties and the choices one must make when faced with difficult circumstances.

Blurring Lines With Style

The prose in Girl, Serpent, Thorn is lyrical and evocative, enhancing the overall reading experience. Bashardoust’s writing style is elegant, with descriptions that paint a vivid picture in the reader’s mind. From the lush gardens and intricate tapestries to the dark and foreboding lairs of mythical creatures, the author’s attention to detail brings the world to life. The emotional depth of the narrative is beautifully conveyed through the prose, allowing readers to connect deeply with the characters and their journeys.

Another strength of Girl, Serpent, Thorn lies in its exploration of the blurred lines between good and evil. The characters are multifaceted, grappling with their own desires, ambitions, and moral compasses. The book challenges the notion of absolute good and evil, delving into the grey areas of human nature and the choices we make. This moral ambiguity adds depth and realism to the story, prompting readers to reflect on their own perceptions of right and wrong.

It’s a captivating and thought-provoking fantasy novel that seamlessly combines elements of mythology, self-discovery, and complex characters. Melissa Bashardoust’s exquisite prose, intricate world-building, and exploration of profound themes make this book a standout in the genre. While it has minor flaws, such as predictability in some plot elements and occasional pacing issues, the overall strength of the narrative, its compelling protagonist, and its resonant themes make Girl, Serpent, Thorn a highly recommended read for fans of fantasy and those who appreciate stories that challenge conventions and delve into the depths of human nature.

How Spicy Is Girl, Serpent, Thorn?

Spice Rating: 🌶️

Girl, Serpent, Thorn is not a particularly spicy novel. It primarily focuses on themes of self-discovery, identity, and the complexities of human nature rather than explicit romantic or sexual content. While the book does explore romantic relationships, including attraction and desire, these elements are depicted in a subtle and tasteful manner.

The story is centred around Soraya’s personal journey, her struggles with her curse, and her search for acceptance and understanding. While there are moments of tension and emotional intensity, they are not explicit or overly graphic. The focus of the narrative is more on the development of the characters, the exploration of the fantasy world, and the unfolding of the plot.

Romance Trope Count

Trope Count: 💚💚💚💚

Girl, Serpent, Thorn incorporates several romance tropes that add depth and complexity to the narrative. While the novel is not solely focused on romance, the romantic elements enhance the character dynamics and contribute to the overall development of the story. Some prominent romance tropes in the book include:


The enemies-to-lovers trope is present in the relationship between Soraya and a particular character. As they initially clash and oppose each other, their interactions gradually evolve into a complex and layered connection, marked by shifting alliances, growing understanding, and unexpected emotional bonds.

Forbidden Love

The forbidden love trope is explored through various relationships in the novel. Soraya, due to her curse, is forbidden from physical contact with others, which adds a layer of complexity and longing to her romantic desires. This trope heightens the stakes and intensifies the emotional struggles faced by the characters as they navigate their feelings amidst societal expectations and personal limitations.

Slow-Burn Romance

The slow-burn romance trope is evident in the development of certain relationships throughout the book. The connections between characters are built gradually, allowing for a gradual deepening of emotions, trust, and intimacy over time. This slow-burn approach creates anticipation and adds depth to the romantic arcs.

Love Triangle

While not the central focus, there is an element of a love triangle in Girl, Serpent, Thorn. Soraya finds herself torn between two love interests, each representing different aspects of her life and embodying contrasting qualities. This love triangle contributes to the emotional tension and internal conflicts that Soraya experiences as she navigates her choices and desires.

It’s important to note that these tropes are employed in a nuanced and unique way within the context of the story. They serve to enhance the character development, add layers to the relationships, and contribute to the overarching themes of the novel. The romance in Girl, Serpent, Thorn is not a primary focus but rather a significant aspect that complements the broader narrative of self-discovery and personal growth.

What Genre Is Girl, Serpent, Thorn?

Girl, Serpent, Thorn falls under the genre of young adult fantasy. It incorporates elements of fantasy, mythology, and folklore to create a rich and immersive world. The book is primarily targeted towards young adult readers, although it can be enjoyed by readers of various ages who appreciate fantasy storytelling, complex characters, and themes of self-discovery and identity.