Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust
Hodder, pb, £8.99
Reviewed by Mikaela Silk
Born poisonous to the touch, Soraya has lived her life locked away and isolated in the palace whilst her family travel to all corners of the kingdom with royal fanfare. When a captured demon offers her the answer to breaking her curse, she wants to jump for joy. But her curse might not be the only thing to be destroyed if Soraya follows through on the demon’s plan. And the demon isn’t done there. It has more answers for Soraya. Answers to questions she didn’t even know she had; dangerous questions that could change everything. Besides, the demon asks, who will Soraya be without her poison?
Soraya’s curse makes for an empowering character; where most fairy-tale curses render the princess vulnerable, sleeping or dead, this one turns the princess into a weapon. However, Soraya doesn’t feel very empowered as she is hidden away from the world which leaves her feeling like a dirty secret and creates an interesting contradiction to her life. Lethally powerful yet reduced to complete powerlessness by her own submissiveness, Soraya walks a fine line between victim and villain. When she finally steps into the role of hero, it is a hugely profound moment in the book.
Everything is very black and white at the start of this book. Demons are bad and humans are good. But as the story unfolds areas of grey begin to appear, blurring the lines between good and evil and changing the definition of monster entirely. It is this undercurrent of shifting ideas that really make this book what it is.
An enticing storyline, this book was easy to read with likeable characters and unique magic. The ending is perfect; Soraya stays true to herself without sacrificing anything and is finally allowed to be seen as who she really is.