Cover Girl Serpent Thorn: Two white snakes coiled around each other with pink flowers woven around them

About the Book

Title: Girl, Serpent, Thorn
Published: 2020
Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Cover Story: Beautiful But Deadly
BFF Charm: Yay
Talky Talk: Unfamiliar Yet Familiar Fantasy
Bonus Factors: LGBTQ+, Secret Passageways
Relationship Status: Casually Dating

Cover Story: Beautiful But Deadly

The pale pink, green, and white color palette of this cover is so pretty and eye-catching! The intertwined roses and snakes are gorgeous and completely representative of two big aspects of the book itself, which I appreciate. The only thing that my eyes snag over is the typeface of the title, which feels a bit plain…though, at the same time, to make it overly frilly would then compete with the intricate background, so what do I know?

The Deal:

There was and was not a shahzadeh no one in Atashar could touch. The very blood in her veins can release a toxin deadly to any living creature, all thanks to a div’s curse placed on her mother when she was young and foolish. In order to keep her people’s faith in the shah, who also happens to be her twin brother, Soraya stays so far removed from the palace life to the point where her mere existence is more rumor than fact.

When her brother’s engagement to their mutual childhood friend is announced; a div is captured and held in the dungeon; and, a young man who really sees Soraya joins the palace guard, Soraya begins to question the quiet life she’s been living. If she could speak to the div, could she learn of a way to remove her curse? Would the freedom of knowing another’s touch be worth the potential cost?

BFF Charm: Yay

Yay BFF Charm

Soraya is, obviously, very sheltered and very frustrated when we meet her. It’s custom for the shah and his entourage to rotate through the kingdom’s four palaces, so she really only ever sees her family once a year in Spring as she stays in the capitol. Soraya hasn’t spoken to Laleh, the shah’s betrothed and her oldest friend/crush, in four years, and rarely interacts with anyone but her attendants. The only true comfort Soraya gets is from her rose garden, where she learned at a young age that plants are the only “living” things she can freely touch.

So in her desperation and ignorance, Soraya makes some bad decisions. And I always understood why she made those choices with the information she had, as I was kind of on her side at first? Because while Soraya can be very dangerous to be around…you can still talk to a person and not touch them, right? I think back to all of my interactions with friends (some who are more touchy-feely than others) and even my coworkers I (used to) see constantly, and I’m pretty confident there’s people I’ve known for years and never touched. So it’s not just the curse that has made Soraya such an outcast in her family, as their own reactions to her are important, and this distance definitely plays a role in her choices throughout the novel.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

I have to be fairly vague here, since I don’t want to give too much away. The romance aspects of the book were a touch instalove for me personally, but mostly fine and uncomplicated. I could’ve used a bit more as the relationship didn’t really stand out as particularly…memorable, but I do get that it wasn’t the main focus of the story, so I was okay when the action moved on to more important things. 

Talky Talk: Unfamiliar Yet Familiar Fantasy

So there is a LOT to this book that I didn’t want to give away in “The Deal” because it’s not stated in the synopsis, and it’s always nice when books have surprises in store for you! While some plot beats will be familiar if you’re an avid fantasy reader, the setting and details may be less so if you aren’t familiar with Persian mythology. The author has a nice summary at the end of the book about what famous stories/parables she pulled from and the elements of Zoroastrianism she adapted. Looking back a few days later, I don’t think this will be a book I will need to revisit over and over again, but the writing and the story kept me engaged the entire time I was reading, so I consider that a win! 

Bonus Factor: LGBTQ+

Pride flag being waved in a parade

Soraya’s sexuality isn’t explicitly labelled or discussed because it just is a part ofher. She’s attracted to both women and men, full stop. While there’s always room, especially within YA, to explore all the spectrums of sexuality with a nuanced hand, it also feels important to have these sorts of books where the character’s sexuality isn’t an Issue-with-a-capital-I and is just one more normal thing about them. 

Bonus Factor: Secret Passageways

A wooden door surrounded by autumn foilage

Being that Soraya has to avoid contact with everyone, she frequently uses the hidden passages built throughout the palace by a paranoid and clever shah years ago as a way to get from point A to point B. Why are secret ways to sneak around or concealed entrances in like, fireplaces, so freaking cool?? (I blame Nancy Drew. There was a secret compartment in that darn old clock!)

Relationship Status: Casually Dating

Book, I’m not sure if we have an eternal bonded love connection, but you’re fun and complex and we have fun together. I’m totally down to just hang out and see where this goes.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Flatiron Books. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. Girl, Serpent, Thorn is available now.

Stephanie (she/her) is an avid reader who moonlights at a college and calls Orlando home. Stephanie loves watching television, reading DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.