Review of Girl, Serpent, Thorn

Girl, Serpent, Thorn
by Melissa Bashardoust
High School    Flatiron    323 pp.    g
7/20    978-1-250-19614-9    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-1-250-19615-6    $9.99

“Stories always begin the same way. There was and there was not.” Soraya, sister of the Kingdom’s future shah, lives a privileged life in Golvahar Palace and loves to hear her mother’s hopeful fairy tales. But the threat of divs, monsters who attack and harm people, lurks at the base of the mountain. Soraya is trapped by the curse of a div, put upon her as a baby: any living creature that touches her will be poisoned. In richly descriptive third-person narration, the reader meets Soraya as she begins to rebel, hoping to break the curse and realizing that the tale of its origin, as she knew it, is not true, and neither are her notions of good and evil. When she becomes allies (and eventually romantic partners) with a female div, she learns that everyone, div or human, is capable of choosing between cruelty and kindness. Bashardoust weaves a compulsively readable modern queer fairy tale that is part fantastical adventure and part allegory. An author’s note gives background about the book’s origins, including the Persian epic tale of the Shanahmeh and Zoroastrian theistic notions of the creator and destroyer, as well as about its use of “a combination of words taken from Old Persian, Middle Persian, and modern Persian.”

From the July/August 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Christina Dobbs
Christina Dobbs
Christina Dobbs is an assistant professor of English Education at Boston University. She is a former high school teacher, literacy coach, and reading specialist, and she studied adolescent literacy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

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