FICTION

Girl, Serpent, Thorn

Flatiron. Jul. 2020. 336p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250196149.
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Gr 6-8–Bashardoust, author of Girls Made of Snow and Glass, 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. Having grown up in near total isolation because her ungloved touch instantly kills any creature, Soraya regards herself as a monster who is rightfully confined to her chambers and rose garden—until, against her better judgment, she is drawn to Azad, a magnetic newcomer in the court of her twin brother, Shah Sorush. The feeling seems mutual, and with his help she not only sneaks out for secret assignations, but learns at last how to dispel her curse from Parvaneh, a magical captive “div” who turns out to be a moth-winged, fairy-like girl with whom she also soon develops a strange, steamy affinity. She hardly gets to experience being a normal human before an entire army of monstrous divs attacks her city. Soraya discovers that she’s been a pawn in a vicious plot that leaves her entire family slated for slaughter even as she is wooed by the divs’ demonic, bat-winged leader who sees her as a kindred spirit. Along with the influences that the author cites in a detailed afterword, which range from Zoroastrian beliefs and the Shahnameh, to Sleeping Beauty and Hawthorne’s Rappaccini’s Daughter, alert readers will spot nods to other classics such as Beauty and the Beast and Rapunzel as events whirl to a climatic close amid cascades of poisoned thorns, just deserts, and self-acceptance.
VERDICT Surefire for middle school readers fond of princesses capable of embracing actual demons as well as the inner sort.

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