Girl, Serpent, Thorn By Melissa Bashardoust
There were disclaimers when I posted my review for Forest of Souls, and I think I’ve narrowed the issue more specifically, now that I’ve reflected on Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust. In my review of Forest of Souls, I mentioned that it fell between two of the most unique books I’ve ever read (and loved) this year. Those being, Angel of the Crows and Declaration of the Independence of Magicians. This fact is compounded by having to follow The Year of the Witching, easily one of the best books this year.
Yes, I’ve been a blessed book bitch this entire year. It is more specific than that. Girl, Serpent, Thorn honed in on the fact that when it comes to Young Adult Fairytales, there are two of me. There is “Before Three Dark Crowns” and “After Three Dark Crowns.” That is something that I cannot snap my fingers and undo. The snap joke is a foreshadowing joke.
House of Salt and Sorrows started raising the expectations I have for a dark-twisted YA fairytale. The Three Dark Crowns series threw those expectations out the window. Did I hate it? Absolutely, not. Did I love it? No. I can’t help but think that had I read Girl, Serpent, Thorn before Three Dark Crowns; I would have loved it. This is more of a compliment to Kendare Blake, and Three Dark Crowns than a knock-on Melissa Bashardoust and Girl, Serpent, Thorn.
Especially if you hated that series, then you can easily take my opinions with a grain of salt. Either way, this is a case of YMMV because it is me and not the book, to a point. There are, I believe, some legitimate issues. I say this because Becky (my co-host/sponsor at this point because we have lined up months of reads at this point) had similar thoughts, and she has not read Three Dark Crowns, yet! Plus, she loved Girl, Serpent Thorn. I have linked her review here and down in the section with my questions.
Go ahead. Roll your eyes at me. I’m sure Becky did. She mentioned in her review that you didn’t want to see our conversation about Girl, Serpent, Thorn. She is right for multiple reasons. I will get to them all. One of them, I’m sure she would say, is the numerous ways I managed to pull both Marvel and Kaz Brekker into Girl, Serpent, Thorn. Some of these points, fair enough, were utterly outlandish. That is mostly on the Marvel end. For some reason, I kept picturing Shahmar as, wait for it…
… Yes. Thanos. To me, the big bad throughout Girls, Serpent, Thorn, was Thanos. Don’t ask. I don’t have an explanation.
As for Six of Crows, and Kaz Brekker? This is entirely legitimate. There is a common and fundamental theme between the core of Kaz, as a character and Soraya/Girl, Serpent, Thorn. It is one I wrote about in Three Quotes, Three Days- Day 1 because it is something, being bipolar, I relate to on a very personal level.
That theme is shame, in Kaz’s case, it is not just that he owns his disability, but how he uses the shame people have about their vices, the shame they have about his disability, to benefit him. He teaches Wylan that it isn’t his reading disability that is making him weak; it is his shame that is making him weak.
With Soraya, she has to learn to harness and own her the poison that runs through her veins. Rather than seeing it as a curse, she has to shift her perspective, view it as a powerful tool to wild, instead. Here are counter quotes for reference.
Crooked Kingdom- Kaz Brekker and Wylan Van Eck by Leigh Bardugo:
“When people see a cripple walking down the street leaning on his cane, what do they feel?” Wylan looked away. People always did when Kaz talked about his limp, as if he didn’t know what he was or how the world saw him. “They feel pity. Now, what do they think when they see me coming?”
Wylan’s mouth quirked up at the corner. “They think they’d better cross the street”
“You’re not weak because you can’t read. You’re weak because you’re afraid of people seeing your weakness. You’re letting shame decide who you are… Think on it, Wylan… It’s shame that lines my pockets, shame that keeps the Barrel teeming with fools ready to put on a mask just so they can have what they want with no one the wiser for it. We can endure all kinds of pain. It’s shame that eats men whole.”
Girl, Serpent, Thorn- Soraya by Melissa Bashardoust
It was the shame she had to cling to, not the power. It was the shame that made her still feel human. She was a human as dangerous as a div, but unlike a div, she refused to enjoy being deadly or to revel in her monstrosity…
“It’s not power to be dangerous, to have to hide away so you don’t shame your family, to stay hidden behind walls while everyone you’ve ever known leaves you behind. I want my family. I want companionship. I want-” But the word love refused to move beyond her lips, too new and precious to lay itself bare for mockery.
This theme plays itself out brilliantly throughout the story, and specifically, Soraya’s character growth in Girl, Serpent, Thorn. Along with shame, comes the theme of loyalty, which is another connection to not just Kaz, but the Six Of Crows Duology. Over time, does, and should your loyalty change? Do/should blood ties automatically guarantee protection? These are all themes that Soraya has to confront within herself, as the world shifts around her, and her exposure to different family concepts grow.
Maybe Becky And I Turned Into Memes
And by maybe, I mean we did. At least it wasn’t just me, this time. Much of this conversation turned into a meme fest. There were good reasons for it. Bashardoust’s pacing is fantastic.
It took off, and then it didn’t stop. At one point, with nine chapters left, we listed all the things left to wrap-up and figured that we should just take a deep breath and make a break for it. Bashardoust did not disappoint, on that end. It was lightning speed and wrapped up everything. The action was non-stop and intense. It was gripping, brilliant writing, and while those last nine chapters truly blazed fire into my Kindle, the entire book was a master class in break-neck pacing.
Bashardoust wove a beautiful story with Soraya, a powerful lead character that has to choose whether to be the hidden princess or own her curse and reveal the truths of not just her family, but the wars raging around an entire empire. Many twists and curves are evenly placed throughout the story. I have to say that Becky and I were picking them apart, pretty early on.
We had a fascinating discussion about the difference between stories and reveals. Some have reveals so shocking that they don’t even make sense. It was evident that the author was just going for shock value. It is so out of the world insane that they are laughable. Those kinds of twists don’t work. There are also stories so predictable that the twists and reveals aren’t worth it because you see them coming a mile away. Whether they are poorly executed tropes (See All the Stars and Teeth) or they are spoofed, obvious? It is just…
There are fantastic books that have reveals that you see coming, you think you are safe and then KABOOM. They just whack you with a reveal within a reveal, and you are left there…
And then there are books like The Split, where you are so caught up in all the clues that you break out the whiteboard determined to beat the author. You do not beat the author. However, there is the case of books like Girl, Serpent, Thorn that are very important. I learned this from Adam Silvera, who talked about it on Twitter, and it has stayed with me ever since.
Thank You To Flatiron and Edelweiss for an ARC
I have to paraphrase it because I don’t have it screen capped, or anything. But he said that just because you can predict something in a book. It doesn’t make the writing itself predictable. If an author lays out the clues in the right way, where you can pick it up enough, and you have been reading a certain genre, or watching a tv show long enough, you will become better putting certain things together. This, to Becky and me, was the case with Girl, Serpent, Thorn.
It was not at all PREDICTABLE. We did see a lot of things coming. However, we never felt bored or like, even a spine and a pair of eyes, without a brain, could have figured this out. It wasn’t like that, at all. While we knew certain things were bound to happen, there were nuances to those things that we couldn’t quite nail down, all the time.
This is my biggest gripe with Girl, Serpent, Thorn. Outside of Soraya, I had no fuck bucks to give about any other character in the entire book. Ok, maybe one. Just one. And perhaps I had half of a fuck buck to give for that one character. I didn’t notice it until we were done with the book because when all the climatic life or death action comes down? I realized I didn’t care about what happened to anyone but Soraya. And that’s a problem.
There are many characters. In this type of story and in the way that it is built, Bashardoust is aiming for you to feel a specific way about certain characters. Also, she wants reader buy-in on connections between certain characters, and how those connections change throughout the book. But none of the characters are fleshed out enough, or their emotional depth fleshed out enough for me to care. To the point that it didn’t even register until Becky mentioned it. Then I was like…
Oh. Damn. I was so disconnected from the characters that I didn’t think of it?! That’s how disconnected I was from them.
One Last Thing
- I was pleased that in a couple of forks in the road of the story, it went down the dark path.
- The ending, I was both ok with but then… thought – well, I was happy Soraya’s one decision and then thought- wait what? On other things. So, there’s that.
LET ME NOT FORGET THIS TIME!
Describe this book in 3 memes/Gifs
Describe your feelings in 3 memes/gifs
Describe your book chat in 3 memes/gifs
Describe your next Buddy Read in 3 memes/gifs
So, this is a complete prediction based on what I know of the book, which is basically the blurb…