#BookReview : Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust #GirlSerpentThorn @HodderBooks

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust
Expected publication : July 7th 2020
Publisher : Flatiron Books
Genre : Fantasy
Pages : 336

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A captivating and utterly original fairy tale about a girl cursed to be poisonous to the touch, and who discovers what power might lie in such a curse…

There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.

As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.

Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.

*** Note: I received e-copy of this book via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to publisher. ***

Girl, Serpent, Thorn was amazing fantasy based on Persian mythology that revolved around cursed princess and her efforts of trying to free herself from curse. It was about good vs evil, choices and its consequences, accepting flaws than fearing it, finding beauty in imperfections, family, loyalty, love, and betrayal.

Writing was flawless, compelling and magical. It was written in third person narrative told from Soraya’s perspective. There was fabulous world building, interesting and mysterious character and gradual character development with a little bit romance.

Stories always begin the same way: There was and there was not. There is possibility in those words, the chance for hope or despair.


As soon as I started reading this book, I knew I’m going to like this. The beginning was fantastic. A mother telling her daughter a story about a girl how she was cursed by a demon and birthed a princess with poison in her blood, a curse, whoever she touch will die. But it was not just story but reality of Soraya. Approaching marriage of her brother, a demon imprisoned in dungeon who might help in finding answers about her curse, and a boy who was not afraid of her curse, ready to help and understood her more than her family, put her in situation she never imagined she would found herself in and couldn’t come out of it without putting her family in danger. Her one question started a untoward chain reaction. It was interesting find out who was that boy, if demon will help her or not, how she would free herself from curse and save her family.

I loved this concept of girl alone in her room and garden craving for touch and love, deceived by a demon and found help from another demon to right the wrong she did, and save her family. Cover and title was perfect and made more sense after reading the book.

Lot of things happened in first half that described world, Soraya’s story, about her family and Golvahar, lies she discovered and range of emotions she felt in trying to get rid of her curse. Some things I could see coming like- Demon in prison was mysterious, she was keeping some secrets but I could see spark of relationship between them which we don’t see igniting until second half of the book. And mainly I knew, that new boy looked too good to be true. Something was off about him, no matter how convenient he sounded, and I feared for Soraya. I knew she was putting her faith in wrong place but I was curious to see what that boy wanted and when he would show his true color. When he did, I must say I was surprised. I didn’t expect what was revealed and I was not sure what would happen next. Second half was all about Soraya’s development, her conflicts, knowing love for first time, and many twists and turns.

Soraya was great. Usually when heroine shows weakness and self-doubt in half of the book, I get frustrated but here it felt right and real. Even though she was most powerful in realm, most deadly person, she felt low and fearful. She didn’t see her curse as untouchable power but a poison, and she feared for herself, for her family and people who might come near her. Her fear made her weak, small, and yielding. But hope of getting rid of this poison, crave for human touch, companionship, happiness and her family’s love was too strong that made her want to change that about her. When she faced worst consequences of her wish and choices, we see how misguided she was. I felt for her at this point. I couldn’t help but put myself in her situation and from what she discovered, her actions made sense. Her intentions were selfish but felt genuine. I loved the way she learned her lessons, kept fighting for her family even though she heard worst things from them for her mistakes, and how she found a way to make things right. Her guilt, anger, self-doubt, determination, a new experience of touch and love, it was all written perfectly.

“I’m not afraid of you,” Soraya whispered. Parvaneh’s eyes sparkled, not with usual mockery, but with something like hunger. “Of course not,” Pervaneh said. “You could kill me with a single touch. Why should you ever be afraid of anyone?” She peered closed, tilting her head. “No, it’s only yourself that you fear.”

All secondary characters specially Azad and Parvaneh were interesting and mysterious. I couldn’t tell whom should I trust and whom should not until second half of the book. They were all keeping secrets, told lies and will betray to achieve what they wanted.

World was best part of the book. All elements were well explored. There were maze of secret passages of Golvahar palace and Soraya’s beautiful rose garden, Persian terminology, different types of demons, their appearance and power, legends and stories, mythical creature, and spellbinding forest and mountain of demons. It was fascinating to read how author created world inspired by ancient Persia and its folklore. It all made more sense in author’s note.

F/F relationship was lovely in second half. It was for a short while but worked as breather in this tense and fast paced plot. Trust issues along with tension to save family made it interesting to see how they will confess their feelings to each other and when that moment came, I couldn’t help but smile ear to ear.

Climax was brilliant. With a surprising discovery, an emotional twist, and tense situation that left me without any hope. Even one last effort by Soraya didn’t work but then that magical effect and all that happened till the end was amazingly thrilling and exhilarating. End was perfect. My only complaint was I didn’t want it to end. I want more stories in this world.

Overall,

Girl, Serpent, Thorn was fast pace and fabulous #fantasy with magical world based on #PersianMythology, and mysterious and interesting characters.

Books Links : Goodreads Amazon

Affiliate Link : Book Depository


I hope you enjoyed this post. Let me know in comments what do you think about my review and this book, if you have read it already or are you going to add it to TBR. Which different mythologies have you read in books so far?

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#GuestPost: Stumbling blocks to writing a long series by Sherryl D. Hancock, author of #WeHo Series @vulpine_press

Hello Readers! Today I’m excited to welcome Sherryl D. Hancock, author of WeHo Series to celebrate release of 16th book in series, Darkness Past, on Books Teacup and Reviews to talk about Stumbling blocks to writing a long series. The series is packed with strong, kick-ass women who deal with real issues and overcome a lot of adversity. Check out this interesting guest post and more about book in this post.

Stumbling blocks to writing a long series:

Writing a long series means never having to say goodbye!

As a writer you fall in love with the characters in your books, and writing interconnected series means you don’t have to stop seeing your characters. When I wrote my first book in what was to become the WeHo series, When Love Wins, I had no intention of writing a series. My character Tyler Hancock was inspired by my wife and her time spent in the United States Air Force. She was negatively affected by the military’s stance on gays in the military (they weren’t allowed!). At that point I just wanted to get that story out there. My second book, When Angels Fall, didn’t have the same characters. It was only when I began visualizing my third, Break in the Storm, that I saw a way to bring back Devin and Skyler from When Angels Fall. Even then, I didn’t really plan a “series.”

One year out of high school, before WeHo ever came about, I accidentally began writing my first series of books. The very first book I wrote from beginning to end was called Building Empires, which turned out to be the first and second book of my MidKnight Blue series. Building Empires was so long I had to split it into two books, when I finally got published many years later! That’s when I fell in love with the main character Midnight Chevalier; I didn’t even know I liked women then! In Midnight I had a strong female character, a woman who took no crap from anyone, and who was tough enough to hold her own against anyone! I found that after writing about her exploits, I didn’t want her story to end! I wanted her to grow, change, live and love! I wanted other characters in the book to grow up, and become their own people.

When I began writing WeHo number four, Turning Tables, I saw how I could bring characters from my other series, MidKnight Blue, into my WeHo universe. Even bringing a supernatural element to the books, using a character I’d previously developed who has the gift of premonitions. I think that’s when the idea of writing a series starring recurring characters and centering them all in West Hollywood (WeHo), California really took hold. Thus, the WeHo series was born!

By the time I started the third Midnight Chevalier story, I realized that I needed to add characters who’d grown up in the previous two books. So I started adding new characters, while developing the ones I already had. Giving them love lives, letting them change and grow as people. As it turned out, the characters changed me too. As I explored the options for their lives, what they could do, how they could find love, I realized what was truly missing in my life: REAL LOVE! Right around the time I started to write the story about Kana Sorbinno meeting the love of her life, a woman, was about the same time I discovered my preference for women. As I explored the gay lifestyle for my characters, I learned more about myself.

It took me another ten years to finally end my marriage to a man, and live the life I’d wanted for so long. That’s when I met my soul mate, and a few years later, finally decided to write a lesbian romance! And we all know what that led to!

Now, you’re probably wondering… I thought she said this was about the stumbling blocks to writing a long series… Well, yes, there are stumbling blocks and that is MANAGING so many characters and trying to keep track of their stories. There are over forty women in the series! With more to come! It’s not always easy to wrangle so many personalities, habits, backgrounds, jobs, cars, and music preferences (if you read the WeHo series you’ll see I’m all about the music and the cars!). It only becomes worse when your publisher moves to audio books! Then the poor narrator has to come up with different intonations for each character.

How do I keep track of all of them? Well, I have a book, and that book has notes from the books, from research on the books. The book also has a list of characters by name, age, the vehicles they drive. I know that probably seems silly if you haven’t read the series, but the cars are featured heavily in many of the “group” scenes! I even have pictures in this book. The pictures are of women that inspire the characters, shots of the cars they drive, random things like an article for an apartment rental in New York, or a picture of the Colonel’s Insignia for Kai Temple in Quid Pro Quo, or a picture of a tattoo one of the characters has. The pictures can be anything I need or want to remember about the character.

The music is a whole other arena! I have so much music downloaded from what the various characters listen to. I have playlists for certain characters, or at the very least a playlist of a type of music. I have a classic rock playlist for when I need to get into the head of Jericho Tehrani (from Turning Tables) when she’s driving her Dodge Challenger Hellcat down the road. I also have a house music playlist for getting into the mind of Memphis McQueen (In Plain Sight)! Music is very important to me and can stir up so many emotions and memories. Many people who have read my series have told me how they discovered Breaking Benjamin, or Linkin Park because they read the names of the songs in the book and downloaded it. I love sharing my passion for music with my readers!

The most important thing about writing a long series, is enjoying the feeling when another book is ready to come out and people are anticipating it! I love seeing the excitement of my readers when I post that a new book in the WeHo series is coming out! It fuels my need to write, even if it means adding another name to the growing list in my book! I am starting a new series, about fire fighters working for Cal Fire here in California…maybe I won’t use the same characters over and over again, but maybe you’ll see characters you know too!

Book Detail:

Darkness Past (WeHo series #16) by Sherryl D. Hancock
Publication Date: June 22, 2020
Publisher: Vulpine Press
Genre: LGBT romance

Sierra Youngblood’s life is in danger. After being threatened and stalked by an old client, Kashena Marshal is assigned as her protection. But Kashena isn’t just any security officer, she’s an old flame that Sierra could never forget.

After years apart they soon discover they still share a spark, despite Sierra now being married to a man with a son. Eventually, she realizes she can’t live without Kashena and chooses to leave her husband. But when Jason turns violent, Kashena is forced to protect Sierra once more.

As the dust starts to settle, could there be yet more Darkness in the Past?

Series detail – https://www.vulpine-press.com/we-ho

About the Author:

Sherryl D. Hancock lives in Sacramento, California, and has been writing since she was a teenager. Sherryl’s bestselling WeHo series deals with a number of important topics, such as abuse and problems with mental health. Sherryl’s books are filled with strong, inspiring women in the hope of helping and inspiring others.

You can find her latest book, Darkness Past, here.


I hope you enjoyed reading this post. Let me know in comments what do you think about this guest post and if you have read any book in this series or are you going to add it to TBR.

Happy Reading!

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Priory of Orange Tree cover pic

#BookReview : The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon #ThePrioryoftheOrangeTree #BooksTeacupnReviews #HighFantasy

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The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
Publication date: February 26th 2019
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Genre: High Fantasy / LGBT + Magic and dragons
Pages: 830
Stars: ★★★★★

A world divided. A queendom without an heir. An ancient enemy awakens.

The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction – but assassins are getting closer to her door. Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.

Across the dark sea, Tane has trained to be a dragonrider since she was a child, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel. Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.

*** Note: I purchased this book ***

The Priory of the Orange Tree was fantastic high fantasy that revolved around the world fearing the big bad dragon that was stirring from his thousand years long sleep to bring chaos and destruction in the world and characters trying to save the world from him. It was about magic and mages, royal politics, religion and hypocrisy, legends with its truth and lies, love and friendship, good vs bad dragons, and putting away differences to fight the darkness of the world and changing mindset for great good.

Wow! This book is simply awesome. It was 800 page long book and there wasn’t a single page I didn’t enjoy. The writing was beautiful, flawless, and mesmerizing. The author is a brilliant storyteller who chained me to this huge tome from the very beginning and transported me in the world of Virtudom, dragons, dragon lovers and dragon slayers, legends, pirates and outlaws.

The Priory of the Orange Tree was written in third person narrative, divided into six sections with alternative chapters mostly from East and West and some chapters from South, telling the story of main characters living in kingdoms and queendoms in cardinal points of this world. Thank goodness, there was a map or I would have lost directions in this world.

The plot was amazing and it was more complex than I thought. The world and the characters were vast and were equally balanced. The first section was all about world and character building. The story followed Ead and Queen Sabran in West, Tane and Professor Roos in East, and Lord Arteloch Beck (Loth) in South.

“No woman should be made to fear that she was not enough.”

In the west, Ead Duryan was set in Inys court to protect the Queen, Sabran Berethnet. Her duty was to ensure her safety as it was said Berethnet line kept the Nameless One (our bad dragon) tied to the abyss. Ead had secrets. She was a mage of the priory, one of the best handmaiden, born to slay dragons. She kept a watchful eye on the queen for 7 years but she was away from priory for too long, her magic is fading, and to keep queen safe she must get close to the queen. She discovered somebody was trying to harm Sabran. The question was who? And then high western dragons (high-rank dragons of Nameless One’s army and equally dangerous) were rising. I was curious to see how Ead was going to save Sabran from the threat flying towards Inys without revealing her true identity.

I loved every part of this narration. I loved reading western culture and their blind faith in this part. Court of Inys and castle was also described wonderfully. The politics and legend was the heart of this narration and then sizzling f/f romance.

In the East we are introduced to eastern culture and the life of Tane and Professor Roos. Tane’s only dream was to become a dragon rider but arrival of a stranger changed the course of life. She hid him instead of reporting him to officials so her selection ceremony didn’t interrupt. Doctor Roos got involved in this web of hiding stranger and it made things even worse for Tane. I liked how events unfolded. I was curious to find out what role she was going to play in the whole story and what will happen to her dragon.

I loved reading about different islands in the East, the empire of twelve lakes, harsh Eastern law, pirates and their journey, and the story of the second mage in this narration.

In South, Lord Arteloth Beck (Loth) was carrying out a spy mission. But he wasn’t a spy! he was sent away from Inys so he couldn’t be in way of Queen Sabran’s marriage. There were rumors he and Sabran were lovers but actually they were best friends. Night Hawk of Inys court sent him to his doom without notifying the Queen. On arriving in Carscaro, he discovered the reality of the castle and person sitting on the throne and many other secrets. I was curious to see if he could ever find his way back to Inys.

In this I enjoyed reading about wyrms, other creatures of the south, about Priory and the real legend, and customs of the south.

“Piety can turn the power-hungry into monsters,’ Ead said. ‘They can twist any teaching to justify their actions.”

Ead (26 yrs old) was my most favorite character in whole book. She was everything I would want in heroine. Badass, smart, clever, a warrior and a killer. She also had a broader perspective who not just cared for her home but also for Inys and whole humanity. She never feared anything until she fell in love. Lot of things changed and it got really exciting. She was the only person who was unfazed by the appearance of high western and even the Nameless One in the end battle. She found a lot of secrets and truth behind stories and every mystery. The more I read about her, her act and reaction and her adventure, the more I admired and loved her.

“All stories grow from a seed of truth,’ Truyde said. ‘They are knowledge after figuration.”

Sabran (27 yrs old) was headstrong, imperious, and orthodox woman at first. I even said her a fool but once I knew more about her, her secrets and fears, her childhood and her dreams, like Ead, I warmed to her. She had a face of steel and heart filled with compassion and love. She surprised me when she got to know the truth about her religion and legend and later the biggest shocking secret. No one can endure so much but only Sabran. She was one true queen and I loved her at the end.

“I do not sleep because I am not only afraid of the monsters at my door, but also of the monsters my own mind can conjure. The ones that live within.”

Loth (30 yrs old) was another favorite character. It took more than one adventure for him to change his belief. He got so many shocks throughout the book. I loved him for his loyalty and friendship. His sister was braver and broad minded than him. I loved Margret throughout the book.

Tane (19 yrs old) was young and naïve and little flawed. She was ambitious. Her dream and her best friend were only one she cared about and when that was taken away because of her one mistake she became weak and hollow. She kept feeling guilty for breaking law, even when her dragon assured her she didn’t do wrong. It was so sad and tragic to see everything falling apart for her. But I loved her determination and the way she changed things in second half of the book.

I thought at first Doctor Roos (64 yrs old) will not be important character but I was wrong. He was one flawed character and not likable. He was opportunist and selfish. Shadow of the past was seeped deep in him and his exile only served to fester the dead in him. One thing was, he didn’t deny his flaws and who he was. He knew he was not honest and righteous person and what he did was wrong and I liked how his adventure, encounter with pirates and dragons, and hope changed his view.

“I realized, that she had been spoon-fed a story from the day she was born. She had been taught no other way to be. And yet, I saw that despite everything, some part of her was self-made. This part, small as it appeared at first, was forged in the fire of her own strength, and resisted her cage. And I understood…that this part was made of steel. The part who she truly was.”

Mysteries, actions, adventure, and surprises were in abundance. There was so much going on throughout the book.Each chapters and section revealedso many stories, myths, legends and tales of this world that was set in CE 1005. Two legends were center part of the story. One was from west and sounth of Gallian Berethnest and the damsel and another from the east about another mage and dragons that was revealed in second half of the book.

My most favorite part of the book was these legends and the two sides of it, how Ead and other characters found the evidence of the truth in this legend and about magic, about mage of east, and how both legends connected at the end and provided a key to fight the Nameless One.

Climax was exciting and tense. When the final battle started it got even more excited. It was not narrated like battles we read in other fantasy. It was exactly the way it should be, all chaos broke free and all fighting the common enemy. It ended a bit earlier than expected but it was amazing. The end also showed what happened to each character and what they did after the battle. I was bit confused by what happened to Tane, I must admit it was weird and unclear. I had to go to Goodreads and the reader’s discussion about this. The answers were satisfactory and like them I hope this might be a link to other book author is planning to write in this world.

“Some truths are safest buried. Some castles best kept in the sky. There’s promise in tales that are yet to be spoken.”

Overall, The Priory of the Orange Tree was fantastic, mesmerizing, fast-paced, and mind-blowing fantasy with complex world and amazing characters. As said in the praises, “it was epic fantasy at its finest”. Even after reading 800 pages, I didn’t want it to end. It was that good. I highly recommend this book. I’m surely getting other books by Samantha Shannon.

Book Links:

Goodreads

Affiliate Link: Amazon.in | Amazon.com | Amazon.UK | Book Depository

What do you think about the book and my review? Have you read this book already or any books by the same author? Are you going to add it to TBR? Which is your favorite high fantasy or book with dragons?

Happy Reading!

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