Sponsored by Norton Young Readers.
When Cordelia Hatmaker’s father vanishes on an ingredient expedition, Cordelia refuses to accept that he’s gone. Her grief-stricken aunt and uncle forge ahead to fulfill an order from the king for a magical Peace Hat. But then the Peace Hat is stolen—along with the Peace Boots, Cloak, Watch, and Gloves crafted by the other Maker families. Cordelia realizes that there is a menacing plot against the Makers, and that Prospero Hatmaker’s disappearance may be connected. Cordelia must uncover who is behind the thefts if she is to save the Makers and find out what really happened to her father.
Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!
This week’s pick is the sophomore novel by an amazing author whose debut I recommended last year…but I just can’t help it, I loved this book, too!
Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust
In this second standalone fantasy novel, Bashardoust revisits a Persian myth to shape the story of Soraya, a princess who was cursed at birth to be poisonous to the touch. The inception of her dangerous gift is told to her like a fairy tale, a constant reminder that she must be careful and forever on her guard so that she doesn’t hurt anyone. Now on the cusp of adulthood, Soraya’s existence is kept a secret to protect her brother, the shah. She lives in isolation in a private suite and garden of her family’s spring castle, and when her family returns with the news that her brother is about to be married, she’s devastated that life seems to be passing her by.
Soraya ventures out of her safe haven, determined to break her curse once and for all. Along the way, she befriends a young soldier in her brother’s army and learns that they have caught a monster and are holding her in the dungeon. According the legend, this monster may be able to help break Soraya’s curse, so she immediately behind scheming a way to get into the dungeons. But just as she thinks she’s about to find answers, Soraya realizes that everything she thought she knew about her curse is a lie.
I love the lush storytelling in this novel. The opening starts off like a fairy tale, and Bashardoust’s skillful writing brings this fantasy world and the characters to life in marvelous and rich detail. Soraya is a sheltered but determined heroine, but her naivety and inexperience threaten to be her pitfall. Nonetheless, when it’s clear that she’s caught up in a much greater struggle that spans decades and generations, she rises to the occasion with some ingenious twists. I loved that the political struggle is expertly woven in with Soraya’s emotional journey, making the stakes believably urgent, and that Soraya’s story builds in complexity and nuance as her world expands. Plus, there is a sneaky queer romance in this story that is absolutely wonderful! Read this book if you want an enchanting story that explores the idea of what makes a monster, the tension between goodness and evil, and how to forge your own path.
With this book, Melissa Bashardoust became an auto-buy author for me! Plus, if you missed it last year, make sure you pick up her first novel, Girls Made of Snow and Glass!
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