Listen to an Audio Excerpt From Melissa Bashardoust’s Girl, Serpent, Thorn

A girl cursed to be poisonous to the touch discovers what power might lie in such a curse…

Melissa Bashardoust’s feminist fairy tale Girl, Serpent, Thorn is available now from Flatiron Books. We’re excited to share an audiobook clip below, narrated by Nikki Massoud.

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.


 

Girl, Serpent, Thorn is available from Flatiron Books
Get the audio edition at the links below, or from your favorite retailer!

 

From the roof of Golvahar, Soraya could almost believe that she existed.

The roof was a dangerous place, a painful luxury. Standing at the edge, she could see the garden spread out in front of the palace, lush and beautiful as always. But beyond that, beyond the gates of Golvahar, was the rest of the world, far larger than she could ever imagine. A city full of people encircled the palace. A road led south, down to the central desert, to other provinces and other cities, on and on, to the very edge of Atashar. Beyond that were more kingdoms, more land, more people.

From the other end of the roof, she could see the dry forestland and the dreaded Mount Arzur to the northeast. From every corner, there was always more and more, mountains and deserts and seas, hills and valleys and settlements, stretching on without end. It should have made Soraya feel small or inconsequential—and sometimes it did, and she would have to retreat with teeth gritted or fists clenched. More often, though, standing alone under the open sky made her feel unbound and unburdened. From this height, everyone seemed small, not just her.

But today was different. Today, she was on the roof to watch the royal family’s procession through the city. Today, she did not exist at all.

The royal family always arrived shortly before the first day of spring—the first day of a new year. They had a different palace in a different province for each season, the better to keep an eye on the satraps who ruled the provinces on the shah’s behalf, but even though Soraya was the shah’s sister, she never moved with them. She always remained in Golvahar, the oldest of the palaces, because it was the only palace with rooms behind rooms and doors behind doors. It was the perfect place to keep something—or someone—hidden away. Soraya lived in the shadows of Golvahar so that her family would not live in hers.

From above, the procession resembled a sparkling thread of gold winding its way through the city streets. Golden litters carried the noblewomen, including Soraya’s mother. Golden armor encased the dashing soldiers who rode on horseback, led by the spahbed, the shah’s most trusted general, his lined face as stern as always. Golden camels followed at the rear, carrying the many belongings of the royal family and the bozorgan who traveled with the court.

And at the head of the procession, riding under the image of the majestic green-and-orange bird that had always served as their family’s banner, was Sorush, the young shah of Atashar.

Light and shadow. Day and night. Sometimes even Soraya forgot that she and Sorush were twins. Then again, the Creator and the Destroyer were also twins, according to the priests. One born of hope, one of doubt. She wondered what doubts had gone through her mother’s head as she gave birth to her daughter.

In the streets, people cheered as the shah and his courtiers threw gold coins out into the crowd. Soraya understood why the people loved him so much. Sorush glowed under the light of their praise, but the smile he wore was humble, his posture relaxed compared to the rigid, formal stance of the spahbed. Soraya had long stopped imagining what it would be like to ride with her family from place to place, but her body still betrayed her, her hands clutching the parapet so tightly that her knuckles hurt.

As the procession moved through the palace gates and into Golvahar’s vast garden, Soraya could see faces more clearly. With a grimace, she noticed Ramin in the red uniform of the azatan. He wore it proudly, with his head held high, knowing that as the spahbed’s only son and likely successor, he had been born to wear red.

Her eyes gladly shifted away from Ramin to a figure riding a few horses behind him. He was a young man near the same age, his features indistinct from so far away, dressed not like a soldier in red and gold, but like a commoner, in a brown tunic without adornment. Soraya might not have noticed him at all except for one thing—

He was looking directly at her.

Despite the pomp of the procession, the lush beauty of the garden, and the grandeur of the palace ahead of him, the young man had looked up and noticed a single, shadowy figure watching from the roof.

Thank you for listening to this clip, provided to you by Macmillan Audio. To hear more, look for this title wherever audiobooks are sold.

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