There was and there was not
… a girl who was cursed. Soraya lives her life in the shadows, knowing she is poison to everyone around her, including her mother, Tahmineh, and her twin brother, Sorush, the shah of Atashar.
She had read enough stories to know that the princess and the monster were never the same. She had been alone long enough to know which one she was.
Hidden from the world, Soraya spends most of her time in her golestan (a walled rose garden) or navigating the passages hidden within the palace walls. She longs to belong but can only catch distant glimpses of the life that could have been hers. She would do anything to break her curse.
Soraya wasn’t as easy for me to love as Mina and Lynet from Girls Made of Snow and Glass. This seemed fitting to me as it can sometimes feel like we’re approaching a caged animal when someone is hurting like Soraya is. We tend to push people away when we see ourselves as unloveable, making it difficult to accept (or even recognise) when someone is trying to reach out to us.
When we feel like we exude poison into the world we either burrow deep inside of ourselves or lash out at others, opposites with the same intent. Hurt them before they hurt you. Don’t allow yourself to get too close to them because they’ll leave you in the end anyway. Don’t get your hopes up for someone to love you for who you truly are because, frankly, who in their right mind would?!
Anger and shame fought for control within her, and so she forced her body into the position of shame, because it was safer.
As I spent more time with Soraya I began to love her because of, not despite, her pain. The pain of not belonging is amplified when it’s your own family that declares you an outcast, through their actions if not their words. I yearned for Soraya to find acceptance.
I grew to love Parvaneh, a parik, almost as much as I adore her name, which is Persian for “moth or butterfly”. I wish I could have gotten to know the other pariks better and wanted the opportunity to learn more about their history and culture. I also wanted to find out more about the other divs, the drujes and the kastars; I don’t know nearly enough about them.
I loved the way Persian mythology was woven into the story, and I particularly appreciated the Author’s Note at the end of the book where the ways various elements in this story line up with and also diverge from their origins were explained.
I’ve seen parts of myself in all of Melissa’s girls so far and I quickly become immersed in the worlds she creates. I can’t wait to see what world she’ll invite me to explore next.
“It’s time for you to become who you were meant to be.”
Thank you so much to NetGalley, Flatiron Books and Hodder & Stoughton for the opportunity to read this book.
Once Upon a Blurb
A captivating and 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.