Review: Sappho’s Fables Volume I

You know what I haven’t done in a while?  Book reviews!

You know what there isn’t a lot of in the world?  Really good fantasy lesbian writing that has excellent and sexually charged chemistry between female characters.

Hell, it’s hard just to find any writing that pairs up two women.  And what I can find is mostly written with an emphasis on character interaction.  Maybe because the majority of writing focusing on female pairings that I’ve read is teen.

Except, no, that’s not an excuse.  There are plenty of teen novels that have entire sections dedicated to how steamy hot the male protagonist’s body is and how the female protagonist really just wants to jump his bones or at least have an extended makeout session.  There is plenty of sexual chemistry there, even if there isn’t any explicit sex.  Yet, every time the pairing is two women, everything is practically chaste.  I could be reading stories about forbidden friendship that just happens to occasionally involves kissing.

Meanwhile, het writing and male/male writing is bursting with sex and sexy times.  You can’t turn around without running into some description of handsome men and the beautiful men (or ukes) who love them.  But put two ladies, with two sets of boobs in the same room?  Shit, that’s too many boobs for chemistry to exist!

When I realized this problem, I set out to see what lesbian writing I could find, especially some with real sexual tension and chemistry between women.  I… came up with very little, but haven’t yet given up the chase.

One thing I did discover was Sappho’s Fables Volume I.  This is a collection of three novellas written by Elora Bishop and Jennifer Diemer based on fairy tales with lesbian protagonists.  I wouldn’t call them re-tellings, exactly, more like riffs.  The heart of each fairy tale is present and obvious, but at the same time, the stories take off in their own directions.  Entire worlds are created, developed, and unfolded within the novellas.  And they are fun.

Also, yes, there’s actual chemistry and attraction between female protagonists.  Hallelujah.  Since there’s only three, I’ll give a few thoughts on each novella.  Each novella can also be bought separately, if you only find yourself interested in one of them.

Hands down, this novella has the best chemistry of the three.  Sparks fly between a revised step mother and the titular Snow White.  Also, don’t worry, incest is not actually a thing in this story.  It quite nicely ducks even the “we’re not really related by blood but still” awkwardness you can find in step parent/step child pairings.

I’ve never liked Rapunzel much as a story, it’s just never had much flare to it.  This novella, though, takes the whole thing into an epic quest across bizarre and fantastic landscapes in pursuit of escaping the binds of fate. I loved the world sculpted and I loved the main protagonist, bad attitude and all.

Of all three of the stories, this one by far leaves the entire fairy tale model in the dust.  It’s Hansel and Gretel.  With zombies.  Yeah.  Chew on that. That said, with such a fantastic premise, the ending wasn’t quite what I wanted. All three of these stories, being fairy tales at heart, end with a Happily Ever After. This one… this one I wanted to see go outright dark. Still, it’s a fascinating setup that’s well worth the read and a very conflicted narrator who keeps the tension up through the whole story.