Goodreads blurb: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.
Fairytale retelling? Check. Descent to villainy? Check. Sapphic slowburn romance? Check. Monster girlfriend? Double check. Girl, Serpent, Thorn was every bit as magical as I wanted it to be. It has such a wonderful fairytale vibe to it, with picturesque forests and carved out mountains, and I want nothing more than to read f/f villain monster romances forever.
Girl, Serpent, Thorn is inspired by Persian mythology and tells the story of Soruya, a girl poisonous to the touch. To protect her family’s reputation, she has been hidden away, alone and untouched, for all her life. When a young man begins to see who she is beyond her poisonous skin, she vows to rid herself of her curse, no matter the cost.
One of my favourite parts of this story was discovering all the mythology. Bashardoust goes into a detailed authors note at the end of the book to speak about her inspiration, but throughout the book, I just loved getting to see more of the mythology of Persia. From the creation stories, inspired by Zoroastrian beliefs, to the divs, demons who want to destroy the world, the world is magical. I would’ve loved to hear even more about the creation story and the origins of the divs, but that’s probably because I came to this book after The Unspoken Name, a large fantasy book that has intricately detailed religion and hence am dying to read some more books like that.
I found Soruya’s character particularly well written. There’s something so familiar about her. I think we have all felt that edge of resentment, have felt the awful emotions and thoughts it evokes in you, and so I found her incredibly relatable and understandable. Her actions made so much sense. And that made it very easy to root for her (whether you want her to be good or evil!) My favourite character however was Parvaneh. I have a thing for wings okay. I just loved her energy! She seems at times so mischievious (trying to work up Soruya’s anger), but also so full of regrets for her past. Her relationship development with Soruya is brilliant – I loved how both are so hesitant and yet so passionate at the same time. Both have been trapped by their circumstances, but together they’re able to explore freedom and just, this is the f/f content we need and we deserve!!! Bear in mind this is VERY slowburn. For the first 50% of the novel I was literally that John Travolta gif going WHERE IS THE F/F I WAS PROMISED.
The only real issue I had with this book was the enemy. I found their reveal abundantly obvious from literally their first moment on page and so I spent half of the novel going are we seriously meant to belief this?! I wish it had been so much less obvious because if it had been a shock, that would have been one of the most epic plot twists off all time. Sadly, because of this, I did feel a bit meh about the first half of the novel because I was dying to just get the reveal over with already. But after it happens, everything picks up and the story starts speeding forward with lots of drama and action and plenty of naive, foolish plans from Soruya.
Most of all, I loved the change in Soruya and her growth from a girl terrified of hurting someone with her poison, to someone who embraces her differences and learns to see their power. Sapphic goddess win. Girl, Serpent, Thorn is a wonderful YA fantasy, and seriously, I hope Bashardoust writes more monster girlfriends in future, cause this shit is good.
This February I’ve been participating in FFFebruary, a readathon run by Charlotte (@darashirazi) on Twitter. As well as reading only sapphic books for all of February, I’ve also been posting every day on Instagram to celebrate my favourite f/f books. So continuing this trend, today I want to talk about the 2020 sapphic releases I can’t wait to read! This list is by no means exhaustive, it’s just some of the incredible books coming our way this year!
This book published in January, and my pre-order finally arrived in Australia this week! I’m already half way through and it is such an interesting read. Part social commentary, part alien invasion, The Seep follows trans woman Trina as tries to grieve and recover from when her wife wished to be a baby again, and the aliens give her that wish.
Another January release, Scavenge the Stars follows a chaotic bisexual in this genderbend retelling of The Counte of Monte Cristo. Not gonna lie, a woman with a dagger on the cover will always sell a book to me.
Cherry Beach is all about the power and love of friendship. Hetty and Ness have been best friends forever, and are now moving from Melbourne to Toronto. But Ness has a secret: she’s hopelessly in love with Hetty. In Toronto, in contrast to their life growing up, Hetty’s life seems to disintegrate, whilst Ness meets Hope. But as Hetty falls apart, Ness might lose the person she loves most. This dark, sapphic book just sounds so incredible! Publishing: February 4
This is the first of Gailey’s 2020 releases and it is a good one!!! Queer librarian spies on horseback trying to save the world from fascists with resistance propaganda in a Western style setting. Publishing: February 4
The Mercies is inspired by the true events of the Vardø storm, which wiped out all the men of Vardø, and the 1620 witch trials. A witchhunter Scotsman and his wife, Maren, travel to Vardø to find the women independent and free. As Maren grows close to one of the women, the witchhunter sees evil and seeks to rule. I can’t wait for this feminist, witchy novel about love and evil to arrive. Publishing: February 11
Csorwe knows when she’s going to die. She’s a sacrifice to her gods. But on the day she’s supposed to die, a powerful mage offers her freedom to follow him, and become his sworn shield, assassin and thief. Also including a very slow burn f/f romance! Publishing: February 11
This sequel to 2019’s excellent We Set the Dark on Fire is one I can’t wait for! After We Set the Dark on Fire was written from Dani’s POV, We Unleash the Merciless Storm looks to Carmen and her role in the rebellion. Publishing: February 25
This is set in the same universe as The Winner’s Trilogy (which I haven’t actually read so know nothing about). But sapphic fantasy is always high on my list to read so here this is! Nirrim is one of the low-class inhabitants of the Ward. There, she cannot wear colour or eat sweets. When she encounters Sid, a traveller who brings rumours of magic, she is persuaded to seek the magic for herself. Publishing: March 3
2020 is the year of queer witches, and this is just one of them! This one sounds particularly intriguing to me as it’s inspired by Celtic mythology, features a bi teen in a conservative small Irish town who suffers from somatic OCD, and an infamous serial killer called The Butcher King. Sign me up right now. Publishing: March 3
Bi! Romcom! Science! Geek! I adored Laura Steven’s The Exact Opposite of Okay, it holds the award for funniest book I’ve ever read. So of course when she announced a bisexual romcom about a teen who discovers a scientfic breakthrough that makes you irresistible to everyone around you, I have to read it! Publishing: March 5
OHHHH this one sounds so good! During WW2, Hetty is tasked with evacuating and looking after the mammals from the natural history museum. At Lockwood Manor, where they are to stay for the duration of the war, Hetty finds herself drawn to the mysterious and traumatised daughter of Lord Lockwood, Lucy. But animals start disappearing and Hetty is sure she’s being followed down dark corridors… Publishing: March 10
Angelina only just escaped from under her violent fathers’ thumb. But after a car accident, now she’s back. As her father aggressively pushes for an accident settlement, she grows close to Janet, an artist who inspires her to create unsettling art that shows her scars and forces her to face the abuse. Publishing: March 10
Cheerleading but make it really really gay: enter this book. Mack doesn’t expect to fit into at school. She’s well used to being different. But now she’s mysteriously become a cheerleader magnet, but is it a set up, or could she actually have a chance at romance? Publishing: March 15
Another one that sounds so incredibly interesting with an odd profession at its heart! Nell works in biological sciences exploring poisons and antidotes. She’s also obsessed with her mentor, Dr Joan, writing journals and research notes dedicated to her, as the lives of her and Joan along with several others become tangled in a web of desire and affairs. Also check out that cover!!! Publishing: March 31
Codi and her friends spend most of their time inside playing games, not out at parties. But when they decide to crash a party, Codi finds popular kid Ricky, kissing another boy, and the two form an unexpected friendship. As the summer progresses, Ricky takes Codi under his wing and introduces her to popularity, parties, and a cute girl called Lydia. Only problem is, her friends have no idea. Publishing: April 21
Another stunning cover!! On a pirate ship, Flora takes the identity Florian to earn respect amongst the crew. But on board, Florian is drawn to passenger Lady Evelyn, who is on her way to an arranged marriage. With witches and mermaids, gender fluidity and Asian folklore, I predict this book will be one of my favourites of the year! Publishing: May 5
Nothing beats the description from the author’s Twitter for this one: “pitched as stranger things in the french revolution, there’s an ensemble cast of queer disasters, two girls in love and a bi love triangle. plus strange science, swashbuckling action and a little magic 💀”. THE BI LOVE TRIANGLE IS HERE AND WE LOVE TO SEE IT. Also I lucked out with an ARC for this and I literally cannot get the song “I’ve got a golden ticket” from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory out of my head when thinking about this. Publishing: May 5
Lesbian witch forms a coven with three popular girls after she casts a spell for them. This books aims to subvert the traditional ‘cliquey mean girls’ and instead focuses on the strength of female friendship as they fight the witchhunters who want to steal their magic. Publishing: May 12
Two teens set up rival businesses, Nishat is celebrating her culture, Flávia is appropriating. But as they get to know each other, Nishat can’t quite get over her crush. Discussions around the intersection of queerness and race by a QPOC! If you support any book this year, support this one! Publishing: May 12
A 1920’s New Orleans SUPER QUEER historical murder mystery oh my days this is perfect! I give you a tweet from the author:
“🏳️🌈MC Millie is bi (hello bi love triangle!) 🏳️🌈Her BFF Marion is gay & performs in drag 🏳️🌈Her aunt is a lesbian in a committed relationship w/ a woman 🏳️🌈They all work in a queer-friendly speakeasy 🏳️🌈A few people are straight I guess?”
Also it comps to Miss Fisher’s Murder Mystery and this makes me even more excited!!
By day: rivals at a competitive Arts Conservatory, fighting for the chance to win a scholarship. By night: unknowingly collaborating with each other on a fanfiction graphic novel. What happens when their online personalities begin to fall in love? Any romcom with fanfiction has me SOLD! Publishing: May 26
More of that good enemies to lovers shit but make it S A P P H I C. Each year, the Witch Queen lures a boy back to her palace. But when Lina tries to save her brother from the fate, the friend who helped her is chosen instead. So Lina offers up herself. Enter love stuff. City dying. All the tragic must choose who to save, the city, or each other. I LOVE IT. Publishing: June 2
This book explores the life of a woman caught between her culture, religion and sexual identity. From the age of 12, when she was yelled at by a group of men for baring her legs in the biblical city of Bethlehem, through her time in the US, Palestine, Jordan and Lebanon, we follow her as she is lead to The Ledge, a treatment facility for “love addiction”. Publishing: June 9
Modern day noir thriller, set in Hollywood, with a sapphic lead who spends her time blackmailing lecherous old men. But when one of her targets ends up dead, she takes on one last job to get out of the game for good. A twist on the feminist revenge story! Publishing: July 14
A lesbian love story set in the afterlife! When Ash dies, she becomes a girl-reaper, someone who collects the souls of the dead and takes them to await their fate. But she vows to see her first love again, dead or alive… Publishing: August
Crier’s War was one of my favourite sapphic reads last year and I have no doubt Iron Heart will be just as good! Filled with all the enemies to lovers to enemies trope we could ever need, I won’t say much as I don’t want to spoil the first one if you haven’t read it yet. But watch out for this one. Also THAT COVER!! So SHINY. Publishing: September 8
This book has another of my favourite covers, look how gorgeous that pink is!! When Corinne’s secret girlfriend dies, she struggles to mourn for a person no one else knew existed. The only person she can talk to is her dead girlfriend’s ex. A story about making sense of grief and how to be honest with yourself. Publishing: September 15
Two queer older ladies, combining Western and Chinese folklore (Red Riding Hood and Hou Yi the Archer). The two must join forces to fight deadly sunbirds, and embark on a quest for immortality. Publishing: September 29
I very recently read the absolutely amazing The Library of the Unwritten and it was one of the most fun fantasy novels I’ve read in years! The sequel is out this October, and we go back to Claire and Brevity, Hero and Ramiel to solve new mysteries in the library. Oh and did I mention Claire is a pansexual librarian which literally just fills me with so much delight because it’s the first time I’ve ever seen pansexual written down in a fantasy novel before?! Publishing: October 6
The Never Tilting World was my first Rin Chupeco book and I really enjoyed it! A kingdom split in two, half in unending heat and sun; the other in constant snow and ice; one of twin sisters at the helm in each realm. This is the sequel and will carry on the quest to put the world back together. Publishing: November 10
A sapphic phantom of the opera, hell to the yes. Cadence has been forced to torture the nobility with her magic voice, under the rule of her Queen. But when an old friend comes back into her life, she has to decide whether to rebel or become a monster. God this sounds so good. Publishing: November 24
This is an f/f retelling of the Portugese myth A Miracle of Roses, where a princess wants to reverse a gift that turns all the food she touches into flowers. This sounds so different to any other fairytale I’ve read so very excited for it! Publishing: December 4
There isn’t much about this one in the public yet, but it sounds INCREDIBLE. The author’s website describes it as “coven of queer witches at an elite women’s college who employ their powers to exact revenge on the frat boy warlocks using magic to cover up sexual assault on campus”. Publishing: fall
I give you one of the most amazing author descriptions for a book ever: “If you like: magic derived from bones, migratory islands, a distant DOOM, a failing empire, a palace of locked doors and secrets, an heir with a father she can’t help but disappoint, a jaunty smuggler with a tragic past, creepy magical constructs, DOOM getting a bit more real now, two women in an established relationship working through class differences, magical animal companions, and dumplingssss!” Publishing: 2020, I assume fall/winter
Wow what a list!! 40 super sapphic books! I’m so excited for all of these. I know there are some amazing ones I’ve missed or not heard of yet so I apologise if I missed your favourite! But I would love to know: what’s your most anticipated 2020 sapphic book release? Let me know in the comments!
February is a very exciting month! As well as participating in the incredible story-driven readathon the Pondathon, I will also be joining with the #FFFeb. This readathon is run by Charlotte (@darashirazi on Twitter) and involves trying to read all (or mostly!) sapphic books in February! Charlotte has created 9 challenges to read and so I’ve created my TBR around those. To see what I’m reading, or to get some wonderful sapphic recs, check out my #FFFeb TBR below! And if you want to join in with the fun, follow @darashirazi on Twitter to find out more.
Any series called ‘The Nightmare-Verse’ sounds exactly my cup of tea. Add to that it’s an Alice in Wonderland retelling? Where Alice fights monsters? Plus that killer cover?! I am so excited to read this one!!
I’ve heard really awesome things about this book from a fellow book blogger whom I highly trust to recommend great reads. This combines fabulism, Irish history, & mental health and promises to be one of my favourite books of the year (we’ll see if my prediction comes true…)
I feel like this was THE sapphic romance of 2019 and therefore I feel rather guilty I still haven’t read it. So FFFeb seems like the perfect time to jump into this enemies to lovers, high school cheerleader romance!
So I believe this kind of has a romance, but it’s really not the main focus. And I’ll be honest, pretty much all of the f/f books I’ve got or found at the library seem to have a romance, so I decided to just roll with a book where the romance is very much not the focus! Hence this science fiction, political intrigue novel with murder and aliens.
Challenge 8: Book by an author you’ve never tried before
Killer mermaids lure warriors to their deaths every year – so one town decides to send women instead of men to try and fight the lure of the mermaids and get rid of the threat once and for all. Battle trained girls + mermaids + f/f romance = amazing novel.
And if I manage to finish all of the above, I also have the following books on my shelf just waiting to be read!
As I’m on Team Varian for the Pondathon, it does bring a further challenge to reading a mix of genres – so I may end up not completing all of the FFFeb challenges, or swapping some of the additional books around with my current Challenge TBR. Either way, I plan to read all sapphic books in February and I cannot wait!
In addition to this readathon, I’ll also be doing a FFFeb Instagram challenge – basically whereby I challenge myself to post everyday to celebrate all my sapphic books. So do give me a follow if you’d like to see: sapphic books in wild gardens, cutesy wallpaper backgrounds, or bee lights.
Are you participating in FFFeb? Let me know what’s on your TBR in the comments!