As I mentioned before, I decided to try out a February reading challenge for sapphic books. F/F February looked really fun, and since I already love reading and talking about sapphic books, I knew this wouldn’t be difficult for me. Today is the last day of February, so this will be a roundup post for the books I read this month, listed by bingo prompts for the challenge.
1. An f/f contemporary, historical and/or romance
The first book I read this month was an eARC I got through NetGalley—Pyotra and the Wolf by Elna Holst. It’s a lesbian werewolf romance with a great exploration of shapeshifters. Set in the Siberian winter, this novel is a retelling of Sergei Prokofiev’s symphonic fairy tale and has both a moody atmospheric and a lonely landscape, as well as a steamy relationship between two women, and even some drama and action. There were some issues I found with it, but in the end I liked it. For more details, I wrote a review you can read here.
2. An f/f audiobook, graphic novel, or multimedia story
I actually listened to two audiobooks this month. I absolutely love this form, which is a new development. Or, well, I was hesitant to try it out, and last year I got accidentally hooked (short story: I forgot to cancel a free trial, ended loving it because I both immensely enjoy listening experience and because it is affordable for me in a way paperbacks usually aren’t).
Anyway, I’m going to talk about audiobook number two later, but audiobook number one would be Unconquerable Sun by Kate Elliott. This book was so refreshing. I think that the last time I enjoyed space opera was when I read The Machineries of Empire by Yoon Ha Lee. It was fun, engaging, wild, not to mention it had so many women in major roles. And they were different in behavior, characterisation, motives, voices. Not just them, the whole cast was so amazing, but I did like that so many women got to be at the forefront of the space opera. And all major women, if I’m not mistaken, are some form of sapphic which makes it all much better. Especially since the main character—the gender-swapped Alexander the Great, the titular Sun, has a whole secret relationship with her companion Hetty, not because of the homophobia (which isn’t an issue in this world) but because of the difference in class. Love it.
3. An f/f backlist book and 4. An f/f rec from a friend
I’m going to combine these two prompts together because they both fit this particular book. It’s The Red Tree by Caitlín R. Kiernan, a sapphic horror novel that is both an epistolary novel and a found manuscript. I’ll be honest, I write sapphic horror so this is especially important for me. And I got frustrated at one point last year because I was really in the mood for reading sapphic horror more than any other genre, but everything that I found was either YA or historical, and I just wasn’t in the mood for either. I still aren’t. So I was talking with a friend about that particular problem and he recommended books by Caitlín R. Kiernan (and in the meantime I found a few more titles which I didn’t yet get to read, but yay!).
This book had a lot of stuff that I liked—the atmosphere, unreliable narrator, the meta aspects, the exploration of grief, trauma and depression. It was dark, heavy and the style hooked me in with the first chapter. But it also felt dragging at some point so it’s a kind of hard book to recommend, I believe.
5. An F/F book featuring your fave trope and 6. A re-read of a book you loved
I’m also combining these two with In the Vanishers’ Palace, by Aliette de Bodard. A sapphic Beauty and the Beast (fave trope), where beauty is a scholar and beast is Vietnemese dragon, set in a post-apocalyptic world. It’s hard for me to explain how much I loved this novella or how influential it was for my own writing. I loved the world—how diseased, toxic and broken it was—and the characters, especially how de Bodard explored the idea of romance in captivity, and even more, the beast as a dragon who is a capable doctor, emotionally distant but otherwise kind.
7. A sapphic own voices book
That would be Pyotra and the Wolf, In the Vanishers’ Palace and Fireheart Tiger (that I know). I have no idea about Caitlín R. Kiernan, and I decided not to check it. OV is not that important for me personally (I understand why it’s important to people, especially in mainstream or books dealing with certain experiences).
8. An f/f book from 2020 or 2021 debut author
I saw a lot of people talking about The Bone Shard Daughter, a 2020. debut by Andrea Stewart. It was on some queer speculative fiction lists, specified as sapphic, and I even think I saw it in FFFeb2021 tag on Instagram. So, when I saw that the audiobook was on a sale, I decided to buy it. This is such a great fantasy novel, I absolutely loved it. The world is so fascinating, just the idea of constructs powered by bone shard magic, the way it was used, depicted and explored. Also, slightly horrifying. The characters were also much fun. However, while there is a sapphic romance subplot with two point of views characters, the two are secondary characters. I really hope they’ll get more to do in the sequel because I feel they weren’t as utilised in this novel, even though both were POVs. So, I think this is not the best choice for this challenge, however I’m still going to count it. All of the other books had main sapphic characters, though.
9. An f/f sci fi or fantasy
All six of the books I read are either sci fi or fantasy. This is because I read almost exclusively speculative fiction.
But here I’m going to specifically point out Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard, mostly because I definitely need to mention it.
Fireheart Tiger is an epic fantasy novella set in a pre-colonial Vietnamese inspired world. I read it in, like, two hours. It deals with trauma, colonization and finding your own self worth. It’s also gloriously sapphic—it’s all about sapphics at a court. And fiery. Such a treat.
At the beginning of the month I had a plan to read 6 books and you know, I managed to do it. Though, I haven’t completely followed through with my tbr. Out of 6 planned books, I read 4 of them, which is really great. In the end I haven’t read (yet) Burning Roses and Persephone’s Station, and instead of them I read The Red Tree and listened to The Bone Shard Daughter. What can I say? I was in the mood for some sapphic horror, and the other one felt like a better fit to a prompt.
All in all, I had so much fun with the photo challenges and trying to fill in the bingo card (although I didn’t have time for nine books, which would be ideal, but, well, not enough time for that).