Sappho’s Fables Volume 1 by Elora Bishop & Jennifer Diemer Review

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Summary: The Sappho’s Fables series takes well-known, beloved fairy tales and retells them from a lesbian perspective. Volume One contains the first three novellas in the series: SEVEN (Snow White), BRAIDED (Rapunzel) and CRUMBS (Hansel and Gretel), compiled together in an enchanting omnibus edition.

* SEVEN: A Lesbian Snow White
The strange witch girl Neve has skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood, and a dark secret. Her father Lexander, an alchemist, harbors an evil obsession, and Catalina, his newest bride, made the grave mistake of becoming his wife. When Catalina finds herself falling in love with his daughter, Neve, instead, the deepening bond between the women sets in motion the final chapter of a story that began long ago, with a desperate longing and a handful of apple seeds. Together, Neve and Catalina must venture into the Huntsman’s haunted forest to undo what has been done and set themselves free.

* BRAIDED: A Lesbian Rapunzel
Zelda is cursed to spend her days on a platform in an ancient, holy tree, growing her hair long enough to touch the ground. But it wasn’t her curse to bear: Gray, the witch’s daughter, was meant for that lonely fate. Gray visits Zelda each day, mourning their switched fates, and falling deeper in love with the cursed girl, until one night, at the Not-There Fair, an extraordinary creature outlines a magical plan that could set both of them free. Will Gray’s love for Zelda be strong enough to survive the strange dream world of Chimera, or will Zelda remain a prisoner of the curse forever?

* CRUMBS: A Lesbian Hansel and Gretel
Greta’s never ventured beyond the refuge of the Heap. Outside, the Ragers lurk, ever hungry and hunting. But Greta and her brother, half-starved and now alone, must risk death for the dream of safety they hope to find within the metal forest. Once there, nothing is as it seems: in the confines of a crumbling old candy factory, the woman who rescues them with sweet words and sweeter treats harbors a dangerous secret

(Summary via Goodreads )

My rating for Seven: 4 (more like 4.5 now that I’m thinking of it)/5 stars

My rating for Braided: 4/5 stars

My rating for Crumbs: 4/5 stars

My rating for the book as a whole: 4/5 stars

Pros: Good characters, interesting plots, inventive twists on classic fairytales

Cons: Ableist language in Seven (See my Twitter thread here for more information), The sci fi elements in Crumbs were not my cup of tea

For those of you who don’t know, fantasy is my favorite genre. That also includes fairytales. Though I don’t love classic fairytales the way I love fantasy stories like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, they do still have a special place in my heart. So of course fairytale retellings are right up my alley. Even better if they’re fairytale retellings with LGBT main characters, like the three novellas in Sappho’s Fables are.

I thoroughly enjoyed all three novellas, though I have to say that Seven is probably my favorite (minus the ableist language which I speak more in depth about in the Twitter thread linked above). All three novellas have good characters, interesting plots, and inventive twists on classic fairytales. The characters in each novella are three dimensional and usually far more interesting than their fairytale counterparts. The plot for each novella is not just a straightforward retelling plot but keeps the reader guessing and on the edge of their seat. These novellas are all inventive twists on the original fairytales. Some include plot points from other fairytales such as Seven, while others include elements of other genres, such as Crumbs. However the fairytales are changed, the changes make the stories far more interesting to read than they would be if they were simply straightforward fairytale retellings. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fairytales (as long as they’re ok with the stories being vastly different from, though still recognizable as, the fairytales they are based on) and a good retelling.

I’d like to speak about each novella separately since I believe that’s the best way to review them. I’ll go in the order that they’re printed in the book.

First of all, Seven. This novella was definitely a good way to start off the book (minus the ableist language which I discuss here ) and is, in fact, my favorite of the three novellas. In the beginning I found myself confused as to what was going on. Catalina is a step mother yet she is the main character, which made me believe she was supposed to be Snow White. Neve, however, is described like Snow White. That confusion passed soon enough, though, and I found myself getting swept up in the magic of the story. I liked how the author changed the whole “wicked witch” thing around. If anyone’s a wicked witch in this story, it’s Lexander, Catalina’s cruel husband. Changing the gender of the wicked witch as well as making it clear that the magic is not what causes the evil, it is the person, is something I definitely enjoyed. Maybe it’s the Harry Potter fan in me but I find it hard to enjoy fairytales where the only people with magical powers are evil. It just doesn’t seem fair; the good people should have powers too.

This story, as I mentioned before, combines elements of other fairytales. I’m not going to say which one(s) because doing so might be a bit of a spoiler. I will say, though, that the combination of tales only served to add to the story and make it more interesting. The story is complex without being confusing, as fairytales should be. The characters are also as interesting as the plot. Catalina, Neve, and even the other wives and the Huntsman are all three dimensional characters. Catalina is absolutely not the stereotypical mean stepmother from fairytales. She is kind, caring, intelligent, giving, and powerful. Neve, the Snow White character, is far more interesting than her fairytale counterpart. She’s intelligent, determined, loyal, caring, and powerful. Catalina and Neve’s relationship develops beautifully. It does not move too fast or too slow, given the length of the story.

Overall, I really enjoyed Seven. Now on to Braided. This is another really inventive story. I never would have thought of this twist on the classic Rapunzel story. The idea of Rapunzel being someone who is fated to guard a holy site and that fate being able to pass from person to person is something that is original and unique. Fate is a common theme in fairytales and classical mythology. The conflict between wanting to change your fate and accepting it is one that is always interesting to read about and this story is no exception.

The characters in this story are also amazing. I really love Gray and especially Zelda. Perhaps it’s because the story is told from Gray’s point of view but I felt that by the end of it, I fell in love with Zelda too. Her selflessness and calm nature really won me over. Gray’s loyalty is also an attractive quality, though I do feel her personality could have been expanded upon more. Gray and Zelda’s relationship develops beautifully and at a perfect pace for both characters. The fact that both had unrequited feelings for each other does not feel weird or gimmicky. It fits the characters and makes sense given what we know of their backstory together.

Overall, Braided is a good story and an enjoyable one. Last but not least, Crumbs. This story is probably my least favorite of the three stories in this book, solely because of the scifi elements. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good sci fi story, yet the sci fi elements in this story just are not my cup of tea. Zombies creep me out far too much and personally I don’t expect fairytales to creep me out. So those elements ruined my enjoyment of the story a little bit. Though I will admit that the scifi elements also made this retelling a unique one. However, I personally could have done without them and would have preferred a story without zombies and deserted cities.

The characters really saved this story for me. I couldn’t help but feel for Greta and her brother throughout the story. Though Greta’s brother is described as annoying in the beginning of the story, I still felt for him while reading. Greta herself is a character I find it easy to relate to. Her life is a hard one, which leads to her being quite an anxious person at times. (Did you mean: my life? Well, the anxiety part anyway. I don’t have a brother to worry about. Or zombies.) She also deeply cares about her brother and Sabine. She’s kind and open-minded but not too trusting, which makes sense given what she’s been through and the world she lives in. Sabine, Greta’s love interest, is a kind-hearted, genuine person who also has a bit of an edge. The two of them balance each other out perfectly and their romance is really sweet, if a bit too fast moving given the circumstances.

Overall, I enjoyed these stories and would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves fairytales and cute love stories.

Goodreads Link/ Amazon Link

I read this book for #DiversityBingo2017.

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