Once Upon a Time…

Once upon a time, there was a king. He was a cruel king, of handsome face yet harsh of hand, with a taste for conquest and lack of mercy, who exerted his power with the ease of one who dismisses everyone else’s comfort.

Yet he was king, and for that, he was afforded power.

Noblemen feared him, but supported his conquering efforts as means of seeing their own riches grow; his army feared him as well, for lack of discipline was punished with death, but were loyal to his war campaigns and the glory of battle; the common people feared him too, and all they had was their fear, for they died of cold and hunger, and suffered in their flesh the excesses of the king’s desires.

The king loved food, wine and blood, but nothing fired up his soul more than women, the youngest and prettiest doomed to fall prey to his wild appetites. It was well known among the villagers that daughter or wife could be claimed at any moment and made to be companion in the king’s bed. Fathers hid their beautiful daughters away, chastised their wives if they dared let their hair loose or uncover their skin past their face and hands. And in fear women lived, too, for beauty was cause for punishment, and vanity the most terrible sin.

There came a day when two beautiful sisters were born. Twins they were, and handsome as the sun. Together they grew happy, unawares under the jolly roof of their mother and father, farmers who had a hard life but who always had bread to put on their table, and hot broth to pass the hard colds of winter. The family was loved by all at their village, and none more so than the two beautiful little girls, whose laughter brought joy to the most difficult of days.

Lily Rose and Marigold were their names, and indeed they looked like flowers. So beautiful and alike they were, and such taste they had for walking in the forest, that the rumors soon said that they had a touch of the fae. They did, for the faeries of old favored them, and often appeared to them as the girls strolled amongst the woods. The fae sang their song of old and played at placing light kisses on the girls’ cheeks and hands.

The girls grew, and so did their beauty. Many warned their father to be wary of such gift and, most of all, of the envious hearts that would wish them ill. Lily Rose and Marigold’s parents had never known hate, however, and they couldn’t understand why someone would ever envy them or wish to hurt them. They were good people, after all, happy to lend a hand where it was needed and to offer a roof and warm soup to those who had none during the winter. They provoked envy, though, for they had a blissful and charmed life. And so it was that some people of ugly hearts and ugly minds started up the rumors that they knew would soon reach the king’s ears.

The king heard of Lily Rose and Marigold during a time of peace, in which entertainment was but hunting and drinking wine. The king was bored without a battle to fight and with no woman to bed, so that claims of such beauty brought fire back to his chest. He took off that same afternoon, and he galloped through forests and dusty paths, past rivers and high mountains, and mounted on his favored steed, he arrived at a small village at the edge of his kingdom, where the beautiful girls dwelled in naïve comfort. Among screams they were torn from their home and their parents’ loving embrace, and among cries they were taken to the royal palace, where they would become favored pets and enslaved companions.

The years passed, and despite the king’s cruelty and abuse, Lily Rose and Marigold remained beautiful, exotic caged birds that the king admired and hurt with placid ease. The king took a wife, yet Lily Rose and Marigold remained his favorites, trapped in a tower, behind a set of heavy doors and guarded by his most loyal men, with only a window for a means of seeing the world. Marigold withered as the days ticked by and the winters passed, and in her sadness, she was made more delicate, a porcelain doll ready to be broken. Of the two, it was her the king favored, for Lily Rose had grown angry with the years, and the king had learnt to fear the fire burning behind her eyes.

Lily Rose watched over her sister’s spirit as best as she could, yet she didn’t cry alongside her. She spent her days praying for the faeries of old, who had once upon a time kissed her cheeks and played with her hair as she walked through their fae woods. She prayed not for release but for revenge, and swore that she would pay whatever price the faeries asked for if only her wishes were met.

There came the day when Marigold perished, her grief growing like a root around her heart and condemning her to die young and beautiful. Lily Rose looked upon her sister’s body, driven silent by pain, and longed for the days when they were children, and when Marigold’s pale cheeks were rosy and filled with life. She cursed the king then, promised retribution fit for his crime, clawed at his face and claimed his blood with her nails. Tired of her, more fearful than he was doting, the king pushed Lily Rose away from his palace and his life, nothing but her dress turned into rags to carry with her.

Alone and grieving, Lily Rose wandered the lands, and soon found her feet taking her to the woods, where the fae spoke to her in song, and played with her hair, and kissed her fair cheeks and her soft hands. Following their song, Lily Rose found a secret grove where water flowed warm and flowers swam in the surface, and where birds sang amongst thick, green-leaved trees. Lily Rose bathed in the magical waters, and she felt as if she were washing a pain as old as herself. She slept on the soft grass, naked, and felt herself become part of the earth. And as she did, she dreamed of revenge.

The fae whispered in Lily Rose’s ears, and soon she understood that they would help her, if only she paid the right price. The faeries dressed her in flowers and leaves, and she emerged as a nymph from the woods, her beauty crowned by sunrays and cleansed by water. Thus, she seduced the king’s most trusted general, a man of strength, of square chin and bright eyes, with a scar that crossed his cheek and touched the corner of his lip. She dragged him to the woods at the witching hour, and laid claim to his strength, his pride and his gumption under the full moon. Then, she made her offer to the fae, cutting the general’s throat and letting his blood flow into the earth.

A babe was born; a baby girl so beautiful that Lily Rose’s own beauty paled in comparison; a baby girl so beautiful that her beauty would become avenging fury. Her head was crowned by hair the color of burnt copper, and since she was born of blood and rage, she was named Harlow.

Harlow grew up in the forests, wild and free, cared for and loved by her mother and the fairies of old. She ate wild berries and slept under the open skies, and for years, she tasted the freedom that her mother Lily Rose commanded her to cherish and enjoy, for it would not last forever. Harlow’s destiny was fury and revenge, and so her mother told her as the winters passed and Harlow grew. Lily Rose bid her grow up strong and fierce, and as she dressed Harlow’s dark red hair in flowers and bathed her skin in warm waters, she told of her sister Marigold, and of the terrible destiny that had befallen her at the hands of a cruel king. She told of the promise the faeries had made, of Harlow’s wretched father, and of the night Harlow was born under a full blood moon, a promise of punishment to come.

On her sixteenth birthday, Harlow emerged from the woods, dressed in flowers and leaves, as her mother once had. She bid her mother goodbye, and took comfort in the whispers of the fae, which followed her past the edges of the woods, and guided her steps. She arrived at the palace’s doors, and she was welcomed with surprise and fear both, for her beauty was grand yet foreign. Her hair shone like fire as it fell on wide waves down her back, her eyes were bright hazel and otherworldly, and her skin was tan, the color of gold. Upon seeing her, the king fell at her feet and promised to pray at her altar, for surely she must be a goddess.

The king barked orders for clean water and fine fabrics, and so Harlow was spruced up prettily, her flowers and leaves left behind to rot. She allowed it even as she yearned for the freedom of the woods and the warm water of her mother’s secret grove. She closed her eyes and begged for company, and the faeries answered to the call of her blood and found a place to dwell behind the palace’s mirrors, where they could whisper their secrets, which only Harlow would hear.

The king’s wife had died years ago after years of illness, and since the king found himself in need of a new companion, he proudly announced to Harlow that she would have the honor. A fortnight passed while the wedding was prepared, during which Harlow prevailed upon the king’s kindness and ordered him away from her bed until they were man and wife. So taken was he with her beauty and her spell that he complied, and so took to their wedding feast with fiery disposition and anticipation burning his loins.

Night fell, and under the glint of a full moon, the king found Harlow and forcibly claimed that which he had deemed his. Harlow sacrificed her virtue and her beauty to the king’s cruel hands, and as he lay atop her, passion parting his lips, Harlow looked within her for the magic that was in her blood. She brought her hand to the king’s chest, and with fury in her heart and revenge as her end, her fingers crossed nimble flesh and dug themselves inside the king, taking hold of his heart.

“Look at me, cruel king,” she said, staring at the eyes above hers, at the old features of this cruel king that were now contorted in pain. “Look at me and fear me, for I was born to take revenge on your merciless evil, and to rain death upon you.”

Such was the death of the cruel king, and upon his passing, so did Lily Rose die. Harlow felt it in her heart, a pain so gripping that it left her breathless, and that her whispering mirrors could not console.

Harlow thus cried during her ill-fated husband’s wake, not for the king that had died by her hand but for the mother that had left her alone in the world, with a new crown upon her head and nowhere to turn to. And as she cried, she felt a small hand take her own, a grip so strong that it surprised her. Harlow looked at the person by her side, and for the first time, laid eyes upon Snow White.

The king had had a wife, a young princess that had afforded him lands and riches upon marriage, and who had been as much a slave as Lily Rose and Marigold themselves. Sickly from childhood, a little feeble-minded and with a taste for books, she had been thrown into the northern tower of the palace, opposite where Lily Rose and Marigold had been enslaved. In her tower, the princess made queen by mere title, had looked at the cloudy skies of autumn and the clear ones of summer, and had dreamed of a better world. She had found it amongst her books, and with them she had traveled without taking a step outside her tower. She had too forgotten of her husband’s crimes, of the unkind hands he had laid upon her, escaping his merciless character through the pages that told of princesses and heroines, of spell and the power of true love.

Sick as she had been growing up, the queen hadn’t expected to bear children, yet she had discovered herself pregnant during a wintry morning where the sun had shone clear white rays through her window. She had smiled for the first time in years, and had cherished the life growing inside her. A baby girl had been born, of dark hair and pale skin, of lips so red that they had reminded the queen of spring poppies and summer skies. However, as she’d been conceived during bright winter days, the queen had named her Snow White.

Snow White had grown up in her mother’s tower, amongst her books and her fantasies. She too had grown among the kindness of the servants, and running wild around the forests that surrounded the palace. She would often be seen by noblemen running shoeless and careless, long dark hair free from ties and cheeks flushed with joy. She had laughter in her, and because of that the kingdom loved her, for her abandon was cheerful and easy to cherish. Most of her time was spent in the tower, though, where she read to her mother and heard the birds sing, where she weaved her own dreams to those of her mother, and wished for the day that she would escape this palace made of gloom.

The queen took ill upon Snow’s tenth birthday. Forced into bed and unwilling to fight her fate, she consumed herself slowly, her mind leaving her body before life did so that she spoke of lands she had never visited, and of adventures she’d never lived. Snow took to her caring with faithful hands, and even as the queen blabbered in confusion, Snow read to her, and perched herself by their single window so she could speak of the days outside, the singing birds and the winds of winter. The queen died amongst fluffy pillows, her mind far away and her hand cradled inside her loving daughter’s.

Snow grew moody after her mother’s death, and found that stories could no longer take her away from her sad existence. Ignored by her father and neglected of care, she took to wandering the woods for days, and to spending her days surrounded by critters and birds. Sharp tongues condemned her for a lunatic, and it was said that she spoke to the animals and the wind, that she had a touch of magic. She was more loved than she was hated, though, for the queen had been sweet and undemanding, and Snow was as well.

Years passed, and at fourteen, Snow saw the king take a new wife. Snow watched the new queen during the wedding feast, her copper hair and her hazel eyes, her skin of gold and her fairy beauty, and she wondered if there was spell in her, and whether she was a creature of another world. Upon the king’s death, however, and during his wake, Snow looked at the new queen once more, and saw the traces of grief etched into her eyes, and saw that she was young, and lonely, and scared. Her spell was no less powerful for it, yet it was human and not otherworldly, and it softened Snow’s heart. Snow took the new queen’s hand, and when the queen looked down at her, she smiled.

“I am Snow White, Your Majesty,” she said. “If you so wish, we shall become friends.”

The queen blinked once, twice, as if surprised. Then, she smiled, and her smile was spellbinding as she said, “Let us wait and see, Princess Snow.”

Princess and queen both grew up together, and as they did, they grew apart. Fate thrust them in different directions, and as Snow grew kinder and loved by the kingdom, Harlow grew cruel and feared by her peers.

Harlow spoke to her mirrors, and soon she was called a witch. She was seen walking into the forest, dressed in flowers and leaves, and the people spoke of evil spell and dark magic, of forces beyond their control. Harlow turned an angry heart to those who spoke ill of her, for darkness had taken root in her chest and she had no wish to fight it. She had been born of avenging desire, and now that her revenge had been exacted, she lacked direction and will both, and had only pain of old to hold onto. Thus, she took to potions and bewitchment, and looked for advice inside her whispering mirrors.

Nonetheless, she was queen, and now that the kingdom lacked its king, the noblemen turned to her for official business. Harlow took the offered power and made use of it with caution, knowing nothing of the world beyond her mother’s secret grove. Advised by counselors and making use of books for knowledge, Harlow found a new world to love within the confines of her royal title. She became head of her army with gusto, head of her household with dutiful commitment, head of her council with aplomb, and head of her kingdom with agile intellect.

However so, her mirrors whispered and so did her kingdom, and both spoke of fear and ruin. Harlow’s hand was decisive and true in her rule, and even when she fought hunger and cold, when she offered education and work, when she gave fair advice and just authority, she was deemed a witch, and thus unfit to rule. Stricken by grief and growing hard of heart, Harlow listened to her mirrors and found that they spoke truths that she didn’t wish to hear – for so long as Snow White lived, the people would claim her as their true queen, and they would deny Harlow her rightful place.

Harlow’s mirrors claimed Snow’s blood, yet Harlow wavered. The princess was so kind, after all, and was so enthralled by Harlow, too. She sought her even now, when Harlow’s temperament had turned harsh and unforgiving, when an aura of dangerous magic clung to her very being and scared even the most valiant of men away. Snow betrayed no fear, and in her naïve admiration, she stopped Harlow’s hand from becoming deathly.

Years passed, and upon Snow’s eighteenth birthday, a riot begun at the heart of the kingdom. The people claimed Snow as their true ruler, and they dismissed Harlow as witch and priestess of death. They called her the Evil Queen, and upon receiving such title, everyone forgot that she had ever had any other name.

Harlow took the name as if it were a gift and dressed herself in its power of legend. She became the Evil Queen, and in doing so, she left mercy behind. She listened to her mirrors, heard them speak of what was to be done, and made a harsh decision. The princess must die for the Evil Queen to reign free of burden, and so the royal hunter was ordered to take the princess to the forest and to do away with her life. Her blood would flow into the earth, and become sacrifice to the faeries of old.

Snow had remained kind, and so it was that she called upon the hunter’s mercy and escaped her deathly fate. Relentless, the Evil Queen used her magic to dress herself as an old hag, and poisoned the princess to sleep forever, a red apple her condemnation, and her naiveté to blame for her fall. It would not be the end of her story, for she was found by a handsome prince and soon awoken from the terrible spell, and made wife and princess again, by virtue of marriage.

Death was deemed the fair punishment for the Evil Queen; yet she was still queen, and head of her army, head of her household, head of her council and head of her kingdom. The queen’s generals and noblemen were loyal to her, and so a war started. A war of magic and blood, a war fought between the most beautiful women in the world, a war of terrible destiny and grim resolution. And it was thus, upon a rainy battlefield after years of war that a deal was struck. A deal between a princess and an Evil Queen, that would perhaps deny fate its claim for blood.

Coming Soon…

The Princess and the Evil Queen

A lesbian erotic romance retelling of the classic fairy tale Snow White

AND…

18 Lesbian Romance Books for Fairytale Lovers

Who doesn’t love a princess? Or a knight? Or a witch? Fairytales have survived thus far as part of our collective cultural conscience, which is why updating them is so much fun (both for readers and writers!). The magic lands of old are populated by all sorts of female archetypes and female issues, so it’s no wonder that they’re ripe soil for a little female on female love.

Take a look at these recommendations, and enjoy!

Ash

In the wake of her father’s death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted.

The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Their friendship, as delicate as a new bloom, reawakens Ash’s capacity for love–and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love.

Read full review here!

Beneath The Loch: A Novella: A Dark Lesbian Romance

As a child, Mairi made a deal with a young fae – a kiss in exchange for gills.

Now, betrothed to a man she hardly knows, Mairi is desperate to escape her fate. When she finds that same fae at the river’s edge, she’s offered a proposal that makes her skin grow cold . . . and her blood run hot.

Romance meets horror in this lesbian fairytale. Do you dare dive . . . Beneath the Loch?

Caged Bird Rising: A Grim Tale of Women, Wolves, and other Beasts

“Women don’t ask questions. Let alone clever ones.”

Robyn lives in a world where proper girls are raised by men. She, who grew up with only her grandmother, has to go out of her way to meet the requirements of being a fertile wife. It’s the greatest honor Robyn could have dreamed of that Hunter Wolfmounter, the handsome and brave Captain of their village’s guardsmen, wants her of all women to become his wife.

Cinderella

Cinderella is the first book in the Lesbian Fairy Tales Series, and a tale of romance between two women.

Check out the rest of the series here!

Cinder-Ella

Ella is transgender. She’s known since she was young; being a woman just fit better. She was happier in skirts than trousers, but that was before her stepmother moved in. Eleanor can’t stand her, and after Ella’s father passes she’s forced to revert to Cole, a lump of a son. She cooks, she cleans, and she tolerates being called the wrong name for the sake of a roof over her head. Where else can she go?

An opportunity to attend the royal ball transforms Ella’s life. For the first time, strangers see a woman when she walks down the stairs. While Princess Lizabetta invited Cole to the ball, she doesn’t blink an eye when Cinderella is the one who shows. The princess is elegant, bold, and everything Ella never knew she wanted. For a moment she glimpses a world that can accept her, and she holds on tight.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass

Entwining the stories of both Lynet and Mina in the past and present, Girls Made of Snow and Glass traces the relationship of two young women doomed to be rivals from the start. Only one can win all, while the other must lose everything―unless both can find a way to reshape themselves and their story.

Read full review here!

Gretel

Once in a while love gives us a fairy tale…

Tormented by a pack of bloodthirsty wolves, Hans and his sister Gretel, run for their lives.

Desperation leads them into the comforting arms of a beautiful woman who asks for nothing in return for her kindness. While Gretel finds herself drawn to the seductress, Hans grows suspicious of her motives. Torn between a brother she adores and a woman she can’t help but admire, Gretel is forced to make a choice.

Will sibling bonds override the lure of a newfound love?

Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins

Thirteen tales are unspun from the deeply familiar, and woven anew into a collection of fairy tales that wind back through time. Acclaimed Irish author Emma Donoghue reveals heroines young and old in unexpected alliances–sometimes treacherous, sometimes erotic, but always courageous. Told with luminous voices that shimmer with sensuality and truth, these age-old characters shed their antiquated cloaks to travel a seductive new landscape, radiantly transformed.Cinderella forsakes the handsome prince and runs off with the fairy godmother; Beauty discovers the Beast behind the mask is not so very different from the face she sees in the mirror; Snow White is awakened from slumber by the bittersweet fruit of an unnamed desire.

Like A Queen: Lesbian Erotic Fairy Tales

Five lesbian fairy tales that feature classic stories like “Cinderella” and “The Princess and the Pea” with a queer twist. What are the erotic possibilities of the enchanted princesses and forbidding queens that we learned about as children? Discover the love story between Gretel and the Witch and the intoxicating tale of Cinderella’s seductively severe stepmother. It wasn’t a pea in her mattress that kept the Princess up all night, and the story didn’t end when the Prince found Snow White in the woods. Instead of competing for princes or beauty, the women in these stories are made more powerful by their desire for each other.

Roses and Thorns: Beauty and the Beast Retold

A greedy father. A beautiful daughter. A faceless noble. With a word, Aloysius bargains away Angelique’s future for a hefty bride-price, and no one, not even Angelique’s beloved mother can save her. Angelique is taken to a strange and marvelous estate where she is befriended by Culdun, her Liege’s fey companion. And though Culdun hints at darker forces, Angelique is drawn to her host and ever so slowly, she wins Drew’s trust. But old fears and an older curse resurface, threatening to drive them apart and banish Drew into an eternity of loneliness. Will Angelique’s growing love be strong enough to save her Liege? Or will she flee once the secret is revealed?

Seeing Red: A Contemporary Red Riding Hood Lesbian Romance

Hunter has spent the last two years running in place.

Trying to get ahead of the bills.
Trying to provide for her sister, Piper, and her nephews.
Trying to finish her nursing education.
Trying to keep Piper out of her criminal husband’s claws.

Then along comes a beautiful girl in a red cap. Her grandmother is sick, she needs Hunter’s nursing help, and the pay is great. It’s just what they need and soon Hunter is able to catch her breath. Stop running in place. Start to feel something that she hasn’t had time for in years.

Sleeping Beauty, Indeed & Other Lesbian Fairytales

Fairy tales have long intrigued readers. They’re the first stories we remember, and they resonate within us as adults. In Sleeping Beauty, Indeed, editor JoSelle Vanderhooft offers us a new take on an ancient theme: fairy tales from a lesbian perspective. From Cinderella to Sleeping Beauty, from original myths by talented authors to classics retold with a deft hand, these tales are by turn erotic and sensuous, loving and wicked. Take a bite of the magic apple and make this anthology your bedtime story tonight.

So Fey: Queer Fairy Fiction

The legends of Fairyland tell that one should never taste the food or sip the drink, or else risk being caught there forever. But the tempting morsels in So Fey are irresistible! Lambda Award-nominated editor Steve Berman brings together acclaimed fantasy writers with some of the brightest names in speculative and LGBT fiction to create tales that are moving and magical. These stories of romance and grief, adolescence and identity, struggle and hope will enchant readers who long for a fantastic escape—and a wonderful twist! One sample of this bewitching treat is sure to trap you in its pages!

From the pains of loss in Holly Black’s “The Coat of Stars” to dealing with issues of identity in Richard Bowes’s “The Wand’s Boy” to Melissa Scott’s look at the dangers of love in “Mister Seeley,” So Fey: Queer Fairy Fiction takes you into worlds that are at once amazing and familiar. With tales that tear and tug at the heart but never cease to enchant, this exciting and unique collection will long last in the minds of readers.

The Beast that Never Was

What if Beauty was the Beast?

Lise’s father is dead, and the life of plenty and freedom that she has known as the daughter of the King’s Huntsman is gone. She must now live a life of duty to her mother and sisters, helping them to cope in their altered circumstances. But where her mother would have her wed a childhood friend to secure their future, Lise knows that is not what she longs for.

When she meets a mysterious woman in the forest, Lise feels the stirrings of emotions she cannot give voice to, but with this woman, she doesn’t have to say anything—Senna knows.

The Raven & The Reindeer

When Gerta’s friend Kay is stolen away by the mysterious Snow Queen, it’s up to Gerta to find him. Her journey will take her through a dangerous land of snow and witchcraft, accompanied only by a bandit and a talking raven. Can she win her friend’s release, or will following her heart take her to unexpected places?

The Second Sister

ELEANOR OF SANDLEFORD’S entire world is shaken when her father marries the mysterious, reclusive Lady Kingsclere to gain her noble title. Ripped away from the only home she has ever known, Ellie is forced to live at Baxstresse Manor with her two new stepsisters, Luciana and Belladonna. Luciana is sadistic, but Belladonna is the woman who truly haunts her. When her father dies and her new stepmother goes suddenly mad, Ellie is cheated out of her inheritance and forced to become a servant. With the help of a shy maid, a friendly cook, a talking cat, and her mysterious second stepsister, Ellie must stop Luciana from using an ancient sorcerer’s chain to bewitch the handsome Prince Brendan and take over the entire kingdom of Seria.

The Spindle and Other Lesbian Fairy Tales

A collection of four short stories and one full-length play about lesbian princesses, woman-princes, goddesses, and fairy godmothers! Magic, mystery, romance… with a radical politic!

Winterglass

The city-state Sirapirat once knew only warmth and monsoon. When the Winter Queen conquered it, she remade the land in her image, turning Sirapirat into a country of snow and unending frost. But an empire is not her only goal. In secret, she seeks the fragments of a mirror whose power will grant her deepest desire.

At her right hand is General Lussadh, who bears a mirror shard in her heart, as loyal to winter as she is plagued by her past as a traitor to her country. Tasked with locating other glass-bearers, she finds one in Nuawa, an insurgent who’s forged herself into a weapon that will strike down the queen.

 

Share your faves in the comments!

Book Review: Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Melissa Bashardoust’s acclaimed debut novel Girls Made of Snow and Glass is “Snow White as it’s never been told before…a feminist fantasy fairy tale not to be missed” (BookPage)!

“Utterly superb.” —ALA Booklist, starred review
“Dark, fantastical, hauntingly evocative.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“An empowering and progressive original retelling.” —SLJ, starred review

Sixteen-year-old Mina is motherless, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone—has never beat at all, in fact, but she’d always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother.

Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do—and who to be—to win back the only mother she’s ever known…or else defeat her once and for all.

Entwining the stories of both Lynet and Mina in the past and present, Girls Made of Snow and Glass traces the relationship of two young women doomed to be rivals from the start. Only one can win all, while the other must lose everything—unless both can find a way to reshape themselves and their story.

 

Girls Made of Snow and Glass starts its narrative as a retelling of Snow White, and soon turns itself into something completely different. Devoid of the classic take on jealousy and female competition, Bashardoust gives the tale of these two women shades of emotional complexity, coming-of-age narrative, female agency and conflicting feelings.

A character-driven story, Girls Made of Snow and Glass focuses on two main characters, Mina and Lynet, the would-be evil queen and her step-daughter. Told through flashbacks and their two different points of view, it weaves a story of both powerful betrayal and hope.

Mina, trapped by her own idea that love will forever elude her, grows hungry for power and pushes everyone away. Calculating and obssesed with power, one can’t help but sympathise with her loneliness and her longing for that which she believes herself uncapable of.

Lynet, living under the shadow of her own mother, whose memory her father is obssesed with, struggles to find her own identity, and can’t help but find a role model in her step-mother Mina. Her coming-of-age story rings believable and heartfelt as she figures herself out and tries to free herself of the ghost of her mother, all the while handling her relationship with Mina, the only mother she has ever known.

Ultimately, this book is about the complex relationship between these two women, which takes on the theme of mother/daughter dynamics with dexerity and great detail. Refusing to follow the core ideas of the classic Snow White fairytale, Girls Made of Snow Glass brings the two characters together in unexpected ways, creating something completely new and filled with surprising emotion.

The lesbian relationship in the story is subtle, and while not the main subject of the book, it rounds the narrative along many other themes, such as gender roles, growing up, femininity and sense of self.

I highly recommend Girls Made of Snow and Glass to fans of fairytale retellings and dark fantasy populated by complex female characters. The dash of lesbian romance is only a bonus that adds to the beautifully rendered female relationships, the fairy tale twists, and the nods to the original Snow White.

 

Buy Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust here.

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You can find this book in my list Top 10 Best Fantasy and Romance Novels

Book Review: Ash by Malinda Lo

In the world of ASH, fairies are an older race of people who walk the line between life and death, reality and magic. As orphaned Ash grows up, a servant in her stepmother’s home, she begans to realise that her beloved mother, Elinor, was very much in tune with these underworld folk, and that she herself has the power to see them too.

Against the sheer misery of her stepmother’s cruelty, greed and ambition in preparing her two charmless daughters for presentation at court, and hopefully royal or aristocratic marriage, Ash befriends one of these fairies – a mysterious, handsome man – who grants her wishes and restores hope to Ash’s existence, even though she knows there will be a price to pay. But most important of all, she also meets Kaisa, a huntress employed by the king, and it is Kaisa who truly awakens Ash’s desires for both love and self-respect …

ASH is a fairy tale about possibility and recognizing the opportunities for change. From the deepest grief comes the chance for transformation.

 

The easiest way to describe Malinda Lo’s Ash is to say “queer Cinderella for Young Adults”. However, such a simple statement is a disservice to the deeply engaging world Lo creates for her protagonist.

I like to think of Ash as a wonderful departure from tradition, even when its world is firmly rooted in classic fairytales. Yes, there is a ball to attend that the fierceless protagonist must abandon before midnight, there is a prince, and there is, of course, a wicked step-mother. However, the story doesn’t enslave itself to the Cinderella that we already know, and instead creates its own unique path.

To recap quickly: Ash’s mother passes away and her father remarries, bringing into his household a step-mother and two step-sisters for Ash. When Ash’s father dies, she becomes a servant to her own step-family. Sound familiar? Indeed it is up until that point. However, soon Ash starts seeing a strange man that belongs to the fairy race, and who substitutes the fairy godmother character (with a lot less bibbidi bobbidi booing). Ash longs to go with him, unless until she meets the head of the royal hunt.

The world-building of the novel is fantastic, mixing a Celtic style of fairy folklore with a classic Disney-like approach, thus treating the reader to dark fantasy at its best. Fairies appear as a magic race that humans deal with at their own peril, and whose favors always come with a price.  The writing style, too, makes the story feel both traditional and new, honoring folktales while playing around with more modern social notions.

The lesbian love story isn’t treated as controversial, which is always a nice surprise, since the conflict comes instead from a very classic coming-of-age narrative, as well as from class difference. The relationship between the two characters isn’t overtly romantic until maybe halfway through the book, and it’s quite innocent as well, but satisfying in its akwardness and friendship that grows into something more.

The best thing about the book is definetely its well thought-out characters. Three-dimensional and engaging, Ash is an easy favorite for a YA protagonist, likeable, coregeous and spirited. Her struggle with the fairy world is well-supported by her grief over the death of her mother, and her choices are understandable.

Kaisa, Ash’s love interest, is a completely original creation to the Cinderella story, and works as a sympathetic and strong presence within the narrative, making it easy to understand why Ash’s final choice is between the magic world of fairies and the human world where she has found love.

Lo has crafted here a beautiful and dark tale, where the protagonist must decide between a dangerous flirtation that offers her a reprieve from her sadness, and finding salvation on her own terms. Ash will conquer fans of LGBT YA books, but I reccommend it for any fan of well-built fantasy worlds, fairytale retellings, romance and great female protagonists.

Buy Ash by Malinda Lo here.

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You can find this book in my list Top 10 Best Fantasy and Romance Novels