In 2020, I shared several of my favorite WLW books of all time. You can find that here.
However, after I found myself on a new long commute this year for work, I started venturing into the world of audio books, listening while I drive. And, let me tell, you what a life changer!
And, whilst venturing into the widening world of audiobooks, I uncovered several hidden wlw fantasy fiction gems. It's no secret that I love fantasy fiction and retold fairy tales; add a sapphic twist, some well-turned phrases, and some really compelling characters and BAM, an insta-fav.
So far, this year's theme has overwhelmingly included witches. Except one. That one had demon girls in it.
BEWARE: Light spoilers may lie ahead.
1.The Dark Tide, Alicia Jasinska
Classified as YA fantasy, this book was a bit on the darker side compared to what I usually read. That's partially what made it so delightful.
Characters include a hungry tide that can only be kept from devouring the main character's home with a yearly human sacrifice.
A witch queen without a heart who's duty it is to choose the sacrifice at the beginning of each May.
And a strong-willed, big-hearted, absolutely stubborn girl who chases after the boy she's crushing on to rescue him from the evil witch, trading her life for his.
In a beautiful plot twist the cold-hearted witch reveals herself to be an individual who cares deeply and the golden-haired boy reveals himself to be something much less.
This book delves into understanding the difference between crushes and love, wrong and right, forgiveness, and healing. It is packed with action, betrayal, sibling love, angst, some good ol' wlw pining, and both small and grand gestures of love. AND a trope I love, "the grumpy one is soft for the sunshine one."
Bonus: The audio book recording is above average. The narrator did a beautiful job capturing the voices and personality of both characters. I couldn't stop listening. I listened to the whole thing in a span of two days.
The Dark Tide sits at number one for a reason.
2. Girl, Serpent, Thorn, Melissa Bashardoust
You know I love a good fairytale retelling. This is one of the best I've ever read, an original twist on the Beauty and the Beast story where the main character is both beauty and beast. "A princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch."
A cursed woman is doomed to never know the casual or intimate touch of a loved one. She's poison to the touch. Always monitoring her actions, emotions. Always staying gloved and away out of sight. A princess hidden away in a remote family palace.
A div, deceitful, cruel, and treacherous demon King vying for her affections and her throne.
A div, intelligent, mysterious, and dangerous woman who strikes a tentative alliance with the poisonous princess.
This book digs deep into what it truly means to accept yourself, to love both the roses and thorns of you. What it means to be loved by another. How sometimes parents have to make hard choices to protect their children.
Bonus: This was the BEST audio book I've ever listened to. The narrator is truly gifted.
Girl, Serpent, Thorn is worth your time. I promise you won't regret it.
3. Malice, Heather Walter
This. book. THIS BOOK. Just. Ugh. The only reason that it doesn't sit in the number one spot on this blog is because the ending tore me apart and broke my heart.
There is no happy ending here. So, if that's you're thing, still give it a chance. It's mine, so I'm holding out hope that Heather will make everything all better with the next book.
A sleeping beauty retelling from the evil queen, Alyce's, point of view. How she discovered her power. How she was vilified and outcast even as she did everything within her power to fit in.
Alyce is a deeply compassionate character. She is also a beautifully gray character. One for whom anyone who has ever been bullied can understand.
Aurora is the princess destined to die on her 21st birthday without the kiss from her true love to break her curse. As is such, she's forced to kiss every man who visits the palace in a desperate attempt to break the curse. She seeks out Alyce searching for a way to break the curse so that she can live to rule alone as a fair and more just leader than her currently reigning father.
The girls fall in love. The curse is broken. And then the whole world falls apart as Alyce goes to desperate lengths to rescue her love, becoming the monstrous Evil Queen we're all familiar with.
This. book. Okay. I know it's sad, but read it. It's so beautiful.
Bonus: Again. Another excellently narrated audio book.
Pick up a copy of Malice to while away some summer hours this year.
4. The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea, Maggie Tokuda Hall
This book is written in such beautifully poetic prose. A pirate girl forced to live her life as a boy in order to survive.
A young woman sold off in marriage to the first well-to-do eligible and interested bachelor across the sea.
They cross paths on the same pirate ship, are forced to spend time together and something slowly unravels and grows between them.
The Sea is written as a character herself. She's jealous, passionate, and maternal, fiercely protective of her children, the mermaids.
When the ship carrying the young woman doomed to marry a man she doesn't love reveals itself to be a slave ship commanded by pirates, the girls would rather take their chance with the sea than be parted.
Another book full to the brim with gray characters who must make difficult choices. Characters who must live with what they were and work to be better. Characters who are friends first, bringing out the best in one another before they become lovers.
The ending made me cry in a good way. Pick up The Mermaid, The Witch, and The Sea.
5. Sweet and Bitter Magic, Adrienne Tooley
Another YA fantasy, this book tries to be dark in the way the first two on this list are. However, it falls a little flat in that regard. That doesn't mean it falls flat in others.
The characters are as different as night and day. One a witch cursed to live without love due to choices she made as a child.
The other a kind-hearted young woman who conceals her true nature to retain the love of her father. She makes herself smaller, fitting herself into boxes in order to take care of everyone around her. Everyone except herself.
When a dark witch makes herself known through an evil plague spreading across the land, the girl and the witch make a pact to find her. They traipse across the countryside hunting the dark witch, irritating the heck out of one another. Before irritation shifts to reluctant friendship and then reluctant friendship blooms into love.
Two characters who believe themselves unlovable help one another to realize that they are worthy of love. Exactly the way they are.
If you ever hid yourself away because you felt unworthy of love, this book is worth a read. It's lighter than the others. Feels a little less mature. But, that doesn't make the message any less powerful.
I hope you take a moment to enjoy some of these this year! These ones I loved so much, I had to have them on my bookshelf at home.
You can also download a free copy of my illustrated ebook The Selkie and Her Knight here.