Scrapbook page with three books.

Wait, You Don’t Know About the Sapphic Trifecta?

Women-loving-women (WLW) fiction is becoming more and more accessible across literature. While these themes and stories have existed since at least 630 BCE, sapphic fiction, especially romances, can be picked up in most major stores without relying on subtext. The last few years have seen a slew of major fantasy tomes, and some have been bestowed with the title “The Sapphic Trifecta.”

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In 2021, three stories came out between two publishers (Tor and Orbit) over four months that were given this honorific. These adult fantasy books include The Unbroken by C. L. Clark, She Who Became The Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan, and The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri. In addition to featuring lesbian main characters, each cover glows hues of amber and centers empires on the edge of collapse. Each book is written by and centers on a woman and non-binary people of color, too.

@readbyfin the sapphic trifecta✨?‍♀️ #sapphictrifecta #sapphicreads #sapphicbooktok #sapphicbooks #lgbtqbooktok #thejasminethrone #shewhobecamethesun ♬ original sound – itsbaeily

The day before the first book was released in 2021, book blogger Leeann created the much-shared Pope Francis meme of the titles. All the authors of these books have also acknowledged this community-designated signifier! Within the year, the publishers pulled together a book talk with the three authors hosted at the Trafalgar Square Waterstone in London. Sometime after Suri and Clark’s books were released a bot was even made on Twitter. (Only following three people, of course.)

Two sequel novels in the trifecta (The Faithless and The Oleander Sword) also use similar color schemes (blue and green), but Shelley Parker-Chan‘s sequel hasn’t been revealed yet.

Is The Priory of the Orange Tree a part of the Sapphic Trifecta?

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon (Image: Bloomsbury)

One book that gets roped in a lot into the conversation is The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon. In addition to centering WLW, the novel has heavy orange and yellow on the cover. Shannon’s prequel novel even features blue and green tones like the Sapphic Trifecta sequels so far. However, because it was released two years earlier, in 2019, it’s not included. It’s just a matter of timing. Shannon’s novel is more like the cousin that lives down the block from the trio. They hang out (get recommended together a lot), but they don’t live in the same house.

The force and fans of all these books recently united when a gay man on TikTok (unprompted) exclaimed that he owns Shannon’s book but didn’t know it contained “sapphic activity” and now won’t be reading it. Don’t worry because he followed up with, “I am a gay man myself so I’m not homophobic.” (Misogyny is everywhere, y’all!) The implication, other than sexism and lesbophobia, is that each book features sex because it’s an adult fantasy, and WLW are hyper-sexualized. Here’s the thing, Parker-Chan’s book features graphic sex, and readers can find that online. However, don’t assume that just because a fantasy book is not YA and/or features lesbian main characters that it’s going to be fisting between fights.

If you’re looking for more sapphic SFF, check out this list of nine-plus similar novels I made last year!

(featured image: Orbit, Tor, and Alyssa Shotwell)

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Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.