Add Some Queer Fantasy Novels To Your Reading Lists During Pride Month
is Genre fiction has long been a place for outsiders, and for many years it was one of the areas of fiction where queer characters were able to shine brightly. Although much of standard western fantasy is written by straight white men, the tides of the fantasy genre have been notably shifting over the past decade. Queer writers and characters are taking center stage, shaking off the chains of heteronormativity in the genre. In honor of Pride month, we are taking a closer look at some of the best queer fantasy novels featuring LGBTQ characters. Check out the titles in our list below and celebrate Pride with your reading lists!
A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark
Image via Tor/Forge
A thrilling start to a new series by P. Djèlí Clark that features an excellent protagonist who already has a pre-established relationship with another woman. This alternate history fantasy series is also set in an Egypt where magic and Djinn run rampant. Not only is magic normalized in this world, but so are queer relationships. The relationship between Fatma and her lover Siti is complex, heartfelt, tender, and incredibly compelling. The f/f romance of this book is the underlying heart of the story, and is also one of the most realistic relationships I’ve seen in fantasy fiction recently.
Check out our review of A Master of Djinn for more information on this book.
The Perfect Assassin by K.A. Doore
Image via Tor/Forge
A murder mystery kicks off Doore’s Chronicles of Ghadid series. This book is full of intrigue and suspense, alongside ethics about what it means to be a killer. There are a host of queer characters in this series, and homosexuality is thankfully normalized in the fantasy world. The protagonist of the book is homo-romantic and asexual. Doore gives a wide array of queer identities to her characters, demonstrating the diversity of sexual preferences. The author herself is also queer, and imbues her fantasy novels and characters with authenticity and realism.
Lady Hotspur by Tessa Gratton
Image via Tor/Forge
A follow-up to The Queens of Innis Lear – a fiercely feminist fantasy novel. Lady Hotspur is a fantasy retelling of Shakespeare’s Henry IV that features a pre-established relationship between two women. Hal was once a female knight, who is now the heir to the throne. The titular Lady Hotspur is a fierce warrior who loves Hal. Politics and war make their relationship extremely complicated. But the powerful bond between the two women is a force to be reckoned with. And together, they can change the world.
The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood
Image via Tor
One of the most unique fantasy debuts in recent years is The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood. The predominant race of the world are Orcs, not the most traditional mythological race to follow. The story follows a former priestess named Cswore who turns away from her destiny as a sacrifice for an ancient goddess. Eventually Csorwe meets Shuthmili, a female magician in training from a strict sect. The two begin a slow-burn of a relationship that is full of heartbreak, betrayal, daring rescues, and adventure. The budding relationship between the two young women is tender and full of the uncertainty and excitement surrounding first love and figuring out identity.
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
Author Erin Morgenstern is known for creating sweeping romantic epics within the genre. Just look at her debut novel The Night Circus, which still pops up on best-of lists. And her latest book The Starless Sea is no different, except that there are multiple epic romances within the story. The primary romance is between two young men who both discover a portal to an endless magical library that sits overtop of the titular starless sea. The relationship between Zachary and Dorian is complicated and full of secrets that the two are keeping from one another. But they are clearly drawn to one another like magnets, and in one another they finally find someone who understands them. All of the love stories in this book are beautiful and haunting, but Zachary and Dorian are the couple that make the entire story really work.
Check out our review of The Starless Sea for more information on this beautiful and romantic portal fantasy.
Witchmark by C.L. Polk
Image via Tor/Forge
Author C.L. Polk has written several fantasy novels featuring queer characters, so you can’t go wrong picking up one of her titles during Pride month. Witchmark is the beginning of The Kingston Cycle – in a fantasy world reminiscent of Edwardian England. Here noble families utilize magic for politics and power. The protagonist is marked by both war and magic, but he only wants to live his life freely. A bit of a murder mystery arises that introduces him to his love interest. Their slow-building romance is set in a world where long-term queer relationships are not accepted. But their relationship is a solid foundation for the series to build upon, and the chemistry between the two men is palpable. This is a series all about freedom, and that includes the freedom to love whom you choose.
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
Image via MacMillan Publishing
This novel by Samantha Shannon is a beautifully written feminist fantasy. It is a also a rare standalone epic fantasy, consisting of only one lengthy volume. And it has plenty of queer characters who are both compelling and deeply relatable. The primary relationship here is between the queen Sabran and one of her ladies-in-waiting – Ead. Who is secretly a magic user sent by the titular priory to protect the queen. Both of these women have a deep-rooted sense of duty and obligation. Sabran’s life is dedicated to protecting her country, and ensuring the future of her line. Ead is dedicated to the order of mages who protect the priory. However, neither of them have ever had the freedom to chase happiness or seek what they truly want. That is until they fall in love with one another. A beautiful novel with a compelling and deeply satisfying romance between two women.
The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart
Image via Orbit Books
An exciting start to a new trilogy set in an Asian inspired world. This queer fantasy novel features two women who are already in a pre-established relationship when the book begins. Phalue is the noble daughter of a governor, who has lived her life in privilege. Her lover Ranami has lived in poverty for much of her life, which leads her to join the resistance. However, this complicates the relationship between the two women dramatically. But it also forces them both to grow as people and learn to see the world through one another’s eyes. A grounded and realistic romance between two women that also examines class differences and power imbalance.
The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri
Artwork by Kim Ekdahl via the Author’s Website
The love story at the heart of The Jasmine Throne is between the exiled princess Malini and a servant named Priya – who has secrets of her own. This queer fantasy novel is set in a lush world drawn from Indian culture. It is an in-depth examination of politics, power, and corruption. For instance: the characters are morally gray. They make many questionable choices in order to survive. The two must learn to trust one another and work together in order to survive, as they start to recognize the attraction between them. The chemistry between Priya and Malini is electric, full of Sapphic longing and yearning. An excellent start to a new fantasy series, with complex female characters and an undeniable romance.
Ashes of the Sun by Django Wexler
Image via Orbit Books
The most important relationship in Ashes of the Sun is between two siblings: Gyre and Maya. Their lives split in very different directions in their youth after Maya was taken away to for training by the mysterious Twilight Order. Gyre dedicated his life to destroying the Order that his sister quickly becomes an essential member of. The tension and relationship between these two lies at the heart of this new series by Django Wexler. But within the pages there are other relationships that form as potential love interests arise.
Notably, Maya has a relationship with another woman. The queerness of this novel runs throughout the text, but is never a major plot point. This is a book that focuses on larger issues than who someone is attracted to. And it is always refreshing to find fantasy worlds free of homophobia.
This is only a short list of the many excellent queer fantasy novels out there. What is your favorite fantasy novel featuring LGBTQ characters? Join the conversation with Comic Years today on Facebook and Twitter to share your thoughts. And be sure to check out our other book reviews and top 10 lists for more fantasy books to read.
(Featured Photo by Sharon McCutcheon via Unsplash)
Emily O'Donnell is a writer and photographer with roots in some of the earliest online fandoms. She cut her genre teeth on the Wizard of Oz books at the tender age of 6 years old, and was reading epic adult fantasy novels by the age of 10. Decades later, she still consumes genre fiction like there is no tomorrow. She is delighted to be living through the golden age of sci-fi and fantasy popularity. She is unashamed of the amount of fanfiction that still lingers online under her name.