I didn’t really plan anything for this Pride month because I have not been very inclined on reading or blogging for a while now. But I hardly ever write recommendation posts despite reading a lot of books every year, and so decided this is a nice time to talk about some of my favorite books featuring queer characters. I have seen many amazing such rec posts this month, and I just hope my list is also fun for you all to read.
I’ve decided to categorize by genre rather than the identity of the characters, because my memory is awful and I truly don’t remember every character’s correct id. I’ve also mostly mentioned only the first books of series, even if I have read all the books.
I don’t read children’s books at all and Ritu Weds Chandni was my only one last year, but it was so worth it. This heartwarming story may have depiction of homophobia in it, but it is also the story of a little girl who is free from all prejudices and just wants to enjoy her cousin’s wedding. Definitely a must read for parents and their kids, who want the little ones to grow up progressive and accepting.
I love the Fence graphic novel series because it’s full of super fan characters, amazing friendships, budding relationships, sports rivalries and just overall entertainment.
Drama is a cute middle grade graphic novel about young kids finding themselves, what they love and enjoying what they do. I loved how the importance of friendships is emphasized and how all representations are sensitively portrayed. I was absolutely horrified to learn that this wholesome and inclusive book was banned because some school boards/parents are bigoted.
If you are a fan of action movies, you might have seen Charize Theron’s movie The Old Guard on Netflix last year. After enjoying the movie a lot, I decided to read the graphic novel series and found that it’s equally compelling and fascinating, and I am so much more in love with the characters now. I don’t know if we will get a sequel movie, but I am eagerly awaiting the finale of the graphic novel series.
Stage Dreams is a queer western adventure story, and it is very cute and entertaining. This romance between a trans southern belle escaping her home and war, and a queer Latinx outlaw who robs stagecoaches, is full of sweet and memorable moments. I also have to specially mention that the colored pencil art is very unique and effective in showcasing the dry New Mexico setting.
Annie on my Mind is probably the oldest LGBT+ book I’ve ever read, having first been published in the early 80s when such fiction was still looked down upon and probably even banned in many places. It has it’s fair share of homophobia reflective of the times but it’s also a sensitive coming of age story of a young girl exploring her sexuality and falling in love for the first time. It’s both sweet and heartbreaking and I really appreciated the experience of reading it.
I hadn’t read any Malinda Lo books before but I knew how much of an impact her books have had on lesbian fiction in the past decade, so I was very excited to pick up her latest Last Night at the Telegraph Club. Set at a time in America when both homophobia and anti-Chinese/Communist rhetoric are rampant, this is another coming of age story of a young woman, who not only has to deal with her sexuality, but also how the discrimination against her people will affect her future ambitions. It’s a very emotional story and I loved it to bits.
I always love to pick up Pride and Prejudice retellings, so I was highly anticipating The Heiress, which is the story of Anne de Bourgh. This story of a woman who has been isolated and conditioned to believe that she is frail and incapable of being independent, finally deciding to take her life into her own hands and charting the course of her future on her own. It’s a bit slow paced and might not be for everyone’s tastes, but I really savored the story of Anne and her path of self-dscovery.
I am not a huge fan of thrillers these days and Surrender Your Sons was one of the few I read last year, but it’s highly engaging and I couldn’t put it down once I started. It can be a tough read due to the setting of a conversion camp and the abuse that takes place over there, but it’s also the story of strength and resilience of a group of queer characters who come together in adverse circumstances, and work to escape their horrible situation.
I haven’t been reading much of contemporary for a long while now, so I had to go back and pick up an old favorite, Twisted Wishes trilogy. It’s about a queer rock band and their love stories, the representation is pretty cool and it’s also pretty kinky. I love the camaraderie between all the band members and still remember enjoying the books even on my reread.
Winter’s Orbit is one of my favorites from early this year with an angsty romance in a space opera setting and it’s full of wonderful fanfic tropes – arranged marriage, forced proximity, hurt/comfort and so much more. I’ve already listened to the audiobook multiple times and I probably will more coz Kiem and Jainan have my heart.
I don’t know how to describe This is How you Lose the Time War because it’s just not possible. It’s something to feel and experience, not just understand, and Red and Blue’s story will tug at your heartstrings. And that gorgeous prose is to die for.
The Fever King (and The Electric Heir) are brilliantly written books that explore the various abuses of power and privilege possible in a post-apocalyptic world, whose politics seem dangerously close to our reality. It’s very character focused while also having a thrilling plot, and Noam and Dara will make you feel very protective of them.
Seven of Infinities and The Citadel of Weeping Pearls both belong to the author’s Xuya universe and can be read independent of each other. The space setting with empires and sentient mindships is very unique and immersive, and I really love how even the romances are very distinctive. I can’t wait to read the so many other stories from Xuya.
We Set the Dark on Fire duology is a wonderful sapphic fantasy set in a world whose politics almost directly mirror American politics and the author deftly explores the themes of revolution, oppression, refugees and the corrupting nature of power, irrespective of the intent of wielding it.
Rin Chupeco is a favorite YA author of mine and while The Bone Witch trilogy is at the top of any of my lists, their recent duology The Never Tilting World is equally compelling, with it’s main theme of the devastating effects of climate change while also exploring the deep bonds of sisterhood.
I don’t wanna say much about Raybearer except that it’s spectacular and something you can’t miss. If you love the found family trope like me, then I promise you can’t find a better depiction of it in recent times. And the audiobook is probably my all-time favorite.
It’s been a while since I’ve read Peter Darling but it’s just been republished, so I couldn’t not mention. If you like fairytale retellings, then you can’t miss this trans gay retelling of Peter Pan which features an excellent enemies to lovers story.
I actually started the Dominion of the Fallen series by reading the spin-off novella Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders first. And was immediately enraptured by the characters of Thuan and Asmodeus, so I knew I had to go back to the original. And when I injured myself this January and couldn’t get out of bed, binging the trilogy gave a lot of comfort. It has an excellent gothic war torn historical Paris setting and a whole host of queer characters, with a story that may be slow paced but will enthrall you with it’s magic.
The Tensorate series is something I can’t even describe. Silkpunk fantasy, lush and vivid worldbuilding, absolutely gorgeous prose, a very unique take on gender identity, and characters who will make a deep impression in your heart. Once you start with The Black Tides of Heaven, you will not stop until you binge all of them.
I only recently got to read Black Sun and I can’t believe I put it off till now. It is the perfect definition of epic fantasy with it’s expansive Pre-Columbian American world full of diverse cultures, and a group of characters who each have their own desires and motivations – and when their paths collide, who can guess what the consequences will be.
Burning Roses is the kind of retelling which I have never seen before – the author combines fairytales from the east and west so seamlessly that you won’t even realize it’s a retelling, if you don’t know the original stories. And how often do we even get to read stories about middle aged women who are full of regrets about their past, and how they help each other overcome their grief and start hoping again. It’s a wonderful slow burn introspective story which deserves to be savored.
It’s been a long time since I’ve read Foundryside, so I may not remember the details but I still know it has one of my most favorite magic systems as well as the best inanimate character ever. The romance is only hinted at here and the heists take precedence, which makes it a fast paced and thrilling story, and I want to hit myself that I still haven’t picked up the sequel.
Move aside Sherlock, Fatma is my new favorite fictional detective. The author brings the world of an alternate 1920s Cairo with supernatural elements to life in his novel A Master of Djinn (and also the previous novella/short) and I devoured the book in a single setting. Featuring an eccentric but sharp detective, this series has very fascinating mysteries and a what-if scenario of colonial powers having lost the hold on their empires much earlier than in our real world.
And coming to the final section of my post – all the sapphic fantasy goodness at one place 🙂
Fireheart Tiger (Aliette de Bodard, here you are… the third time on this list) may only be a short novella but the way the author portrays imperialism, power dynamics and abuse, as well as yearning in a new relationship is stunning, and I was blown away.
I just finished reading The Councillor a few days ago (review upcoming) and I just can’t get it out of my mind. It’s a slow burn fantasy with Machiavellian politics, lots of plotting and scheming, a feuding group of characters who need to work together, a looming danger for the kingdom, and a scholar protagonist whose mind amazed me. And the prose is just stunning.
The Unbroken is another sapphic fantasy that takes an indepth look at the devastating effects of colonization and amidst all the brutality, we also get a romance between women who could be allies or enemies depending on the situation. And please… just look at Touraine’s arms on the cover… how can you not read this book?
I don’t remember if I had read any sapphic epic fantasies before I picked up the mammoth The Priory of the Orange Tree. And this is a book with a huge world and multiple kingdoms, intricate court politics, lots of history, powerful female characters who are not ready to be constrained and want to be warriors and saviors, and of course… loads of dragons.
And what better way to end this post than with the epic fantasy which has all my heart and soul – The Jasmine Throne. Tasha is a literary magician and the words she weaves into stories always capture me immediately, and this was no different. Another story this year which explores the pitfalls of imperialism, patriarchy and privilege, this book is powerful and hits you deeply right from the first page. There are unequal power dynamics and lots of yearning in Malini and Priya’s relationship, and you can’t wait to see how they will respond to each other. And the ensemble cast is equally compelling, making you want to keep turning the pages incessantly but leaving you gasping towards the end because you are not ready to leave this world.
Uffff…. this was a long one and I’m a bit tired now after all the typing. But I am also very happy that I got to put together a list of some of my most favorite books across genres. I hope you find something new to pick from among these. And if you have any recs based on my taste, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below..