Happy Pride everyone! For this month, I wanted to give a list of some of my favorite books featuring LGBTQ+ characters and/or written by LGBTQ+ authors. For this list, I wanted to focus on representation, so books that happen to have a minor LGBTQ+ character or two or a background LGBTQ+ couple won’t make the cut! Not all books listed will treat their characters nicely, but I’ve made sure to mark warnings as I remember them where necessary.
As a member of the asexual community myself, I’ve struggled to find books with ace leads, so if anyone has recs, please fire away in the comments!
The Tiger’s Daughter by K Arsenault Rivera
Even gods can be slain….
The Hokkaran empire has conquered every land within their bold reach―but failed to notice a lurking darkness festering within the people. Now, their border walls begin to crumble, and villages fall to demons swarming out of the forests.
Away on the silver steppes, the remaining tribes of nomadic Qorin retreat and protect their own, having bartered a treaty with the empire, exchanging inheritance through the dynasties. It is up to two young warriors, raised together across borders since their prophesied birth, to save the world from the encroaching demons.
This is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O-Shizuka, and a power that can reach through time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil.
- F/F couple
A gorgeously written Asian-inspired fantasy novel that reads as a series of love letters to a distant lover. A slow slow-burn romance, extremely lush worldbuilding, political intrigue, and epic battles.
Warnings: homophobia, mostly from the main villain
The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson
Tomorrow, on the beach, Baru Cormorant will look up from the sand of her home and see red sails on the horizon.
The Empire of Masks is coming, armed with coin and ink, doctrine and compass, soap and lies. They’ll conquer Baru’s island, rewrite her culture, criminalize her customs, and dispose of one of her fathers. But Baru is patient. She’ll swallow her hate, prove her talent, and join the Masquerade. She will learn the secrets of empire. She’ll be exactly what they need. And she’ll claw her way high enough up the rungs of power to set her people free.
In a final test of her loyalty, the Masquerade will send Baru to bring order to distant Aurdwynn, a snakepit of rebels, informants, and seditious dukes. Aurdwynn kills everyone who tries to rule it. To survive, Baru will need to untangle this land’s intricate web of treachery – and conceal her attraction to the dangerously fascinating Duchess Tain Hu.
But Baru is a savant in games of power, as ruthless in her tactics as she is fixated on her goals. In the calculus of her schemes, all ledgers must be balanced, and the price of liberation paid in full.
- F/F couple, prominent non-binary characters and M/M rep in second book
I’ve seen Pride Month be renamed to LGBTQ+ Wrath month and while this is not a happy book, I can’t think of a book that better fits. Baru Cormorant is on one no-holds-barred campaign to destroy the Masquerade from the inside out and absolutely nothing will stop her. For anyone in search of political fantasy and realistic revolutions. You will leave an emotional wreck.
Warnings: colonialism, racism, sexism, extreme homophobia, eugenics, death of queer characters, implied corrective rape, torture, murder, animal abuse/death
Passing Strange by Ellen Klages
San Francisco in 1940 is a haven for the unconventional. Tourists flock to the cities within the city: the Magic City of the World’s Fair on an island created of artifice and illusion; the forbidden city of Chinatown, a separate, alien world of exotic food and nightclubs that offer “authentic” experiences, straight from the pages of the pulps; and the twilight world of forbidden love, where outcasts from conventional society can meet.
Six women find their lives as tangled with each other’s as they are with the city they call home. They discover love and danger on the borders where mystery, science, and art intersect.
- F/F couple
An intimate exploration of the queer, sapphic communities of 1940s San Francisco. A novella experiencing all the charms of SF, but also the homophobia and Orientalism that comes along with it. Most importantly, we follow the lives of three queer women surviving and thriving, despite their oppressors.
Warnings: homophobia, racism (specifically Orientalism), homophobic language
The Last Sun by KD Edwards
Rune Saint John, last child of the fallen Sun Court, is hired to search for Lady Judgment’s missing son, Addam, on New Atlantis, the island city where the Atlanteans moved after ordinary humans destroyed their original home.
With his companion and bodyguard, Brand, he questions Addam’s relatives and business contacts through the highest ranks of the nobles of New Atlantis. But as they investigate, they uncover more than a missing man: a legendary creature connected to the secret of the massacre of Rune’s Court.
In looking for Addam, can Rune find the truth behind his family’s death and the torments of his past?
- M/M couple, non-binary and asexual rep in later books, all characters assumed queer til otherwise state
An utter gem in the urban fantasy genre, where major world players are human personification of the Major Arcana in a Tarot deck. A delightfully cute budding M/M romance, complex male characters that break out from the stereotypical ‘tough guy’ stereotype, and a world where everyone’s queer until otherwise stated.
Warnings: rape flashbacks
The Ice Princess’ Fair Ilusion by Lynn E O’Connacht
All Marian wants is for society to accept that she’s just not interested in… whatever society thinks she ought to be interested in. A princess with a reputation for insults and snide remarks, she’s afraid to show anyone who she would be if people would let her. In a fit of temper at her refusal to marry, her father creates her worst nightmare: she is to be wed to the first beggar who arrives at the gates.
Edel was visiting purely for diplomatic reasons, aiming to ensure her daughter inherits a strong and peaceful kingdom. She sees something in Marian that is achingly familiar and when Edel hears the king’s proclamation, only one thing is on her mind: to protect Marian from the fate that had befallen Edel herself.
Their lives threaded together by magic, Edel and Marian will have to find their way in the world in this queerplatonic, sapphic verse novel retelling of King Thrushbeard.
- queerplatonic couple, asexual rep, aromantic rep
The following quote is everything.
Aromantic, we call it
You know that, my sweet
Aromantic and asexual, in fact
Why do those words bother you so?
They don’t bother me!
I just… This isn’t the right place for them.
It’s my story and I’m telling it, now hush.
No, dear. If you’re going to tell it,
Tell it loud. Tell it proud.
That’s why I agreed to do this.
I want to hear no more.
Of people like yourself
Who needed words they lever learned
Because no one believed they were needed.
Warnings: ace/arophobia, self harm, PTSD, spousal death, parental death, and unsupportive parents (from the author)
The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang
Mokoya and Akeha, the twin children of the Protector, were sold to the Grand Monastery as children. While Mokoya developed her strange prophetic gift, Akeha was always the one who could see the strings that moved adults to action. While his sister received visions of what would be, Akeha realized what could be. What’s more, he saw the sickness at the heart of his mother’s Protectorate.
A rebellion is growing. The Machinists discover new levers to move the world every day, while the Tensors fight to put them down and preserve the power of the state. Unwilling to continue to play a pawn in his mother’s twisted schemes, Akeha leaves the Tensorate behind and falls in with the rebels. But every step Akeha takes towards the Machinists is a step away from his sister Mokoya. Can Akeha find peace without shattering the bond he shares with his twin sister?
- M/M couple, non-binary rep
An Asian-inspired novella with gorgeous prose. All children in this world are born gender-neutral, then decide their gender (or not) as they grow up. There is this absolutely beautiful scene where one of the characters comes to the realization of their gender.
Warnings: none that I can recall
Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
To win an impossible war Captain Kel Cheris must awaken an ancient weapon and a despised traitor general.
Captain Kel Cheris of the hexarchate is disgraced for using unconventional methods in a battle against heretics. Kel Command gives her the opportunity to redeem herself by retaking the Fortress of Scattered Needles, a star fortress that has recently been captured by heretics. Cheris’s career isn’t the only thing at stake. If the fortress falls, the hexarchate itself might be next.
Cheris’s best hope is to ally with the undead tactician Shuos Jedao. The good news is that Jedao has never lost a battle, and he may be the only one who can figure out how to successfully besiege the fortress.
The bad news is that Jedao went mad in his first life and massacred two armies, one of them his own. As the siege wears on, Cheris must decide how far she can trust Jedao–because she might be his next victim.
- transman author, non-binary rep, world where characters are casually queer, gender changes are common and accepted, M/M and F/F rep in later books
One of my favorite sci-fi novels of all time, Ninefox Gambit combines mathy-space opera with genius scheming characters and a casually queer cast.
Warnings: graphic violence and torture, colonialism, implied non-consensual/coercive sex in later books
Heaven Official’s Blessing (天官赐福) by 墨香铜臭
Eight hundred years ago, Xie Lian was the Crown Prince of the Xian Le kingdom; one who was beloved by his citizens and the darling of the world. Unsurprisingly, he ascended to the Heavens at a very young age. Now, eight hundred years later, Xie Lian ascends to the Heavens for the third time as the laughing stock of all three realms. On his first task as a god, he meets a mysterious demon who rules the ghosts and terrifies the Heavens……yet unbeknownst to Xie Lian, this demon king has been paying attention to him for a very, very long time.
- M/M main couple, fanon-assumed gender-fluid character
Probably my favorite Chinese webserial of all time. An absolutely adorable m/m power couple, complex characters in hard-hitting emotional scenes, and themes of corruption of power.
Warnings: one rape joke (from minor character, quickly shot down by MC)
A Practical Guide to Evil by ErraticErrata
Catherine Foundling has a plan.
She’ll join the Legions of Terror that occupy her homeland and work her way up the ladder until she can effect the kind of changes the former Kingdom of Callow so badly needs. Yet after a night gone from bad to worse she is offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity by the right hand of the Empress, the infamous Black Knight: to become his apprentice and learn the business of villainy from one of the most dangerous men in Creation. It’s probably a trap, but when has that ever stopped her? For the sake of the land of her birth, she is more than willing to get her hands dirty. They say the first step on the path to the Tower is the hardest.
Considering the amount of people already trying to kill her, ‘they’ might have a point.
- bisexual main character, M/M and F/F rep, world where characters are casually queer
A “villainous” badass female main character in a world where Good and Evil are strictly categorized, but not-so-easily defined. A fantastic webserial for readers looking for a new take on stereotypical “western-European” fantasy