The Sapphic Fantastic: Bi and Lesbian Fantasy Books

The Sapphic Fantastic!

In my time in the queer lit blogosphere, I’ve noticed that one of the categories that readers seem to be wanting for the most is f/f fantasy books. And why not? Who wouldn’t want to read a book about a lesbian hobbit, or a pansexual lady knight, or a bisexual woman and her dragon? Clearly that’s an awesome set-up for a story. But although plenty of queer women fantasy books exist, there seems to be some difficulty connecting them with the readers looking for them.

Although I don’t read a ton of fantasy books, my passion for queer women books has led me to many queer women books that I have loved. Here are some of my favourites, though by no means an exhaustive list!

The Second Mango by Shira GlassmanThe Mangoverse series by Shira Glassman

I would be remiss to make a f/f fantasy list without including the Mangoverse series by Shira Glassman. Beginning with The Second Mango, this is set in a Jewish fantasy world and includes a whole range of diverse representations, including a demiromantic character.

I’ve only read the first book so far, but I’ve heard they only get better from there. This was such  a fun read.

Check out my full review here.

Fire Logic by Laurie MarksFire Logic by Laurie J. Marks

Keeping in the Classic Fantasy vein, I really enjoyed Fire Logic by Laurie J. Marks. (Although this is another series I’ve started but not finished, that says more about my flaws than the books’.) This is also set in a world without homophobia–so if you ever want to escape into a world like that, fantasy is your genre. This is travelling/quest story, which I always enjoy, and although I was overwhelmed by being thrown into the complex world in the beginning, I quickly got my bearing. (Also, I love these new covers.)

Check out my full review here.

Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline CareyKushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey

Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey is not what I would call a light read. It’s 900 pages and packed with politics, religion, and BDSM sex–it’s tastefully done, I think, but that’s a big part of the novel. Phèdre is Servant of Naamah: a sex worker, a profession that is semi-spiritual and respected in this world. She also uses this to glean political information from her clients, who are both men and women. Although most of her relationships are with men, I would argue the most intense relationship she has is with another woman.

Check out my full review here.

The Salt Roads by Nalo HopkinsonThe Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson

Nalo Hopkinson’s books are always a trip, and The Salt Roads is no exception. This book bounces between different POV characters and time periods, all bound together by their relationship to the goddess Ezili. This has a focus on racism, colonialism, and slavery while also including several queer characters. The Salt Roads isn’t linear, and you do rocketed from place and to place while also jumping through time, but it’s fascinating and compelling throughout.

Check out my full review here.

Falling in Love With Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson coverFalling in Love With Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson

I’m cheating and putting in another Nalo Hopkinson book, even though only the novella has f/f content! Falling In Love With Hominids is worth reading for the novella alone, but this collection as a whole is one of my favourite books I’ve ever read. (And there is other queer content, just not f/f.) “Ours Is the Prettiest” is a Borderlands series, which means it shares characters and a setting with other authors. It also has an interesting look at a queer community and the complex, multi-layered relationships between everyone involved.

Check out my full review here.

Everfair by Nisi ShawlEverfair by Nisi Shawl

Everfair by Nisi Shawl is a recent discovery for me, and I was pleasantly surprised to found out this steampunk alternate history of the Congo also has several queer women main characters! Everfair is a complex, thought-provoking read covering a lot of different perspectives on topics like war, colonialism, love, betrayal, and race. There is a ton packed into this, so prepare to settle in and really give it your full attention.

Check out my full review here.

 

The Mirror Empire by Kameron HurleyThe Worldbreaker Saga by Kameron Hurley

The Worldbreaker Saga is a brutal, brilliant series. It is emphatically queer: it examines gender and sexuality from multiple angles, polyamorous configurations of genders are the norm for relationships, there are multiple non-binary point of view characters, and the main character is attracted to women. It boasts a huge cast of point of view characters and an ever-expanding setting made up of distinct, detailed cultures. It is complex and ambitious, and it challenged me at every turn. This is grimdark epic fantasy, so it’s far from a comfortable read–but it’s so very worth it.

Check out my full review here.

A Lake of Feathers and Moonbeams by Dax Murphy coverA Lake of Feathers and Moonbeams by Dax Murray

A Lake of Feathers and Moonbeams is a queer Swan Lake retelling, and honestly, it just had to live up to that premise to win me over.  Add to that the beautiful cover and the promise of a positive polyamorous relationship (f/f/nb), and I was sold. So I was impressed to find that not only did this satisfy those queer fairy tale cravings, it went beyond that to create an engaging and emotionally compelling story in its own right. I loved this queer-positive fairy tale world, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that was only the backdrop for a subtle story about trust, betrayal, and new possibilities.

Check out my full review here.

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Indigo Springs by A. M. DellamonicaIndigo Springs by A.M. Dellamonica

Indigo Springs by A. M. Dellamonica is a departure from the high fantasy recommendations. It is set in our world, but one that has been contaminated by magic. We begin the book knowing the devastation this magic will wrought, then skip backwards to see how events unfold. The main character is bisexual, and somehow this book managed (to me) to pull off a love triangle. I found the environmentalism aspect to this really interesting, and though I didn’t like the sequel as much, I really enjoyed this one.

Check out my full review here.

Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History edited by Rose Fox and Daniel José OlderLong Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History edited by Rose Fox and Daniel José Older

This is another anthology that isn’t all queer women content, but although there are only two f/f stories, the quality of them makes up for it. Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History edited by Rose Fox and Daniel José Older takes place between 1400-1900, mostly in North America and Europe, and is mostly made up of fantasy stories. It also includes beautiful illustrations. I really liked these, but I wish we had even more–especially in different time periods and geographical areas. Sequel, please!

Check out my full review here.

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira GrantInto the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

Seven years ago, the ship Atargatis went to the Mariana Trench to make a mockumentary about mermaids. Unexpectedly, they seemed to find them! Unfortunately, the “mermaids” were deadly, and no one on the ship survived. Only a bit of footage shows what happened to them, and it’s believed to be faked. Now, another ship is being sent to follow up and find out what really happened.

The book begins with a large cast, including a bisexual main character (and an f/f romance), Deaf characters, and autistic characters.

This does get pretty grisly, so do go in expecting some horror element, but I didn’t find it scary.

Check out my full review here.

Bearly a Lady by Cassandra KhawBearly a Lady by Cassandra Khaw

I will admit, I was sold immediately when I heard “Bisexual werebear novella.” The book opens with Zelda (yes, Zelda) irritated that her transformation into a bear is continually destroying her wardrobe. She works for a fashion magazine, so she doesn’t take this lightly.

This is such a fun, light read. It’s quippy and snarky and smart. Because this barely (ha) breaks 100 pages, it keeps everything moving at a brisk pace, even if it is mostly romantic entanglements. Speaking of romance, I would be remiss to neglect mentioning in this review that the romance is mostly M/F. Zelda has several male love interests and one female love interest, but like Kushiel’s Dart, I would say that although the F/F pairing gets less “page time,” it has the most significance.

Check out my full review here.

Young Adult Fantasy:

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust coverGirls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

This is a fairy tale about misogyny. About the men who pit women against each other, and force them into limited roles. And the relationships that form between these women regardless. The love that they share even when told they should they should hate each other. The revolutionary power of love and forgiveness to break apart these narratives and allow for a new beginning. Ostensibly, this is a retelling of Snow White, but while it uses touchstones from that story, it isn’t restricted by it.

I loved that Girls Made of Snow and Glass took this fairy tale trope of the “Evil Queen”/”Evil Stepmother” and did a deep dive into imagining what could lead someone to feel like that was their only option. This is primarily about the complex relationship between Mina and her stepmother Lynet, but there is also an f/f romance that complements the narrative.

Check out my full review here.

OF Fire and Stars by Audrey CoulthurstOf Fire and Stars and Of Ice and Shadows by Audrey Coulthurst

Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst is the queer YA fantasy I’ve always dreamed of. It’s about two princesses who fall in love, but it’s also about court intrigue, betrayal, suppressed magical powers, and horses. It also is set in a world where same-sex relationships are not looked down on: the scandal is that one of the girls is betrothed to the other’s brother

As much as I loved the first book, the sequel is even better: the story is compelling and the relationships deepen. I unabashedly fell in love with this duology, and I’m so glad that it exists for queer teen girls now.

Check out my full reviews of Of Fire and Stars and Of Ice and Shadows.

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida CordovaLabyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

Labyrinth Lost is about Alex, a Brooklyn bruja (witch) who resents her own powers. She believes that magic has done nothing but harm her and her family, and she longs to be free of it. The magical system is inspired by multiple Latin American and Afro-Cuban cultures and beliefs. Although the book begins in our world, the majority is set in Los Lagos, an in-between world of gods and powerful, unearthly creatures.

Although the word “bisexual” isn’t used in the text, Alex finds herself pulled between two people: the brooding brujo she finds herself allied with, and her bubbly best friend, who is her constant source of light. (This is also an interracial romance between two girls of colour.)

Check out my full review here.

The Lost Coast by Amy Rose CapettaThe Lost Coast by Amy Rose Capetta (review)

I knew from the time that I heard about a YA novel featuring six queer witches among the California redwood forests, I was hooked. To have 6 queer witches that celebrate their identities is–I hesitate to say–magical to read about. The group includes a grey ace non-binary character, a black bisexual character, a main character who identifies as queer, a character with synesthesia, a character with a limp, and a Filipino character. These characters discuss their labels and identities freely and without shame. This book includes a character casually using the phrase “femme as fuck.” Not only that, but Danny is a queer teenage girl who enjoys her sexuality. Kissing is her favourite thing to do, and she usually kisses girls.

Please pick up this story of chosen family and finding your own magic, and spread the word, because I know so many readers have been waiting for a story just like this.

Check out my full review here.

Dreadnought by April DanielsDreadnought and Sovereign by April Daniels

This is a trans lesbian superhero YA–but don’t expect it to be an escapist romp. This is a book that deals directly with intense transphobia (especially transmisogyny) and abuse.

Danny has enough on her plate just trying to survive her abusive household while being a closeted trans teenage girl, when getting caught in a superhero fight means that the hero Dreadnought passes on his powers to her as he dies. Being a superhero doesn’t mean that she escapes the problems she had before, though. Although she relishes being in a body that other people recognize as her gender, being a cape comes with risks–and the superhero community has its own transmisogynistic assholes. This isn’t escapist utopian fun: it’s battling bigotry armed with superpowers.

Check out my review of Dreadnought and the sequel, Sovereign.

Hocus Pocus and the All-New Sequel coverHocus Pocus and The All-New Sequel by A. W. Jantha

I am still shocked that this exists! A Disney book, a sequel to a beloved movie, that has a lesbian main character. The first half of the book is a novelization of the original movie, which you can skip. But all sequel is just what you’d expect from a Hocus Pocus sequel, but with added adorable lesbian crushes. I really don’t know how else to describe this except as a Hocus Pocus sequel with a lesbian main character. If that doesn’t sell you on it, what will? I dearly hope that is made into a movie (though I doubt it will be), because my childhood self would be so happy to see it.

 

I also made a video about this a few years ago, if you prefer that format:

Those are some of my favourites! Looking for more? Check out Catherine Lundoff’s history of LGBT SFF and this Goodreads list to start! What are your favourite queer women fantasy books?

An earlier version of this post ran on Book Riot.

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