Riot Headline House to Hold Hearing on Classroom Censorship Thursday
Lists

8 of the Best Queer Arthurian Retellings

Tordotcom Publishing

She left all she knew to find who she could be . . .

She grows up in the wild wood, in a cave with her mother, but when she hears a traveler speak of Artos, king of Caer Leon, she decides her future lies at his court. Brimming with magic and eager to test her strength, she sets out for Caer Leon.

With a stolen hunting spear and mended armour, she begins a journey of magic, mystery, love, lust and fights to the death. She will steal the hearts of beautiful women, fight warriors and sorcerers, and make herself a home.

I was obsessed with Xena: Warrior Princess as a child, and that possibility of being both a princess and a warrior made up my entire personality.

My first encounter with Arthurian legends, though, was the movie First Knight, staring Richard Gere as Lancelot, Sean Connery as King Arthur, and Julia Ormond as Guinevere. Characters like the Lancelot depicted in First Knight — clever, skillful, and free-spirited — had my full attention, because they reflected who I wished to be.

Maybe because King Arthur was, in this movie, in direct opposition to Lancelot, I did not care much for him, or the fact that he is supposed to be the main character. Therefore, I never really got interested in Arthurian tales.

That is, until they made them queer.

Remember how I mentioned Xena: Warrior Princess? I loved that the main focus of the series was not a romantic plot, but her being badass, and her friendship with Gabrielle. And I use friendship in the “gal pals” sense here, although I didn’t realise the queer subtext of the show at the time.

Fast forward a few years, and I became a fan of the series Merlin. Magic, humour, fights, and knights: that was my jam. But I was surprised when the romantic plot between Arthur and Guinevere came to light because, although I knew the legend well enough then to understand that this is part of the story, in my eyes the relationship between Arthur and Merlin put aside any need for another love interest for either of them. It’s what I enjoyed the most about the series.

So I went to find more stories based on the legend, but with added queer characters to it. Luckily, there have been a plethora in recent years! Unluckily, there isn’t as much diversity in this list as I’d like: there haven’t been many queer Arthurian books published by authors of colour yet, but I hope to see that change soon.

Here are eight of the best queer Arthurian retellings out there.

Once and Future cover

Once And Future by A. R. Capetta

Imagine that King Arthur is a queer teenage girl who needs to save the universe. This is exactly what this sci-fi YA retelling presents.

Ari is the main character, and she pulls a sword from its resting place by accident.

Turns out, she is the incarnation of King Arthur and, along with Merlin, they must break a curse that will help bring equality and peace to humankind.

This is the first book in the Once & Future series.

cover of the book Lancelot And The Wolf

Lancelot And The Wolf by Sarah Luddington

Most Arthurian retellings seem to be series, and this is no exception.

In Lancelot And The Wolf, Lancelot is banished from Camelot, but he is called to return.

As he faces the fight against darkness, and while trying to protect the country he loves, he must put aside his feelings for his King…for now.

cover of Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Legendborn is the first book in The Legendborn Cycle series starring 16-year-old Bree Matthews, who has lost her mother in a supposed accident.

On her first night on campus, Bree witnesses a magical attack which changes her future forever.

This story features many LGBTQ secondary characters, though Bree is not (at least, as far as we know from this first volume).

cover of Sword Stone Table edited by Swapna Krishna and Jenn Northington

Sword Stone Table Edited by Swapna Krishna and Jenn Northington

This book, edited by former Book Rioter Swapna Krishna and current Book Riot staff Jenn Northington contains a collection of stories all centered around Arthurian legends, compiling new voices who write about race and gender.

It contains something for all tastes, and it’s really cool to see bits and pieces of Arthurian lore being re-imagined in such interesting ways.

cover of the book No Man Of Woman Born

No Man Of Woman Born by Ana Mardoll

No Man Of Woman Born is another story collection, containing seven fantasy stories which include various transgender and nonbinary characters.

These characters are seen conquering their fears and fulfilling prophecies, claiming their space in this legend.

cover of the book American Queen

American Queen by Sierra Simone

This is the perfect book for those who enjoy a steamy romance served with their Arthurian retelling, so no listening to this on audio at family gatherings.

It bring the Arthurian legends to an American setting, with Arthur as the President.

It is very much a love triangle, but not in the ways we may be used to encountering: this is a M/M/F menage.

Blackheart Knights by Laure Eve book cover

Blackheart Knights by Laure Eve

The premise of this series is: imagine Camelot but in Gotham, and to be honest, I can’t think of a more compelling premise.

In a city where magic is illegal, a girl trains to become a knight. Two timelines, past and present, seem separate from each other, but eventually intertwine.

This has a sapphic main character and multiple LGBTQ side characters.

cover of the book The Other Merlin

The Other Merlin by Robyn Schneider

This is yet another series, so you have a few more titles to look forward to in this list.

In a world where Arthur is a botanist who takes the sword from the stone by accident, and Lancelot has been demoted to castle guard, Emry Merlin tries to make ends meet after the disappearance of her wizard father.

When someone comes to take her brother to serve as Arthur’s right-hand wizard, Emry disguises herself as a boy and takes the place of her brother.

With a bisexual main character and subjects you can find in movies like A Knight’s Tale and She’s The Man, this book is both filled with thrilling adventure and hilarious moments.


If you’d like more queer retellings, here are a couple of articles you will appreciate: