We may be past pride month, but as we all know, reading books with LGBTQ+ rep should be an all-year-round affair. Especially when it comes to dark fantasy. Especially when those books are sapphic.
Why are sapphic fantasy novels so important? Traditionally speaking, sci-fi and fantasy genres have long been dominated by straight men’s voices. Which is… fine. But it’s empowering and exciting to see that in our contemporary literary culture, we’re starting to expand a little more in representation. There is a wide range of highly inventive, beautifully rendered, and yes, super dark fantasy worlds in which women’s stories are centered.
For me personally, I love to see women setting off on their own adventures in fantasy scenarios. And dark fantasy is especially satisfying because it gives women characters the space to act in morally questionable ways and do surprising things.
Here are 10 fantastic sapphic fantasy novels — some adult and YA. Fair warning: you’re going to want to pick up as soon as you finish checking out this list. Your TBR pile might never recover.
The City of Dusk by Tara Sim
This novel is book one in the Dark Gods books, a new sapphic dark fantasy trilogy. Set in a world of bone and shadow magic, The City of Dust tells of the four heirs of four noble houses — Risha, a necromancer; Angelica, an elementalis; Taesia, a shadow-wielding rogue; and Nik, a soldier. In order to save their kingdoms from a realm-shattering war, they will be forced to form an alliance and bring their divine powers together.
Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust
This YA novel is a dark Persian fairy tale retelling that features a bisexual main character. Cursed to be poisonous to the touch, Soraya has lived her whole life in shadow, separated from her family and anyone else she could potentially harm. But with her twin brother’s wedding quickly approaching, Soraya considers that it might be time to find her way out of this curse to freedom. And somewhere in the dungeons is a demon who might just have the solution to her problem.
The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco
Rin Chupeco’s duology features a lesbian goddess main character, which is just the kind of dark fantasy we’re all looking to read! The Never Tilting World is a world of elemental magic, long ruled by twin goddesses. Years ago when one of the sisters defied an ancient prophecy, the world was split in two and the planet ceased to spin. Now, one world is cloaked in perpetual night and the other world is drenched in the heat of the sun. Now, 17 years later, two young goddesses set out on separate journeys to heal their broken world.
The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean
The Book Eaters is out from Tor in August, and this will be a great sapphic dark fantasy read this late summer. On the Yorkshire Moors lives a secret group of people who consume books as food and then retain all of a book’s information. Devon, the member of an old family of reclusive book eaters, has been raised like all other book eater women, eating a diet of fairy tales and cautionary stories. But there is a bigger world of dark, unhappy endings out there, which Devon soon discovers when her son is born with a rare a hunger for human minds.
Not Good for Maidens by Tori Bovalino
This dark fantasy/horror YA novel takes Christina Rossetti’s poem “Goblin Market” and makes it even darker and even more queer. Lou has never believed in superstitions or magic. But then her teenage aunt Neela is kidnapped and taken to the Goblin Market. Lou has only heard stories of the Goblin Market as a place full of dark temptation for any human who wanders there. Now, in order to save Neela, Lou will have to learn spells and tricks to protect her as she navigates the market. What’s more, Lou only has three days to find Neela before the market takes her forever.
Beyond the Ruby Veil by Mara Fitzgerald
This dark, queer YA fantasy follows Emanuela Ragno, a socialite who always gets what she wants. Now, she has her sights set on her childhood best friend and heir to the wealthiest house in Occhia, Alessandro Morandi. It doesn’t matter that both she and Allesandro are queer, because all Emanuela is after is power, not love. But Emanuela has a secret that could ruin everything. When a bruise-like omen appears on her skin, it’s a sign that she is mean to be sacrificed to the watercrea, a mysterious being who makes water from blood. Emanuela has kept her mark a secret so far, but she won’t be able to hid it forever.
Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard
Aliette De Bodard’s Fireheart Tiger is a dark fantasy story/sapphic romance that follows princess Thanh, who as a young child was sent away to the faraway country of Ephteria to be their hostage. Years later, she returns home to her mother’s royal court as a diplomat. Here Thanh runs across Eldris, a powerful princess from a far off land and Thanh’s first love. Eldris knows exactly what she wants — Thanh’s heart and her home. And she’s unwilling to compromise. Now Thanh will be forced to make difficult decisions to control her country’s fate.
The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri
The Jasmine Throne is the beginning a new trilogy set in a world inspired by the history and stories of India. Malini spends her days imprisoned in a temple, captured there by her dictator brother. One of her only visitors is Priya, a maidservant who visits every night to clean Malini’s chambers. But Priya is much more than she seems, and when Malini accidentally discovers Priya’s true nature, their destinies become entwined. Together, Priya and Malini will find the strength and the power to change an empire.
Siren Queen by Nghi Vo
This dark fantasy novel is set during the Golden Age of Hollywood. Luli Wei is a beautiful and talented young actress who is hungry for stardom. She knows how limited roles are for Chinese American women in Hollywood. And Luli lives in a world where the monsters of Hollywood are not figurative. They are very, very real. The movie business runs on a system that sacrifices young starlets like Luli. It’s a system that deals in blood bargains and ancient magic. But Luli doesn’t care. She’s willing to do whatever it takes to see her face on movie screens — even if it means becoming a monster herself.
Wild and Wicked Things by Francesca May
This recently released book is a dark fantasy set on Crow Island, a place where magic exists. But Annie Mason isn’t interested in the magic of the island. She’s only here to settle her father’s estate and reconnect with her friend Beatrice. But Annie hadn’t accounted for the temptation of a mysterious new neighbor, Emmeline Delacroix, who is rumored to practice witchcraft. After Annie witnesses a confrontation between Bea and Emmeline, she finds herself drawn into a glamorous (and dangerous) new world of magic.
If you love reading sapphic fiction, you’ll also want to check out these 20 must-read contemporary sapphic novels. And if you need any more sapphic recommendations, you’ll find plenty on Book Riot’s 100 Must-Read Bisexual and Lesbian Books.