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!
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
I unabashedly fell in love with this book, and I’m so glad that it exists for queer teen girls now.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.