I’ve been writing about queer books for more than a decade, and it’s a joy to see how much has changed in that time: there are so many more varieties of queer books out there now, especially in terms of mainstream publishers. Sapphic books, in particular, have taken off in the last few years. That made trying to narrow down this list of sapphic fantasy books to just 20 titles very difficult.
As a quick refresher: “sapphic” is an umbrella term that refers to women and nonbinary people who are attracted to women and/or nonbinary people. It includes lesbians, bisexual and pansexual women, as well as nonbinary people who identify with the term. If a book has a sapphic main character, it’s a sapphic book. It doesn’t need to have a queer romance to be a sapphic book, though many of these do. If you’re looking specifically for books that include relationships between women, I recommend searching for F/F books.
The titles included in this list changed several times as I was writing it because I kept remembering books I absolutely had to include, whether because they’re personal favorites of mine or beloved examples of the sapphic fantasy books genre. That meant I had to make some difficult cuts. I decided to try to stick to purely fantasy books and not “science fantasy” books that mix together elements of sci-fi and fantasy. That’s why you won’t find Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir and Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki on this list, even though they’re both excellent examples of sapphic SFF.
I included both adult sapphic fantasy books and YA sapphic fantasy, but I weighted it more towards adult fantasy. Most of these are also the first books in a series, so hopefully, this list will expand your TBR even more because of that. Enough preamble: let’s get into 20 sapphic fantasy books you need to read!
Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree
Cozy fantasy is having a moment, and a lot of the credit goes to Legends & Lattes. Viv is an orc hanging up her sword to start a coffee shop — except, very few people have even heard of coffee. As she builds the shop from the ground up, she also assembles a team of people to help her, including Thimble, the ratkin baker, and Tandri, the succubus barista. Each wants the chance to be themselves outside of the expectations placed on them because of their race or past. The romance isn’t central to the plot, but Tandri and Viv do slowly fall for each other. I loved this gentle, comforting, low-stakes read.
Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust
If you like fairy tale retellings, these next two sapphic YA fantasy books are for you. In this one, the evil queen and evil stepmother tropes from fairy tales are re-examined by asking how someone might end up in those roles. Mina, the “Snow White” figure, is sapphic and has an F/F romance subplot, but the primary relationship in this book is the complicated familial one between Mina and her stepmother, Lynet. This is a fairy tale about misogyny — and about what happens when women refuse to be pitted against each other.
Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
Sixteen-year-old Sophia is required to go to the Annual Ball to find her husband — but she’d rather marry her best friend, Erin. She runs from the ball to an unlikely hiding place: the mausoleum of Cinderella, the person who started the Annual Ball tradition. There, she meets the last known descendant of Cinderella, Constance, and together they will try to take down the king. Along the way, they will also find out more about Cinderella’s real story…
To Shape a Dragon’s Breath (Nampeshiweisit #1) by Moniquill Blackgoose
You didn’t think this was going to be a fantasy book recommendation list without any dragons, did you? When teenage Anequs finds a dragon egg on her island, her people are excited: they haven’t seen one in generations, and she’ll continue the tradition of being a Nampeshiweisit, a person connected with a dragon. Unfortunately, the colonizers insist Anequs has to attend an Anglish school to train her dragon — and if she fails, the dragon will be killed. Anequs is bisexual and polyamorous, and there are multiple love interests in this first volume.
The Unbroken (Magic of the Lost #1) by C. L. Clark
Speaking of colonialism, this series is inspired by French colonization of North Africa. It follows two main characters: Touraine, who was stolen as a child to be raised as a soldier for the empire but has now joined the resistance; and Luca, the princess fighting her uncle to take her rightful place on the empire’s throne. The two of them become allies, then lovers, then enemies — and that’s just to start. The Unbroken is a brutal military fantasy that doesn’t shy away from the cruelty of colonialism. The characterization and politics are incredibly well done, and I found the second book to be even better than the first. I can’t wait for the last book in this trilogy!
Of Fire and Stars (Of Fire and Stars #1) by Audrey Coulthurst
If you’re on team Elsa-from-Frozen-is-a-lesbian, you have to read this duology. Denna is a princess destined for a political marriage. The problem is that she’s repressing a magical fire ability that’s outlawed in her kingdom. When she travels to her fiancé’s land, she encounters one more hiccup…she’s falling in love with her betrothed’s sister, Princess Mare. Together, they have to try to solve the mystery of an assassination that could endanger the whole kingdom — and hide their growing feelings for each other.
In the Vanishers’ Palace by Aliette de Bodard
Aliette de Bodard writes a lot of sapphic SFF, so here’s just one to start with. This novella is a retelling of “Beauty and the Beast,” set in a fantasy world inspired by Vietnam. Yên is a failed scholar who has been sold to one of the last dragons on earth, Vu Côn. But despite Vu Côn’s coldness, Yên discovers she has a soft side. As she teaches Vu Côn’s two children, she begins to fall for the dragon. But learning Vu Côn’s secret could change everything.
The Final Strife (The Ending Fire #1) by Saara El-Arifi
In this world, the red-blooded rule, the blue-blooded work, and the clear-blooded are enslaved. But three women from different classes might just change that. This is set in a desert world with giant lizards you can ride! Power and magic are both controlled with blood. It also has an F/F friends-to-lover romance. This is the first book in a trilogy, and Saara El-Arifi also just released a sapphic fae romantasy book, Faebound, so be sure to check that one out, too!
Spear by Nicola Griffith
This is a queer take on King Arthur stories from the point of view of a woman raised in the wild who decides to disguise herself as a man to become a knight. This is a novella, but it’s packed full of beautiful language and an unforgettable story, including a heartwarming sapphic romance in the latter half. This is a unique, Wales-inspired take on Arthuriana that I feel confident calling a modern classic.
The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson
I find this book almost impossible to describe: it bounces between time periods, places, and point of view characters (all Black women) in a far-reaching and fascinating story. Mer is an enslaved healer in 18th century St. Domingue (Haiti). Jeanne Duval is a dancer in 19th century Paris. Thais is a sex worker — and later, saint — in the 4th century. Each of them is at one time possessed by the goddess Lasirén, who tries to bring them closer to freedom. Several of the point of view characters are queer. While I can’t succinctly summarize this story, I can say it’s one of my favorite books I’ve ever read: beautifully written, thoughtful, and sexy.
The Mirror Empire (The Worldbreaker Saga #1) by Kameron Hurley
We’ve talked about cozy fantasy, so let’s address a book on the other end of the fantasy spectrum: grimdark fantasy. There are many point of view characters in this trilogy about a world at war, including several nonbinary characters, queer characters, and polyamorous characters. It’s a complex and ambitious epic fantasy that surprised me at every turn. Kameron Hurley writes quite a few queer SFF books, especially in the sci-fi genre, so also check those out.
The Unspoken Name (The Serpent Gates #1) by A. K. Larkwood
If you want a sapphic fantasy story that feels like a game of Dungeons and Dragons, this is the book for you. Csorwe is an orc priestess who was supposed to sacrifice herself at 14 years old for a god, but at the last moment, a wizard offers her the chance to be his sword-hand instead. But destiny is not so easy to outrun, and when Csorwe meets a mage with a cruel fate similar to her own, she is determined to change things for both of them.
She Who Became the Sun (The Radiant Emperor #1) by Shelley Parker-Chan
In 1300s China, two peasant siblings are told their futures: Zhu Chongba is destined for greatness, and his sister will become nothing. When Zhu Chongba dies, though, his sister takes his name — and, hopefully, his future. She will stop at nothing to gain power. This is a military fantasy that’s heavy on the military and light on the fantasy: the main character can see ghosts, but most of the book is on the realistic side. The main character also questions her gender and is likely nonbinary. She does have a relationship with a woman, but it’s not the focus of the story.
The Priory of the Orange Tree (The Roots of Chaos #1) by Samantha Shannon
It wouldn’t be a list of sapphic fantasy books without The Priory of the Orange Tree. This follows divided eastern and western kingdoms that have to find a way to unite before the return of The Nameless One, an evil, giant dragon that would devastate them both unless they can work together. We follow several point of view characters, including two women falling in love. This is 800+ pages of epic fantasy, and it’s a great match for fans of Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. There’s also a prequel now: A Day of Fallen Night.
Everfair (Everfair #1) by Nisi Shawl
This is one of the books I recommend the most often because it’s one of the most thought-provoking stories I’ve ever read. It follows a group of characters in an alternate, steampunk version of Congo. Everfair is supposed to be an idyllic community, but the reality of the outside world complicates things. There are several sapphic point of view characters, and a complicated romance between two of them unfolds and transforms over many years. This is the most multi-faceted perspective I’ve gotten from a single book, and while the many points of view can be overwhelming, they add up to something completely unique. The sequel is out this month, and I can’t wait to see what Shawl does next with this world. Like She Who Became the Sun, the fantasy elements of this are secondary to the realistic foundation.
The Dawnhounds (The Endsong #1) by Sascha Stronach
I’ll admit that I didn’t always understand this book, but I sure had a great time with it anyway! It’s a Maori-inspired, pirate, biopunk fantasy set in a bio-engineered city during a tense truce in the middle of a war. Yat is a bisexual cop currently being punished for being caught at a gay club. Then she’s killed. And wakes up after being saved by a god. Then she joins a queer pirate crew. There’s a lot going on, but the world-building is fascinating, and I fell in love with the pirate-found family. I can’t wait for the sequel!
The Jasmine Throne (The Burning Kingdoms #1) by Tasha Suri
In this fantasy series inspired by the history and legends of India, Malini is a princess imprisoned by her brother. One of the only contacts she has with the outside world is her maidservant, Priya. But Priya has secrets of her own, and they soon find out they have aligning goals. Together, they will take on an empire — and fall for each other.
Sweet & Bitter Magic by Adrienne Tooley
Many of these are epic fantasies, but if you’re looking for a sapphic fantasy book that’s more on the romantasy side, this is a perfect choice. Tamsin is a 17-year-old witch cursed to live without love — unless she takes it from others. Without it, the world is dull. Wren is a source: she’s made of magic but can’t use it herself. When her father is sickened by a magical plague overtaking the country, Wren teams up with Tamsin to stop it. This is a slow-burn, grumpy/sunshine romance while still having world-ending fantasy stakes.
Crier’s War (Crier’s War #1) by Nina Varela
The Automae, intended to serve humans, now rule over them. Ayla is a human servant bent on revenge for the deaths of her family. She will infiltrate the House of the Sovereign to get close to the Sovereign’s Automae daughter, Lady Crier — and kill her. Meanwhile, Crier is learning the truth about her family and their cruelty. When Ayla meets Crier, she’s not all what she expected, and their enemies-to-lovers romance could upend the world.
The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo
This is a magical retelling of The Great Gatsby from the perspective of Jordan, who in this version is a bisexual Vietnamese American adoptee. The fantasy elements just underscore the indulgent world Jordan lives just on the outskirts of. In this take on the story, Nick and Gatsby have their own romantic entanglement, which makes for a messy love triangle…quadrangle…pentagon. This is a beautiful, surreal read.
This is far from all the sapphic fantasy books out there, but it gives you a good starting place! Can’t get enough queer fantasy? Check out: