(Please read the following in sarcasm font) Can you imagine characters in a fantasy novel having the audacity to be LGBTQ+and do other stuff besides think about being LGBTQ+ every second of every day for the entirety of their lives? How dare. (End sarcasm font)
Here’s the thing. Books about being LGBTQ+ are important. We all need to know we’re not alone and that someone (even if that someone is a proxy elf or dragon or trickster god) understands what we’re going through. But it’s also important for audiences of all ages to have the opportunity to share in stories where LGBTQ+ folx are living full, multi-faceted lives in which they spend time with friends and family, spend too much money on books, fight eldritch horrors, check the corners of their previously abandoned Atlantean manors for supernatural squatters, pilot qi-powered mechs, and bring down empires, all while happening to be queer. The queer part is still important, and an important part of who these characters are, but it’s only one part of their story rather than their focus. It shapes them and is one reason they’ve become the person they are, but it isn’t the beginning and end of their identity.
Here are four fantasy novels coming out in the back half of 2021 that fit the above brief and that I promise will have you up way past your bedtime.
The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri (June 8, 2021)
Book Twitter has been abuzz with Discourse (when is it not?) regarding the Canon once again, this time in defense of Western European analog fantasy. Look, that stuff isn’t bad as such (okay, some of it is), but why would you want to limit yourself to books set in a very small area of the world when the world is huge and amazing and full of myths and legends and traditions and magics and people you’ve never read about or heard about or seen or met? Especially when the intrigue is first class, and the power struggles are vicious, and the women are done with this bullshit, and, yes, there is romance and there are also lesbians. We get a lot of M/M relationships in fantasy, which is fantastic and I will read them all day (and I’ll read them in my manga all day as well), but listen, the ladies deserve some time front and center as well and let me tell you, this power couple…yeah. I just met them and already I would die on their hill.
Also, this book is a deliciously chunky girl, excellent for brandishing at haters. Don’t actually throw it — that’s dangerous, and also you’ll be mad that you don’t have it anymore.
Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao (September 21, 2021)
This one is fantastic from concept to execution to the LGBTQ+ relationship that I’m actually not going to tell you about because I want you to have a chance to arrive there the way I did reading the book.
Wu Zeitan is the only woman to have ruled China during the Imperial period. But Iron Widow isn’t a historical fantasy. What Zhao has done is used history as a jumping off point for a masterful alchemy of feminist manifesto, space opera, kaiju-mech, and new mythology that made me want to run out and punch Nazis. It’s violent and angry and doesn’t shy away from the very worst of what people can do to one another and we need that right now because…I mean, have you watched the news? If we’re going to protect one another from what’s happening in Texas and Tennessee and South Carolina, we need a reminder of how bad it can get so we can stand together as an immovable object.
Buckle up, buttercups.
Trailer Park Trickster by David R. Slayton (October 12, 2021)
Full disclosure: David and I got to be friends after I reviewed the first Adam Binder novel, White Trash Warlock. I can 100% assure you that I would be hyping Book 2 anyway, but I thought you should know.
White Trash Warlock saw Adam Binder making his way from rural Oklahoma to Denver, Colorado, at the behest of his brother, a brother who had once had him institutionalized for what he knew damn well was magic and for shutting Adam out of the family because he was gay. It turned out there was a giant eldritch spirit feeding off of the city.
In Trailer Park Trickster, Adam returns to Oklahoma for his aunt’s funeral only to find other members of his family are being murdered. They probably deserve it, but because Adam somehow managed to become a decent human being, he starts investigating and finds himself up against a druid who may be linked to someone he thought long dead.
And his boyfriend is missing. Which sucks, because lemme tell y’all something about Vic…actually, I won’t. Go read. He’s the literal best and should be fully experienced.
The Hourglass Throne by K.D. Edwards (No release date set)
I follow K.D. Edwards on Twitter and he mentioned having finished and turned in the first draft of The Hourglass Throne and I’m hella excited about it, so I’m putting it on this list even though I’d guess it’s not coming out until at least 2022. While you’re waiting you can read the first two books in The Tarot Cycle, The Last Sun and The Hanged Man.
I’ve talked about this series before, so I’ll just reiterate that it’s one of my favorite urban fantasy series for a hundred different reasons: the plots are great, the snark is superb, the found family dynamic is amazing, and the LGBTQ+ content is some of the best I’ve encountered in fantasy. There is trauma, but it’s important to the story and handled deftly. Protagonist Rune’s boyfriend is careful, gentle, and kind, and he has definitely done his homework on how to navigate both the emotional and physical components of being with someone who’s experienced assault (mad points for him being very clear on the fact it’s not about him); and Rune and Brand, best friends and joined not only at the hip but at the amygdala, are both gay and have never slept together. They are just best friends. Can you imagine?
I am pretty sure I literally inhaled the first two Tarot Cycle books. They live rent free in my brain. I’m sort of glad I came to them a bit later because my wait for the next three (new contract for Edwards) many others have had to endure.
So, y’all go out there and be LGBTQ+ and do stuff. Like read. And brandish large books at Nazis. Be gay, do life. Because we all deserve that.