Best Queer Fantasy I’ve Read the Past Year

I’ve read so few books this year and am in the middle of exam season, but I always know pride month is around the corner from the increased interest in my queer book posts. That said, there’s always this difference, if a somewhat diffuse one, between great fantasy book with some queer characters and great queer fantasy. This list has a bit of both.

City of Strife by Claudie Arseneault

This was a book I reread this year, because it’s so unique in what it manages to do as a high fantasy. All the characters are queer; bisexual, demi, pan, poly, gender fluid, agender, asexual, aromantic is all represented in an overall ruthless and amazing magical city. I might have a big weakness for main characters who take the time to observe the world around them, is a thief or assassin, but also cares deeply for their friends and features platonic love. It’s politics, merchant families, rivalry. The plot builds so naturally on the personalities and choices made by these characters and their lives intertwining by living in the same city. It has quite the list of trigger warnings though, so be careful to check those. It is quite the ruthless city, which makes the constant focus on characters interacting with each other and the reality of the place so special.

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

I really would have loved this book as a middle school kid (or even younger actually). It’s a queer romance between a Latino trans boy and a gay boy, featuring murder mystery and ghosts. It’s fast-paced, funny, cute and dramatic, with a somewhat predictable plot which is why I don’t really think it fits into the older end of YA as it was marketed as.

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

The tagline for this book seems to be lesbian necromancers in space, which would be correct. It’s very much a love it or hate it type of book, because you’re thrown into the plot and have to start paddling to keep up with the characters. It does a great job turning into an unusual fantasy book even though it’s set in a fairly usual setting of deadly competition. The writing and character personalities are fantastic, as well as the well-hidden system behind the magic – not to forget the enemies to lovers (maybe) of the main characters.

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

It’s a great fantasy book where the main character is sapphic and has a crush on a brilliant assistant she meets. It has thieves, heists, magical technology, Merchant Houses that controls the city and has created capitalist monopolies. The writing is very straight-forward for this type of book, and makes it very accessible and an easy read despite being high-fantasy and having great world-building.

The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

Baru’s island is taken over and controlled under an empire that believes heavily in eugenics, ruthlessly changing the society as they see fit (including forcing queer couples apart) and placing the kids in terrifying boarding schools. And Baru plays the waiting game for revenge for her family which they murdered, as the colonizers clothe her and educate her in what they see fitting. Definitely a brutal fantasy, but more so in the cultural impact and strategies than the wars of high fantasy. It’s very much debating morality of if ends justify means, as Baru gets more ruthless and morally-gray in trying to achieve revenge. It’s a book about not losing yourself and, despite being “othered”, Baru always reconnecting with where she is from, with the fact that she’s a lesbian being a big part of that.

Silver in the Wood (Greenhollow Duology #1) by Emily Tesh

I was a bit unsure about this book while reading it, but I’ve been thinking about the vibes of this book since reading it. It has this cottagecore, forest aesthetic that really has a grip on me, with stories of the Wild Man of Greenhollow and the secret-folklorist that comes upon him. It’s short (112 pages) and manages to deliver on the fairytale-ish forest, magical realism vibes in the writing, but plot-wise, character-wise, etc. it does come up short to me. The m/m relationship and yearning could’ve been better as I didn’t quite feel it delivered on its potential, but it was worth the read looking back.

Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

I very much feel like this is the queer & way better version of Throne of Glass with its deadly auditions to become the Queen’s new assassin. What was a pleasant surprise was how the protagonist never was very vicious in their thought-process or tried to defend their actions, their reasoning behind taking lives were very business-like and unapologetic. The protagonist Sallot is gender-fluid using she and they pronouns based on how they present. Despite having a good start-point, the fantasy built on somewhat cheesy and typical fantasy plotlines that makes it very much YA fantasy, lacing in world-building or description and it’s a bit half-finished type of book.

This book brings me to a dilemma because it personally felt similiar vibes to “Ship of Smoke and Steel” by Sjango Wexler in the protagonist’s voice. But that book handled the queer aspect a lot worse including just not writing good female characters, while having a more interesting world powered by magic. So while Miller’s book wasn’t the best fantasy book I’ve read, I would rather recommend Miller’s book than Wexler’s.

Honorary mention to the (mainly) horror podcast “The Magnus Archive” which in their last season has an asexual relationship between two guys.

Anticipated Queer Book Releases 2020 | #PrideLibrary20

I’m joining in on some of the #pridelibrary20 prompts, hosted by The Library Looter, Michelle Likes Things and Anniek’s Library throughout June. Here’s a link to a summary of my posts from last year.

I feel that more often than not I learn about the existence of queer books after they’ve come out rather than before, because it’s been so much more up to the different readers to share the good books around, rather than good marketing promoting them before they are released. Mostly my strategy for new queer releases is finding authors I like and then lie and wait, scouting for new ones.

There were a lot of queer books released in May that I looked forward to reading, but not that many for the rest of the year, so hopefully I will find some new books reading through similiar posts.

June Releases

The State of Us by Shaun David Hutchinson: 2nd of June

  • Not quite sure what happens here, but the son of a democrat and son of a republican apparently fall in love, and it’s being compared to the other gay president/royal book ‘Red, White and Royal Blue’ that I truly loved.

Loveless by Alice Oseman: 9th of June

  • Asexual and aromantic main character coming out. Set at university, featuring lots of platonic love! I truly love Oseman’s writing in general, based on her other books (excluding Solitaire tbh).

Further Into the Future

Fence: Striking Distance by Sarah Rees Brennan and C. S. Pacat – 29th of september

  • There’s a comic series by C. S. Pacat called Fence that I thought had so much potential, but really truly sucked in quality and plotline and anything but the aesthetics. I really like Sarah Rees Brennan as an author and hope she’ll fix it.
  • Some of the guys on the team are gay, I don’t remember how many.

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuinston | Book Review

It’s the cutest enemies to lovers story ever!! With royals! Or gay royal and bisexual son of president! American & british culture intertwined at its very best.

Genre: contemporary, lgbt: m/m romance

Pages: 420 pages

Synopsis

What happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?

When his mother became President of the United States, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius—his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with an actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex/Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.

Heads of the family and state and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: Stage a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instagrammable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the presidential campaign and upend two nations. It raises the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to ben? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through? , how will history remember you?

My thoughts

Rating out of five: five stars!

I’m just going to gush about how much I liked this book, tbh. I read it so fast and felt like I overdosed on cuteness.

The characters really bring this story, with its political intrigue, making out in the white house and private security trying to catch up with these stupid college-age and not very discreet adults. The sneaking around, the enemies to lovers trope forced on by pretending to be friends after making quite the scandal by their feud, it’s just all great. There’s romantic correspondence in the form of emails, talking about everything from popculture (so well-done as well) to the prince talking about his probably gay princes and king relatives of the past and how they didn’t have cameras following them around.

I didn’t think the main character being bisexual instead of gay would mean this much to me, but it really showed me how it isn’t a thing in most queer books I read, or at least not done in such a good way. There is something different to the questioning of someone who is bisexual, and how Alex briefly has to consider whether he could fall in love with a girl and not have this thing hanging over his very promising political career that he’s worked so hard for. It showcases how his and Henry’s experiences is similar, but also so very different. And then we also get such good and too relatable quotes like (I’ve definitely come to this conclusion more than once myself): “Straight people, he thinks, probably don’t spend this much time convincing themselves that they’re straight”.

My only problem with this book was how I really wanted them to go deeper on the politics game, but I realize that’s not what this book was and would’ve made it less mainstream. So *shrug*.

Feelings while reading this book: i might’ve cried a bit, but i felt all the feelings, and love it so so much. the writing was so satisfying. such a feel-good queer novel while also having so much conflict.

I need more cute enemies to lovers books right now, with all the political intrigue I can get, preferably queer ones. Please send all your recommendations.