…this will be a long post.
Top 5 Wednesday is a goodreads group created by Lainey (gingerreadslainey) and now hosted by Sam (thoughtsontomes). This week’s topic is Favorite LGBTQ+ Books That Don’t Feature Cis M/M Relationships.
In honor of Pride being this month, I wanted to have a topic to celebrate LGBTQ+ books. But, the book community tends to, when given the chance, lift up cis m/m pairings the most. And while those books are still important and valued, I wanted to shine the spotlight on some of those lesser known, recognized, and celebrated books.
This post will contain all queer books I love that aren’t only about a allo (=not-aromantic, not-asexual) cis m/m couple. They may contain a m/m couple, but they will have other queer PoV characters that aren’t allo cis men in a monogamous relationship.
Most books I read these days are queer. There’s no way I could choose only five, so I will fit in this list as many as I want. This will be both my Top not-so-5 Wednesday that my Recommendations for Pride Month post.
Queer high fantasy novels aren’t as common as they should be; here are some of my favorites.
Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust: this quiet, slow retelling of Snow White has one of the cutest f/f couples in fantasy. It reads like an atmospheric feminist fairytale.
The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K Jemisin: I know The Fifth Season – which I haven’t read yet – has also many queer characters and polyamory, but I feel like many people don’t know that Jemisin’s first series is literally about three polyamorous (m/genderfluid/f) gods. I’ve seen people say the first book a Shadow and Bone-like book but for adults, and I agree. Many of the main characters are also people of color.
Book of the Ancestor by Mark Lawrence: this is a fantasy story set in a convent of assassin nuns, and many of them are queer. While the main character, who is implied to be bisexual, isn’t in a relationship as of the second book, in Grey Sister one of the PoV characters is an assassin nun in a f/f relationship.
All-queer space operas are my favorite genre.
The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley: this is all-queer sci-fi since literally everyone in this universe is a lesbian, and it’s one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read. The Stars Are Legion is set inside of rotting, living, woman-eating shipworlds, and it has a f/f/f love triangle with a glorious antiheroine/villain ship. One of my favorite books of all times. Not for those who hate biopunk horror.
Machineries of Empire series by Yoon Ha Lee: my all time favorite series. It’s set in an all-queer space empire and it has an all-poc cast; polyamory is common. I usually describe it as the “mass murder magic math books”. The worldbuilding isn’t exactly easy to follow but it’s great once you get into it.
Every book is told from different PoVs:
- Ninefox Gambit: the PoVs are a lesbian and a bisexual man;
- Raven Stratagem: the PoVs are an aroace man, a bisexual woman, and a trans man; there are non-binary and transfeminine side characters.
- Revenant Gun: the PoVs are a bisexual man, a trans man and a woman with multiple wives.
- (It’s a heavy series; if you need trigger warnings, they’re in the reviews I linked)
Imperial Radch by Ann Leckie: this is also set in a mostly evil space empire, the Radch, which is a society where everyone is agender. While there are other space places outside the Radch where gender is a thing, in the Radch nothing is gendered (including language; the main character “translates” this in English using always she/her pronouns). It’s a really interesting read.
Mostly Queer Sci-Fi
Really weird books. Both for the worldbuilding and plot-wise. I warned you.
An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon: I’m currently reading this! It’s told from the PoV of a black, autistic, intersex main character, with a mostly queer and black cast. It’s set on an intergenerational spaceship which is organized in a way similar to the pre-war South of the USA. The main characters – who live on the lower decks of the ship – are looking for a way to escape.
Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente: when I got to know that this book was a comedy and that its (human) main character described himself as omnisexual gendersplat, I feared this book would make fun of that. It did not. Decibel Jones just is who he is, and also space is non-binary and makes fun of racists and transphobes instead. Anyway, it’s one of the weirdest things ever written and it’s about alien Eurovision. It makes no sense. It also does. Read it, there’s weird aliens.
The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden: set in futuristic South Africa, this book is the definition of bizarre and there’s no way I could describe it in so little space. Anyway, it’s a sci-fantasy book about reawakening gods and an AI uprising; one of the main characters realizes during the book she’s a trans woman, and another PoV character is in a m/m relationship.
Steampunk, Gaslamp and Friends
I never quite understand the exact genre but you get what I mean.
Monstress by Marjorie M. Liu & Sana Takeda: the only graphic novel I found so far that I actually like. It’s set in a gay steampunk Asian matriarchy, with some monsters from Japanese mythology. There’s a lot of graphic violence and no romance, but the main character is a woman who likes women (also, she’s missing an arm) and there are other side queer characters.
Baker Thief by Claudie Arseneault: this book follows a fat aromantic bigender witch who is a baker by day (and goes by Claude) and a thief by night (and goes by Claire). The other PoV character is Adèle, a biromantic demisexual woman who has asthma. She is a police officer who really likes Claude-the-baker, but wants to arrest Claire-the-thief. Not only the cast is mostly if not all queer, there are also side disabled characters and side characters of color, and I loved how this book used romance tropes to build a non-romantic relationship.
Tensorate by JY Yang: in this fantasy series inspired by East and Southeast Asia, children are considered genderless until they choose to be confirmed as a gender. I love trans-inclusive worldbuilding in my fantasy, but that’s far from the only cool aspect of this (there are dinosaurs! beautiful writing! the best magic system ever!)
This series will be four books long. Only two are out so far:
- The Black Tides of Heaven, which follows a m/m relationship
- The Read Threads of Fortune, which has a f/non-binary romance and the main character is a bisexual woman.
Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova: an urban fantasy series which follows a family of Brujas (latinx witches); in the first book the main character is a bisexual girl and there’s a f/f/m love triangle. This series has great atmosphere, flawed but likable characters and a focus on family I love.
Darkling by Brooklyn Ray: a witch-y m/m romance with a trans main character! Novellas are my favorite format for romance and this one is really good. There’s blood magic and necromancy involved, but it was a light read with great character dynamics.
Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: the main character of this novel is a bisexual Aztec vampire (Tlāhuihpochtli) and I love her. My favorite thing about this urban fantasy noir was seeing the many different types of vampires (and, of course, our main character Atl, she was amazing). Also, it’s set in Mexico City! The main relationship is m/f.
Magical realism, Fabulism, Contemporary Fantasy & Friends
When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore: one of my favorite YA books ever, this magical realism novel follows two teens, Miel, a latina girl who grows roses out of her wrists, and Sam, an Italian-Pakistani trans boy. The themes of self-acceptance and reclaiming what’s yours were as beautiful as the writing. The main relationship is m/f.
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire: the main character of this novella is Nancy, an asexual girl. It’s both a very original twist on portal fantasy and a story about not fitting in. I love this series a lot, and while I don’t think it’s flawless, it’s very queer – there is trans boy side character and the MC of book two is a lesbian.
The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz: one of the most underrated YA books ever and also one I won’t stop screaming about anytime soon, The Gallery of Unfinished Girls follows a Puerto Rican bisexual girl. It’s an atmospheric story set during the summer, about art, creative block and growing up. While the main character has an unrequited crush on her Italian-American best friend, there’s no romance.
Across fantasy and contemporary but with zero dead queer girls.
A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo: this is a very weird contemporary story about a f/f/f triangle between three lesbians, with a Chinese-American main character. Half of it is a quiet, slightly creepy at times slice of life story, and in the second half the mystery element is introduced. No lesbians die. I’ve never read anything like it, and I loved how it focused on the lines between friendship, love and obsession.
The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard: I have no idea what genre is this book. I can only describe it as a post-apocalyptic paranormal murder mystery with fallen angels and some influences from Vietnamese mythology, set in Paris and full of political intrigue. There’s little to no romance and it’s a very dark story, but one of the PoV characters is a woman in an established f/f relationship. She’s also the head of House Silver Spires, and I love powerful gay fallen angels.
People Like Us by Dana Mele: sapphic murder mystery set in an all-girls boarding school! There’s no romance but most of the main characters are queer girls, even if no labels are used. Very creepy. I thought it was predictable, but it’s so addicting I didn’t mind that too much.
Contemporary f/f Romance
Everything Leads To You by Nina LaCour: a very cute f/f romance set in Los Angeles, with the best atmosphere, and the main character is a set designer. There is a light mystery element at the beginning, and I loved the portrayals of friendships.
Style by Chelsea M. Cameron: this is a cute, cliché cheerleader/nerd romance, but with two lesbians. It’s one of the fluffiest books ever written: even though it’s a coming out novel, there’s no bullying and there are only mentions of homophobia. It’s very low-conflict and also sex-positive.
Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler: this book follows Vanessa, a Korean-American actress who is discovering she is a lesbian and falling in love with a bisexual girl. The other PoV is a straight guy I hated at the beginning of the novel, but I really liked his development, and anyway Vanessa’s PoV is one of my favorite portrayals of a character discovering they’re queer.