The category I picked isn’t a genre. I don’t really have a favorite genre – I usually say it’s adult sci-fi because almost all the books I read from it end up being favorites, but I’m extremely picky about the ones I even decide to try and I didn’t have enough novels I loved for a list.
So I decided to write a list of favorite f/f speculative fiction, because I’m tired of hearing that it doesn’t exist and because it’s Pride Month and I do what I want.
A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
My own true love A Memory Called Empire is an adult sci-fi novel following the new ambassador of a small space station while she lives in the planet-capital of the very powerful neighboring empire. It’s a story about what it’s like to live while navigating two cultures, and the main character happens to be a lesbian. There’s no homophobia in this book, just a lot of very dangerous and deadly political intrigue.
The plot twists made my head spin in the best way, the slow-burn f/f romance killed me, and the wordlbuilding is so well-crafted and unique that it manages both to feel impossibly modern and read like political court fantasy anyway.
The Lost Coast by Amy Rose Capetta
The Lost Coast is another recent favorite. I loved for its atmosphere and writing, but the main reason this had such an impact on me is the way it talked about queerness. It’s such a welcoming story, right from the first page, one that talks about the role that community has in finding yourself, and the many ways women can support each other – and isn’t that relevant to the queer girl experience? It talks about the impacts of homophobia without actually showing any of it, which I really appreciated.
This is a story of a group of queer witches who live near the Californian redwoods and are all kind of in love with each other. And I might not love recommending novels by comparing them to really popular ones, but I honestly believe this is the closest we’re ever going to get to an f/f Raven Cycle (witches and wood magic! friendship! whimsical and vaguely creepy! ghosts!).
The romance was really soft, too.
The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley
If you’re tired of soft – sometimes I am too, since finding novels about queer women that are well-written and not at all soft isn’t that easy – I recommend The Stars Are Legion, an all-lesbian biopunk space opera following an amnesiac warrior and her scheming ex-girlfriend who end up involved in a love triangle with a antiheroine/villainess romance (yes, there’s an explicit antiheroine/villainess sex scene).
I also recommend this if you’re really into weird, completely out-there worldbuilding, because this is exactly that, and I loved every moment of it, even though I’m usually not that into gore. (Seriously, if gore is a problem for you, don’t read this book – or most biopunk horror, I’d say.)
Dominion of the Fallen by Aliette de Bodard
Dominion of the Fallen is an underrated adult historical fantasy series set in a early 20th century Paris devastated by a magical war. It’s a story about people surviving among the ruins, featuring a lot of political intrigue between “Houses” of magical beings. As these novels follow mostly different PoVs, there are not one but two established f/f romances:
- In The House of Shattered wings, we have Selene and Emmanuelle (who, I’ve heard, will have a PoV in The House of Sundering Flames too), two fallen angels who are trying to keep House Silverspires from being torn apart by a mysterious attacker
- In The House of Binding Thorns, we have the trans fallen angel Berith and her wife Françoise, who is a Vietnamese-French human woman. They’re trying to not get involved in political intrigue and mostly failing.
The first book is solid but not perfect; the second one is everything to me (and also has an m/m couple I love; this series gets gayer with every book).
Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant
If you think that the ocean is terrifying and would like to be terrified, know that I relate and that Into the Drowning Deep is the perfect book for you. There’s a scene in here that I still think about often, and it’s been almost a year.
For a more serious description, this is a sci-fi horror novel based around environmentalist themes and human relationships with the ocean. I thought that aspect could have been handled better, but I really liked this book nonetheless, especially for the f/f romance – as it turns out, bisexual marine biologist + autistic lesbian camera operator + mermaids trying to eat everyone is the perfect combination.
Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan
This series is probably the most hyped on this list, and I can say that the hype it got is deserved. Girls of Paper and Fire is a story about trauma, rape culture, and the dynamics of oppressive systems told from the point of view of Lei, a girl who is kidnapped from her home and forced to become a concubine of the demon king in this Malaysian-inspired fantasy world.
I really appreciated this book’s message, the way it talked about resisting and fighting back against predators and also about how sometimes women themselves make the world more difficult for other women, but what I loved the most about it was the gorgeous f/f romance. Lei and Wren find each other in stolen moments, and are each other’s light in a dark world. They are, of course, forced to hide how they feel from the others, and to see this kind of “forbidden court romance” featuring two girls of color instead of a white girl and a white boy makes me really hopeful about the future of YA.
Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust
A subversive, quiet retelling of Snow White in which the Evil Queen isn’t evil and in which the Snow White character doesn’t fall for a prince but for the court surgeon, who happens to be a girl. It takes a well-known story and writes one whose message is more relevant to today’s society, with women working together instead of trying to tear each other apart, but without ever losing the fairytale feel.
It’s not romance-focused, but I thought the relationship was really cute anyway, and if you like slow-paced, wintry fantasy, no book does that as well as Girls Made of Snow and Glass.
In the Vanishers’ Palace by Aliette de Bodard
If you want something that is more romance-focused, my favorite f/f fantasy romance is In the Vanishers’ Palace by Aliette de Bodard, a retelling of Beauty and the Beast in which the beast is a shapeshifting dragon set in a Vietnamese-inspired world. The relationship in here… it has every element of B&tB I love without the Stokholm Syndrome feel some of its retelling have.
Its setting reminded me of both The Star-Touched Queen and Cruel Beauty, as it mostly takes place in a palace of illusions, with door that lead to impossible rooms and mysterious libraries, while firmly remaining its own (very weird) thing.
Ash by Malinda Lo
Ash is an f/f fantasy classic that has inspired many authors writing queer fantasy today. Like the previous two books, it’s a quiet retelling centering a romantic relationship between two girls, this time in a story inspired by Cinderella.
It’s been a while since I read it, but I remember loving it for how calm and low-stakes it was, because after all the fantasy novels in which the characters have to find a way to save the world, this was such a breath of fresh air. Sometimes you just want to read a story in which there are many descriptions of forests and two girls fall in love.
I Could Also Recommend
- The Afterward by E.K. Johnston: a medieval fantasy that feels at the same time classic (about a quest) and subversive (centering queer women, turning some fantasy tropes on their heads). The romance was great but the worldbuilding could have been better.
- Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova: an urban fantasy novel following a bisexual latinx girl as she goes on a quest in a terrifying parallel world to save her family. I loved this book’s message but felt like the characters could have used some development.
- Wilder Girls by Rory Power: a horror novel in the vein of Annihilation, very atmospheric and well-written. Its tone and its focus on themes and metaphors rather than the girls and their relationships (which felt very underdeveloped to me) made me think it would have been better as an adult novel. I would have hated this at 16.
- The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera: an epic adult fantasy novel about a fated romance between two warrior princesses. As cheesy as it sounds, and really slow-paced too, but the book makes it work. However, I recommend reading the reviews on goodreads that talk about the [mis]representation of Asian cultures.
Have you read any of these? What are your favorite f/f sci-fi and fantasy books?