avashida: (Northern Lights)

So recently I saw a post on tumblr talking about how, although people complain that published fiction doesn't have anything on the really great queer fanfics, there are actually published novels/novellas out there, and we have to find and support them. With that goal in mind, here is the first part of this list - published novels and novellas featuring queer characters of all dispositions, which are not very well known but are very, very good.

I was going to post the covers, but considering that so many are from small presses (which don't have a lot of money for beautiful covers) I decided not to. I know this means this list is a lot of reading with no visuals, but this way it's the synopsis that will grab you, not the cover. (And some of them have pretty bad covers, which you should ignore).


Rituals - Roz Kaveney

Two women - and the workings of Time and Fate. In a time too long ago for most human memory, a god asked Mara what she most wanted. She got her wish: to protect the weak against the strong. For millennia, she has avenged that god, and her dead sisters, against anyone who uses the Rituals of Blood to become a god through mass murder. And there are few who can stand against her. A sudden shocking incident proves to Emma that the modern world is not what she thought it was, that there are demons and gods and elves and vampires. Her weapon is knowledge, and she pursues it wherever it leads her. The one thing she does not know is who she - and her ghostly lover, Caroline - are working for. RHAPSODY OF BLOOD is a four-part epic fantasy not quite like anything you've read before: a helter-skelter ride through history and legend, from Tenochitlan to Los Angeles, from Atlantis to London. It is a story of death, love and the end of worlds - and of dangerous, witty women.

Queer women kicking ass and taking names; utterly amazing re-interpretations of various myths (including a Lucifer and Jehovah who are hot for each other); and bitch-slapping some truly annoying elves. It's satirical at times, wonderfully witty, brazen and awesome. A must-read by any standard.

(Ignore the appalling cover).

Available paperback here and ebook here.

The God Eaters - Jesse Hajicek

Imprisoned for 'inflammatory writings' by the totalitarian Theocracy, shy intellectual Ashleigh Trine figures his story's over. But when he meets Kieran Trevarde, a hard-hearted gunslinger with a dark magic lurking in his blood, Ash finds that necessity makes strange heroes... and love can change the world.

This is a book set in a secondary fantasy world inspired by our world's American history, and it is mind-blowingly good. Far from being a simple romance, this is about fighting against a totalitarian government and a war between gods and their avatars, and has been one of my favourite novels for almost a decade now.

Available to read for free here, to buy as paperback here, and as an ebook here or here.

Hild - Nicola Griffith

Hild is the king’s youngest niece. She has the powerful curiosity of a bright child, a will of adamant, and a way of seeing the world—of studying nature, of matching cause with effect, of observing human nature and predicting what will happen next—that can seem uncanny, even supernatural, to those around her. She establishes herself as the king’s seer. And she is indispensable—until she should ever lead the king astray. The stakes are life and death: for Hild, her family, her loved ones, and the increasing numbers who seek the protection of the strange girl who can read the world and see the future.

Based on the life of a real saint, this is the story of a queer woman in Saxon England - and it is fantastic. It's also hugely long and epic, which just adds to the awesome. Although it's technically historical fiction, anything set that long ago reads like a fantasy novel anyway, and there's a good bit of magical realism going on.

Available paperback/hardcover/ebook/audiobook here

Night's Master - Tanith Lee

A long time ago when the Earth was Flat, beautiful indifferent Gods lived in the airy Upperearth realm above, curious passionate demons lived in the exotic Underearth realm below, and mortals were relegated to exist in the middle. Azhrarn, Lord of the Demons and the Darkness, was the one who ruled the Night, and many mortal lives were changed because of his cruel whimsy. And yet, Azhrarn held inside his demon heart a profound mystery which would change the very fabric of the Flat Earth forever...

The first in the Flat Earth series, this is a gorgeously lush and decadent fantasy that tosses all conventional ideas of gender and sexuality out the window. The entire series is an utter masterpiece.

Available paperback/hardcover/ebook/audiobook here

Every in Between

They killed my mother. You are everything I ever wished for, she said before they put her to sleep. That’s how I got my name: Every. I am no one special. I’m just the one who knows they lied.

My city is just like every other city: derelict, decaying, enclosed by a great, gray dome. It is managed by a faceless authority and strictly controlled. We are born, live, and die inside its walls, safe from the vast nothing outside. War, they say, destroyed everything except the cities, and we are not to question why. Those of us who do question them run away—if we can—except there’s nowhere for us to go. For three long years I survived on the empty streets and back alleys of my city, searching for, but never finding, an exit. And then, one day it happened.

I got out and you won’t believe what I found.

A novella where a bisexual young woman must work to escape - and then topple - the dystopia she finds herself in.

Available as an ebook here.

Sand and Ruin and Gold - Alexis Hall

The old stories always end with happy ever after. But this isn’t one of the old stories. This is a story of princes and monsters.

A futuristic sci-fi novella wherein a prince runs away to join the circus, and a merman steals his heart.

Sort of.

A really gorgeous look at what it means to be human.

Available as an ebook here.

Scale-Bright - Benjanun Sriduangkaew

Julienne’s aunts are the archer who shot down the suns and the woman who lives on the moon. They teach her that there’s more to the city of her birth than meets the eye – that beneath the modern chrome and glass of Hong Kong there are demons, gods, and the seethe of ancient feuds. As a mortal Julienne is to give them wide berth, for unlike her divine aunts she is painfully vulnerable, and choice prey for any demon.

Until one day, she comes across a wounded, bleeding woman no one else can see, and is drawn into an old, old story of love, snake women, and the deathless monk who hunts them.

A re-imagining of Chinese myth, this is utterly beautiful and features a whole host of amazing queer women.

Available as hardcover/ebook here.

The Gumshoe, the Witch, and the Virtual Corpse - Keith Hartman

Welcome to 21st century Atlanta. During your stay, depending on your tastes, you can cruise gay midtown (I hear that the Inquisition Health Club has introduced manacles and chains to the aerobics class) or check out the Reverend-Senator Stonewall's headquarters at Freedom Plaza (watch out for the Christian Militia guarding it, though) or attend a sky-clad Wiccan sabbat (by invitation only). Avoid the courthouse, where the Cherokee have turned out in full war-paint to renegotiate a nineteenth century land deal. Also stay away from all cemeteries, at least until the police find out why someone is disinterring and crucifying corpses. As you can tell, this is a lively novel, full of intricate plotting and engaging off-beat characters. Among the latter are a gay detective, a Wiccan family, an ambitious televangelist with an eye on the White House, an artist whose medium is flesh and blood, a Cherokee drag queen--and then there's poor Benji, who would just like to make it to his fifteenth birthday, assuming the MIBS don't get him first or his Baptist parents don't ground him for life because his new girlfriend is a witch.

This is a hilarious but also thought-provoking look at the near-future, with (for once) believable technology and wonderful world-building. One of the main characters is gay, but the story revolves around several different plotlines that blend together incredibly well. There's also a sequel.

Available paperback/ebook here

Love Continuance and Increasing - Julian Griffith

Lieutenant William Thorne, of His Majesty's Navy, is a man of humble origins. He knows that his affair with Major Anthony Rockingham of the 43rd Infantry can't last forever, not only because the war against Napoleon has sent him on blockade duty in the English Channel while the major's regiment trained ashore, but because Rockingham is a viscount, and viscounts must marry. When Rockingham's letter reaches him, saying that he'd chosen Miss Caroline Filmer as his bride, it is no more than Thorne had expected.

What he does not expect, when he returns home after the Battle of Trafalgar, is to find an invitation to the christening of Rockingham's son. He does not expect, when he meets the young viscountess, that he would fall instantly and passionately in love with her. And he certainly does not expect that Caroline would fall just as desperately in love with him.

A fairly typical regency-type romance - except that it features queer characters and a poly relationship. Woo!

Available paperback/ebook here.

If We Shadows - D.E. Atwood

Born female, all Jordan wants is to slip under the radar and live the last year of high school as a boy. His parents and siblings support him, but he’d rather be recognized for his acting and musical talents than his gender issues.

When Shakespeare’s Puck gives him three magical potions—true sight, true seeming, and true love—Jordan discovers being true to himself isn’t as simple as he thought.

A trans character must navigate Shakespearean magic in this YA novel. This is more of an 'issues' book than a full-out fantasy; the focus was more on Jordan's transitioning and his coming out to people at school than on the magic. I have to confess that I had some issues with it, but since it's one of the only trans-featuring novels I know I want to include it.

Available paperback/ebook here.

Written on the Body - Jeanette Winterson

The most beguilingly seductive novel to date from the author of The Passion and Sexing the Cherry. Winterson chronicles the consuming affair between the narrator, who is given neither name nor gender, and the beloved, a complex and confused married woman.

As the summary says, the first-person narrator of this book is never assigned a gender, either by themself or by the characters around them. We know that they have had affairs with both men and women, but that's all. A beautifully written story.

Available hardback/paperback/ebook here.

The Turn of the Story - Sarah Rees Brennan

Elliot goes off to magic school. Only, it's not so much Hogwarts as a camp in a field. He is a *little* dissappointed by the facilities but he gets to meet Serene-Heart-In-The-Chaos-Of-Battle, an elf warrior and Luke Sunborn, an annoyingly brave human warrior native to the magical land he's crossed into. There's also mermaids, unicorns and assorted political battles and issues and Elliot alternatively using diplomacy and saying the completely wrong thing.

The summary reads like a joke, but this is actually an incredibly intelligent look at and dissection of 'traditional' fantasy, where tropes are broken down and stereotypes are taken apart and examined. It's a look at feminism, homophobia, racism, and 'honour', all told through such brilliant humour that you'll cry your eyes out laughing. The main character Elliot is bisexual and there are a few other queer characters.

(It should be noted that all of Brennan's books have queer characters in them - tTotS is just the only one so far that features one).

Available for free here.

Kaleidoscope - Alisa Krasnostein (editor)

What do a disabled superhero, a time-traveling Chinese-American figure skater, and a transgendered animal shifter have in common? They're all stars of Kaleidoscope stories! Kaleidoscope collects fun, edgy, meditative, and hopeful YA science fiction and fantasy with diverse leads. These twenty original stories tell of scary futures, magical adventures, and the joys and heartbreaks of teenage life.

A collection of YA short stories all featuring lgbtquai and/or disabled/PoC characters. There are some major authors included (Garth Nix, Karen Healey, Jim C Hines) as well as a bunch of others I will definitely be keeping an eye out for from now on.

Available paperback here and ebook here.

Green Thumb - Tom Cardamone

Mutability blooms in the Florida Keys after the Red War and the genie boxes. King Pelicans with the brains of scientists and a single human hand in place of one webbed foot rule the ruins of half-drowned Miami. Slavers roam the deep waters offshore, taking captives to feed the voracious Kudzu Army and the human aqueduct bearing fresh water from Lake Okeechobee. On the last stretch of the Overseas Highway still standing, an albino seeress slowly becomes her name: White Flamingo. ''You,'' she says. ''You will reach for the sun while staying rooted to the ground. But I fear your shadow will be much too long.''

Transformed by his father's genie box in the late days of the Red War, Leaf has lived for decades or centuries alone in a collapsing Victorian house on a desolate sandy key, misunderstanding time, feeding on sunlight and dew. When at last he meets a boy like--but so unlike!--himself, Leaf understands he has met destiny and sets out on a long, strange journey. A post-apocalyptic, psychoactive, polymorphous-perverse pastorale, Green Thumb will startle you with its utter strangeness and break your heart with its fragile beauty.

A gorgeous (and incredibly weird) novella set in a post-apocalyptic future (which is nonetheless thriving), this is a lush and erotic science fiction story with an ending you'll never see coming. It very justifiably won the Lambda award and set Cardamone to the top of my to-watch list.

Available paperback/ebook/audiobook here.

Blood and Iron - Elizabeth Bear

She is known as Seeker. Spellbound by the Faerie Queen, she has abducted human children for her mistress’s pleasure for what seems like an eternity, unable to free herself from servitude and reclaim her own humanity.

Seeker’s latest prey is a Merlin. Named after the legendary wizard of Camelot, Merlins are not simply those who wield magic––they are magic. Now, with the Prometheus Club’s agents and rivals from Faerie both vying for the favor of this being of limitless magic to tip the balance of power, Seeker must persuade the Merlin to join her cause—or else risk losing something even more precious and more important to her than the fate of humankind.…

The start of a truly epic series, this is urban fantasy as you've never seen it before. Each book is stuffed with queer and PoC characters (the Merlin is a lesbian black woman, YES GIVE ME MORE), and it's full of reimaged myths - primarily European faerie myths in the first few books, but there's also a unique take on the whole Heaven/Hell idea, and basically NOTHING IS AS YOU EXPECT. NOTHING. EVER. And it's amazing.

Available paperback/ebook here.

Gaywyck - Vincent Virga

Gaywyck, the first gay gothic romance, treads firmly in beloved territory, both honoring it and reinventing it. Classic in style, Vincent Virga creates a world as authentic as anything penned by DuMaurier, retaining the creaking ancestral mansion and mysterious and brooding master of the manor, while replacing the traditional damsel in distress with the young and handsome Robert Whyte.

This is a very funny look at the gothic genre and is not to be taken seriously, I think - by which I mean, it's full of the typical over-drama that is common to traditional gothic novels. It's wonderful and plenty silly.

Available paperback here and ebook here.

Point of Hopes - Melissa Scott and Lisa A Barnett

Nicholas Rathe is a pointsman, a watchman in the great city of Astreiant, the capital of the Kingdom of Chenedolle. It is the time of the annual trade fair, and the city is filled with travelers, and someone is stealing children. The populace is getting angry and frightened and is looking for someone to blame, especially some foreigner. Nicholas, in the midst of all this, must find the children and save the city.

This series is set in a matriarchal Elizabethean-type society where basically everyone is some kind of queer - and it's completely normalised. I loved it. Each book focuses on some 'case' the pointsmen have to solve, but there's a lovely slow-build romance too between two of the (male) main characters.

Available paperback/ebook here.

The Tale of the Five - Diane Duane

Herewiss is the only man in centuries to possess the Power of the blue Flame, but he can't use or control it -- not even to help his dearest friend, Freelorn, exiled prince of Arlen. Herewiss does have a talent for more mundane sorcery, and (aided by the unearthly creature Sunspark) he uses it to rout the armies besieging Freelorn. But now Herewiss faces a devastating choice.

With or without the Power, his time is running out. Should he join Freelorn in his fight to regain his kingdom? Or should he seek out the ancient keep in the Waste where doors lead into other worlds -- perhaps even the door whose use will teach him to control the Power that he must master or die?...

(Summary taken from first book) This is a trilogy set in a world where gay/lesbian/bisexual characters are common and polyamorous relationships and marriages are normalised. The main character of the first book is a gay man, but there are a bunch of other incredible characters as well (not least the genderfluid fire elemental who might just be my favourite character). In all honesty, the omnibus edition is one of my favourite books in the world, and I can't recc it highly enough.

Available ebook (omnibus) here.

The Steel Seraglio - Linda Carey, Loise Carey, Mike Carey

The sultan Bokhari Al-Bokhari of Bessa has 365 concubines - until a violent coup puts the city in the hands of the religious zealot Hakkim Mehdad. Hakkim has no use for the pleasures of the flesh: he condemns the women first to exile - and then to death Cast into the desert, the concubines must rely on themselves and each other to escape from the new sultan's fanatical pursuit. But their goals go beyond mere survival: with the aid of the champions who emerge from among them, they intend to topple the usurper and retake Bessa from the repressive power that now controls it. The assassin, Zuleika, whose hands are weapons. The seer, Rem, whose tears are ink. The wise Gursoon, who was the dead sultan's canniest advisor. The camel-thief, Anwar Das, who offers his lying tongue to the concubines' cause. Together, they must forge the women of the harem into an army, a seraglio of steel, and use it to conquer a city. But even if they succeed, their troubles will just be beginning - because their most dangerous enemy is within their own number...

Set in a Middle East-type kingdom, this novel features a lesbian romance while being concerned with a city built and run entirely by women. Not well-known but really wonderful.

Available hardback/paperback/ebook here.

Power and Majesty - Tansy Rayner Roberts

“She almost missed the sight of a naked youth falling out of the sky. He was long and lean and muscled … He was also completely off his face.”

A war is being fought in the skies over the city of Aufleur. No one sees the battles. No one knows how close they come to destruction every time the sun sets.

During daylight, all is well, but when nox falls and the sky turns bright, someone has to step up and lead the Creature Court into battle.

Twelve years ago, Garnet kissed Velody and stole her magic. Five years ago, he betrayed Ashiol, and took his powers by force. But now the Creature Court is at a crossroads … they need a Power and Majesty who won’t give up or lose themselves in madness …

One of the most original fantasies I've read since...well, ever, this is the first book in the stunning Creature Court trilogy, and it is mind-blowingly good. There's a handful of openly queer characters and sexuality and gender are important threads woven through the books. As for the trilogy's conclusion; you will never see it coming. These books are epic and it is a tragedy that they are not topping the bestseller lists.

Available ebook here.

Banner of the Damned - Sherwood Smith

Princess Lasva is about to be named heir to her childless sister, the queen. But, when the queen finally bears an heir, Lasva's future is shattered. Grief-stricken, she leaves her country of Colend and falls into the arms of Prince Ivandred of Marloven Hesea. His people are utterly different-with their expertise in riding, weaponry, and magic- and the two soon marry.
When the sensational news makes its way to Lasva's sister, the queen worries for Lasva at the hands of the Marlovens, whose king's mage is in league with the magical land of Norsunder-considered by Colendi to be their enemy. The queen orders Emras, a scribe, to guard Lasva.

But it may be too late-Lasva is already deeply involved with the Marlovens and their magic. War wages on, and all are forced to redefine love, loyalty, and power...

It has an asexual first person protagonist. It has an asexual protagonist. I would demand you go out and buy it for that alone, but it's Sherwood Smith, so it's also an incredibly beautiful, well-crafted fantasy novel that should never be passed over.

Available hardback/paperback/ebook here.

Bone Dance - Emma Bull

Sparrow’s my name. Trader. Deal-maker. Hustler, some call me. I work the Night Fair circuit, buying and selling pre-nuke videos from the world before. I know how to get a high price, especially on Big Bang collectibles. But the hottest ticket of all is information on the Horsemen—the mind-control weapons that tilted the balance in the war between the Americas. That’s the prize I’m after.

But it seems I’m having trouble controlling my own mind.

The Horsemen are coming.

This is a post-apocalyptic (is it post apocalyptic if it's some big human-made war that wrecks everything, rather than something celestial?) sci-fi novel by one of the best fantasy writers out there. Turns out she's just as talented when it comes to science fiction, not that anyone should be surprised. The first person narrator is queer, but I don't want to say what kind of queer since it's one of the novel's big surprises. Wonderfully unique.

Available paperback/ebook here.

Under the Poppy - Kathe Koja

From a wartime brothel to the intricate high society of 1870s Brussels, Under the Poppy is a breakout novel of childhood friends, a love triangle, puppetmasters, and reluctant spies.

Under the Poppy is a brothel owned by Decca and Rupert. Decca is in love with Rupert, but he in turn is in love with her brother, Istvan. When Istvan comes to town, louche puppet troupe in tow, the lines of their age-old desires intersect against a backdrop of approaching war. Hearts are broken when old betrayals and new alliances - not just their own - take shape, as the townsmen seek refuge from the onslaught of history by watching the girls of the Poppy cavort onstage with Istvan's naughty puppets . . .

This is a sensual, stunning historical novel centered around a gay love story, but it's very much more than that; there's politics and war and social commentary, and a lot of just plain naughty fun. It's also the start of a series; the sequel Mercury is just as good, if not better. Koja's style is unique and I love it; I've been slowly buying up all her books. I can't wait for book 3 in this series!

Available hardback/paperback/ebook here.

Triptych - JM Frey

IN THE NEAR FUTURE, humankind has mastered the arts of peace, tolerance, and acceptance. At least, that's what we claim. But then THEY arrive.

"You know..." she said slowly, so softly that Evvie almost didn't hear it. "You know those movies where the aliens come to Earth, and they... I dunno, they try to steal our natural resources, or create a nuclear winter so they can turn the Earth into slag, or they melt the polar ice caps and New York is under fathoms of water, or they clone us for slaves, or create terrifying bio-weapons and wipe us all out and use our cities for farmland, or... all that stuff?"

Evvie's heart trembled. She could taste her pulse and her fear, thready and metallic on the back of her tongue. "Yes," she said softly.

Gwen looked up. "It was nothing like that."

This is a sci fi novel of time travel, aliens, and polyamory. If you really need more of a summary than that, then I don't know what you're doing with your life.

Available paperback/ebook here.

The Fifth Sacred Thing - Starhawk

Imagine a world without poverty, hunger, or hatred, where a rich culture honors its diverse mix of races, religions, and heritages, and the Four Sacred Things that sustain all life - earth, air, fire, and water - are valued unconditionally. Now imagine the opposite: a nightmare world in which an authoritarian regime polices an apartheid state, access to food and water is restricted to those who obey the corrupt official religion, women are property of their husbands or the state, and children are bred for prostitution and war.

The best and worst of our possible futures are poised to clash in twenty-first-century California, and the outcome rests on the wisdom and courage of one clan caught in the conflict. Ninety-eight-year-old Maya has helped shape the ecumenical culture of the North by reviving and re-creating an earth-based spiritual tradition. Madrone, the granddaughter of Maya's longtime lovers, is a healer trying to thwart recurring epidemics that she suspects are biological warfare waged by the tyrannical South. Bird, Maya's grandson, returns from ten years in a Southern prison with warnings of impending invasion and an urgent request for help from the resistance in the hills. When Madrone travels south to aid the rebels and search for a cure to the deadly viruses, she finds herself fighting for her own life alongside battle-weary guerrillas and beautiful pirates. Meanwhile, in the North debates rage about how to repel the invaders. "All war is first waged in the imagination, first conducted to limit our dreams and visions, " Maya says, and warns that by killing their enemies, they may themselves become transformed by violence and destroy all they have built.

How to describe this one? Well, first, pretty much everyone is some flavour of queer, and there's a wonderfully normalised culture of comfortable sexuality and polyamory in the idealistic North. It's partly a fantasy, heavily inspired by neo-paganism, but there's plenty of science fiction thrown into the mix as well. It's philosophical without detracting from the overarching story, which is one of people and relationships, and ultimately a single question: how do you change the world?

Available hardback/paperback/ebook here.


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