When it comes to finding queer representation in the fantasy genre, lesbian characters have often been overlooked or relegated to minor roles. However, in recent years, more and more authors have been telling dynamic stories about lesbian heroines and their journeys through magical worlds. Whether you’re a longtime fantasy fan or new to the genre, here are ten of the best lesbian fantasy books to add to your reading list.
Why Representation Matters in Fantasy Literature
Representation in literature is important for so many reasons, but in the fantasy genre, it takes on an even greater significance. These worlds full of magic and wonder are often used as escapism, a place to seek refuge from the stresses of the real world. That’s why it’s especially powerful to see queer characters, heroes, and love stories in these novels. They remind LGBTQ+ readers that they, too, are worthy of adventure and fulfillment, and they help to shift the narrative away from the straight, cisgender norm.
The Importance of LGBTQ+ Characters in Fantasy
LGBTQ+ characters in fantasy novels can serve many purposes. They can be the main focus of the story, highlighting their experiences and struggles in a world that doesn’t always accept them. These characters can also serve as love interests, friends, or allies to the protagonist, showing that queer people are capable of being heroes just like anyone else. By including LGBTQ+ characters, authors can also help to break down harmful stereotypes and normalize the existence of queer people in literature.
Breaking Stereotypes and Expanding Horizons
Lesbian fantasy novels often feature characters who lean away from traditional gender and sexuality norms, offering a challenge to the reader’s assumptions and prejudices. They also provide an opportunity for readers who are not a part of the LGBTQ+ community to gain a better understanding of what it means to be queer. Through these stories, readers can explore new perspectives and expand their horizons, making the fantasy genre an ideal space for learning and growth.
The Top Lesbian Fantasy Books for Newcomers
If you’re just getting started with lesbian fantasy novels, these five books provide an excellent introduction. They represent a variety of sub-genres, from high fantasy to urban fantasy to fairy tale retellings.
A Quick Guide to Choosing Your First Lesbian Fantasy Novel
If you’re not sure where to begin when it comes to selecting your first lesbian fantasy book, here are some things to keep in mind. Firstly, consider your own preferences for atmosphere and tone. Do you prefer lighthearted adventure or dark, brooding tales? Secondly, think about the sub-genres that interest you the most. Do you enjoy stories about faeries, dragons, or witches? Finally, do some research on the author’s ability to write multi-dimensional characters and to handle LGBTQ+ themes and issues with sensitivity.
Standalone Novels vs. Series
When it comes to choosing your first lesbian fantasy novel, you may be wondering whether to start with a standalone novel or a series. Standalone novels offer a complete story in one book, allowing you to experience the entire journey in one sitting. On the other hand, series allow you to dive deeper into the world and characters, often over the course of several books. Both have their advantages, so it’s up to you to decide which format you prefer.
The 5 Must-Read Lesbian Fantasy Series
If you’re ready to dive into a longer lesbian fantasy journey, these five series should be at the top of your list. They each offer a unique and captivating take on magic, romance, and adventure. But there’s so much more to these series than just their fantastical elements.
Epic Sagas with Strong Female Protagonists
Many of the lesbian fantasy series on this list feature female protagonists who are strong, powerful, and complex. These heroines are not defined solely by their sexual orientation, but rather are fully-realized characters with their own motivations and dreams. They face difficult choices and challenges, but ultimately triumph through their own strength and skill. These stories offer countless examples of resilience, courage, and determination.
For instance, in “The Priory of the Orange Tree” by Samantha Shannon, readers follow the journey of Ead, a member of a secret society who is tasked with protecting the queen from a powerful dragon. Ead is not only a skilled fighter and magic user, but she also grapples with her feelings for another woman in a society that views same-sex relationships as taboo. Her journey is one of self-discovery and bravery as she fights for what she believes in, both on the battlefield and in matters of the heart.
The Power of Love and Friendship in Fantasy Worlds
One of the defining features of many lesbian fantasy novels is the central role of love and friendship in the story. These relationships are often just as important, if not more so, than the epic battles and perilous quests that take place. By showing the power of romantic and platonic love, these novels emphasize the importance of community, connection, and compassion. They also challenge the heteronormative idea that romantic love is the only kind of love that matters.
In “The Queen of Ieflaria” by Effie Calvin, readers are introduced to Princess Esofi, who is sent to marry the crown prince of a neighboring kingdom in order to cement an alliance. But when she arrives, she discovers that the prince has died and his sister, Adale, has taken the throne. Esofi and Adale quickly form a deep bond as they work together to save their kingdoms from outside threats. Their relationship is one of mutual respect and admiration, and their love for each other is a driving force in the story.
Exploring Identity and Diversity
Lesbian fantasy novels also offer a space for exploring diverse identities and experiences. These stories often feature characters who are not only queer, but also come from different racial, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds. By showcasing a range of experiences, these novels offer a more nuanced and inclusive view of the world.
“The Tiger’s Daughter” by K. Arsenault Rivera is a prime example of this. The novel follows the epic love story of two women, Shefali and Shizuka, who come from very different backgrounds. Shefali is a warrior from a nomadic tribe, while Shizuka is the daughter of a powerful emperor. Their relationship is not only a beautiful exploration of love and desire, but also a window into the complexities of cultural differences and societal expectations.
The Power of Magic and the Supernatural
Of course, no fantasy novel would be complete without a healthy dose of magic and the supernatural. Lesbian fantasy novels are no exception. These stories often feature intricate magic systems, fantastical creatures, and otherworldly realms that capture the imagination and transport readers to new and exciting worlds.
In “The Gilda Stories” by Jewelle Gomez, readers follow the journey of Gilda, a black lesbian vampire who has lived for centuries. The novel spans multiple time periods and locations, from colonial America to 2050s San Francisco. Gilda’s journey is not only a thrilling exploration of vampire mythology but also a poignant meditation on the nature of immortality and the power of chosen family.
These five series are just a small sampling of the incredible lesbian fantasy novels out there. With their strong characters, powerful themes, and exciting worlds, they are sure to captivate and inspire readers of all backgrounds. So why not pick one up today and embark on a journey of your own?
Diverse Worlds and Inclusive Storytelling
One of the great strengths of the fantasy genre is its ability to transport readers to different worlds, cultures, and societies. Lesbian fantasy novels take full advantage of this potential, offering richly imagined worlds full of diversity and inclusivity. From queer faeries to lesbian pirates, these novels offer glimpses into worlds where diversity is celebrated, not shunned. They also open up space for underrepresented voices, giving readers a chance to discover new perspectives and stories.
Exploring Different Cultures and Societies in Lesbian Fantasy
Many of the lesbian fantasy novels on this list explore different cultures and societies, some of which are drawn from real history and mythology. By weaving in these elements, authors can offer a critique of our own society and its norms, as well as highlight the beauty and complexity of other cultures. These stories can also serve as a valuable reminder that the fantasy genre is not limited to pseudo-European settings.
For example, one lesbian fantasy novel might explore the culture of a matriarchal society, where women hold all the power and men are relegated to subservient roles. Through this exploration, the author can offer a critique of patriarchal norms in our own society and highlight the potential benefits of a more egalitarian system.
Another novel might draw on real-world mythology, such as the stories of ancient Greek or Egyptian gods and goddesses. By reimagining these myths with queer characters and themes, the author can offer a fresh perspective on these well-known stories and highlight the diversity that has always existed in human societies.
The Role of Magic and Mythology in LGBTQ+ Narratives
Magic and mythology have always been central to the fantasy genre, but they take on a special significance in lesbian fantasy novels. These stories often use elements of magic and myth to explore themes of identity, self-discovery, and self-acceptance in ways that resonate with LGBTQ+ readers. They also offer a way to reimagine historical and cultural traditions, providing new possibilities for storytelling and representation.
For example, a lesbian fantasy novel might feature a character who discovers she has magical powers, but is ostracized by her community because of her sexuality. Through her journey to accept and embrace her powers, she also learns to accept and embrace herself, and finds a community that celebrates her for who she is.
Another novel might draw on mythological creatures, such as dragons or unicorns, to explore themes of difference and acceptance. By featuring queer characters who are also magical creatures, the author can offer a powerful metaphor for the experience of being LGBTQ+ in a world that often sees difference as a threat.
Overall, lesbian fantasy novels offer a rich and diverse landscape for readers to explore. By celebrating difference and inclusivity, these stories offer a powerful counterpoint to the often-homogeneous worlds of mainstream literature. They also offer a chance for underrepresented voices to be heard and for readers to discover new perspectives and stories.
Award-Winning Lesbian Fantasy Authors to Watch
These lesbian fantasy authors have received critical acclaim for their works, garnering awards, nominations, and recognition from book critics and readers alike.
Pioneers of the Genre and Their Impact
Some of the lesbian fantasy authors on this list have been writing for decades, paving the way for the next generation of writers and readers. These pioneers have been instrumental in creating a space for queer representation in the fantasy genre and inspiring countless others to tell their own stories. Their impact can be felt in the works of many of the authors on this list, as well as in the wider world of fantasy and LGBTQ+ literature.
Up-and-Coming Writers to Keep an Eye On
These writers are relatively new to the scene, but their works have already garnered attention and praise. They represent the future of lesbian fantasy literature, offering fresh perspectives, innovative storytelling, and unique voices. Keep an eye on these authors in the years to come, as they continue to push boundaries and expand the possibilities of queer representation in the fantasy genre.
What are the best fantasy books with lesbian leads?
Breaking Legacies by Zoe Reed, The Dark Wife by Sarah Diemer, Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, and Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst are all great options.
What are the best fantasy books of all time?
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, and the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling are arguably the most well-known and popular fantasy stories of all time.
What is the most well-read fantasy book ever?
Harry Potter has sold the most copies, with a whopping 500 million copies sold worldwide.