I’d like to start again by directing you to the Black Lives matter carrd to continue efforts to sign petitions and donate money to support protestors. If you’re Australian, we have a number of protests this weekend in state capitals across the country, to lend our voices and support to Bla(c)k Australians, so please check out if you have any near you! For fellow Melbournians, event info can be found here.
Today’s post is pretty much just a list of my favourite books. Science fiction, fantasy, horror and all that comes under the SFF heading are by far my favourite genres and I read so much of it, so today’s list of ‘queer speculative fiction’ ended up basically just being a list of all my favourite books. I hope you find a few books at least to add to your TBR!
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
The Priory of the Orange Tree is the only book on today’s list that I haven’t read yet (although at time of posting, I’m 300 pages in!), and that’s because I couldn’t talk about queer speculative fiction without mentioning the powerhouse that is Priory. Priory is a hefty, high fantasy involving dragons, assassins and queens. As word of the Nameless One’s return takes root, Queen Sabran the Ninth, unwed and with no heir, must birth a daughter. Assassins circle around her whilst her lady-in-waiting, Ead, works to protect the queen by using forbidden magic. Not only that, the world has zero homophobia AND has an f/f relationship. A slow burn, epic fantasy at its best, The Priory of the Orange Tree is not to be missed.
The Fever King by Victoria Lee
A surprise to none to see this title on my favourite queer speculative fiction, as The Fever King is my favourite book. Alongside the sequel, The Electric Heir, this series blew me away unlike any other. Set in a dystopian universe where the world has been ravaged by a virus, those who survive have magic. In Carolinia, Noam, a technopath, is trained by none other than Calix Leher, ex-King of Carolinia. Alongside a group of trainees, Noam vows to take down the current regime who terrorise the refugee and immigrant population in Carolinia. This is a series about trauma, how to survive, and finding the strength to fight back against abuse by the powerful. You can read my full reviews here for The Fever King and The Electric Heir.
The Fifth Season by N.K Jemisin
The Fifth Season is the first book in one of my favourite fantasy trilogies. If you haven’t heard of N.K Jemisin, firstly, maybe think about correcting that, because her work is outstanding. The worldbuilding, the plot, the sheer geological magnitude of it all, makes The Fifth Season the powerhouse of SFF that it is. I’m very close to rereading this whole trilogy so maybe at some point this month I’m going to end up saying ‘fuck it’ to all my other books and reread this trilogy. This is a story with several POVs, set in a world with dangerous and regular seismac events. It follows several Orogenes, individuals who can control thermal energy and help with the aforementioned terrible seismic events. We have: Essun, told in second person POV, a woman who’s trying to track down her daughter and husband (who just killed her son). Demaya, a young girl who grew up in an abusive household and has been given to the Fulcrum, to train her Orogene powers. And Syenite, who is an adult in the Fulcrum and has been asked to have a child with one of the most powerful Orogene. This book is just full of twists and turns and is one of the most clever and wellcrafted novels I’ve ever read.
The Library of the Unwritten by A.J Hackwith
The Library of the Unwritten is one of the most fun fantasy novels I’ve ever read. Hell’s Library is the place where all unwritten manuscripts are housed. But sometimes the books come alive. When a character goes missing from one of the books, Claire, the Head Librarian, must track down the character on Earth but somehow ends up in the midst of a battle between Heaven and Hell as each searches for the Devil’s Bible. This book is an absolute riot of fun, full of snark and sass and with the first on-page pansexual rep I’ve ever read! You can read a full review here.
The Unpoken Name by A.K Larkwood
One of my more recent favourites, I read The Unspoken Name earlier this year. This is an expansive and detailed slow burn portal fantasy about an orc named Csorwe. She is destined to be sacrificied to her god on her fourteenth birthday. Instead, on the day of her death, she runs away with a wizard who trains her up to be his sword. She must then embark on a quest to find an ancient artifact holding powerful knowledge. This has a huge number of my favourite things in fantasies: necromancers, powerful god magic, wizards, all powerful women losing complete control, different worlds and peoples. It’s a huge story, and I absolutely loved it. You can read my full review here.
Witchmark by C. Polk
Witchmark is one of the most magical books I’ve ever read! Set in a world similar to Edwardian England, Miles is a doctor, using his healing magic to treat soldiers with PTSD after a world war. But his past is bound to catch up with him: Miles ran away to war to escape his noble family, where he would be enslaved to provide his sister with a source of power for her magic. When a fatally poisoned patient reveals Miles magic to a handsome stranger, Miles must investigate the murder, with the help of a handsome stranger, all while trying to stay free from his family’s influence. There is a really sweet romance in this, as well as lots of action, and a fascinating world that reimagines an Edwardian England with magic.
The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling
Now onto The Scary One on this post. The Luminous Dead is a terrifying horror sci-fi about being trapped in a caving system and trying to make it out alive. Told in only one setting, and with just two characters, The Luminous Dead is absolutely remarkable for such a small cast and setting. I thought it might get a little repetitive given the small setting, but it really doesn’t. It is a terrifying descent to madness, psychological horror at its best, as you never know if the main character is experiencing reality or hallucination. You can check out my full review here.
We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia
I absolutely adored this YA fantasy when I read it last year, and I really need to read the sequel! This is a book set in Medio, an island world where women are trained to be Primera (wives to help running the household) or Segunda (wives to have the kids). Dani and Carmen are rivals at the prestigious school and have been chosen to marry the same man. So of course they go and fall in love with each other instead of their husband. But Dani has a secret. When she was young, her parents forged papers and snuck her across the border wall into Medio. When she is asked to spy on her husband for a resistance group, Dani needs to decide whether to keep the privilege her parents sacrifice gave her, or to fight for a free Medio for all. It’s such a relevant book, the similarity to the US/Mexico border is undeniable. This is a book about resistance and fighting for what’s right, and is definitely one I wish more people were reading because it is fantastic. You can read my full review here.
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
Erin Morgenstern is well known for her beautiful, artistic, poetic style of writing. The Starless Sea is no different to her debut, The Night Circus, in this regard. The Starless Sea follows Zachary, after he picks up a library book and finds himself in the story. Except the book has missing pages so he doesn’t know how his story is going to finish. As he tries to track down the origins of the book, he crosses paths with Dorian, a storyteller Zachary is immediately drawn to, and Mirabel, a door maker. And if you believe enough, if you long enough for something, then Mirabel’s doors might just lead somewhere. (The somewhere being a magical library). At it’s heart, The Starless Sea is a book about readers and their longing to escape reality. You can read my full review here.
A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
A Memory Called Empire is one of the most unique books I’ve ever read, and certainly the most unique science-fiction novel I’ve read. It’s a genre-blending novel crossing hard sci-fi, murder mystery, political thriller and a English Literature thesis on poetry. A Memory Called Empire follows Mahit, an ambassador to a small mining station. She is called to the Texicalaan Empire when her predecessor is murdered. As she tries to discover who killed her predecessor, she is embrolied in complex political battlefield. The writing style of this novel could be difficult to get into – as I mentioned above, it’s almost like a thesis on poetry as in Texicalaan, the language is poetry. Alongside the memory melding technology (whereby Mahit’s predecesor’s memories and voice are embedded in her mind), this makes for a complex, unique book, but one that is absolutely outstanding. You cna read my full review here.
Jade City by Fonda Lee
I read Jade City, and it’s sequel Jade War, at the start of the year and adored them! I cannot wait for the finale. These are huge, epic political fantasies, set on an Asian inspired island nation called Kekon, where jade is mined and can give individuals magic abilities. It follows the Kaul family, who are one of two major clans in the capital city. This follows their battles with the opposing Ayt clan to win control of the city, and is an epic tale of politics, family and honour.
Wilder Girls by Rory Power
The only YA on this list, and it’s a good one! Wilder Girls was the first horror novel I’ve read (I used to be a real horror wimp), and this book really pushed me to expand my reading and I’m so glad I did, because some of my favourite books in the past year have been horror. Wilder Girls opens in the midst of a virus outbreak, at a quarantined school. The virus has mutated in the girls, causing deformations in the girls and death in the teachers. When Hetty’s best friend goes missing, she ventures outside the quarantine into the dark and haunting woods, where creatures and reality is twisted from the virus, to find her. A disturbing start to my journey into horror! You can read my full review here.
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
If The Library of the Unwritten is the most fun fantasy novel I’ve read, then The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is the most fun sci-fi I’ve ever read. This book follows the spaceship Wayfarer, a tunnelling ship which travels space and ‘punches’ holes to create tunnels for other ships to travel along. It’s set in the future, after humans have had to leave Earth and take to the skies. As they travelled across the universe to find a place to live, they met other species living in the universe, joining the Galactic Commons. The Wayfarer crew is therefore filled with different, unique alien species, similar to TV series like Star Trek. The characters really shine in this book, from Ashby, the human captain, to Rosemary, the young, inexperienced clerk escaping from her past on Mars, to Corbin, the grumpy and kind-of-a-jerk human who ended up being one of my favourites, to Sissix, an Aandrisk, a reptilian-like species with different social language compared to the humans. This book is just an absolute joy to read! You can read my full review here.
The City We Became by N.K Jemisin
I only finished this book on Sunday so hastily added it to the list before posting because it is a masterpiece. The City We Became is Jemisin’s newest book, released earlier this year. In this world, cities can become alive when they develop a particualrly unique culture and reach a great size. But the act of their awakening is destructive and dangerous to other parallel worlds around them. New York has just awakened, but because of the size and uniqueness of each of the boroughs, six people (five for each of the boroughts, and one for New York itself) have awoken and been tasked with fighting of The Enemy who is trying to kill the city. It’s a complex book and idea to get your head around (which is probably why I’ve done such a terrible job at explaining it). Just know this book is incredible, it is so alive and real, I feel like I know New York even though I’ve only ever spent 5 days there. It also doesn’t shy away from talking about race, racism, and expertly entwines discussions of racism and microaggressions into a powerful fight to save the city. I’ll be posting a full review of this book tomorrow so check back in to find out more about it.
Have you read any of these? What’s your favourite queer SFF book? I am always looking for new ones to add to my TBR!