I frequently find that many of the Queer books recommended are Young Adult, and many people miss out on some truly great adult books. I knew that I was gay from a young age, but most especially when, as a teen, I picked up an adult fantasy novel that I took out from the library. For me, Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey not only became my queer awakening, but it also became one of the reasons that I’ve loved romantic fantasy. Everything became so fluid and yet so complex in the relationships that I wanted to read more things that gave that similar type of high. I wanted queer protagonists and dangerous queer villainesses, enticing the hero into their web of politics.
What I’m happy to see, though, is that Queer books, and the authors that are published, are becoming more inclusive. If BIPOC are not at the center of gay liberation, then there will be no gay liberation. A reminder that Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson were at the frontlines of that history.
Happy Pride! And here are some of my recent favorite Queer books.
A Dowry of Blood is a gothic horror with romanticism involving vampires, medievalism, and dark queer romance.
It starts with a bang. The undying king, Dracula, gives a dying Romanian peasant, Constanta, new life. He walks his new vampire bride to his gothic castle and utterly ravishes her. Throughout the centuries, they live their lives as gay, gothic romantics. And then they sew more lovers, more family, into their devastatingly romantic lives. First, there’s Magdalena. A Machiavellian beauty from medieval Spain. Then, there’s Alexei. A cherubic party angel from Bolshevik Russia. From Dracula plucking his vampire brides like cherries transforms into the brides taking their own agency, from choosing their partners to their own destiny; the vampire brides are the stars of this beautiful queer novella.
The Bone Shard Daughter features many stories rubbing against each other, ultimately coming to that one point where all arrows point to a single purpose. Many central characters and their perspectives make the story. One being that of Ranami and Phalue.
This is a world where body horror and mad scientists order a piece of their citizen’s bodies for nefarious uses. It’s a book of gadgetry, geography, and science, but by Andrea Stewart, it’s made into a fun sea adventure featuring sarcastic captains and their animal companions.
Since this is all about the gays, let me discuss them in particular. The best thing about this book is that it features a couple in love and one not dripped in tragedy or loss. If there’s a tragedy, it’s what’s happening in their world. Phalue, the daughter of a nobleman, is a bit of a rake. She loves beautiful women and courting them, something I found new and different. Most of all, I loved that her father treated it as normally as if his son had an eye for the ladies. The funny thing is that although Phalue is clearly depicted as a rake, Ranami is the seductress coercing her into revolutionary idealism.
The Unbroken not only includes sapphic delights but anti-colonialist revolution—my favorite bits.
Inspired by French colonized North Africa, Clark’s world is one where magic and belief systems entwine, where people have magical abilities based on belief. A Qazāli soldier trained by the Balladairan empire and the bisexual princess of Balladaire is wrapped up in the tense uprisings in Qazāl.
There’s such immense nuance in Clark’s world and real countries reeling from colonialism than what first meets the eye. The perspective is so close and makes historical realities eerie and uncomfortable, particularly in Touraine and Luca’s relationship. Clark tells an unsettling story, one meant to show you the transformation of the colonized mind, from victim to survivor.
Every scene in The Unbroken feels like watching something out of a film. The smells of coffee and the sounds of a coat flapping in the night wind. It’s all so raw.