Speculative fiction is a wide genre that encourages questioning the status quo and reinventing rules—and queer writers often lead the way.
In celebration of Pride Month, I’d like to highlight some stellar sapphic stories and narratives. Check out these 14 sapphic science fiction and fantasy books that are bound to give you adventure, fun, and a generous helping of yearning.
As a child, Princess Thanh was sent away as a hostage to Ephteria. Now she’s returned to her mother’s imperial court, pursued by memories of her first love, and the trauma of a fire that devastated Ephteria’s royal palace.
Set in a pre-colonial Vietnamese-inspired world, Fireheart Tiger is a powerful romantic fantasy steeped in political drama and tension. It's perfect for readers who enjoy lush writing and short reads.
The Jasmine Throne
Set in a world inspired by the history and epics of India, The Jasmine Throne follows the tangled destinies of a captive princess seeking vengeance and a maidservant in possession of forbidden magic. Navigating their shaky alliance and even more complicated feelings for each other, they must work together to save the empire from a dictator.
After reading this book, I only had one thought: I stan two powerful, ambitious, morally-complex lesbians. Riveting and compelling, The Jasmine Throne is a must-have addition to any reader’s to-be-read pile!
The Rise of Kyoshi
Before becoming the longest-living Avatar in history and cementing her reputation as a merciless pursuer of justice, Kyoshi was an unassuming Earth Kingdom-born girl of humble origins. But after accidentally demonstrating fearsome bending in the South Pole, Kyoshi is forced to flee her home with her friend Rangi, taking little more than the metal war fans and headdress her parents left behind.
Beyond being a major bisexual icon in pop culture, Avatar Kyoshi is a well-loved character for many reasons. This YA duology delves into her teenage years as a young Avatar-in-training, with an added treat of watching her fall head over heels for an equally fiery girl.
She Who Became the Sun
In 1345, China is under Mongol rule. Desperate to escape her fate of nothingness, Zhu disguises herself to become a novice in a monastery. After her sanctuary is destroyed, Zhu is determined to claim another future altogether: her brother's.
Set to be published in July, She Who Became the Sun is a historical fantasy that offers a brilliant reimagining of the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty. Its main character is a genderqueer orphan-turned-monk with admirable resilience and sharp wit. Definitely a debut to watch!
This Is How You Lose the Time War
When an agent of the Commandant finds a letter that says "burn before reading", an unlikely correspondence begins between two rival agents determined to win the war for their opposing sides. But what happens when an exchange of taunts grows into something more?
Set against the backdrop of a ruthless time travel war, this sci-fi novel tells a beautiful tale of two women unexpectedly finding the sweetest love in the letters that they read and write to each other. Gorgeous and evocative, This Is How You Lose the Time War offers its readers the experience of a lifetime.
The Never Tilting World
Aeon had been ruled by generations of twin goddesses until one sister defied an ancient prophecy and halved the world, resulting in perpetual night and unrelenting sun. Unknowingly separated at birth, Odessa and Haidee travel across treacherous wastelands to reach the site of the Breaking, both desperate to heal their broken world, no matter the sacrifice it demands.
The Never Tilting World is a brutally honest allegory of climate change and human greed. Its story also features the most heartwarming sister relationship and teen romances (one of which is obviously sapphic) that I’ve ever read. More people need to pick this duology up!
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet
The spaceship Wayfarer has seen better days, and so has Rosemary Harper. She joins the ship's crew as a clerk, desperate to escape her past, and soon finds herself among an eclectic and entertaining group of space explorers.
Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, helps navigate the ship through wormholes, while the engineers Kizzy and Jenks do their best to keep the Wayfarer in one piece. Ashby, their captain, does his best to keep the crew together.
When unfortunate circumstances leave the crew isolated in space, they must learn to depend on each other ... even if it's the last thing Rosemary wanted when she started on the job.
After the war waged between humans and alchemy-crafted Automae, the Made took over their owners' wealth and subjugated the human race. Now, Ayla, an unassuming human servant, dreams of avenging her family by assassinating the Automae king's daughter, Lady Crier.
Crier’s War is an exquisite example of the enemies-to-lovers trope done well. And the best part? It’s deliciously, achingly slow-burn to boot! Fraught with complex emotions and revolutionary themes, this genre-bending debut challenges what it really means to love and to be human.
When Dylan Taylor, human disaster, wakes up with a strange ability to talk to objects, she decides to form a team of superpowered queer misfits.
Hilariously delightful and unapologetically queer, Cute Mutants is a refreshing take on superpowered teens and found family. I recommend picking up this series if you’re in the mood for laugh-out-loud humor, teenage awkwardness, and hugely chaotic energy.
In an underwater world where mer-people are descendants of enslaved African women thrown into the Atlantic, the past is too terrible and traumatic to be remembered regularly. Thus, as the newest historian, Yetu is the sole holder of her people's memories. But as the weight of these memories slowly destroys her, Yetu begins to wonder whether forgetting is the same as healing.
The Deep is a profound fantasy novella that tackles cultural loss and generational trauma. Although this is a heavy read, it also depicts a tender sapphic romance.
Gideon the Ninth
The opening lines of Tamsyn Muir's Gideon the Ninth really set the tone for the roller coaster ride that follows. “In the myriad year of our Lord—the ten thousandth year of the King Undying, the kindly Prince of Death—Gideon Nav packed her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and she escaped from the House of the Ninth.”
The story details nine great houses in a galactic empire, each with its own governance and form of death magic. Irreverent narrator Gideon and her friend/possible love interest play coy with their true emotions, but there's no doubting the level of importance each one has on the other's life.
Court of Lions
A sequel to Mirage, Court of Lions follows the lives of Amani and Maram, whose tenuous friendship is at its most fragile. Amani is desperate to help the rebellion and to fight for her people's freedom from the brutal Vathek empire. But at what cost?
Drawing inspiration from Moroccan cultures, Mirage is a riveting sci-fi duology that tackles identity, vulnerability, sisterhood, and colonization.
The Priory of the Orange Tree
Samantha Shannon's bestselling novel builds a fascinating world of dragonriders, courtly intrigue, and continental conflict. But despite the massive scale featured in The Priory of the Orange Tree, there's no question that the story remains character-focused. Relationships matter in a world where a grudge is as likely to motivate someone as love.
The love we do get to experience, then, is all the more beautiful and moving, and Shannon does a masterful job of creating a mature, slow-burn queer romance that helped make the book the phenomenon it has become.
Trina Goldberg-Oneka is a trans woman whose life is transformed in the aftermath of an alien invasion, resulting in a utopia in which everything is connected. Heartbroken after her wife choses to start life over, Trina chases after a young boy and embarks on an unexpected quest.
Eerily creepy and fascinating, The Seep is a character-focused sci-fi novel that delves into identity and grief.