We all need a magical escape right now. Luckily, in spite of everything that’s going on in the world, we still have books. But there are so many wonderful, immersive tales that it can often be hard to pick what to delve into.
This list is here to help! It features nine brilliant books that just happen to be set in some of the strangest, most imaginative, expansive, and unique worlds. Each of these entries feature prominent queer characters. Whether you want an anthology of fantasy magic, old gods battling young blood magicians, or terrifying dystopian worlds, this selection has got you covered—there’s something for everyone.
A Phoenix First Must Burn – Various Authors
Penguin Random House
Edited by Patrice Caldwell, this stunning anthology is pure magic. The collection features 16 stories exploring the black experience by a roster of incredible creators. Danny Lore, Danielle Paige, Rebecca Roanhorse, Amerie, and more weave these beautiful yarns that will capture your imagination. From reimagined folkloric fables to futuristic worlds, this sprawling selection of fantastic fiction is a must read for anyone looking for a little real world respite.
Ruthless Gods – Emily A. Duncan
Wednesday Books, Macmillian
Picking up where her stunning debut novel Wicked Saints left off, Ruthless Gods is another brutal and bleak gothic masterpiece from Duncan. This Slavic-inspired yarn follows a cleric who has to team up with the blood magicians she’s spent her life fighting to take down a more terrifying and ancient evil. Those who have read the first entry will know the terrifying power of the series, and to make things even better this time round, Ruthless Gods is queer AF.
Gideon the Ninth – Tamsyn Muir
Necromancy, magic, cursing, and a badass heroine for the ages. What more could you want? Tamsyn Muir’s debut novel has been making waves since it was unleashed last year. It follows Gideon as she accompanies Harrow, the heir of the house which has kept her in indentured servitude for most her life, on a violent and brutal quest. Bloody, hilarious, and inventive, this book is quite unlike anything you’ve ever read before. As Gideon and Harrow embark on a battle through a monster-filled mansion—that just so happens to be in space—you will not be able to put this down.
Beyond The Ruby Veil – Mara Fitzgerald
Little, Brown Books For Young Readers
Emanuela Ragno has a secret, and it’s not that her and her potential husband are both actually gay. In fact, that’s part of her grand plan for power. But she does have one thing to hide: a small bruise on her hip that means she’ll have to be sacrificed. Emanuela is not one to go easily, though, and after she fights back and kills the only creature who can create water, she has to fight in order for her people and her world to survive. This ambitious setup makes this one of our most anticipated reads of the year.
The Mermaid, The Witch, and the Sea – Maggie Tokuda-Hall
If you’re looking for love and adventure on the high seas then you’re in luck. The Mermaid, The Witch, and the Sea is a sterling example of both. Lady Evelyn Hasegawa thinks her future is already defined as she heads towards an arranged marriage. But when she crosses paths with Florian, a determined survivor (and most importantly, a pirate) both their lives change forever. Magic, mermaid’s blood, and mythical creatures abound in this spectacular fantasy.
The Gilded Wolves – Roshani Chokshi
Wednesday Books, Macmillan
Séverin Montagnet-Alarie is a lauded treasure hunter as well as a wealthy hotelier. Against the glittering backdrop of Paris in 1899, Séverin is enlisted by a shadowy secret society to find an ancient relic. If he succeeds it will change everything, but he can’t do it alone. Joining him on this journey is an unlikely and charming team. “An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian banished from his home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in arms if not blood.” This radical romp follows the unexpected crew through the dark heart of the city and its secrets.
Girls of Paper and Fire – Natasha Ngan
James Patterson Presents
In a world where beautiful women are forced to marry a demon king, a young girl comes of age in the royal court as one of his concubines. This is a searing fantasy story that deals with sexual exploitation, surviving, and falling in love despite it all. When Lei is selected as one of the Paper Girls, she never imagines she might meet the love of her life. When she meets Wren, another of the demon king’s indentured servants, her world is turned upside down. This queer love story subverts tropes at every turn and has already built a passionately dedicated fan base.
Header Image: James Patterson Presents, Wednesday Books, Macmillan, Candlewick,
Little, Brown Books For Young Readers, Tor, Penguin Random House