The best fantasy and paranormal books with great queer representation

Who am I?

I’ve been making up magical worlds ever since childhood, when I populated the creekbanks and vacant lots in my hometown with ghosts, fae, Land of Oz residents, and other creatures from my imagination. Fantasy and forbidden love have always been my two main allures in reading, and different varieties of sexuality and gender identity also fascinated me once I became more aware of such issues in college, through books as well as my anthropology classes. I was recently pleased to learn there’s at least one cool label for me as well—demisexual—and nowadays I love populating my fantasy novels with queer characters. Everyone deserves adventures in the otherworld!

I wrote...

Lava Red Feather Blue

By Molly Ringle,

Book cover of Lava Red Feather Blue

What is my book about?

On a magical island nation in the north Pacific, Prince Larkin has lain under an enchanted sleep since 1799, until Merrick Highvalley, a modern-day man tinkering with forbidden magic, accidentally awakens him. But the Sleeping Beauty romance comes with a complicated twist: a dangerous faery awakens at the same moment, bent on destroying the island’s humans. Using clues and magic charms left by Merrick’s ancestor, Larkin and Merrick set off into the fae realm with the aim of capturing the enemy.

They view themselves as unlikely heroes, and an even unlikelier couple—but in the territory of the fae, near-miracles do happen.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

The Once and Future Witches

By Alix E. Harrow,

Book cover of The Once and Future Witches

Why this book?

Witches, feminism, race relations, sapphic love, the power of words—this book has all of it and lit a passionate, delighted, mischievous, and poignant flame in me. Harrow’s writing is lovely and magical, like a spell itself, while unfolding a twisty tale of three sisters who find themselves representing the hallowed pagan triad of Maiden, Mother, and Crone. The story is set in an alternate-history world of New Salem, USA, in the late 1800s, and I loved the little world-building details differentiating this world from ours. Wait till you hear what happened to OLD Salem…(*shiver*).

Spellbound: A Paranormal Historical Romance (Magic in Manhattan Book 1)

By Allie Therin,

Book cover of Spellbound: A Paranormal Historical Romance (Magic in Manhattan Book 1)

Why this book?

I’m a sucker for a cool historical setting and also for romance with a social-status difference as a main obstacle, and this novel delivers on both! In 1920s-era New York City, amid Prohibition and jazz and snazzy fashions—and, in this version of things, an underworld of secret magic—wealthy Arthur meets working-class Rory, and the sparks begin. Both of the men are utterly endearing (another feature I’m soft on) and bring different paranormal powers to the problem of a lethal magical relic on its way to New York. There are two more books in the series, so if you fall for this pair, hurray! There’s more to read.

The Mysterious and Amazing Blue Billings (Black and Blue Series)

By Lily Morton,

Book cover of The Mysterious and Amazing Blue Billings (Black and Blue Series)

Why this book?

Do not read after dark! At least, don’t do so if you’re a scaredy-cat like me when it comes to ghost stories. That said, I found this story lovely and fun and steamy—when it wasn’t scaring the daylights out of me, that is. The premise is fabulous: a man moves to York, England, because he has inherited an old house there, which turns out to be super haunted. So who does he turn to for help? One of the many ghost-tour guides who roam the city telling their tales, of course. Turns out this particular guide—aside from being a highly sexy fellow with dyed-blue hair—can in fact see ghosts. And the ones in this house would rather murder the living than be politely ushered out.

The Dark Wife

By S.E. Diemer,

Book cover of The Dark Wife

Why this book?

The story of Persephone and Hades is my favorite Greek myth—and a lot of other people’s, to judge from how many of us have written about it. Therefore I’ve read lots of the novels that retell it, but The Dark Wife stands out for being the only Sapphic version I’ve found! Here Hades is a goddess rather than a god, and rather than abducting Persephone, she shelters her in the Underworld, where Persephone can avoid the sexual predators among the gods above. (Of which there are a lot, in canonical myth; let’s be honest.) Though set in the deliciously spooky land of the dead, the romance between the two goddesses is sweet and comforting, and the writing is as lyrically pretty as a classical poem.

Peter Darling

By Austin Chant,

Book cover of Peter Darling

Why this book?

I was bewitched by the weird allure of Peter Pan when I read it as a kid, and I think I love Peter Darling even more. Not only does it recast many of the unsettling aspects of the original into a more palatable interpretation, but it provides a trans twist: at home on Earth, he’s known as Wendy Darling, but when he escapes to Neverland he becomes Peter Pan, his true self. Returning there as a young adult, Peter begins untangling the emotions and past events that have haunted him, and finds most are not what they seem.

Foremost in the welcome surprises is that he and Captain Hook don’t have to be arch-enemies—they could, in fact, become quite the opposite. Needless to say, the story also provides pirate ships and fairies and swashbuckling: who can resist those?

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in queer topics and characters, gay men, and Manhattan?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about queer topics and characters, gay men, and Manhattan.

Queer Topics And Characters Explore 95 books about queer topics and characters
Gay Men Explore 44 books about gay men
Manhattan Explore 62 books about Manhattan

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Pachinko, A Darker Shade of Magic, and All the Birds in the Sky if you like this list.