The best books about queer swashbuckling

Who am I?

Two things I absolutely loved growing up: fantasy novels and history. Swashbuckling pirate stories are like a fantastic combination of both, and the way that the age of sail touched all corners of the world creates an opportunity for so many different kinds of stories to be told through this lens. As a queer writer, my passion is writing the kind of stories I loved as a child. As a trans adult, I find joy in making the next generations feel comfortable in their own skin. Living in Vancouver, B.C. I write novels and animated television, and I also co-host a podcast about advertising called Ad Creeps

I wrote...

Run in the Blood

By A.E. Ross,

Book cover of Run in the Blood

What is my book about?

Raised on the high seas as an avaricious corsair, Aela Crane has turned her back on her roots, but she can't seem to stem the ancient magic that courses through her. Del is a soft-spoken soldier who seems to know more about Aela's inherited powers than she does. Brynne's the crofter's daughter who's reluctantly learning to become a princess, if she could just get a certain swashbuckling someone off her mind.

As the three of them become more entwined in their own political predicaments, and each other's lives, they may discover that the legacies their parents have left them aren't as solid as they seemed. In fact, they may just slip through their fingers, leaving all three fumbling to forge their own future, before the kingdom comes crashing down around them.

The books I picked & why

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In Deeper Waters

By F.T. Lukens,

Book cover of In Deeper Waters

Why this book?

If you’re looking for a very sweet queer YA romance in a super original fantasy world, this is a great pick. I really loved the politics surrounding magic and how Lukens used those to drive the story. Tal is a real sweetheart protagonist who immediately pulls you in, makes you feel comfortable, and pulls you along for the ride. Another thing I appreciated about this book was the relationships between Tal and his siblings. At its heart, In Deeper Waters is a story about finding your own place in the world when the tide gets high, and I can really relate to that. 

A Clash of Steel: A Treasure Island Remix

By C.B. Lee,

Book cover of A Clash of Steel: A Treasure Island Remix

Why this book?

I’m a huge fan of queer re-tellings (as you can probably sense from this list) as well as lush, detailed historical fiction, and C.B. Lee delivers both in this vivid, adrenaline-spiking adventure. My favorite thing about this story is how Lee takes the bones of Treasure Island and reanimates them, bringing a new perspective to a classic by shifting the focus from traditional Western pirate narratives. Riding the waves with Xiang as she discovers her own identity and family history is an absolute delight, and seeing her relationship with Anh grow is a beautiful thrill. 

A Darker Shade of Magic

By V.E. Schwab,

Book cover of A Darker Shade of Magic

Why this book?

I’m an absolute sucker for both intricate world-building and alternate dimensions, and the way Schwab manages to thread the needle between fantasy and traditional science fiction concepts made my head spin. I was hooked from the moment I realized there were parallel worlds. Kell and Lila are great leads, and I loved the combative energy between them. I really love slow-burn relationships, including friendships, and it’s fun to see this pair go from strangers to tentative allies. While A Darker Shade of Magic doesn’t feature a queer romance, the second book in the series does, and it’s well worth the wait. 

Peter Darling

By Austin Chant,

Book cover of Peter Darling

Why this book?

I’ve read a lot of Peter Pan retellings, but this one is my favorite of them all. I think as queer people we relate to the idea of eternal youth, and of having the time to do things over the right way. I feel this even more as a trans person, and seeing this story explore the idea of Peter Pan as a transitioning Wendy Darling feels like a favorite song I haven’t heard in a long time. Plus, the classic swashbuckling pirate Captain Hook and his relationship with Peter are positively spicy. This is a great, affirming read and a story that’s both familiar and excitingly novel at the same time. 

The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea

By Maggie Tokuda-Hall,

Book cover of The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea

Why this book?

I can’t help it, I am an absolute sucker for a girl dressing up as a boy. It’s a classic trope in lesbian fiction, and while it’s reminiscent of trans masculine narratives, it’s also a fantastical reflection of butch/femme dynamics, and these two things can co-exist in the literary world. Flora/Florian is a really special protagonist, and her relationship with Evelyn is as exciting as the overall story. Tokuda-Hall has clearly had so much fun weaving in a variety of fantasy elements, throwing us mermaids, witches, pirates, and, of course, the Sea. 

5 book lists we think you will like!

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

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

Pirates Explore 54 books about Pirates
Queer Topics And Characters Explore 95 books about queer topics and characters
Gay Men Explore 43 books about gay men

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Spellbound, The Dark Wife, and The Secret Garden if you like this list.