Love-Full: SFF Recs With Polyamory!

Posted 18th June 2021 by Sia in Lists, Queer Lit, Recommendations / 15 Comments

Polyamory Pride Dragon by Kaenith!

One of the things I love most about speculative fiction is getting to see other ways for people to be – whether ‘people’ refers to humans or elves or aliens. And one of the things I most love to see storytellers experiment with is what other formats romances and families might have in other worlds or realities: formats that can look very different from the monogamous nuclear family of Western ideal.

Which is a long-winded way for me to say that I’m a big fan of polyamory (both in my choice of reading and my choice of lifestyle), and after one of my fave authors tweeted about it a while ago, realised I ought to put together a list of some of my favourite fictional examples. Which, because I’m me, are all SFF.

To make it easy for you to decide how much polyamory you want in your reading, I’ve divided them all into

Featured – books where the poly is plot-relevant
Low-Key – books where the poly is present but subtle
Normalised – books where the poly is just part of the worldbuilding
Ending – books where the characters don’t all get together until the end. Skip this part of the list if you don’t want spoilers!

Now, the polyamory-pride dragon says – it’s time to hit the books!

Featured

These are the books where the polyamory is front and center. The romance may be a major component of the plot, or it may be a straight-up Romantic Fantasy novel.

Thief of Songs (Twin Kingdoms Romances Book 1) by M.C.A. Hogarth
Goodreads

The lowland conquerers have taken everything from him, or so the composer Amet Emendexte-ilye was taught: prestige, autonomy, wealth, and most importantly, magic. But when one of them steals his fiancee, Amet avenges himself on them all by writing music and giving it away in defiance of the lowland laws. It is a very satisfactory vengeance, or so he thinks, until he discovers the kingdom's royal composer is planning to debut Amet's work—as folk music!

So he's riding east to set the record straight. But he has no idea how compelling a decadent lowland hermaphrodite can be. And before it's over, this thief of songs may be stealing more than his music....

This is a really beautiful low-stakes fantasy series, where there is relationship drama (between potential romantic partners, between family members, etc) but nothing Really Bad ever happens or is at risk of happening. It’s centered on a third-gender composer who is in a romantic (but not sexual) relationship with an asexual, agender person, and who (with their partner’s blessing) falls for a cis composer and makes him part of the new triad. The second book has our male and agender characters building a relationship of their own, making them not metamours but partners as well. It’s all really sweet and there’s so much beautiful art and magic – and of course, the cast is absolutely wonderful.

A Dowry of Blood by S.T. Gibson
Goodreads

A lyrical and dreamy reimagining of Dracula’s brides, A DOWRY OF BLOOD is a story of desire, obsession, and emancipation.

Saved from the brink of death by a mysterious stranger, Constanta is transformed from a medieval peasant into a bride fit for an undying king. But when Dracula draws a cunning aristocrat and a starving artist into his web of passion and deceit, Constanta realizes that her beloved is capable of terrible things. Finding comfort in the arms of her rival consorts, she begins to unravel their husband’s dark secrets.

With the lives of everyone she loves on the line, Constanta will have to choose between her own freedom and her love for her husband. But bonds forged by blood can only be broken by death.

I wrote a whole review for this one, but basically, Dracula is bi and so are all of the spouses he picks out for himself. The result is a deliciously sensual, gothic, hedonistic poly family and I am so here for it!

The Bone Palace (The Necromancer Chronicles, #2) by Amanda Downum
Goodreads

Death is no stranger in the city of Erisén -- but some deaths attract more attention than others.

When a prostitute dies carrying a royal signet, Isyllt Iskaldur, necromancer and agent of the Crown, is called to investigate. Her search leads to desecrated tombs below the palace, and the lightless vaults of the vampiric vrykoloi deep beneath the city. But worse things than vampires are plotting in Erisén. . .

As a sorcerous plague sweeps the city and demons stalk the streets, Isyllt must decide who she's prepared to betray, before the city built on bones falls into blood and fire.

The Bone Palace is the second book in the Necromancer Chronicles, but it stands alone perfectly; no need to read book one if you don’t want to. The story moves back and forth between two narratives, one of which is that of the Crown Prince, his trans woman lover (and secret bodyguard) and wife, and how the three of them figure out their dynamic and relationship with each other. There’s now another book (spin-off?) which focuses just on them, The Poison Court. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s very high on my tbr!

A Brother's Price by Wen Spencer
Goodreads

In a world where males are rarely born, they've become a commodity-traded and sold like property. Jerin Whistler has come of age for marriage and his handsome features have come to the attention of the royal princesses. But such attentions can be dangerous-especially as Jerin uncovers the dark mysteries the royal family is hiding.

In the world of A Brother’s Price, group marriage is the default; so few men are born that every family ends up with at least a dozen girls, and all of those sisters marry a single husband. The gender roles have been very much flipped around; ‘polite’ men in this world are what we would think of as feminine, having to worry about modesty and purity and meekness and nonsense like that. Jerin, however, has had an interesting upbringing, and is as good with firearms as he is with taking care of babies. It’s all pretty epic.

A Rational Arrangement by L. Rowyn
Goodreads

“But these are vital aspects of marriage. If one cannot discuss them, what's the use in meeting at all? It's like trying to decide what you'll have for dinner without mentioning food.”

Wisteria Vasilver does wish to marry. Truly. But though she lives in Paradise, arranging a match is full of traps and pitfalls for the unwary ... or perhaps just for her.

Nikola Striker, Lord of Fireholt, expects he'll wed -- someday. But not now, and never to a rich icicle of a woman like Miss Vasilver. No matter how much his parents might want the match, or his house might need her dowry. Besides, he has his own problems -- most of them people who need his help as a mind-healer.

Lord Justin Comfrey, Viscount of Comfrey, would be more than happy to help Striker with his financial troubles, and not just to ensure that Miss Vasilver's dowry doesn't tempt Striker into marriage. If only he could find some way to make his proud, stubborn friend accept the money!

Can three people of such different temperaments ever find their way to a more perfect Paradise?

This is a great big brick of a book, with a regency-esque setting – except that this is actually a world humans have settled after abandoning Earth, there are horse-sized, sentient cats, and very occasionally someone is born with a special power – you can call it a superpower or magic, it really makes no difference. In A Rational Arrangement, two bisexual lords and an autistic daughter of a rich family dance around each other until they work out a way to be together in secret (group marriage not being legal in their country, alas). It’s very slow-paced and indulgent and slice-of-life-y, and the worldbuilding is sneakily spectacular.

Lifelode by Jo Walton
Goodreads

Lifelode is the Mythopoeic Award Winning novel from Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Award winning author Jo Walton. It was published in hardcover in 2009 by NESFA Press and is now available for the first time as an ebook.

At its heart, Lifelode is the story of a comfortable manor house family. The four adults of the household are happily polygamous, each fulfilling their ‘lifelode’ or life’s purpose: Ferrand is the lord of the manor, his sweetmate Taveth runs the household, his wife Chayra makes ceramics, and Taveth’s husband Ranal works the farm. Their children are a joyful bunch, running around in the sunshine days of the harvest and wondering what their own lifelodes will be.

Their lives changed with the arrival of two visitors to Applekirk: Jankin the scholar and Hanethe, Ferrand’s great grandmother and the former lord of the manor, who has been living for many generations in the East, a place where the gods walk and yeya (magic) is so powerful that those who wield it are not quite human.

Polyamory is pretty common in the world of Lifelode, although official marriages are still something that happens between two people. The story here follows the life of one family – husband, wife, and their assorted partners and children – after a long-lost relative returns, bringing magical and military drama with her. This is a very unique world Walton’s created, where time runs faster and slower in different places, and magic works better the further West (I think it was West? It’s West or East, it’s been a while since I read it) you go. I also utterly adore how gods work in this universe. But it’s a very warm, loving kind of story revolving around a (to-us) very non-traditional family, and I love it.

Sing for the Coming of the Longest Night by Katherine Fabian, Iona Datt Sharma
Goodreads

The world you know is underneath the substance of another, with cracks in the firmament that let the light of its magic in...

Layla and Nat have nothing in common but their boyfriend – enigmatic, brilliant Meraud – and their deep mutual dislike. But when Meraud disappears after an ambitious magical experiment goes wrong, they may be the only ones who can follow the trail of cryptic clues that will bring him safely home.

To return Meraud to this world, the two of them will confront every obstacle: the magic of the wild unknowable, a friendly vicar who's only concerned for their spiritual wellbeing, and even the Thames Water helpline. All of which would be doable, if only they didn’t have to do it together.

But the winter solstice is fast approaching – and once the year turns, Meraud will be lost forever. In this joyously queer novella, Nat and Layla must find a way to overcome their differences before it’s too late.

This one is beautiful, but also kind of hilarious; metamours Layla and Nat are Not Friends, but they do share a boyfriend, and when he goes missing, they have to join forces to find him. Most stories that feature polyamory rarely look into the relationships between metamours – people who are in love with the same person, but not with each other – so it’s really great to get a novella that’s basically all about that. It’s also a rather lovely little urban fantasy that I remember being pretty enchanting.

Triptych by J.M. Frey
Goodreads

Kalp is a widower, burdened with an unimaginable grief, who escaped his dying world with nothing but his own life and a half-finished toy for a child that will now never be born.

Gwen is a language expert covertly recruited for a United Nations plan to integrate a ship-full of alien refugees into life on earth. She becomes Kalp's teammate and lifeline.

Basil is the engineer who lives with, and loves them, both but has no idea how to defend his new relationship against the ire and condemnation of a violently intolerant world.

TRIPTYCH is a poignant, character-driven science-fiction story about tolerance, love, loss, and a desperate attempt to find connection in a world that no longer makes sense.

I need to warn you right now, this does not have a happy ending. But it’s an incredibly beautiful book that I really wish more people would read! It’s about how the world reacts when aliens arrive, not as invaders, but as refugees. One couple, assigned to help one of the aliens adapt to Earth, end up making him a part of their marriage. We also get a little bit of how the aliens’ culture considers three adults the default – and the reasoning convinced 16-year-old Sia that group marriages make way more sense, especially when it comes to child-raising!

Low-Key

These are the books where the polyamory is most certainly there…but blink and you’ll miss it.

The Cloud Roads (Books of the Raksura, #1) by Martha Wells
Goodreads

Moon has spent his life hiding what he is — a shape-shifter able to transform himself into a winged creature of flight. An orphan with only vague memories of his own kind, Moon tries to fit in among the tribes of his river valley, with mixed success. Just as Moon is once again cast out by his adopted tribe, he discovers a shape-shifter like himself... someone who seems to know exactly what he is, who promises that Moon will be welcomed into his community. What this stranger doesn't tell Moon is that his presence will tip the balance of power... that his extraordinary lineage is crucial to the colony's survival... and that his people face extinction at the hands of the dreaded Fell! Now Moon must overcome a lifetime of conditioning in order to save himself... and his newfound kin.

The Raksura live in a world where humans don’t exist (YAY EPIC WORLDBUILDING), and really don’t have any concept of monogamy. The closest they get is that Consorts – a particular caste of Raksura, wherein all the castes are biologically different from each other – belong to one single Queen (another caste); but as long as a Consort doesn’t sleep with other Queens, he can and does have sex with whoever he wants – and none of the other castes have any restrictions on who they can or can’t sleep with at all. Although the series focuses on the relationship between Moon, a Consort, and Jade, a Queen, Moon does have an ongoing sexual relationship with another Raksura as well – although if you blink, you might miss the references to it.

An Accident of Stars (Manifold Worlds, #1) by Foz Meadows
Goodreads

Book I of the Manifold Worlds from Hugo-nominated author Foz Meadows.

When Saffron Coulter stumbles through a hole in reality, she finds herself trapped in Kena, a magical realm on the brink of civil war.

There, her fate becomes intertwined with that of three very different women: Zech, the fast-thinking acolyte of a cunning, powerful exile; Viya, the spoiled, runaway consort of the empire-building ruler, Vex Leoden; and Gwen, an Earth-born worldwalker whose greatest regret is putting Leoden on the throne. But Leoden has allies, too, chief among them the Vex'Mara Kadeja, a dangerous ex-priestess who shares his dreams of conquest.

Pursued by Leoden and aided by the Shavaktiin, a secretive order of storytellers and mystics, the rebels flee to Veksh, a neighboring matriarchy ruled by the fearsome Council of Queens. Saffron is out of her world and out of her depth, but the further she travels, the more she finds herself bound to her friends with ties of blood and magic.

Can one girl - an accidental worldwalker - really be the key to saving Kena? Or will she just die trying?

The Manifold Worlds duet is portal fantasy with absolutely phenomenal worldbuilding, and in the country most of the story is focused on, group marriage is completely normal – it’s even mandatory for royals. One of the main characters is a Black woman who’s from our world originally, but has married a man and woman in her new home world – although I don’t think we ever meet her spouses, just her son. Another MC is part of the royal group marriage, although she’s not super happy with her spouses for the first book!

Stranger (The Change Book 1) by Rachel Manija Brown, Sherwood Smith
Goodreads

Many generations ago, a mysterious cataclysm struck the world. Governments collapsed and people scattered, to rebuild where they could. A mutation, "the Change,” arose, granting some people unique powers. Though the area once called Los Angeles retains its cultural diversity, its technological marvels have faded into legend. "Las Anclas" now resembles a Wild West frontier town… where the Sheriff possesses superhuman strength, the doctor can warp time to heal his patients, and the distant ruins of an ancient city bristle with deadly crystalline trees that take their jewel-like colors from the clothes of the people they killed.

Teenage prospector Ross Juarez’s best find ever – an ancient book he doesn’t know how to read – nearly costs him his life when a bounty hunter is set on him to kill him and steal the book. Ross barely makes it to Las Anclas, bringing with him a precious artifact, a power no one has ever had before, and a whole lot of trouble.

The Change books are a post-apocalyptic series that is actually very optimistic??? Please do not be put off by the covers. There are monsters and bad guys, sure, but it’s been a long time since the apocalypse – if this world ever went through a Mad Max phase, they outgrew it ages ago. Three of the main characters – one of whom is clearly demisexual – form a poly relationship towards the end of book one which then continues throughout the series. The ‘change’ of the series title refers to the fact that many animals, plants, and even people are Changed – rabbits can now project (very bad) illusions, for example, and some people have what are basically superpowers. I’m also delighted to be able to tell you that it’s a queernorm setting; there is prejudice (in some corners) towards the Changed, but no one cares about queerness at all.

The Tale of the Five Omnibus by Diane Duane
Goodreads

A sorcerous swordsmith desperately searches for the Power that will make him whole. A prince who fled his kingdom and the throne to which he was born now seeks the courage to return in the face of those who want him dead. A woman warrior scarred by her tragic past stakes her future on the strange new life that comes to share her mind. An outcast dragon abandoned by his kind to a solitary fate is drawn into the heretofore-forbidden territory of the conflicts of humankind. And a fire elemental determined to find out about the peculiarities of being human discovers far more than it ever expected. Together they will cross the Middle Kingdoms in pursuit of the single goal that binds them... and discover their destinies, and a world's.

The Tale of the Five Omnibus contains the first three critically-acclaimed volumes of mature fantasy fiction in the Middle Kingdoms series by Diane Duane: The Door Into Fire, The Door Into Shadow, and The Door Into Sunset. All three appear here in the author's preferred texts, updated and revised from the previous print editions. "Good strong stuff with the right light touch," said Terry Pratchett, adding his voice to the praises of reviewers at Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly ("Expands the limits of the swords and sorcery genre. Exciting, magical, intelligent.")

Reader advisory: All three volumes contain adult / mature themes and situations set in a sexually diverse culture.

The world of the Five is one in which group marriage is completely normalised (although not a default), same-sex relationships don’t cause anyone to bat an eye, and sexual monogamy is an alien concept. Over the course of the three books (not the whole series – the fourth book isn’t out yet) the main characters become more and more entwined and connected sexually, romantically, and platonically – although already in book one, there’s a nonbinary/genderfluid fire elemental who turns the relationship between a would-be sorcerer and a king-without-a-crown into a poly one. The relationships between all the main characters are of vital importance to just about everything, but not in the sense that these are Romantic Fantasies – more because they all need to work together and be able to depend on each other in order to save the world, and love is a huge part of that.

Which, you know. I am here for.

Normalised

In these books, polyamory or group marriage is perfectly normal within the setting of the story, but it’s not really front-and-center in the narrative. Or, the culture of the book is sexually free in a way that doesn’t translate to the Western idea of poly relationships.

Water Horse by Melissa Scott
Goodreads

For the last twenty years, Esclin Aubrinos, arros of the Hundred Hills, has acted jointly with Alcis Mirielos, the kyra of the Westwood, and the rivermaster of Riverholme to defend their land of Allanoth against the Riders who invade from Manan across the Narrow Sea. He has long been a master of the shifting politics of his own people and his independently-minded allies, but this year the omens turn against him. The Riders have elected a new lord paramount, hallowed servant of the Blazing One, a man chosen and fated for victory.

The omens agree that Nen Elin, Esclin’s stronghold and the heart of Allanoth, will fall when a priest of the Blazing One enters its gates. Esclin needs a spirit-bonded royal sword, a talismanic weapon made of star-fallen iron, to unite the hillfolk behind him. But the same vision that called for the sword proclaimed that Esclin will then betray it, and every step he takes to twist free of the prophecies brings him closer to that doom.

Cultural views vary a little across the spread of the land, but the queen we meet has two male consorts and has had children by plenty of other lovers; the MC, a king and her ally, has a long-standing relationship with a man which is not exclusive. The ‘good guys’ cultures are very sex-positive, queer-friendly, and take non-monogamy as the default. You could argue that this is central to the plot – in that their enemies are fighting primarily to destroy this culture and replace it with their own – but it’s not really. It’s just a feature of the worldbuilding (which is gorgeous); normalised, but not truly plot-relevant.

Escaping Exodus (Escaping Exodus, #1) by Nicky Drayden
Goodreads

Escaping Exodus is a story of a young woman named Seske Kaleigh, heir to the command of a biological, city-size starship carved up from the insides of a spacefaring beast. Her clan has just now culled their latest ship and the workers are busy stripping down the bonework for building materials, rerouting the circulatory system for mass transit, and preparing the cavernous creature for the onslaught of the general populous still in stasis. It’s all a part of the cycle her clan had instituted centuries ago—excavate the new beast, expand into its barely-living carcass, extinguish its resources over the course of a decade, then escape in a highly coordinated exodus back into stasis until they cull the next beast from the diminishing herd.

And of course there wouldn’t be much of a story if things didn’t go terribly, terribly wrong.

Seske’s culture is strongly matriarchal, and group marriages aren’t just normal, they’re kind of mandatory. A major part of Escaping Exodus is Seske desperately trying to find a way to marry her best friend (who is another girl). The problem isn’t that they’re both girls, but that Seske is a princess and her friend is…very much not. (There’s also the fact that ‘twosomes’ are taboo, and Seske isn’t nearly as interested in marrying multiple spouses as she should be.) There’s a lot of other stuff going on, a lot of which makes relationship drama seem small by comparison, but still: this is a book where group marriage and same-sex relationships are completely normal.

(I admit to not having read the second book yet. But I will!)

The Velocity of Revolution by Marshall Ryan Maresca
Goodreads

From the author of the Maradaine saga comes a new steampunk fantasy novel that explores a chaotic city on the verge of revolution.

Ziaparr: a city being rebuilt after years of mechanized and magical warfare, the capital of a ravaged nation on the verge of renewal and self-rule. But unrest foments as undercaste cycle gangs raid supply trucks, agitate the populace and vandalize the city. A revolution is brewing in the slums and shantytowns against the occupying government, led by a voice on the radio, connected through forbidden magic.

Wenthi Tungét, a talented cycle rider and a loyal officer in the city patrol, is assigned to infiltrate the cycle gangs. For his mission against the insurgents, Wenthi must use their magic, connecting his mind to Nália, a recently captured rebel, using her knowledge to find his way into the heart of the rebellion.

Wenthi's skill on a cycle makes him valuable to the resistance cell he joins, but he discovers that the magic enhances with speed. Every ride intensifies his connection, drawing him closer to the gang he must betray, and strengthens Nália's presence as she haunts his mind.

Wenthi is torn between justice and duty, and the wrong choice will light a spark in a city on the verge of combustion.

You can read my full review for this one here, but the tl;dr version is that in the country in which this book is set has completely different ideas about sex and monogamy than any place I’ve ever heard of. Group marriages are common, but not sexually monogamous; group sex is even more common. In Ziaparr, sex is not supposed to be casual, exactly – ‘fucking without spirit’ is a hard-core insult – but it is something that people engage in often and easily, including with people they don’t know well or don’t know at all. But it’s always meaningful.

It’s a really wonderful bit of worldbuilding in a really wonderful book!

The Fifth Sacred Thing (Maya Greenwood, #1) by Starhawk
Goodreads

Imagine a world without poverty, hunger, or hatred, where a rich culture honors its diverse mix of races, religions, and heritages, and the Four Sacred Things that sustain all life - earth, air, fire, and water - are valued unconditionally.

Now imagine the opposite: a nightmare world in which an authoritarian regime polices an apartheid state, access to food and water is restricted to those who obey the corrupt official religion, women are property of their husbands or the state, and children are bred for prostitution and war.

The best and worst of our possible futures are poised to clash in twenty-first-century California, and the outcome rests on the wisdom and courage of one clan caught in the conflict.

I managed to review this one recently too. The Fifth Sacred Thing is concerned with the City, a real-life utopia built by witches, and what happens when they get news that the Stewards – who run the despotic, dystopian South – are coming to conquer. There is no single way of life in the City, exactly – every religion shares equal pride of place, for example – but there is a shared philosophy. Not everyone engages in polyamory, but many do, and the idea of sexual monogamy is alien. All the relationships we see are very much open ones, and although a lot of the book focuses on two members of one poly cluster – Madrone and Bird – we do see their other lovers as well. Our other main character, Maya, regularly communicates with the ghosts of her old triad, who have their own role to play in the story too.

The Mirror Empire (Worldbreaker Saga, #1) by Kameron Hurley, Richard Anderson
Goodreads

On the eve of a recurring catastrophic event known to extinguish nations and reshape continents, a troubled orphan evades death and slavery to uncover her own bloody past… while a world goes to war with itself.

In the frozen kingdom of Saiduan, invaders from another realm are decimating whole cities, leaving behind nothing but ash and ruin.

As the dark star of the cataclysm rises, an illegitimate ruler is tasked with holding together a country fractured by civil war, a precocious young fighter is asked to betray his family and a half-Dhai general must choose between the eradication of her father’s people or loyalty to her alien Empress.

Through tense alliances and devastating betrayal, the Dhai and their allies attempt to hold against a seemingly unstoppable force as enemy nations prepare for a coming together of worlds as old as the universe itself.

In the end, one world will rise – and many will perish.

In the very first chapter of The Mirror Empire, we meet a three-person marriage that the POV character dearly wants to join. The trilogy contains a whole bunch of different cultures, and in most of them we don’t really see how marriages work, but in the ‘ground zero’ world of the multiverse Hurley has created, the culture at the heart of the conflict very much takes polyamorous marriages and relationships for granted.

(And for the record, no other marriage/relationship set-up we do see looks anything like the White Western standard. Expect queerness and weirdness!)

The Unraveling by Benjamin Rosenbaum
Goodreads

In the distant future somewhere in the galaxy, a society has emerged where everyone has multiple bodies, cybernetics has abolished privacy, and individual and family success within the rigid social system is reliant upon instantaneous social approbation.

Young Fift is an only child of the Staid gender, struggling to maintain their position in the system while developing an intriguing friendship with the poorly-publicized bioengineer Shria–somewhat controversial, since Shria is Vail-gendered.

In time, Fift and Shria unintentionally wind up at the center of a scandalous art spectacle which turns into the early stages of a multi-layered revolution against their strict societal system. Suddenly they become celebrities and involuntary standard-bearers for the upheaval.

Fift is torn between the survival of Shria and the success of their family cohort; staying true to their feelings and caving under societal pressure. Whatever Fift decides will make a disproportionately huge impact on the future of the world. What’s a young staid to do when the whole world is watching?

A two-person marriage is pretty much unheard of in Fift’s world, which is delightfully strange and clever, as I detailed in my review. The average household seems to be around 5-7 adults whom we would consider married – there’s even a brief mention of one ‘marriage’ which has hundreds of people in it!

Of course, these marriages and households all work pretty differently from the ones we’re used to. For one thing, households can be broken up if their social media following becomes disapproving of them. It makes for interesting relationship dynamics!

Amberlight (Amberlight #1) by Sylvia Kelso
Goodreads

Tellurith, the head of a great ruling House in Amberlight, inexplicably finds a battered outlander left for dead in the streets of the legendary city -- and an oracle reveals that he must not die. The man, although stripped of his memory, may know of a threat to Amberlight's unique possession: the motherlodes of the qherrique, the pearl-rock that gives their world its most powerful tool. Tangled in intrigue, insurrection and brutal warfare, it will take a cataclysmic upheaval for Tellurith and the stranger to begin to grasp the more-than-human mystery that brought them together.

In matriarchal Amberlight, multiple women share a single husband – husbands who live in Towers at the heart of the clan compound, which they are pretty much never supposed to leave, while women run everything. Tellurith, the main character, has a Tower-husband – but she also falls for an outsider. It takes three books for the trio to figure out their dynamics and how their relationship is going to work, but they do get there in the end.

Ending

In these books, the polyamory doesn’t occur until very near the ending – making their inclusion on this list spoilers! You have been warned.

The Whitefire Crossing (Shattered Sigil, #1) by Courtney Schafer
Goodreads

Dev is a smuggler with the perfect cover. He's in high demand as a guide for the caravans that carry legitimate goods from the city of Ninavel into the country of Alathia. The route through the Whitefire Mountains is treacherous, and Dev is one of the few climbers who knows how to cross them safely. With his skill and connections, it's easy enough to slip contraband charms from Ninavel - where any magic is fair game, no matter how dark - into Alathia, where most magic is outlawed.

But smuggling a few charms is one thing; smuggling a person through the warded Alathian border is near suicidal. Having made a promise to a dying friend, Dev is forced to take on a singularly dangerous cargo: Kiran. A young apprentice on the run from one of the most powerful mages in Ninavel, Kiran is desperate enough to pay a fortune to sneak into a country where discovery means certain execution - and he'll do whatever it takes to prevent Dev from finding out the terrible truth behind his getaway.

Yet Kiran isn't the only one harboring a deadly secret. Caught up in a web of subterfuge and dark magic, Dev and Kiran must find a way to trust each other - or face not only their own destruction, but that of the entire city of Ninavel.

The queerness is subtle but not invisible in book one, becomes more obvious in book two, and by the end of book three, the MCs have figured out that they’d actually like to settle down together – along with the fabulous Cara who is, frankly, too good for either of them. But it’s a slow-burn – even the idea of them forming a triad doesn’t come up until the third book – so pace yourselves. Honestly, the books are so good, I’d be surprised by anyone who doesn’t enjoy the wait!

True Love Bites (Hunger Pangs #1) by Joy Demorra
Goodreads

In a world of dwindling hope, love has never mattered more...

Captain Nathan J. Northland had no idea what to expect when he returned home to Lorehaven injured from war, but it certainly wasn't to find himself posted on an island full of vampires. An island whose local vampire dandy lord causes Nathan to feel strange things he'd never felt before. Particularly about fangs.
When Vlad Blutstein agreed to hire Nathan as Captain of the Eyrie Guard, he hadn't been sure what to expect either, but it certainly hadn't been to fall in love with a disabled werewolf. However Vlad has fallen and fallen hard, and that's the problem.

Torn by their allegiances--to family, to duty, and the age-old enmity between vampires and werewolves--the pair find themselves in a difficult situation: to love where the heart wants or to follow where expectation demands.

The situation is complicated further when a mysterious and beguiling figure known only as Lady Ursula crashes into their lives, bringing with her dark omens of death, doom, and destruction in her wake.

And a desperate plea for help neither of them can ignore.

Thrown together in uncertain times and struggling to find their place amidst the rising human empire, the unlikely trio must decide how to face the coming darkness: united as one or divided and alone. One thing is for certain, none of them will ever be the same.

This one’s a proper spoiler, since, although the three characters meet and share Interest in this book, they won’t actually become a triad until the sequel. (So sayeth the author.) But it’s a ridiculously fun, clever book, with great worldbuilding and a disabled MC and it made me laugh so much??? So it’s still going on the list!

Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices, #1) by Cassandra Clare
Goodreads

The Shadowhunters of Los Angeles star in the first novel in Cassandra Clare’s newest series, The Dark Artifices, a sequel to the internationally bestselling Mortal Instruments series. Lady Midnight is a Shadowhunters novel.

It’s been five years since the events of City of Heavenly Fire that brought the Shadowhunters to the brink of oblivion. Emma Carstairs is no longer a child in mourning, but a young woman bent on discovering what killed her parents and avenging her losses.

Together with her parabatai Julian Blackthorn, Emma must learn to trust her head and her heart as she investigates a demonic plot that stretches across Los Angeles, from the Sunset Strip to the enchanted sea that pounds the beaches of Santa Monica. If only her heart didn’t lead her in treacherous directions…

Making things even more complicated, Julian’s brother Mark—who was captured by the faeries five years ago—has been returned as a bargaining chip. The faeries are desperate to find out who is murdering their kind—and they need the Shadowhunters’ help to do it. But time works differently in faerie, so Mark has barely aged and doesn’t recognize his family. Can he ever truly return to them? Will the faeries really allow it?

Glitz, glamours, and Shadowhunters abound in this heartrending opening to Cassandra Clare’s Dark Artifices series.

You’ve probably heard of the Shadowhunter series at least vaguely – they’re bestsellers, and there was a tv show adaption that did pretty well. This trilogy stands on its own pretty well, though, so you can start with Lady Midnight if you so choose, and not read the earlier books. (I’ll be honest: I do not recommend most of the earlier books. The ones set in the Victorian era, however, are great.)

Reading these, I was praying for the triad to happen…while not expecting it to actually happen, because, you know. Traditional publishing. That is not erotica. Big, bestseller YA urban fantasy. Polyamory??? Not likely.

But I guess Cassandra Clare has enough clout to pull whatever she wants now, because YES, the triad does happen, and I’m still ridiculously happy about it. A faerie prince, a demonhunter, and their half-fae, half-demonhunter boyfriend. YES PLEASE AND THANK YOU.

Ascension (Tangled Axon, #1) by Jacqueline Koyanagi
Goodreads

Alana Quick is the best damned sky surgeon in Heliodor City, but repairing starship engines barely pays the bills. When the desperate crew of a cargo vessel stops by her shipyard looking for her spiritually advanced sister Nova, Alana stows away. Maybe her boldness will land her a long-term gig on the crew. But the Tangled Axon proves to be more than star-watching and plasma coils. The chief engineer thinks he's a wolf. The pilot fades in and out of existence. The captain is all blond hair, boots, and ego . . . and Alana can't keep her eyes off her. But there's little time for romance: Nova's in danger and someone will do anything--even destroying planets--to get their hands on her.

We don’t get enough Science Fantasy, in my opinion, and that’s exactly what Ascension is – though it skews more to the sci-fi end of things. The MC is a sapphic Black woman with chronic pain, and falls for another epic lady on a spaceship. The poly happens – or maybe is revealed? – very near the ending, and it’s one in which not all members of the relationship are actually in love with each other. Which isn’t something we see very often, either!

And that’s my list! I hope you enjoyed it, and maybe even found a few new reads to add to the tbr! If you did, let me know in the comments!

15 responses to “Love-Full: SFF Recs With Polyamory!

  1. Andy

    Gail Dayton’s Compass Rose trilogy heavily features polyamory as the norm in its central society, with marriage and family groups always involving more than two people. The main relationships are all about people finding their place within one ever evolving group.

  2. debby

    _Bannerless_ (Carrie Vaughn) has households that are many more than two adults, though its not always clear whether everyone is sexually involved with every (or even any)-one else. It’s a matter of pride (also economics) to earn a banner that allows a household to have a kid. Not sure that it totally fits your criteria, bu an ineresting world.

      • Abi

        A chorus of Dragons by Jenn Lyons has a slow burn poly relationship at its heart and makes me so so happy that they have found each other!!! Also great list I have added lots to my tbr shelf 🙂

        • Very good point! I haven’t finished the latest book yet, but I can’t believe I forgot about those three!!!

          And I’m so glad you liked the list! Hope you enjoy the new reads 😀

  3. Starfarers by Vonda N McIntyre has a poly relationship among some of the main characters.

    The Liaden series by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller have it, mostly as background but occasionally with main characters.

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