Shamelessly nabbing the idea from Rainbow Reads (which is a fantastic book blog for queer fiction, and if you’re not subscribed to their posts, you should be!) I’m going to rec a Fantasy book for each of the stripes of the Pride flag. Rainbow Reads used the original Gilbert Baker flag + the new brown and black stripes; I’m going to go a step further and also include the trans stripes, as on the Daniel Quasar flag below.
Baker designed the first Pride flag with each stripe representing what he saw as a core aspect of the queer experience/identity. The hot pink and turquoise stripes were eventually cut for practical reasons, but there’s no reason not to include them in this post!
So: these, plus the brown, black, and trans stripes.
Here we go!
Theme: a (fantasy) romance novel
A Rational Arrangement by L. Rowyn is an m/m/f polyamorous romantic fantasy set in a regency romance-esque world – except with giant talking cats and some people having magical abilities. The worldbuilding is actually awesome, but this was also my first time seeing an autistic woman as a lead character, and the relationship that develops between her and the two wonderful men she finds makes this a really delicious comfort read.
Theme: a book that celebrates LGBT lives
This is one of my favourite anthologies of short stories; it’s not often you find one where every story shines, but Kaleidoscope is something really special. It’s a whole bundle of stories featuring different flavours of queerness (and nuerodivergence!) in some really cool spec-fic, and I treasure it. I think this book is the reason I started trusting anthologies at all; I didn’t use to be much of a fan, but Kaleidoscope taught me it can be worth the risk. It doesn’t hurt that it features stories by some of my very favourite authors!
Theme: a book that feels like healing
In Other Lands is what you get when you take a snarky bisexual boy to magic school…and he’s not impressed. It’s a ridiculous amount of fun, but it’s also wickedly clever and gives you a lot of food for thought, especially if you’re familiar with the classic fantasy tropes than Brennan flips upside-down and dissects here. (As she does in a lot of her work, actually.) This wasn’t my first pick for the Healing stripe, but once it occurred to me, no other book could have the spot. In Other Lands is healing in multiple ways: we get to see Elliot, the main character, slowly heal from years of emotional abuse; we see how he and his friends and allies start to bring a kind of healing to the cultures on the other side of the magical Wall; and most of all, it’s healing for the reader. In Other Lands will make you laugh, will make your heart feel so full, without pretending that bad things don’t happen and life doesn’t suck sometimes. When you’re hurting, pick up this book. I promise you you’ll feel better.
Theme: a book with
summery sunny vibes
Look I’m just never gonna NOT use The Last Sun for this stripe, okay? Okay. It’s just too perfect. Sunshine…The Last Sun…look, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see the connection, yes?
Doesn’t hurt that it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read, either!
Theme: a book that connects to nature
I guess it’s kind of a given that a book about werewolves is also about nature, but the Green Creek series is moreso than most, revolving as it does around the special nature (hah!) of the Green Creek territory. Green Creek is old, and powerful; a special place that belongs to very special protectors. It’s a haven and a home, a stronghold and a throne, and I know I’m not even close to the only one who wishes they could walk beneath its trees.
Theme: a fantasy novel
All the books on this list are fantasy books, so for this stripe I thought I’d choose a fantasy book that’s really about magic. Caldera is an island full of magic, home to the Water Palace where live witches born out of nightmares and dreams. More than that, Caldera needs magic to survive; without the yearly sacrifice to the waves, the dark tide would swallow up and destroy the island. I haven’t finished reading this one yet, but I’m head-over-heels in love with it; the nature of magic, the rules of it and the cost of it and most of all the dark wonder of it are what drives the story here. Dark Tide is one of those rare books where the magic actually feels truly magical – and that’s without even beginning to dig into the fantastic characters and the ways in which they interact.
It just came out this month in ebook-format: seriously, you need to read it.
Theme: a book that leaves you feeling calm
Point of Hopes by Melissa Scott and Lisa Barnett – and all the rest of the Astreiant series, for that matter – is such a soothing book. Set in a world very like our Tudor period, but where the stars you’re born under really do affect your life in every way and queerness is completely normalised, it’s a slow, descriptive book that is technically a kind of detective novel – pointsman (policeman) Rathe is on the hunt for whoever’s been taking missing children – but it’s not high-paced or frenetic. It’s just really lovely and comforting and everything always ends well; one of my favourite comfort reads.
Theme: a book that makes you feel connected to the community
Like In Other Lands, this book, Every Heart a Doorway, qualifies for the Spirit stripe in more ways than one. Set in a boarding school for kids who went to other worlds before they were kicked back to this one, it grabbed me by the throat in showing me all these characters that felt exactly like I did – showing me a community of people who wanted nothing more than to find their Door home. It was the first time I ever saw an openly asexual character use the word asexual on-page, the first time I ever thought oh, she’s like me, there’s a place for me here after all. And watching, reading, and tracking the reactions to EHaD – which seemed to send a stir through the entire Fantasy world – made me feel connected to so many strangers who felt the same things about this book that I did; people opening up about their longing for a Door, their Door, about their refusal to give up believing in magic, about the (barely a) metaphor for being queer and needing to find the place you belong. EHaD gave me a community of characters, a community of readers, and reaffirmed that there was a place for asexual people in the queer community as a whole. It’s a very special book.
Theme: a book by and about QPOC
Pet is a beautiful book about a young queer Black girl who must help an angel – one more along the original Biblical descriptions than a fluffy baby with a harp – hunt through the seeming Utopia she lives in to find a hidden evil. Besides being gorgeous, original, and escapist (the world Jam lives in looks so like the one I want for our world) it also hammers home a hard truth more of us need to learn: that vigilance is required even when things look perfect. Maybe especially when things look perfect. There’ll always be monsters, but as long as we never pretend otherwise, they’ll never win.
Theme: a book by and about a trans person
I wrote a review of Darkling way back in July of last year – you can read it here – and I love it just as much now as I did when I first read it. It’s the unashamedly sexy story of a trans witch who has to find a way to reconcile the two sides of his heritage – fire witchery and necromancy – before he ends up killing someone. The characters just sweep you off your feet, the writing is stunning, I love the entire set-up of the magic, and every instalment in the series just brings you more to love. The author, Brooklyn Ray, is also a trans witch, and a very cool person to be following on social media.
Show me your stripes in the comments!