SFF Recs for International Asexuality Day!

Posted 6th April 2021 by Siavahda in Lists, Queer Lit, Recommendations / 0 Comments

Asexual Pride dragon by Kaenith!

It’s the first ever International Asexuality Day, and how else is an ace bookworm supposed to celebrate than by making a rec list? So here are some of my favourite fantasy (and a few sci-fi) books featuring characters on the ace spectrum!

Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children #1) by Seanan McGuire
Representation: Asexual MC, trans love interest, secondary characters of colour
Goodreads

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children

No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced... they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.

No list of ace recs would be complete without Every Heart a Doorway, the first book in the Wayward Children series and the first book I ever read where the word ‘asexual’ was used on-page. An asexual girl who just wants to get back to her personal Narnia – which isn’t a country with a talking lion, but a serene underworld realm – ends up at a boarding school for kids and teens who have been to other words…and kicked back to Earth again. The novella is a quick but powerful read that will make your heart ache, but it’s so, so beautiful. (And yes, I named my blog in its honour!)

Banner of the Damned by Sherwood Smith
Representation: Asexual MC, queernorm world
Goodreads

Princess Lasva is about to be named heir to her childless sister, the queen. But, when the queen finally bears an heir, Lasva's future is shattered. Grief-stricken, she leaves her country of Colend and falls into the arms of Prince Ivandred of Marloven Hesea. His people are utterly different-with their expertise in riding, weaponry, and magic- and the two soon marry.When the sensational news makes its way to Lasva's sister, the queen worries for Lasva at the hands of the Marlovens, whose king's mage is in league with the magical land of Norsunder-considered by Colendi to be their enemy. The queen orders Emras, a scribe, to guard Lasva.But it may be too late-Lasva is already deeply involved with the Marlovens and their magic. War wages on, and all are forced to redefine love, loyalty, and power...

Don’t worry if you’re intimidated by the hefty Indra series; you don’t need to have read it to enjoy Banner of the Damned, even if they’re set in the same world. This is a big High Fantasy standalone, with a main character who is asexual (but not aromantic) in a world where that’s recognised and accepted. If you want lots of politicking on an epic scale, this one’s for you!

Flesh and Fire (Vineart War #1) by Laura Anne Gilman
Representation: Asexual MC
Genres: Secondary World Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Goodreads

From acclaimed bestselling author Laura Anne Gilman comes a unique and enthralling new story of fantasy and adventure, wine and magic, danger and hope....

Once, all power in the Vin Lands was held by the prince-mages, who alone could craft spellwines, and selfishly used them to increase their own wealth and influence. But their abuse of power caused a demigod to break the Vine, shattering the power of the mages. Now, fourteen centuries later, it is the humble Vinearts who hold the secret of crafting spells from wines, the source of magic, and they are prohibited from holding power.

But now rumors come of a new darkness rising in the vineyards. Strange, terrifying creatures, sudden plagues, and mysterious disappearances threaten the land. Only one Vineart senses the danger, and he has only one weapon to use against it: a young slave. His name is Jerzy, and his origins are unknown, even to him. Yet his uncanny sense of the Vinearts' craft offers a hint of greater magics within — magics that his Master, the Vineart Malech, must cultivate and grow. But time is running out. If Malech cannot teach his new apprentice the secrets of the spellwines, and if Jerzy cannot master his own untapped powers, the Vin Lands shall surely be destroyed.

In Flesh and Fire, first in a spellbinding new trilogy, Laura Anne Gilman conjures a story as powerful as magic itself, as intoxicating as the finest of wines, and as timeless as the greatest legends ever told.

The Vineart War is a trilogy where the all-important magical wines can only be created by asexual people, although if I remember correctly that’s not something that’s known outside the vintner community. The writing and worldbuilding are wonderful, and the magic of the wines is both interesting in and of itself, and utilised very cleverly by the characters and their culture. It’s been a while since I read the trilogy, but I remember I inhaled all three books in a week!

An Accident of Stars (Manifold Worlds, #1) by Foz Meadows
Representation: Asexual Aroace MC of colour, F/F, secondary trans character, queernorm world, polyamory
Genres: Queer Protagonists
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?

I absolutely adore this duology, not just for its brilliant characters but for the intricate details of its worldbuilding. The books shift between POV characters, and one we’re introduced to almost immediately in book one is ace – and happily married, thank you very much! (I believe she’s also aromantic, but it’s been a while so don’t hold me to that.) It’s very queer and very brown and there’s so much magic and politics and adventuring! This is what portal fantasy looks like when it’s not written by old straight white dudes, okay?

Beyond the Black Door by A.M. Strickland, AdriAnne Strickland
Representation: Asexual MC, Genderqueer love interest
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Secondary World Fantasy
Goodreads

Kamai was warned never to open the black door, but she didn't listen ...

Everyone has a soul. Some are beautiful gardens, others are frightening dungeons. Soulwalkers―like Kamai and her mother―can journey into other people's souls while they sleep.

But no matter where Kamai visits, she sees the black door. It follows her into every soul, and her mother has told her to never, ever open it.
When Kamai touches the door, it is warm and beating, like it has a pulse. When she puts her ear to it, she hears her own name whispered from the other side. And when tragedy strikes, Kamai does the unthinkable: she opens the door.

A.M. Strickland's imaginative dark fantasy features court intrigue and romance, a main character coming to terms with her asexuality, and twists and turns as a seductive mystery unfolds that endangers not just Kamai's own soul, but the entire kingdom ...

An elegant standalone, Beyond the Black Door is, as the blurb says, about a young woman who can travel within the souls of others…despite seeming to not have a soul of her own. The prose is lush and gorgeous, and there’s just the right amount of worldbuilding (just wait until you discover the spectrum of moons that illustrates gender and sexuality! So cool!) It’s all politicking and secret guilds and a seductive probably-a-monster-no-really, all tied up with blasphemous and treason… It’s excellent!!! (And confirmed #ownvoices re the asexuality, if that matters to you.)

Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand
Representation: Black asexual MC, F/F or wlw
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Urban Fantasy
Goodreads

Beware of the woods and the dark, dank deep.
He’ll follow you home, and he won’t let you sleep.

Who are the Sawkill Girls?

Marion: the new girl. Awkward and plain, steady and dependable. Weighed down by tragedy and hungry for love she’s sure she’ll never find.

Zoey: the pariah. Luckless and lonely, hurting but hiding it. Aching with grief and dreaming of vanished girls. Maybe she’s broken—or maybe everyone else is.

Val: the queen bee. Gorgeous and privileged, ruthless and regal. Words like silk and eyes like knives, a heart made of secrets and a mouth full of lies.

Their stories come together on the island of Sawkill Rock, where gleaming horses graze in rolling pastures and cold waves crash against black cliffs. Where kids whisper the legend of an insidious monster at parties and around campfires.

Where girls have been disappearing for decades, stolen away by a ravenous evil no one has dared to fight… until now.

Sawkill Girls isn’t just one of my favourite ace books; it’s one of my favourite books ever. It’s another standalone, and it’s fierce and magical, poetic and brutal. I didn’t find the horror elements too much (and I’m a total horror wimp) but do bear in mind that they’re there. It’s very much a book about girl-power, about setting fire to the patriarchy and burning it to the ground, about not letting anyone take away your magic or dictate how you should use it. This is one of those books that is beautiful, not pretty. You’ve been warned!

The Perfect Assassin (Chronicles of Ghadid, #1) by K.A. Doore
Representation: Cast of colour, homoromantic asexual MC, M/M or mlm
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Secondary World Fantasy
Goodreads

A novice assassin is on the hunt for someone killing their own in K. A. Doore's The Perfect Assassin, a breakout high fantasy beginning the Chronicles of Ghadid series.

Divine justice is written in blood.

Or so Amastan has been taught. As a new assassin in the Basbowen family, he’s already having second thoughts about taking a life. A scarcity of contracts ends up being just what he needs.

Until, unexpectedly, Amastan finds the body of a very important drum chief. Until, impossibly, Basbowen’s finest start showing up dead, with their murderous jaan running wild in the dusty streets of Ghadid. Until, inevitably, Amastan is ordered to solve these murders, before the family gets blamed.

Every life has its price, but when the tables are turned, Amastan must find this perfect assassin or be their next target.

The Perfect Assassin does work as a standalone, but I’d recommend you continue and read the rest of the trilogy once you’ve finished it. It’s about a ridiculous cinnamon-roll who’s been trained as an assassin but isn’t all that sure about killing people, and that could have turned into a predictable, tropy mess, but it’s anything but. The worldbuilding is phenomenal – a desert city where water is both currency and magic – and I loved it.

Hopefully you will too, and then you can read the sequels!

Stranger (The Change Book 1) by Rachel Manija Brown, Sherwood Smith
Representation: Demisexual MC of colour, Gay MC of colour, M/M or mlm, queernorm world
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Science Fantasy
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 series features a demisexual character, though that word isn’t used – but I think almost everyone on the spectrum will recognise and sympathise with her confusion about and struggles with sex and FEELINGS. Aside from that, this is a fantastic series set in a very unique post-apocalyptic world – but the series is fundamentally optimistic, not grim (although not everyone in this world is nice, and the cast do have to fight for their way of life against some pretty messed-up people). The worldbuilding is strange and delightful – the animals and plants that have been Changed, and the way the world works now that the technology you and I take for granted is completely gone. It’s stunning and so much fun and hopeful and fierce, and I can’t encourage you enough to give this series a go!

A Pale Light in the Black (NeoG #1) by K.B. Wagers
Representation: Asexual, Bisexual, Nonbinary, Characters of Colour, Pansexual, F/F
Goodreads

The rollicking first entry in a unique science fiction series that introduces the Near-Earth Orbital Guard—NeoG—a military force patrolling and protecting space inspired by the real-life mission of the U.S. Coast Guard.

For the past year, their close loss in the annual Boarding Games has haunted Interceptor Team: Zuma’s Ghost. With this year’s competition looming, they’re looking forward to some payback—until an unexpected personnel change leaves them reeling. Their best swordsman has been transferred, and a new lieutenant has been assigned in his place.

Maxine Carmichael is trying to carve a place in the world on her own—away from the pressure and influence of her powerful family. The last thing she wants is to cause trouble at her command on Jupiter Station. With her new team in turmoil, Max must overcome her self-doubt and win their trust if she’s going to succeed. Failing is not an option—and would only prove her parents right.

But Max and the team must learn to work together quickly. A routine mission to retrieve a missing ship has suddenly turned dangerous, and now their lives are on the line. Someone is targeting members of Zuma’s Ghost, a mysterious opponent willing to kill to safeguard a secret that could shake society to its core . . . a secret that could lead to their deaths and kill thousands more unless Max and her new team stop them.

Rescue those in danger, find the bad guys, win the Games. It’s all in a day’s work at the NeoG.

A Pale Light in the Black was one of my favourite books of 2020, a hopepunk sci-fi that is fun as hell and queer as fuck; the ace MC is only one queer character of many. It’s huge on the found-family trope, and seriously, the entire cast is beyond wonderful. There’s a little bit of a policing plot – which is interesting and handled really well – but most of the book is about character relationships and also The Games, where the different arms of the military compete against each other in intense but friendly rivalry. It’s all just so much FUN.

And also, there’s a robot dog. Sold yet?

Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch, #1) by Ann Leckie
Representation: Asexual agender MC, queernorm world
Genres: Sci Fi, Queer Protagonists
Goodreads

On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest.

Once, she was the Justice of Toren - a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy.

Now, an act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with one fragile human body, unanswered questions, and a burning desire for vengeance.

The main character of the Imperial Radch trilogy is an AI, so…asexual and aromantic by default. This is hardcore sci-fi, with jaw-droppingly amazing worldbuilding and a main character I challenge you not to adore. There’s also a ton of sneaky politicking surrounding the emperor, utilising light-speed and multi-bodied technology. Seriously, it’s so beyond fabulous, Leckie is simply incredible. If you haven’t read these yet, you really do have to.

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1) by Martha Wells
Representation: Asexual aromantic agender MC
Genres: Sci Fi, Queer Protagonists
Goodreads

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn't a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied 'droid—a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as "Murderbot." Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.

But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it's up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

What asexual rec list would be complete without the beloved Murderbot?! Not an AI this time but a cyborg – one who is designed to be an unstoppable killing machine, but just wants to be left alone to watch its favourite TV shows. I mean, relatable, anyone??? Most of the series is made up of elegantly clever and tricksy novellas, but I think we’re getting the first Murderbot novel later this year!

Happy International Asexuality Day, everybody! Feel free to drop your own recs in the comments!

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