I figured I wasn’t alone in this sentiment, so I decided to make a list of a few diverse SF/F novels that I really enjoyed. Some are queer. Some feature POC protagonists. Some may be urban fantasy or magical realism, but I still consider those SF/F. These are just personal favorites that I enjoyed, and I would really appreciate any recommendations you all have.
Mask of Shadows – Linsey Miller
This one was kind of guaranteed to make an appearance on this list, so I figured I’d just get it out of the way. An assassin competition with a genderfluid MC seeking revenge, and the book is even better than the summary. I cannot recommend this one enough.
The Seafarer’s Kiss – Julia Ember
Ever since reading Julia Ember’s first novel, Unicorn Tracks, I haven’t been able to stop reading her novels. I’ll just say now, you’ll be seeing all three of her outstanding novels on this list, but I’ll be kind enough to spread them out. This one’s a Norse, F/F Little Mermaid retelling!
Want – Cindy Pon
I honestly went into this one completely clueless, and was blow away with everything, from Pon’s writing to the story she very eloquently developed. A dystopia based in Taipei, Taiwan, with an all POC cast and a few LGBT+ characters as well.
Peter Darling – Austin Chant
I WASN’T EVEN PLANNING ON READING THIS BOOK. But then I was told it was a Peter Pan retelling, with a trans Peter falling in love with Captain Hook. Like, how can you pass that up. It’s such an amazing read, and I was not let down at all.
Unicorn Tracks – Julia Ember
I did mention that basically all of Julia’s books will be on this list, right? This is the book that made me fall in love with her writing, and this love is still kicking after about two-ish years. Also, Julia just seems to be into writing diverse SF/F so there wasn’t a way to not recommend her.
The Abyss Surrounds Us – Emily Skrutskie
Whenever I rec this book, I always pitch it simply as “sea monsters and badass girls loving girls”. Because?? How can you NOT want to read that?? People always rec it as a great book slump breaker, and it’s true!! This one helps you outta slumps while giving you some badassery.
While in my initial read I found a few flaws, I ultimately really enjoyed this one. A black MC who has chronic pain, as well as beautiful prose that really helps the story. Alana stows away on a stranger’s ship for a chance to follow her dreams, and there’s so much uplifting language used.
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue – Mackenzi Lee
Okay, hear me out first. I realize that GGTVAV is advertised as a historical fiction, but there are actually some fantasy elements in it later on, and I just had to add it onto this list. Lee effortlessly combines the historical story with the fantastical, and I love it (and highly recommend it!).
When the Moon Was Ours – Anna-Marie McLemore
An immersive and alluring magical realism novel that focuses on a trans Pakistani boy and a Latina girl and the roses that grow from her wrist. Doesn’t that just sound so amazing? WTMWO blew me away, and McLemore’s writing is truly something else.
Ida – Alison Evans
No joke, Ida is one of the first books that I read #OwnVoices genderqueer rep in. It meant so much to me to read about Daisy, and how their life was, that I just had to have this novel. Yes, it’s about a biracial bisexual girl, and Daisy is only her partner, but I still loved the entire story.
Fire Boy – Sami Shah
Fire Boy is based off of Muslim and Pakistani culture, bringing djinns to life. Even as someone who didn’t grow up with these tales, I was terrified through a large chunk of it. I loved the culture and the characters, and highly recommend this story to anyone. It’s a very intense read.
The Tiger’s Watch – Julia Ember
Y’all. Do I even need to say anything. I literally JUST finished this one, and I can’t stop thinking about it. It was so beautiful and I loved the world building, and the magic system. Julia Ember continues to Wow me, and I can’t get enough of her novels.
A Darker Shade of Magic – V.E. Schwab
Okay, I have to admit that the first isn’t the most diverse out there. But I love these novels, and the second one is amazing. I still have to read the third, as I’m a little afraid of where the story could go, but I still really enjoyed both ADSOM and AGOS.