With so many books with awesome LGBTQIA+ representation, I know my indecisiveness would make it impossible to make recommendation posts if I didn’t further narrow down the criteria. (Last year for Pride I shared some of my favorite books with Bisexual/ Pansexual Protagonists and with Demisexual/ Grayace Protagonists.)
Today I bring you six retellings with queer central characters, because I love a good retelling; in the hands of a talented author, it’s a brilliant opportunity to explore how different facets of the characters’ identity — i.e., sexual and/or romantic orientation, gender identity, race/ethnicity — affect their beliefs, behavior, and the story they lead.
Ash by Malinda Lo
Published in 2009, Ash is hailed as an early diverse read: a sapphic Cinderella retelling by a QPOC author, where the F/F main pairing is matter-of-factly accepted and — spoiler alert, I suppose — gets a happy ending. The synopsis emphasizes “the connection between life and love, and solitude and death, where transformation can come from even the deepest grief”; to be a bit more specific, there’s faeries (the dangerous kind) and magic and, of course, true love.
Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust
This one’s based on Persian mythology and storytelling, with several stories-within-the-story, as well as inspiration from Sleeping Beauty and Rappaccini’s Daughter. The protagonist is a bi/pan girl whose touch is poisonous; the two love interests are a mysterious demon girl and a charming soldier boy. (Yeah, fair warning, it’s a love triangle, and also a conflict between the protagonist’s two different sides or possible paths forward; for what it’s worth, though, familial ties play just as large of a role in the narrative.)
Legendborn by Tracey Deonn
I had lots of fun reading and discussing Legendborn with Books and Tea Book Club; it’s a fascinating take on Arthurian legend, secret societies, different magic systems, slavery and colonialism. (Although the main character doesn’t seem to be queer — though she is a Black girl on a mostly-white college campus — several other major characters are, so since this is my post and I make the rules, it still qualifies.) There’s lots to unpack and explore in this first installment of an action-packed series.
The Celestial Trilogy by Sangu Mandanna
Space opera fans, you absolutely need to check out this reimagining of the Mahabharata and Indian mythology. And even if you don’t love sci-fi, give it a chance — once you get into A Spark of White Fire, you just might find yourself won over by the plucky and loyal protagonist, the sassy sentient spaceship, or one of the mercurial gods. The worldbuilding is spectacular, the plot exciting, and with the final installment coming out this month, it’s the perfect time to dive in.
The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo
Picture this: The Great Gatsby, but centered on queer Vietnamese adoptee Jordan Baker as she figures out how she fits into the 1920s New York social scene and how to harness her magic. Fantastically atmospheric with all the glitz and glamour and yearning of Fitzgerald’s Gatsby, Vo’s The Chosen and the Beautiful pays homage to iconic scenes while filling in the events between. (I would highly recommend (re)reading The Great Gatsby first, so you can catch and appreciate all the Easter eggs!)
Wicked As You Wish by Rin Chupeco
Unlike the others in this list, A Hundred Names for Magic is less a retelling of a specific story and more an alternate-history combination of stories including Wonderland, the Snow Queen, Journey to the West, and more. It features compelling teenage friendships and close-knit family — including literally kickass Filipinx elders! — and a sassy Firebird sidekick. All that said, book two has been postponed to May 2022 and Chupeco is revising book one (Wicked As You Wish) to better align with the rest of the trilogy; the paperback release is scheduled for this October.
- Do you know of any other queer retellings that I’ve missed?
- What are your favorite tales to see retold?