Brace yourself–the 10th category of the Sapphic Reading Challenge is a long post because it covers WLW & lesbian speculative fiction. Speculative fiction is an umbrella term for books with strong fantastical, supernatural, or futuristic elements. That includes subgenres such as WLW & lesbian fantasy, paranormal romance, urban fantasy, science fiction, fairytale retellings, and superheroine books.
I created a list of 5 books for each subgenre. But before we get to the book lists, here’s a surprise for you:
What if you don’t usually enjoy speculative fiction?
I heard from readers who say that they don’t usually read speculative fiction. So what do you do if fantasy, science fiction, & other fantastical books are not your normal reading fare, but you still want to read a book for this category to complete the reading challenge?
A few years ago, I wrote a blog post for the Lesbian Book Bingo on how to complete the reading challenge when you don’t like speculative fiction. I think you’ll find those tips helpful.
5 sapphic paranormal romance or urban fantasy novels:
Second Nature by Jae
For solitary novelist Jorie Price, true love seems as fictional as the shape-shifting creatures she writes about in her paranormal romances.
Griffin Westmore doesn’t believe in love either, but she’s one of those not-so-fictional shape-shifters who secretly live among humans.
When Jorie’s writing gets uncomfortably close to the truth, Griffin is sent to investigate and, if necessary, kill the author to protect the secrets of her kind.
But when Griffin unexpectedly finds herself drawn to Jorie, her world is turned upside-down. Hell, she’s supposed to kill the human, not fall in love with her! How can she complete her mission now?
Get it for FREE at Amazon worldwide (March 18 & 19 only)
Reaping the Benefits by EJ Noyes
Morgan Ashworth isn’t having a good day. The award for Minion of the Year is slipping out of reach, and she has to administer an afterlife package to one of her human employees. An employee she’s attracted to. An employee who’ll soon know Morgan isn’t quite what she seems.
Jane Smith was having a great day. Until her hot boss dropped a bombshell. It’s time for Jane to complete the questionnaire to decide where she’ll spend her afterlife. Oh, and her boss is immortal and also Death’s Head Minion. Yes, Death, as in the Grim Reaper.
Jane decides to bargain—if Morgan needs her to sign the afterlife document, she can use her unlimited resources to help Jane with her bucket list. Seems straightforward. Except for the matter of their mutual attraction, and the fact one of the items on Jane’s list is “Sleep with my boss.”
The more time Morgan and Jane spend together, the more they realize mutual attraction barely scratches the surface. But can Jane heal the broken heart Morgan has nursed for centuries? And will Morgan risk loving, then losing, another mortal woman when she knows it means an eternity of heartbreak?
The Life in Death by Ann Modtland & Michele Modtland
Looking down at your dying body is indescribable, yet terrifying and unnatural. I saw my body shaking as my brain delivered its final electrical impulses, my back arching as it desperately sought life-giving air. As I reached down in a frantic attempt to put myself back together, the seizure suddenly stopped. Blood pooled from the hole in my head—a much larger amount than I had expected. Anxious to save myself, I instinctively tried to push the blood back through the hole, but I couldn’t grasp anything. I was intangible. There was a gurgling, moaning sound as my breath left my body. Then everything went still. I panicked and repeatedly tried to get back into my body, but it was useless. My life was finished and my soul—me—had been freed from the confines of the physical world. It was done. There was no going back. I was dead.
Combining strong elements of romance, mystery, and spiritualism, The Life in Death follows the life, death, and life-after-life of Tallon Monroe, a woman grieving over her murdered wife and unborn child. The Life in Death is a story of profound love that transcends the boundary between life and death. The Life in Death includes violence, abuse, and suicide and is recommended for mature readers.
Catch Lili Too by Sophie Whittemore
Lili is a Mesopotamian siren, and life as an immortal being is hard enough as it is. She’s asexual (which is incredibly difficult to reconcile if your entire point as a mythical being is to seduce people to death). She’s also struggling with depression from being alive for so long.
Lili is an absolutely shoddy improv-detective trying to track down a serial killer so ruthless that it makes even her murderous soul uneasy. However, there’s something larger at work than just one serial killer. A small town is hiding an even deadlier, global-scale secret. Forget Area 51 conspiracies. This one beats them all. With magic.
So, what better way to spice up her eternal life than being hired as a vigilante detective to stop a serial killer? Anything, literally anything. She’d trade her left lung to get out of this. Or, perhaps, somebody else’s.
Terrible Praise by Lara Hayes
For five hundred years, all Stela had known was a roving life in service to her maker, Fane. But in the last century her family has built a permanent residence in the abandoned freight tunnels beneath Chicago, where anonymity reigns supreme.
Navigating the modern world is not easy and Stela, once a fierce warrior, has traded the heat of battle for petty negotiation, her sword for a pen, and her station as Fane’s enforcer to now serve as her family’s financial liaison.
When a late meeting forces Stela to visit a nearby hospital, she crosses paths with the beguiling Elizabeth Dumas—a brilliant nurse who sacrificed her academic career to care for her ailing mother. Their charged encounter will threaten the secrecy Stela has sworn to uphold, and the bond they unwittingly forge will irrevocably alter both their lives.
Worlds collide and entwine in Terrible Praise, Book One of The Redamancy Series.
5 WLW / lesbian superheroine books:
Shattered by Lee Winter
Shattergirl is a brilliant but aloof black, alien superhero who can hurl and destroy large objects. The world reveres her and other guardians like her, yet she’s suddenly refusing to save people and has suddenly disappeared.
Lena Martin, the street-smart human tracker with a silver tongue and a disdain for the rogue guardians she chases, has only days to bring Shattergirl home.
As the pair clash heatedly, masks begin to crack, and brutal secrets are exposed that could shatter them both.
An award-winning, opposites-attract, lesbian science fiction story about embracing the special people who pass through our lives and change us forever.
The Power of Mercy by Fiona Zedde
To her family, Mai Redstone is weak. Her shape-shifting power is nowhere near as impressive as their abilities to literally alter the world around them. But when she puts on the costume to become Mercy, a rooftop-climbing chameleon with a thousand disguises and at least nine lives, she feels almost invincible.
When a local politician is murdered and the police call Mercy in to help, the stability Mai has built out of past pain threatens to crumble. The dead politician turns out to be her uncle, a man who made her childhood a living hell. Caught between giving a medal to the killer and being forced to find the murderer for her family, Mai must make the difficult choice between family loyalty and self-preservation.
Mercy is a blade that can cut both ways.
Never Too Late for Heroes by A.L. Brooks
Agent Geena Fox is counting down the days to her retirement. On one bittersweet day six years ago, her team of superheroes defeated Jewel, the world’s most evil villainꟷbut Geena’s secret lover died in the process. Now her boss has assigned her a rookie partner, Leigh Walker, and that’s the last thing Geena needs. She sends the woman off on a wild goose chase searching for a long-lost missing person to get her out of her sight. However, what Leigh finds will turn Agent Fox’s world upside down.
Meanwhile, over in a retirement home in Missouri, four old women sharing the surname Power are arousing suspicion with their strange behavior. Their nosy nurse is convinced they are not what they seem. Geena and Leigh meet with the mysterious Powers, and realize the women might hold the key to stopping Jewel, once and for all.
Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee
Welcome to Andover, where superpowers are common, but internships are complicated. Just ask high school nobody, Jessica Tran. Despite her heroic lineage, Jess is resigned to a life without superpowers and is merely looking to beef up her college applications when she stumbles upon the perfect (paid!) internship–only it turns out to be for the towns most heinous supervillain. On the upside, she gets to work with her longtime secret crush, Abby, whom Jess thinks may have a secret of her own. Then theres the budding attraction to her fellow intern, the mysterious “M”; who never seems to be in the same place as Abby. But what starts as a fun way to spite her superhero parents takes a sudden and dangerous turn when she uncovers a plot larger than heroes and villains altogether.
The Superheroes Union: Dynama by Ruth Diaz
TJ Gutierrez used to be a superhero. But after the birth of her twins seven years ago, she hung up the yellow spandex. Until the day her archenemy and ex-husband, Singularity, breaks out of prison. When it becomes clear he’s after the kids, she’s forced to call the nanny helpline—and once again become…Dynama!
Annmarie Smith doesn’t have a superpower. She saves the world by keeping kids safe while their parents fight evil.
She temporarily moves in with TJ, and the way the magnetic mama puts family first captures Annmarie’s respect, and maybe her heart—even though she knows better than to fall for a superhero. Still, it’s hard to resist their wicked chemistry. Kapow!
But they can only hide from the world for so long. When Singularity’s quest for custody puts the kids’ lives in danger, can the two women conquer the evil villain and save TJ’s family—all before their first date?
5 WLW / lesbian fairytale retellings:
The Beast That Never Was by Caren J. Werlinger (The Beauty and the Beast retelling)
What if Beauty was the Beast?
Lise’s father is dead, and the life of plenty and freedom that she has known as the daughter of the King’s Huntsman is gone. She must now live a life of duty to her mother and sisters, helping them to cope in their altered circumstances. But where her mother would have her wed a childhood friend to secure their future, Lise knows that is not what she longs for.
When she meets a mysterious woman in the forest, Lise feels the stirrings of emotions she cannot give voice to, but with this woman, she doesn’t have to say anything—Senna knows.
Cursed, hunted, and feared, Senna has been forced to wander from place to place for more years than she cares to remember. She gave up hope long ago that there could ever be an end to her isolation.
Odd sightings in the forest—monsters of legend come to life, old enemies back from the past, fearsome beasts on the prowl—begin to frighten the people of Lise’s village. Somehow, all of these things are connected to Senna. As the villagers’ fear grows, so does their hatred.
Senna prepares to flee, accepting what has become her fate, but Lise isn’t ready to give up her one chance for happiness. Soon, only Lise stands between the villagers and the woman she has grown to love.
The Little Homo Sapiens Scientist by S.L. Huang (The Little Mermaid retelling)
The Earth is populated by two sentient species who share it: humans on the land’s crust, and the atargati in the deep abysses of the ocean. Dr. Cadence Mbella is the foremost human researcher studying the mysterious atargati, intent on proving to the rest of the human world that they are a complex society deserving of respect–not the overly-romanticized “mermaids” some would like to imagine.
When Cadence discovers, to her horror, that her own superiors are conducting an unethical experiment on an atargati subject, she sacrifices everything to enact a rescue. Once the atargati is safe back in the deep sea, Cadence goes on the run, a fugitive from the law with her career burned behind her. But she can’t stop thinking about her lifelong research, and she yearns to find a way to return to the ocean’s abysses. Not to mention that the atargati she saved keeps haunting her dreams . . .
Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust (Snow White retelling)
Sixteen-year-old Mina is motherless, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone. In fact, it has never beat at all, for her father cut it out and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother.
Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image. Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina, but when her father makes her queen of the southern territories, Mina starts to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do – and who to be – in order to win back the only mother she’s ever known . . . or else defeat her once and for all.
Cinder Ella by S.T. Lynn (Cinderella retelling)
Ella is transgender. She’s known since she was young; being a woman just fit better. She was happier in skirts than trousers, but that was before her stepmother moved in. Eleanor can’t stand her, and after Ella’s father passes she’s forced to revert to Cole, a lump of a son. She cooks, she cleans, and she tolerates being called the wrong name for the sake of a roof over her head. Where else can she go?
An opportunity to attend the royal ball transforms Ella’s life. For the first time, strangers see a woman when she walks down the stairs. While Princess Lizabetta invited Cole to the ball, she doesn’t blink an eye when Cinderella is the one who shows. The princess is elegant, bold, and everything Ella never knew she wanted. For a moment she glimpses a world that can accept her, and she holds on tight.
She should have known it wouldn’t last. Dumped by her wicked stepmother on the farthest edge of the kingdom, Ella must find a way to let go of the princess and the beautiful life they shared for an hour. She’ll never find her way back. But it’s hard to forget the greatest night of her life when every rose she plants is a reminder.
Gretel by Niamh Murphy (Hansel and Gretel retelling)
Tormented by a pack of bloodthirsty wolves, Hans and his sister Gretel, run for their lives.
Desperation leads them into the comforting arms of a beautiful woman who asks for nothing in return for her kindness. While Gretel finds herself drawn to the seductress, Hans grows suspicious of her motives. Torn between a brother she adores and a woman she can’t help but admire, Gretel is forced to make a choice.
Will sibling bonds override the lure of a newfound love?
5 sapphic / lesbian fantasy novels:
Silver Ravens by Jane Fletcher
The Celts knew it as Annwyn, the Otherworld—certainly not a destination IT professional Lori Cooper anticipates when distracting herself with a magazine puzzle page in the dentist’s waiting room. Clues buried in the answers lead her to Tamsin, who claims to command a band of warriors for the queen of the fay. From this, Lori concludes that Tamsin is both insane and dangerous. She’s also quite worryingly attractive.
However, Lori’s own sanity becomes a bigger concern when she finds herself held captive in a strange world with yet more puzzles to solve. She must pick her way through layers of illusion and deceit. Nothing and nobody, including Tamsin, is quite as they seem. Who can Lori trust? She will need to uncover the full truth if she is to return home, mind and body intact.
Princess of Dorsa (The Chronicles of Dorsa Book 1) by Eliza Andrews
Rebellious Princess Natasia has always known that her fate is to marry a man her father can shape into his heir. But everything changes after a would-be assassin nearly takes Tasia’s life. Someone with means and connections is obviously trying to destabilize the Empire, but who? No noble family is above suspicion, so the Emperor takes the extraordinary step of naming his daughter his true heir.
Tasia suddenly finds herself saddled with learning to rule an entire Empire. But there are enemies on every side, threatening to disrupt the Empire’s fragile peace — there’s the long-standing and deeply unpopular war in the East, disagreements amongst her father’s closest advisors, angry lords threatening their defiance, and rumors of a faraway kingdom trying to sow discord.
Can Tasia rise to the occasion? Will she be the leader her father believes her to be? Or is the Empire doomed to fall?
The Tiger’s Daughter by K Arsenault Rivera
The Hokkaran empire has conquered every land within their bold reach—but failed to notice a lurking darkness festering within the people. Now, their border walls begin to crumble, and villages fall to demons swarming out of the forests.
Away on the silver steppes, the remaining tribes of nomadic Qorin retreat and protect their own, having bartered a treaty with the empire, exchanging inheritance through the dynasties. It is up to two young warriors, raised together across borders since their prophesied birth, to save the world from the encroaching demons.
This is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O Shizuka, and a power that can reach through time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil.
Dragon Whisper (The Dark Age Trilogy Book 1) by Niamh Murphy
A looming war. A devastating blight. A God hungry for souls.
To save herself, she will first have to save the world.
In the dying forests of the Weald Wood, Breanna, a young outcast, is simply trying to earn a Hunter’s axe.
When she witnesses the sacred Forest Drake kill her father and destroy her village home, she knows her life is forever altered. But Breanna holds a secret that could be the key to stopping the Ancient Dragon God’s rampage.
The fate of every being in the land now depends on one young woman who can hear the Dragon’s Whisper.
The Empress of Salt and Fortune (The Singing Hills Cycle Book 1) by Nghi Vo
A young royal from the far north, is sent south for a political marriage in an empire reminiscent of imperial China. Her brothers are dead, her armies and their war mammoths long defeated and caged behind their borders. Alone and sometimes reviled, she must choose her allies carefully.
Rabbit, a handmaiden, sold by her parents to the palace for the lack of five baskets of dye, befriends the emperor’s lonely new wife and gets more than she bargained for.
At once feminist high fantasy and an indictment of monarchy, this evocative debut follows the rise of the empress In-yo, who has few resources and fewer friends. She’s a northern daughter in a mage-made summer exile, but she will bend history to her will and bring down her enemies, piece by piece.
5 WLW / lesbian science fiction novels:
The Caphenon (Chronicles of Alsea series #1) by Fletcher DeLancey
A split-second decision to save a civilization. Another decision to give it away.
Captain Ekatya Serrado has spent her career fighting the Voloth, who view less advanced civilizations as fuel for their empire. The choice between saving her ship or a world under attack is easy. The choices that come after are harder.
Lancer Andira Tal, the leader of Alsea, believes her people are alone in the universe until a gigantic spaceship crashes near her capital city. Now she is thrust into a struggle between two powerful forces, and her planet is the prize.
With a civilization and the galactic balance of power at risk, friendships and alliances may not hold against betrayal. Honor is easy when the stakes are low.
Saving Morgan by MB Panichi
Morgan Rahn is devastated when her co-worker is killed in a freak Moon Base accident—that he was wearing her gear at the time is more than a little disconcerting. His replacement, Shaine Wendt, proves competent, and, over time, distractingly attractive.
Shaine has tried to walk away from her former life as a Special Operative in Earth Guard. The simple life of a mechanic and possibilities with the passionate Morgan are all she wants. But Shaine’s old security boss presses her into service as undercover security for Morgan. No one, including Morgan, is to know of Shaine’s dual role.
When Morgan is attacked directly, it’s clear that even far from Earth’s intrigues there are lies and secrets that can drive someone to murder. Shaine is committed to protecting Morgan from all harm. But how can Morgan trust her when Shaine is part of yet another lie?
Ardulum: First Don by J. S. Fields
Ardulum. The planet that vanishes. The planet that sleeps.
Neek makes a living piloting the dilapidated tramp transport, Mercy’s Pledge, and smuggling questionable goods across systems blessed with peace and prosperity. She gets by—but only just. In her dreams, she is still haunted by thoughts of Ardulum, the traveling planet that, long ago, visited her homeworld. The Ardulans brought with them agriculture, art, interstellar technology…and then disappeared without a trace, leaving Neek’s people to worship them as gods.
Neek does not believe—and has paid dearly for it with an exile from her home for her heretical views.
Yet, when the crew stumbles into an armed confrontation between the sheriffs of the Charted Systems and an unknown species, fate deals Neek an unexpected hand in the form of a slave girl—a child whose ability to telepathically manipulate cellulose is reminiscent of that of an Ardulan god. Forced to reconcile her beliefs, Neek chooses to protect her, but is the child the key to her salvation, or will she lead them all to their deaths?
Tarnished Are the Stars by Rosiee Thor
A secret beats inside Anna Thatcher’s chest: an illegal clockwork heart. Anna works cog by cog — donning the moniker Technician — to supply black market medical technology to the sick and injured, against the Commissioner’s tyrannical laws.
Nathaniel Fremont, the Commissioner’s son, has never had to fear the law. Determined to earn his father’s respect, Nathaniel sets out to capture the Technician. But the more he learns about the outlaw, the more he questions whether his father’s elusive affection is worth chasing at all.
Their game of cat and mouse takes an abrupt turn when Eliza, a skilled assassin and spy, arrives. Her mission is to learn the Commissioner’s secrets at any cost — even if it means betraying her own heart.
When these uneasy allies discover the most dangerous secret of all, they must work together despite their differences and put an end to a deadly epidemic — before the Commissioner ends them first.
Seven Devils by Laura Lam & Elizabeth May
When Eris faked her death, she thought she had left her old life as the heir to the galaxy’s most ruthless empire behind. But her recruitment by the Novantaen Resistance, an organization opposed to the empire’s voracious expansion, throws her right back into the fray.
Eris has been assigned a new mission: to infiltrate a spaceship ferrying deadly cargo and return the intelligence gathered to the Resistance. But her partner for the mission, mechanic and hotshot pilot Cloelia, bears an old grudge against Eris, making an already difficult infiltration even more complicated.
When they find the ship, they discover more than they bargained for: three fugitives with firsthand knowledge of the corrupt empire’s inner workings.
Together, these women possess the knowledge and capabilities to bring the empire to its knees. But the clock is ticking: the new heir to the empire plans to disrupt a peace summit with the only remaining alien empire, ensuring the empire’s continued expansion. If they can find a way to stop him, they will save the galaxy.
If they can’t, millions may die.
Leave a comment
I’d love to know which speculative fiction book you’ll be reading! Leave a comment and let us know which subgenre you picked and what book you’ve chosen!
If I missed your favorite sapphic speculative novel, feel free to name it in the comments too.
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12 thoughts on “WLW & lesbian speculative fiction (Sapphic Reading Challenge #10)”
Wow, great collection! Thank you, Jae
You’re very welcome! It was fun to put it together, but difficult to pick just 5 for each subgenre.
Amazing list! Just a thought, maybe ‘Raven and the Reindeer’ by T Kingfisher as well?
I kept the list to 5 books in each subgenre, but of course, for the reading challenge, that would be a great choice as well!
I loved Aurora’s Angel by Emily Noon, I listened on Audible and I’m not sure where else it’s available. It’s the only novel by the author on Audible but I’m looking forward to more!
Great list! Half of the 18 books I have so far have been SF, none on this list, since they fit in many other categories as well. All recommended!
My SF was Far Enough by Fletcher DeLancey (novella part of the Alsea series mentioned in this list, fills in events before last novel). The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow, Renegade’s War by Gun Brooke, Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire, Steel Crow Saga by Paul Krueger, Ash by Malinda Lo, The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall, & True Nature by Jae. Currently reading and loving Making a Tinderbox by Emma Sterner-Radley. There are so many choices, hopefully everyone finds one they love!
I re-read Jody Klaire’s “The Empath” but all the other books from her “Above and Beyond” series are great for this category too.
What is WLW if it’s not referring to Women Loving Womwn?
It does mean women-loving women or women-loving woman.
My pick for this one is Stephanie Burgis’ ‘Moontangled’ – it’s part of the Harcourt Spellbook series, and I raced through the whole lot in January. An absolutely delightful historical fantasy set in an alternate universe 19th century.
Thanks Jae. Got a question – would “The Midnight Hunt by L.L. Raand” qualify for this category?
Yes, definitely. It’s a paranormal romance, so it fits the speculative fiction category.