By Alex Urbanek, Library Assistant 2
I have been passionate about fantasy stories for years, and especially more so since the pandemic. Being stuck inside, it has been wonderful to escape into magical and fantastical worlds. In particular, I’ve made it my mission to read more fantasy titles by LGBTQ+ authors, many of which have LGBTQ+ protagonists, and I have found some fantastic stories. Whether they’re contemporary fantasy with hints of realism, or high fantasy that happens to have queer characters, fantasy is finally showcase characters with a variety of genders and sexualities.
“Cemetery Boys” by Aiden Thomas is the story of Yadriel, a transgender brujo who is struggling to prove he belongs among his traditional Latinx family. After completing the ritual to become a brujo, Yadriel summons a ghost to banish as proof, but soon becomes stuck with easily-excited and troublesome Julian. As Yadriel tries to help Julian understand what killed him, running behind the backs of his family, he begins to feel connected to Julian in a way he never expected.
Working as a Case Worker for the Department of Magical Youth, Linus Baker lives his life by the book. He follows the rules and regulations of his job to a T and has a quiet home life with his cat Calliope. In “The House in the Cerulean Sea” by T.J. Klune, Linus is charged by Extremely Upper Management to travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, a high security orphanage that few know about, and decide if it’s worth keeping open. Within the orphanage, he finds several children (a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the 6-year-old Antichrist), as well as the caretaker, effortlessly charming Arthur Parnassus. Linus has been given one month to fill out his paperwork and decide if the home should be shut down or if this crazy little family should be allowed to stay together.
Anna-Marie McLemore is easily one of my favorite writers; their magical realist books combine young love, LGBTQ+ struggles, and the beauty of magic throughout. The first book I read by them was “When the Moon Was Ours.” Miel is a young girl with roses growing out of her wrist, and rumors say she appeared out of the water tower when she was five. Her best friend Sam paints lit-up moons to hang in trees and keeps his history before moving to town a secret. Even though most kids find Miel and Sam weird, even they keep their distance from the Bonner girls, four sisters rumored to be witches. When the Bonner sisters decide that Miel’s roses can make anyone fall in love, they’re determined to get the roses no matter what it takes.
For something with a more classic fantasy feel, “Girls of Paper and Fire” by Natasha Ngan is a great read. Within this story, Lei, a member of the lowest caste, is chosen to be one of eight Paper Girls selected to serve the king. However, this year, instead of eight girls, there are nine. The king has heard of Lei’s beauty and her golden eyes and sends his guards to retrieve her. Once in the castle, Lei has weeks of training with the eight other girls to learn what it is to be a king’s consort. However, during her training she ends up falling into a forbidden romance.
Charlie Jane Anders’s “All the Birds in the Sky” has a curious mix of sci-fi and fantasy. From childhood, we follow the stories of Patricia Delfine, a witch, and Laurence Armstead, a genius and slightly-mad scientist. Once childhood friends, they have grown into adulthood in very different environments. Patricia has worked at magic school and now travels with a small band of magicians secretly righting wrongs. Laurence has worked his way up within a tech company that is determined to save humanity with space trouble or end it by trying. While both are trying to help the world in their respective ways, they find their way back to each other with the help of a mysterious force. Now they have to see who has the right idea to fix the world, and if it can even be fixed.
If any of these titles got you in the mood to read some great fantasy, all of these books, and many more can be found at the Manhattan Library!