ETA: This post has been updated to change two of the books due to unavailability.
As is undoubtedly no surprise to anyone who’s heard of me, I really really love giving recommendations for books featuring asexual characters. As a reader and writer on the asexual spectrum, this is a topic near and dear to my heart. I’ve seen plenty of recommendations lists that are about asexual characters or that include asexual characters that repeat the same books over and over. Indeed, I’ve seen recommendations lists that explicitly stated that the handful of books the writer managed to find was all the asexual fiction out there. Considering it was missing several easy-to-find well-known and traditionally published books by respected authors… I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.
But it is true that, for many readers, books with asexual characters in them are difficult to find. Many aren’t readily available in bookstores even when they’re pretty popular and well-respected. When I was in Cambridge, I saw displays of several books nominated for the Hugo Awards because they were nominated for the Hugo Awards, but Every Heart a Doorway? Couldn’t find a single copy anywhere. Not on display and not on the shelves. They didn’t stock it. And I wish I could say it was just one bookstore, but it was every major chain I visited. Likewise, in libraries you’ll have more luck finding books featuring asexual characters if you already know the titles before you enter. In both cases, you’ll probably have to ask the staff to order a copy specifically, so venturing into bookshops or libraries and hoping to find books featuring asexual characters just isn’t likely to happen.
Especially in combination with the way recommendation lists for books with asexual representation are usually styled, this difficulty to find books if you don’t already know they exist feeds into a negative spiral where recommendations lists repeat the same books over and over with the same note that this is all there is or this is all the writer could find. Yet there is so much more available to readers…
This is a series that aims to present small lists of books featuring asexual characters with some brief personal commentary on the books. Each list consists of 3 books centred around a single, relatively broad theme. While, sadly, I have had to restrict my recommendations lists to 3 books instead of the more usual 5 found in recommendations lists, each list does consist of 3 unique books. There are no repeats of titles in this series of recommendation posts. This series consists of 10 posts for a total of 30 books featuring asexual characters in various roles.
Unless otherwise noted, assume that books mentioned either seem to assume all asexuals are aromantic or that they’ll erase aromanticism altogether.
I hope you’ll find something terrific to read in these lists! Most all categories have more than three books I could put there, but as I mentioned I only had space for a handful of books or stories. If you’d like to see even more of then, check out Claudie Arseneault’s database of aromantic and asexual (speculative) fiction, which features many more books starring asexual characters!
This week’s theme is…
3 Fantasy Books with Asexual Characters
This week, we’re focusing on fantasy books. There are a ton of fantasy books. Okay, no, there aren’t a ton of them, but compared to science fiction… There’s just a bunch of books out there and it was incredibly hard to narrow it down to just three.
But enough waffling. You’re here for the books, so let’s get to it!
In the medieval and fantastic realm of Tortall, Keladry of Mindelan (known as Kel) is the first girl to take advantage of the decree that permits women to train for knighthood. But not everyone in Tortall believes a woman is up to the task, and Kel faces harsh discrimination. With unparalleled determination and a knack for leadership, she captures the hearts of her peers and proves that she is not a girl to underestimate!
From probationary Page to Lady Knight, Kel’s challenging journey is filled with friendship, romance, and unforgettable adventure.
The Protector of the Small Quartet is one of the first, if not the first, explicitly confirmed aroace protagonist in young adult fiction. It’s also one of the few narratives that attempts to follow an asexual character from early teen to young and new adulthood. Not only that, but it follows a questioning asexual narrative and reflects the idea that asexuality (and implicitly also aromanticism) is a spectrum. Its representation isn’t perfect, but it is one of the first explicit ace rep series we have.
Emilie des Marais is more at home holding scalpels than embroidery needles and is desperate to escape her noble roots to serve her country as a physician. But society dictates a noble lady cannot perform such gruesome work.
Annette Boucher, overlooked and overworked by her family, wants more from life than her humble beginnings and is desperate to be trained in magic. So when a strange noble girl offers Annette the chance of a lifetime, she accepts.
Emilie and Annette swap lives—Annette attends finishing school as a noble lady to be trained in the ways of divination, while Emilie enrolls to be a physician’s assistant, using her natural magical talent to save lives.
But when their nation instigates a terrible war, Emilie and Annette come together to help the rebellion unearth the truth before it’s too late.
A decent way to describe this novel quickly would be “What if you took The Prince and the Pauper, but changed the genders and set it during a veiled fantasy version of the French revolution, and then added magic on top?” It’s got a powerful f/f romance for homoromantic ace Annette and is a good example of how to discuss asexuality in your fiction when you feel you can’t use the terms explicitly.
Queen Shulamit never expected to inherit the throne of the tropical land of Perach so young. At twenty, grief-stricken and fatherless, she’s also coping with being the only lesbian she knows after her sweetheart ran off for an unknown reason. Not to mention, she’s the victim of severe digestive problems that everybody think she’s faking.
When she meets Rivka, an athletic and assertive warrior from the north who wears a mask and pretends to be a man, she finds the source of strength she needs so desperately. Unfortunately for her, Rivka is straight, but that’s okay — Shulamit needs a surrogate big sister just as much as she needs a girlfriend. Especially if the warrior’s willing to take her around the kingdom on the back of her dragon in search of other women who might be open to same-sex romance.
The real world outside the palace is full of adventure, however, and the search for a royal girlfriend quickly turns into a rescue mission when they discover a temple full of women turned to stone by an evil sorcerer.
I adore Rivka. Rivka is one of the first characters I saw myself in and I couldn’t be more happy that Glassman decided to keep writing Rivka as demisexual after readers told her they identified with Rivka over this. 😀 Shulamit is a love too, but she’s definitely allosexual. The Second Mango includes some discussions of demisexuality, though it’s not necessarily very explicitly so. Also this book is just plain fun and comforting.
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