LGBTQIA+ Dark SFF Characters: Where To Start Reading

Last Updated on February 21, 2021

The world has changed to be more inclusive, and SFF has often led the way by taking us into worlds and people that push our comfort zones and expand our horizons. Many new works that have come out in recent years have main character representation of LGBTQIA+ characters.

So if you are asking questions like, “Where do I start reading characters more like me?” or “Where are the LGBTQIA+ characters in adult dark fantasy?” the Grimdark Magazine team has you covered.

Let’s get reading!

Docile by K.M Szpara

Check out our review here

docileWhat it is about?

There is no consent under capitalism

Docile is a science fiction parable about love and sex, wealth and debt, abuse and power, a challenging tour de force that at turns seduces and startles.

To be a Docile is to be kept, body and soul, for the uses of the owner of your contract. To be a Docile is to forget, to disappear, to hide inside your body from the horrors of your service. To be a Docile is to sell yourself to pay your parents’ debts and buy your children’s future.

Elisha Wilder’s family has been ruined by debt, handed down to them from previous generations. His mother never recovered from the Dociline she took during her term as a Docile, so when Elisha decides to try and erase the family’s debt himself, he swears he will never take the drug that took his mother from him. Too bad his contract has been purchased by Alexander Bishop III, whose ultra-rich family is the brains (and money) behind Dociline and the entire Office of Debt Resolution. When Elisha refuses Dociline, Alex refuses to believe that his family’s crowning achievement could have any negative side effects—and is determined to turn Elisha into the perfect Docile without it.

Why You Should Read This?

This is a queer dystopian novel that is sometimes uncomfortable to read, extremely graphic in nature, is thrilling, beautifully written and yet is often a mind-fuck and has quite a few trigger warnings to discuss.

Read Docile by K.M. Szpara

The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley

Check out our review here

What it is about?

From the Hugo Award­­–winning author of The Stars Are Legion comes a brand-new science fiction thriller about a futuristic war during which soldiers are broken down into light in order to get them to the front lines on Mars.

They said the war would turn us into light.
I wanted to be counted among the heroes who gave us this better world.

The Light Brigade: it’s what soldiers fighting the war against Mars call the ones who come back…different. Grunts in the corporate corps get busted down into light to travel to and from interplanetary battlefronts. Everyone is changed by what the corps must do in order to break them down into light. Those who survive learn to stick to the mission brief—no matter what actually happens during combat.

Dietz, a fresh recruit in the infantry, begins to experience combat drops that don’t sync up with the platoon’s. And Dietz’s bad drops tell a story of the war that’s not at all what the corporate brass want the soldiers to think is going on.

Is Dietz really experiencing the war differently, or is it combat madness? Trying to untangle memory from mission brief and survive with sanity intact, Dietz is ready to become a hero—or maybe a villain; in war it’s hard to tell the difference.

A worthy successor to classic stories like Downbelow StationStarship Troopers, and The Forever War, The Light Brigade is award-winning author Kameron Hurley’s gritty time-bending take on the future of war.

Why You Should Read This?

“The Light Brigade is a mind-fuck. In fact, I’m finding it hard to gather my thoughts about it because it’s just… it’s a lot. ::insert reactionary gif of a brain exploding:: It’s brilliant and weird and just fucking brutal as hell. I adored all of the references that were sprinkled throughout, although I’m sure I missed even more. GAH!! I loved this book so goddamn much!”

Read The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley

The Steel Remains by Richard K Morgan

Check out our review here

What it is about?

A dark lord will rise. Such is the prophecy that dogs Ringil Eskiath—Gil, for short—a washed-up mercenary and onetime war hero whose cynicism is surpassed only by the speed of his sword. Gil is estranged from his aristocratic family, but when his mother enlists his help in freeing a cousin sold into slavery, Gil sets out to track her down. But it soon becomes apparent that more is at stake than the fate of one young woman. Grim sorceries are awakening in the land. Some speak in whispers of the return of the Aldrain, a race of widely feared, cruel yet beautiful demons. Now Gil and two old comrades are all that stand in the way of a prophecy whose fulfillment will drown an entire world in blood. But with heroes like these, the cure is likely to be worse than the disease.

Why You Should Read This?

“I thought Ringil was a brilliant character and after reading a few of his chapters I decided to buy the next two books in the series as I knew I was going to be fully invested in him. Ringil reminded me of Sapkowski’s Geralt of Rivia with his temperament and I often envisaged grunts or “for-fuck-sakes” before he acted.”

Read The Steel Remains by Richard K Morgan

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart

Check out our review here

What it is about?

In an empire controlled by bone shard magic, Lin, the former heir to the emperor will fight to reclaim her magic and her place on the throne.

The emperor’s reign has lasted for decades, his mastery of bone shard magic powering the animal-like constructs that maintain law and order. But now his rule is failing, and revolution is sweeping across the Empire’s many islands.

Lin is the emperor’s daughter and spends her days trapped in a palace of locked doors and dark secrets. When her father refuses to recognise her as heir to the throne, she vows to prove her worth by mastering the forbidden art of bone shard magic.

Yet such power carries a great cost, and when the revolution reaches the gates of the palace, Lin must decide how far she is willing to go to claim her birthright – and save her people.

Why You Should Read This?

“There are several points of view found throughout the book. Lin’s storyline is arguably the most important. She is the daughter of the Emperor, desperate to prove her worth to her father and earn his trust. Only by discovering his secrets can she hope to someday succeed him and lead his empire. However, the more she tries to learn, the more dangerous those secrets become. The lies build up, and he has eyes everywhere. He is a dangerous man to cross, and Lin needs to find a way to survive his machinations and figure out what he is hiding. I have to say, I was absolutely stunned by where Lin’s storyline ended up. However, while Lin was technically the main character in the book, I found myself only sort-of invested in her character until about halfway through. Once her plotline got going, it raced along at a breakneck pace, but it took longer to get there than I would have liked.”

Read The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart

The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood

Check out our review here

What it is about?

What if you knew how and when you will die?

Csorwe does — she will climb the mountain, enter the Shrine of the Unspoken, and gain the most honored title: sacrifice.

But on the day of her foretold death, a powerful mage offers her a new fate. Leave with him, and live. Turn away from her destiny and her god to become a thief, a spy, an assassin—the wizard’s loyal sword. Topple an empire, and help him reclaim his seat of power.

But Csorwe will soon learn – gods remember,

and if you live long enough, all debts come due.

Why You Should Read This?

“Her life’s only meaning is in its death. In the last hour of her life, she is approached by the wizard Sethennai, a wizard, he offers her a choice, “serve me, and I will save you. Don’t and accept your fate.” Csorwe, having never been offered a choice in anything, she is offered what could be the most pivotal choice of her life. She accepts life and defies a god. She takes her young life and runs for it. Sethennai needs Cswore to restore his position as ruler of a great city named Tlaanthothe. It is difficult as a reader to make the connection as to why Csorwe, basically a babe in the ways of the world, is essential in this great wizard’s quest to gain his city back. Especially since, again, Cswore is groomed as an assassin and bodyguard, and it takes years to get her ready. And, still, what looks like a choice and an opportunity to live her life finally on her own terms is not what she thinks it is. She is bound to Sethennai by obligation and her honor.”

Read The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood

Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames

Check out our review here

What it is about?

Live fast, die young.

Tam Hashford is tired of working at her local pub, slinging drinks for world-famous mercenaries and listening to the bards sing of adventure and glory in the world beyond her sleepy hometown.

When the biggest mercenary band of all rolls into town, led by the infamous Bloody Rose, Tam jumps at the chance to sign on as their bard. It’s adventure she wants – and adventure she gets as the crew embark on a quest that will end in one of two ways: glory or death.

It’s time to take a walk on the wyld side.

Why You Should Read This?

“Bloody Rose has so many excellent qualities, it’s impossible to include them all in this review (since you should be reading the book by now anyhow). But for the purpose of brevity, let’s look only at characters and themes. Fable comprises Tam, the bard; Bloody Rose, the leader and daughter of the famous mercenary Golden Gabe from Kings; Freecloud, Rose’s rabbit-eared lover, a druin; Brune, a shapeshifting vargyr; Cura, an Inkwitch; and Roderick, a hilarious and horny satyr. Each of these characters is imbued with a distinctive personality and each character has its own arc that is perfectly executed and timed (spread out with) the other characters’ arcs. Brune for example, has always believed he is a bear until circumstances require that he overcome that misperception to survive. Equally as important as the expert development of Fable’s band members is the development and deployment of the very powerful and intelligent villain, the Winter Queen, who has a legitimate motivation to be pissed off—her only son was killed by Rose’s father at Castia. Bloody Rose has an enormous cast of important characters, and they are all intricately tied together, not only by the story’s events, but also by its main themes.”

Read The Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames

The Stars are Legion by Kameron Hurley

Check out our review here

What it is about?

Somewhere on the outer rim of the universe, a mass of decaying world-ships known as the Legion is traveling in the seams between the stars. For generations, a war for control of the Legion has been waged, with no clear resolution.  As worlds continue to die, a desperate plan is put into motion.

Zan wakes with no memory, prisoner of a people who say they are her family. She is told she is their salvation – the only person capable of boarding the Mokshi, a world-ship with the power to leave the Legion. But Zan’s new family is not the only one desperate to gain control of the prized ship. Zan finds that she must choose sides in a genocidal campaign that will take her from the edges of the Legion’s gravity well to the very belly of the world.

Zan will soon learn that she carries the seeds of the Legion’s destruction – and its possible salvation. But can she and her ragtag band of followers survive the horrors of the Legion and its people long enough to deliver it?

In the tradition of The Fall of Hyperion and DuneThe Stars are Legion is an epic and thrilling tale about tragic love, revenge, and war as imagined by one of the genre’s most celebrated new writers.

Why You Should Read This?

“The world-building in The Stars are Legion is what really pulled me into the story in the beginning. Unlike most sci-fi that I have read, the world of The Stars are Legion is almost entirely organic. The world-ships, of which there are primarily three in the story, are gigantic floating, tentacled living worlds with a seemingly unknown number of levels from the bottom, where people are recycled by terrifying monsters, all the way to the top, where the elite and powerful live and conspire. The entire world-ship is organic, made of some kind of fleshy substance that can be cut through to form new passageways, and eaten, if entirely necessary. It is alive with tubes like umbilici, and growths, and blood, and on the outside, a blackening cancerous rot, evidence that the worlds are dying and will continue to do so. Beneath it all, or at least in parts, are some mysterious metal beams and scaffolding that may have been part of the original structure or used to sure up the dying organic structure.”

Read The Stars are Legion by Kameron Hurley

The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho

Check out our review here

What it is about?

Zen Cho returns with a found family wuxia fantasy that combines the vibrancy of old school martial arts movies with characters drawn from the margins of history.

A bandit walks into a coffeehouse, and it all goes downhill from there. Guet Imm, a young votary of the Order of the Pure Moon, joins up with an eclectic group of thieves (whether they like it or not) in order to protect a sacred object, and finds herself in a far more complicated situation than she could have ever imagined.

Why You Should Read This?

“On the surface, The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected on Water is a pretty grim tale about hapless, hungry bandits trying to survive amid poverty, war, and tyranny. In this sense, it is like a lot of grimdark novels and novellas and is pretty much standard grimdark fare. But Zen Cho is so fucking funny that the story becomes as darkly humorous it is grim and pathetic. It’s rare balance that I’ve found only a few times in the likes of Rob Hayes’s Never Die, Mark Lawrence’s Red Queen’s War, and several of Abercrombie’s novels. Not only is the narrator subtly humorous, but the characters are freaking hilarious, mostly unintentionally, often delightfully crudely.”

Read The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho

Persephone Station by Stina Leicht

Check out our review here

What it is about?

Hugo award-nominated author Stina Leicht has created a take on space opera for fans of The Mandalorian and Cowboy Bebop in this high-stakes adventure.

Persephone Station, a seemingly backwater planet that has largely been ignored by the United Republic of Worlds becomes the focus for the Serrao-Orlov Corporation as the planet has a few secrets the corporation tenaciously wants to exploit.

Rosie—owner of Monk’s Bar, in the corporate town of West Brynner—caters to wannabe criminals and rich Earther tourists, of a sort, at the front bar. However, exactly two types of people drank at Monk’s back bar: members of a rather exclusive criminal class and those who sought to employ them.

Angel—ex-marine and head of a semi-organized band of beneficent criminals, wayward assassins, and washed up mercenaries with a penchant for doing the honorable thing—is asked to perform a job for Rosie. What this job reveals will affect Persephone and put Angel and her squad up against an army. Despite the odds, they are rearing for a fight with the Serrao-Orlov Corporation. For Angel, she knows that once honor is lost, there is no regaining it. That doesn’t mean she can’t damned well try.

Why You Should Read This?

“Persephone Station has everything a grimdark fan could want in a science fiction novel. The characters are outcasts, heavily armed and highly flawed. They face a powerful force on a suicide mission against all odds. Though the main characters are undoubtedly on the side of good in this novel, they are assassins and mercenaries who take the job for the money and for their friend. They fight with spaceships and mech suits and rail guns and pulse rifles and bombs and all kinds of good stuff. People get injured and killed. The settings are grim and perilous. The action is tense and fast, extremely interesting, logical, and vivid.”

Read Persephone Station by Stina Leicht

The Stone Knife by Anna Stephens

Read our review here | Check Out An Excerpt Here

What it is about?

A fantasy epic of freedom and empire, gods and monsters, love, loyalty, honour, and betrayal, from the acclaimed author of GODBLIND.

For generations, the forests of Ixachipan have echoed with the clash of weapons, as nation after nation has fallen to the Empire of Songs – and to the unending, magical music that binds its people together. Now, only two free tribes remain.

The Empire is not their only enemy. Monstrous, scaled predators lurk in rivers and streams, with a deadly music of their own.

As battle looms, fighters on both sides must decide how far they will go for their beliefs and for the ones they love – a veteran general seeks peace through war, a warrior and a shaman set out to understand their enemies, and an ambitious noble tries to bend ancient magic to her will.

Why You Should Read This?

“It is far more complicated than I can describe here, but at 600+ pages, readers can expect a very deep and engaging read that harkens back to the real doorstopper novels that reward the committed reader with a depth and complexity of characters, relationships, conflicts, and emotions that cannot be achieved in novels and novellas of shorter lengths.”

Read The Stone Knife by Anna Stephens


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Elizabeth Tabler

Elizabeth Tabler

Elizabeth Tabler runs Beforewegoblog and is constantly immersed in fantasy stories. She was at one time an architect but divides her time now between her family in Portland, Oregon, and as many book worlds as she can get her hands on. She is also a huge fan of Self Published fantasy and is on Team Qwillery as a judge for SPFBO5. You will find her with a coffee in one hand and her iPad in the other. Find her on: