I was obsessed with Xena: Warrior Princess as a child, and that possibility of being both a princess and a warrior made up my entire personality.
My first encounter with Arthurian legends, though, was the movie First Knight, staring Richard Gere as Lancelot, Sean Connery as King Arthur, and Julia Ormond as Guinevere. Characters like the Lancelot depicted in First Knight — clever, skillful, and free-spirited — had my full attention, because they reflected who I wished to be.
Maybe because King Arthur was, in this movie, in direct opposition to Lancelot, I did not care much for him, or the fact that he is supposed to be the main character. Therefore, I never really got interested in Arthurian tales.
That is, until they made them queer.
Remember how I mentioned Xena: Warrior Princess? I loved that the main focus of the series was not a romantic plot, but her being badass, and her friendship with Gabrielle. And I use friendship in the “gal pals” sense here, although I didn’t realise the queer subtext of the show at the time.
Fast forward a few years, and I became a fan of the series Merlin. Magic, humour, fights, and knights: that was my jam. But I was surprised when the romantic plot between Arthur and Guinevere came to light because, although I knew the legend well enough then to understand that this is part of the story, in my eyes the relationship between Arthur and Merlin put aside any need for another love interest for either of them. It’s what I enjoyed the most about the series.
So I went to find more stories based on the legend, but with added queer characters to it. Luckily, there have been a plethora in recent years! Unluckily, there isn’t as much diversity in this list as I’d like: there haven’t been many queer Arthurian books published by authors of colour yet, but I hope to see that change soon.
Here are eight of the best queer Arthurian retellings out there.
Once And Future by A. R. Capetta
Imagine that King Arthur is a queer teenage girl who needs to save the universe. This is exactly what this sci-fi YA retelling presents.
Ari is the main character, and she pulls a sword from its resting place by accident.
Turns out, she is the incarnation of King Arthur and, along with Merlin, they must break a curse that will help bring equality and peace to humankind.
This is the first book in the Once & Future series.
Lancelot And The Wolf by Sarah Luddington
Most Arthurian retellings seem to be series, and this is no exception.
In Lancelot And The Wolf, Lancelot is banished from Camelot, but he is called to return.
As he faces the fight against darkness, and while trying to protect the country he loves, he must put aside his feelings for his King…for now.
Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
Legendborn is the first book in The Legendborn Cycle series starring 16-year-old Bree Matthews, who has lost her mother in a supposed accident.
On her first night on campus, Bree witnesses a magical attack which changes her future forever.
This story features many LGBTQ secondary characters, though Bree is not (at least, as far as we know from this first volume).
Sword Stone Table Edited by Swapna Krishna and Jenn Northington
This book, edited by former Book Rioter Swapna Krishna and current Book Riot staff Jenn Northington contains a collection of stories all centered around Arthurian legends, compiling new voices who write about race and gender.
It contains something for all tastes, and it’s really cool to see bits and pieces of Arthurian lore being re-imagined in such interesting ways.
No Man Of Woman Born by Ana Mardoll
No Man Of Woman Born is another story collection, containing seven fantasy stories which include various transgender and nonbinary characters.
These characters are seen conquering their fears and fulfilling prophecies, claiming their space in this legend.
American Queen by Sierra Simone
This is the perfect book for those who enjoy a steamy romance served with their Arthurian retelling, so no listening to this on audio at family gatherings.
It bring the Arthurian legends to an American setting, with Arthur as the President.
It is very much a love triangle, but not in the ways we may be used to encountering: this is a M/M/F menage.
Blackheart Knights by Laure Eve
The premise of this series is: imagine Camelot but in Gotham, and to be honest, I can’t think of a more compelling premise.
In a city where magic is illegal, a girl trains to become a knight. Two timelines, past and present, seem separate from each other, but eventually intertwine.
This has a sapphic main character and multiple LGBTQ side characters.
The Other Merlin by Robyn Schneider
This is yet another series, so you have a few more titles to look forward to in this list.
In a world where Arthur is a botanist who takes the sword from the stone by accident, and Lancelot has been demoted to castle guard, Emry Merlin tries to make ends meet after the disappearance of her wizard father.
When someone comes to take her brother to serve as Arthur’s right-hand wizard, Emry disguises herself as a boy and takes the place of her brother.
With a bisexual main character and subjects you can find in movies like A Knight’s Tale and She’s The Man, this book is both filled with thrilling adventure and hilarious moments.
If you’d like more queer retellings, here are a couple of articles you will appreciate: