Ace Recs: 4 of My Favourite Books with Asexual Characters

Posted February 4, 2018 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Miscellaneous / 0 Comments

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Ace Recs: 4 of My Favourite Books with Asexual Characters

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…

4 of My Favourite Books with Asexual Characters

I’m cheating! I know! I promised you nothing but lists of three different books and here I am offering you a list of four. But I’m sorry I couldn’t narrow this down to only three. I love these books far too much for that. I couldn’t bear to leave one of them off. If you’re looking for the books with asexual characters that hit me direcly in the feels and that I would unreservedly recommend you read if you’re looking for ace spec characters in fiction, this is the list for you. These are the aces whose stories and depictions I have adored for some reason or another and I just. I just.

Read the titles so you know what books I’m talking about and head off to the nearest retailer to get your hands on these. That is my honest recommendation regarding these books. Don’t waste time reading my brief thoughts and fangirl squeeing or the blurbs. Just go forth and get shiny awesome books!

Sing to Me (Future Aekhartain #1.5) by Becca Lusher

Sing to Me by Becca Lusher

Dóma has always liked welcoming newcomers to the Shadow Garden, but there’s something different about the newest arrival. Freyda’s life was hard before she joined the Aekhartain, but that’s not it. No, for the first time in over a hundred years, Dóma might just be falling in love.

But does Freyda feel the same? And if she does, how will this most restrained pair ever admit their feelings for each other?

Luckily they’re in the Shadow Garden and they have one or two friends around to help them out.

Dóma is, hands-down, my favourite demisexual character to date. She is the sweetest and most adorable and honestly the character I’ve most seen myself in in… like ever. I am hugely biased where Dóma is concerned. Sing to Me is a free sequel to Orion’s Kiss and it contains massive spoilers for that story. But then, so does the blurb technically so, um, sorry? I do recommend reading Orion’s Kiss before Sing to Me, but that’s largely because it picks up fairly soon after the end of Orion’s Kiss and it’s emotionally stronger with that under your belt. It can totally be read as a stand-alone if you prefer it.

But this is just a sweet and adorable romance that is made of fluff and cute. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a story that’ll put a smile on your face.

The King's Peace (Tir Tanagiri #1) by Jo Walton

The King’s Peace by Jo Walton

Sulien ap Gwien is seventeen years old when the Jarnish invasion begins, and strong enough to match any one of their raiders in battle. But when they do come, she finds herself unarmed and at their mercy. As she watches her attackers walk away from where she lies bound, she vows revenge.

With the land around her disintegrating and no help forthcoming, Sulien rides out in search of King Urdo, a young ruler fighting to create unity in a country where there is none.

What follows is the beginning of an alliance that will shape the course of history in Tir Tanagiri as well as the rest of Sulien’s life.

Sulien from The King’s Peace is possibly one of my favourite aroace characters of all time. Please do note that this book comes with trigger warnings for rape. The King’s Peace also ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, so if you’re enjoying it, you may want to pick up the sequel to read through in one go. Walton presents us with a layered an complex asexual character who was a victim of sexual assault and she doesn’t shy away from showing us the consequences of that. Given how frequent asexuals are told that their asexuality must be a result of (sexual) trauma (which some aces are and that is absolutely valid), Walton also walks a fine line, showing us an asexual character and a victim of sexual assault. The fact that the narrative starts with the assault Sulien experiences means it’s harder for the reader to tell whether and how the assault affects Sulien and the way Walton handles it is masterful.

Also Sulien is a bad-ass, fearless warrior and a great tactician. She’s also surrounded by society at all times and has so, so many friendships and connections and just be still my heart because I have never read a story that allowed its asexual characters to be this close to the heart of the story’s society and this tied to the community around them. I love it and I adore it and Sulien is amazing and you should definitely pick this book up. Yes, even if you hate Arthuriana and Arthurian retellings because it’s just that awesome.

Mindtouch (Dreamhealers #1) by M.C.A. Hogarth

Mindtouch by M.C.A. Hogarth

Seersana University is worlds-renowned for its xenopsychology program, producing the Alliance’s finest therapists, psychiatric nurses and alien researchers. When Jahir, one of the rare and reclusive Eldritch espers, arrives on campus, he’s unprepared for the challenges of a vast and multicultural society… but fortunately, second-year student Vasiht’h is willing to take him under his wing. Will the two win past their troubles and doubts and see the potential for a once-in-a-lifetime partnership?

This is one of my go-to comfort reads. Mindtouch is a bit of an odd duck in that the asexual characters are both explicitly problematic. Jahir is… actually someone who’s deeply repressed his sexual attractions because reasons as we discover in later books in a related series and Vasiht’h was genetically engineered to be unable to experience sexual attraction. But oh this story. I love their friendship and the slow burn for their QPR and how important their QPR is to them and it’s just this low conflict story about two university students from very different backgrounds growing close together and. Just. I heart. This book made me so happy when I first read it. I’d never seen this kind of relationship before and it resonated so strongly and deeply.

This comes with a content warning for on-page death of a child.

City of Betrayal (Isandor #2) by Claudie Arseneault

City of Betrayal by Claudie Arseneault

The whole city is searching for Hasryan—some for revenge and justice, others to save their friends. Yet no one knows where to find him except Lord Arathiel Brasten, who vanished 130 years ago only to magically return. Lord Diel Dathirii’s struggle to free his city from the neighbouring imperialistic enclave is far from over. Enemies gather around him, and without allies in Isandor’s upper spheres, he must place his fate in Lower City residents. Little does he know, the city he’s trying to save might well save him in return.

The sequel to City of Strife. It introduces a new pov character and continues right where City of Strife left off. It’s more likely to mention people’s orientations and identities explicitly and delves into some of the characters’ experiences of those identities a bit more than the first book did. Cal continues to be one of the highlights of this story and if you were hoping to see far more of him than City of Strife offers, rest assured. You will. It also introduces more racial diversity and it shows Nevian slowly recovering from what happened to him and… Despite the fact that a lot of things are going horribly wrong, the hope and optimism in this book are far stronger.

And because the city’s identity as a whole is already established, City of Betrayal gets to focus more on the action and the characters as individuals. It’s a fantastic sequel. Just… don’t read it as a stand-alone. When I say it picks up right where City of Strife left off, I mean it. This book will not make sense for ages if you haven’t read the first book, well, first. But then? *happy sigh*

Content warnings for abuse (verbal, physical), violence, fire/burns, torture, racism, mind control.

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