Book Recs: Quietly Magical Books

I am, as ever, looking for ways to procrastinate doing work (usually reading professional practice articles, because Christ how dry can you make an already really dry subject, but anyway). So I figured I’d make a rec thread of quietly magical and gay books. Because I didn’t think I had that enough to turn into a rec list. But! Lo and behold, I did. So. That’s what you’re going to get. Books which are quietly magical (and gay, because this is a LGBT only site. No straights allowed here). (And also, this is a genre that there seem to be a lot of books where you go, hey I didn’t realise that was gay. Just trying to raise awareness here.)


The True Queen



Zen Cho
Rep: wlw mcs, Malay mc, half Indian mc, black mc
TWs: period typical racism

Fairyland’s future lies in doubt…

The island of Janda Baik, in the Malay archipelago, has long been home to witches. And Muna and her sister Satki wake on its shores under a curse – which has stolen away their memories. Satki plots to banish it in London, as Britain’s Sorceress Royal dares to train female magicians. But the pair journey there via the Fairy Queen’s realm, where Satki disappears.

Distraught, Muna takes her sister’s place at the school, despite her troublesome lack of magic. Then the Sorceress receives an ambassador from the Fairy Court, which has incarcerated her friends – for supposedly stealing a powerful talisman. Their Queen is at her most dangerous, fearing for her throne. For the missing trinket contained the magic of her usurped sister, Fairyland’s rightful heir. Mina must somehow find Satki, break their curse and stay out of trouble. But if the true queen does finally return, trouble may find her first…

Why Should I Read It?

This is probably the most overtly magical of these books. But it’s still quietly and beautifully so. And it has wlw in it! (P. S. if you haven’t read Sorcerer to the Crown you should also do that before this releases.)


The Watchmaker of Filigree Street

the watchmaker of filigree street by natasha pulley


Natasha Pulley
Rep: mlm mcs
TWs: period typical racism and homophobia

1883. Thaniel Steepleton returns home to his tiny London apartment to find a gold pocket watch on his pillow. Six months later, the mysterious timepiece saves his life, drawing him away from a blast that destroys Scotland Yard. At last, he goes in search of its maker, Keita Mori, a kind, lonely immigrant from Japan. Although Mori seems harmless, a chain of unexplainable events soon suggests he must be hiding something. When Grace Carrow, an Oxford physicist, unwittingly interferes, Thaniel is torn between opposing loyalties

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is a sweeping, atmospheric narrative that takes the reader on an unexpected journey through Victorian London, Japan as its civil war crumbles long-standing traditions, and beyond. Blending historical events with dazzling flights of fancy, it opens doors to a strange and magical past.

Why Should I Read It?

When I suggested making this rec list, Anna was like “wouldn’t that just be Natasha’s books five times over”, which, valid, but also tells you something about what I mean by “quietly magical and gay”. Natasha Pulley’s writing just exemplifies that. Oh, and there’s mechanical octopus.


Wonders of the Invisible World



Christopher Barzak
Rep: gay mcs (ownvoices)

Seventeen-year-old Aidan Lockwood lives in the sleepy farming community of Temperance, Ohio—known for its cattle ranches and not much else. That is until Jarrod, a friend he hasn’t seen in five years, moves back to town and opens Aidan’s eyes in startling ways: to Aidan’s ability to see the spirit world; to the red-bearded specter of Death; to a family curse that has claimed the lives of the Lockwood men one by one…and to the new feelings he has developed for Jarrod.

Why Should I Read It?

Think The Raven Cycle but properly good. Okay, maybe that’s harsh, but imagine if it had actually been ownvoices, and you’ll probably get something close(r) to how this book is (though not as good, obviously). Anyway. Enough comparisons. It’s great on it’s own and now I really want to reread. Oh, and. Childhood best friends to lovers.


The Binding



Bridget Collins
Rep: mlm mcs

Imagine you could erase grief.
Imagine you could remove pain.
Imagine you could hide the darkest, most horrifying secret.

Young Emmett Farmer is working in the fields when a strange letter arrives summoning him away from his family. He is to begin an apprenticeship as a Bookbinder—a vocation that arouses fear, superstition, and prejudice among their small community but one neither he nor his parents can afford to refuse.

For as long as he can recall, Emmett has been drawn to books, even though they are strictly forbidden. Bookbinding is a sacred calling, Seredith informs her new apprentice, and he is a binder born. Under the old woman’s watchful eye, Emmett learns to hand-craft the elegant leather-bound volumes. Within each one they will capture something unique and extraordinary: a memory. If there’s something you want to forget, a binder can help. If there’s something you need to erase, they can assist. Within the pages of the books they create, secrets are concealed and the past is locked away. In a vault under his mentor’s workshop, rows upon rows of books are meticulously stored.

But while Seredith is an artisan, there are others of their kind, avaricious and amoral tradesman who use their talents for dark ends—and just as Emmett begins to settle into his new circumstances, he makes an astonishing discovery: one of the books has his name on it. Soon, everything he thought he understood about his life will be dramatically rewritten.

Why Should I Read It?

I’m going to cop to something first. I’ve only read three chapters of this book so far. But! They were three amazing chapters with such good (and angsty) foreshadowing, I couldn’t not rec this straightaway.


Holly and Oak



R. Cooper
Rep: gay mcs

Once a year, the town of Ravenscroft celebrates the winter solstice by watching the Oak King symbolically slay the Holly King to ensure the death of winter. To most people, it’s a pagan ritual that has lost all meaning in the modern world, harmless fun during the week of Christmas. To the coven who founded the town, it’s a magic so important they entrusted it to the two strongest witches in generations

Will Battle and Chester Sibley are opposites in every way, or so Ravenscroft residents insist. Quiet, polite Will is the town’s beloved adopted son, popular and admired. Defiant, outspoken Chester is disliked and avoided despite being a direct descendant of the town’s founders. It’s no wonder Will is the embodiment of spring and life as the Oak King and Chester was given the cold, dark Season of Holly. No one in town seems to realize their nice, well-mannered Oak King has iron at his core and their fearsome Holly King only wants to make people happy. Perhaps that’s also why not even the other witches suspect that Chester has been in love with Will for almost his entire life

That’s how Chester wants it. He might dream of Will, but he’s learned to keep his dreams to himself. The trouble is Will. For all that he smiles and nods, Will has started quietly rebelling against both the town and the coven. With only days until the winter solstice, he issues Chester a challenge—to finally ask for what he wants. If Chester tells the truth, he risks losing Will and upsetting the ritual that has made the town prosperous. But there is more between them than magic, no matter how powerful or ancient, and Chester would do anything for Will, even, just maybe, coming in from the cold.

Why Should I Read It?

I feel like I’ve recced this so much you should already have some kind of idea of what’s up. But to recap. Hate to love, with undercurrents of magic. And all in a short novella too.


Summer of Salt



Katrina Leno
Rep: lesbian mc, bi li
TWs: discussions of rape

A magic passed down through generations…

Georgina Fernweh waits with growing impatience for the tingle of magic in her fingers—magic that has been passed down through every woman in her family. Her twin sister, Mary, already shows an ability to defy gravity. But with their eighteenth birthday looming at the end of this summer, Georgina fears her gift will never come.

An island where strange things happen…

No one on the island of By-the-Sea would ever call the Fernwehs what they really are, but if you need the odd bit of help—say, a sleeping aid concocted by moonlight—they are the ones to ask.

No one questions the weather, as moody and erratic as a summer storm.

No one questions the (allegedly) three-hundred-year-old bird who comes to roost on the island every year.

A summer that will become legend…

When tragedy strikes, what made the Fernweh women special suddenly casts them in suspicion. Over the course of her last summer on the island—a summer of storms, of love, of salt—Georgina will learn the truth about magic, in all its many forms.

Why Should I Read It?

A beautiful and magical read. With a wlw relationship that just feels so natural and it’s not made a big thing of and! I just love this book so much. Also it centres on a relationship between sisters. All the characters are women (basically). What else do I need to say.


The Gallery of Unfinished Girls



Lauren Karcz
Rep: Latina bi mc

Mercedes Moreno is an artist. At least, she thinks she could be, even though she hasn’t been able to paint anything worthwhile in the past year.

Her lack of inspiration might be because her abuela is in a coma. Or the fact that Mercedes is in love with her best friend, Victoria, but is too afraid to admit her true feelings.

Despite Mercedes’s creative block, art starts to show up in unexpected ways. A piano appears on her front lawn one morning, and a mysterious new neighbor invites Mercedes to paint with her at the Red Mangrove Estate.

At the Estate, Mercedes can create in ways she hasn’t ever before. But Mercedes can’t take anything out of the Estate, including her new-found clarity. Mercedes can’t live both lives forever, and ultimately she must choose between this perfect world of art and truth and a much messier reality.

Why Should I Read It?

Unlike the rest of these recs, there’s no actual romance in this one. The main character is bi and in love with her straight best friend, but nothing happens between them (sad). But what this book does so well, and that I loved to pieces about it, was make loving girls feel so normalised and soft and quiet and not some Big Thing.


The Bedlam Stacks



Natasha Pulley
Rep: mlm mcs, Peruvian li

In 1859, ex-East India Company smuggler Merrick Tremayne is trapped at home in Cornwall after sustaining an injury that almost cost him his leg and something is wrong; a statue moves, his grandfather’s pines explode, and his brother accuses him of madness.

When the India Office recruits Merrick for an expedition to fetch quinine—essential for the treatment of malaria—from deep within Peru, he knows it’s a terrible idea. Nearly every able-bodied expeditionary who’s made the attempt has died, and he can barely walk. But Merrick is desperate to escape everything at home, so he sets off, against his better judgment, for a tiny mission colony on the edge of the Amazon where a salt line on the ground separates town from forest. Anyone who crosses is killed by something that watches from the trees, but somewhere beyond the salt are the quinine woods, and the way around is blocked.

Surrounded by local stories of lost time, cursed woods, and living rock, Merrick must separate truth from fairytale and find out what befell the last expeditions; why the villagers are forbidden to go into the forest; and what is happening to Raphael, the young priest who seems to have known Merrick’s grandfather, who visited Peru many decades before. The Bedlam Stacks is the story of a profound friendship that grows in a place that seems just this side of magical.

Why Should I Read It?

Yeah, okay, we’re back to Natasha again. But trust me. If you read her books, you’ll understand why. Also, ignore the blurb which says Merrick and Raphael’s relationship is a “profound friendship”. Straight people really know nothing.


Spellbook of the Lost and Found



Moïra Fowley-Doyle
Rep: bi mcs, lesbian li
TWs: implied sexual assault

One stormy summer night, Olive and her best friend, Rose, begin to lose things. It starts with simple items like hair clips and jewellery, but soon it’s clear that Rose has lost something bigger; something she won’t talk about.

Then Olive meets three wild, mysterious strangers: Ivy, Hazel and Rowan. Like Rose, they’re mourning losses – and holding tight to secrets.

When they discover the ancient spellbook, full of hand-inked charms to conjure back lost things, they realise it might be their chance to set everything right. Unless it’s leading them towards secrets that were never meant to be found…

Why Should I Read It?

Both of our main characters here are bi. Surely that’s enough of a reason. And it’s also a twisty-turny magical story, flipping back and forth between characters from the past and characters in the present.


Penhallow Amid Passing Things



Iona Datt Sharma
Rep: lesbian mcs

Magic, in common with all things, is passing from this world. In a coastal village in eighteenth-century Cornwall, Penhallow – an honourable smuggler par excellence – has more pressing problems. One of her boys has just been hauled up before the magistrates. A mysterious King’s messenger has arrived from London. Something nasty – and possibly magical – is afoot in the smugglers’ caves beneath water.

And then there’s Trevelyan, the town’s austere, beautiful Revenue officer…

Why Should I Read It?

Because I say so. Also because it’s only about 40 pages, so it’s easily the shortest book on this list, and it’s so gorgeously written. And I love it so much, please just read it.


I hope you found something to read here (or, alternatively, found a book you were wavering on that you didn’t realise was gay). Are there any other books you would add to this list?



9 thoughts on “Book Recs: Quietly Magical Books

  1. anniekslibrary says:

    Will you believe I’ve had a signed copy of Sorcerer of the Crown for TWO WHOLE YEARS because I met the author at Comic Con and she was so lovely I decided to buy a copy, and I STILL haven’t read it?? I’m going to have to read it soon huh?


  2. Nao @naonotrealname says:

    I never knew I needed this until I read this post. Seriously thank you so much! All of the titles are very interesting and I can’t wait to read them ♥ Also thank you for introducing Natasha Pulley. I’m gonna check out her works 🙂


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