Top Ten Tuesday: Books with AroAceSpec Characters

"Tope Ten Tuesday" in a white font mimicking handwriting on navy starry skies

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Everyone is welcome to join in the fun.

The theme for this week was “Book with your favourite trope/theme” and I love seeing books with aro- and/or acespec characters in them with prominent roles. It’s not a trope, and not really a theme, but it is something I love to see in fiction.

This list is of characters (mostly main, but with a few major supporting secondaries) who feel attraction, romantic and/or sexual differently to the presented norm. They don’t have to be both to count for this list, because it’s not that if you’re one you’re automatically the other. It’s like a two-axis spectrum.

They can be so hard to find in books (it was SO HARD to get this list to 10 even using supporting characters.) This is because romance, particularly in YA, is the expected thing in SFF at the moment – a trend that can be very alienating to members of the aroacespec community. And it is a spectrum, from no attraction to very slow attraction only once someone is deeply known (demi) and everything in between.

Some of these books have been explicitly called aro- and/or acespec by the author, others haven’t. I’ve picked books where characters resonated strongly with me and my own experiences (or ones I’m excited about.)

1. VESPERTINE, by Margaret Rogerson

Book cover for VESPERTINE: title in blue above a girls in a dark cloak outlined in blue on white

VESPERTINE is the start of a duology about a nun who’s sharing her body with a demon Venom-style. The book doesn’t contain romance or any hint of attraction from the main character, but also doesn’t contain a direct reference to the character being aroacespec. This has lead a lot of readers to assume that Artemisia (the MC) is “straight and just not met the right boy yet,” which shows just how much allomantic m/f relationships are considered the norm.

The author has said that Artemisia is aroacespec and addressed the fact that because it’s not said explicitly (in this book but will be in the next) in a great post on tumblr that seems to have been taken down since.

2. THIS GOLDEN FLAME, by Emily Victoria

Book cover for THIS GOLDEN FLAME: title in white on turquoise with gold geometric lines

Both leads in this YA debut are aroace, which is the reason I picked up THIS GOLDEN FLAME originally. This automaton-filled world has a slightly Greek feel, where automaton have fallen dead but when orphan scribe Karis accidentally wakes one up, she suddenly finds Alix is more human than she expected, and now the government are searching for her.

The book focuses on the friendship between the two leads, without there ever being an attraction between them (a real rarity!) There are the same trust issues and betrayals common to YA, but this time it’s all about how it affects their budding friendship.

3. THE WINTER GARDEN, by Alexandra Bell

Book cover for THE WINTER GARDEN: title in white surrounded by blue and green and purple flowers and leaves and berries

She isn’t explicitly called aro in either the book or the promotional material that I’ve seen, but Beatrice from THE WINTER GARDEN does mention several times her lack of interest in marriage from a more personal perspective (vs the “it’s not a great deal for women unless in love in this time period.”)

This is a historical fiction with fantastical elements about grief and misogyny and being confined into a box by society – it is not a wintry book, despite the title! It’s the sort of book that makes you so angry about the world, so you want the women to triumph as a big “showed you” to all the male characters.

4. LITTLE THIEVES, by Margaret Owen

Book cover for LITTLE THIEVES: title in black on white cartouche on navy with gold leaves and three figures (red and lighter blue)

LITTLE THIEVES is a YA with a demisexual protagonist and a demi love interest. Their relationship is not the focus of the story, but I loved seeing their sheer panic and confusion over these feelings. That is such a rare thing to find in fiction – the shades between no attraction and some but it developing differently to “the norm” – and it was so so nice to see.

The book itself is nothing short of a bundle of fun. It’s an irreverent re-imagining of The Goose Girl, but from the perspective of the one who steals the life. It was an absolute blast to read.

5. KAIKEYI, by Vaishnavi Patel

Book cover for KAIKEYI: title in white on gold-jewellery laden

KAIKEYI is a book I haven’t read yet as it doesn’t come out until the end of April, but I am so excited about it (if I had discovered it before writing my most anticipated books of 2022, it would have gone on there.)

It is a retelling of a reviled queen from Hindu mythology, called Kaikeyi, and she’s described an as ace warrior queen in the promotional material. It’s about a woman determined to make a mark in a male-dominated world, forging her own destiny rather than the one decided for her – even if it brings her into conflict with the gods.

6. THE MASK FALLING, by Samantha Shannon

Book cover for THE MASK FALLING: title in black in front of a yellow concentric flower design

The fourth instalment in THE BONE SEASON series, THE MASK FALLING confirms that the protagonist Paige is demisexual. It also discusses the difference in how Warden and Paige experience attraction toward each other.

It was really nice to see that enunciated, to make plain and canonical something that was hinted at earlier. Plus to have that confirmation and exploration before Samantha Shannon unleashed some very heart-stopping twists only made them land with more impact.


Book cover for THE MIDNIGHT BARGAIN: title in a gold pocket watch on green scattered with pink blossoms

THE MIDNIGHT BARGAIN is a romantic fantasy and, while the leads are definitely not aroacespec, probably the most important secondary character presents as aro (to me.) Ysabeta has no interest in marriage and the locking away of magic associated with it, the thing society has determined for her, but would rather be a magus – which is banned for women as it can harm unborn children.

Both Ysabeta and lead Beatrice want more than what’s considered their place by men, but I was probably rooting for Ysabeta more because I recognised that desire to be herself in academia – which was doubly banned.


Book cover for A SINGLE THREAD OF MOONLIGHT: title in black on a white moon on a turquoise background above a black shilloutette of a dancing couple and below an orange tree

A SINGLE THREAD OF MOONLIGHT is the latest YA historical with strong romance subplots from Laura Wood. Like the entry above, the aro character in this book is a supporting character Cassie, the main character’s step sister (it’s a gorgeous Cinderella-esque tale.)

Cassie also would far rather be an academic than a married woman, though her mother (who married for money and security) is determined she should stop acting so inappropriately in order to find a suitor. I loved the easy acceptance Cassie got from Iris, and the way it ended for her. Plus their friendship is the sort of absolute-support that I love to see in female friendships.

9. FIRE BECOMES HER, by Rosiee Thor

FIRE BECOMES HER is Rosiee Thor’s second book, both of which feature acespec characters. However, this is the first one published in the UK, so it’s the first one I’ve been able to get (though I haven’t had a chance to read it at the time of writing due to printing delays.)

It’s a 1920s-inspired book, in a world where magic is power and an ambitious arospec girl wants to climb the social ladder through exploiting the political ambitions of others. I mean, 1920s inspired with politics and arospec rep? What more could I want?

10. RAYBEARER, by Jordan Ifueko

Book cover for RAYBEARER: title in white above a face made from lions and leaves

When a book, particularly a YA, mentions that a girl is sent to kill a prince, I automatically assume that they are going to fall in love. It is a very common story premise after all. It was one of the reasons I put off reading this book for a while.

However, while RAYBEARER does talk about the love between the two, it’s always a platonic/fraternal love. Because the prince is ace. It was just such a refreshing change, and one of the many ways this book something new to YA. Time to get around to the sequel, I suppose!

What aroacespec characters have you loved reading about?


22 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Books with AroAceSpec Characters

    1. I’m always on the look out for lists with aroacespec because of how hard it is, so I decided it was time I did my own!


  1. Awesome list !!!! I’m gonna have to add some of these to my tbr because I’m always looking for ace rep in SFF..
    you should totally pick up Redemptor soon because we have Daiyo speaking more about his asexuality in it and I loved it..

    Liked by 2 people

    1. By the weirdness that is scheduling, I’m actually re-reading RAYBEARER right now in preparation to read REDEMPTOR – and you’ve just made me more eager for the second book!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Woah, this is awesome!

    About the only asexual representation I know of is Blaise in Breaker and the following novels of the Tales of the Outlaw Mages trilogy by Amy Campbell.

    There is also aro-ace Calinthe in Merchants of Knowledge and Magic by Erika McCorkle for which today is the Cover Reveal and April 8th is the release date! (I was a beta reader on this one).

    Neither of these books are classified YA, though I think Tales of the Outlaw Mages could be read as a YA series. Merchants of Knowledge and Magic has HEAVY DARK ADULT CONTENT.

    About the only other ace/aro representation I know are my own novels. Almost all of them have ace-aro-spec representation of one sort or another in the MCs, whether it’s an explicit focus or not (I was writing such characters before I knew there was a word for it being that way myself to some degree or other). Some of them (the Kaarathlon Novels) are definitely Adult, and some of the Areaer novels are (I’m pretty sure?) YA – others could be read as YA, but I have such a hard time understanding what that category means!

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      1. I should mention that if we are counted books with aroacespec side characters, there’s an ace character with a bit of point of view (in the later books) in the Telverin Trilogy by Ark Horton, and there’s an ace side character in The 13nth Zodiac by Azshure L Krauch.

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  3. I loved this list so much!!! I’m Demi myself so I also seeing rep. I recommend Tash Hearts Tolstoy for Ace rep and I’ve heard Loveless is good. Here is my post-

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    1. Yes, LOVELESS is the one that keeps getting recommended to me! (I’m only hesitant because I tend not to enjoy contemporary – I prefer the magic and escapism of another world)


    1. I’m somewhere on the spec too, so I’m always on the lookout for books with these characters as the near obligatory nature of romance in SFF drives me up the wall! Sometimes I want a romance (and SFF Romances are my go-to when I need to break a slump/am feeling low), sometimes I really really don’t and the fact I can’t find many is frustrating!


  4. I’ve not read many books with aro-ace spec characters, the only one on your list I’ve read is The Mask Falling as I’ve been reading The Bone Season series (though I need to finish it, I was in a bit of a reading slump last year and started but didn’t finish it). I’ve got Vespertine and Little Thieves on my TBR, so I’m glad to hear they have aro-ace spec characters. I can only think of a few books with aro-ace spec characters I’ve read: Daughter of The Burning City by Amanda Foody (demisexual love interest), Radio Silence (one of the main characters is demisexual), The Lady’s Guide To Petticoats and Piracy (asexual main character), Vicious (asexual main character: confirmed in the sequel Vengeful), The Diviners series (asexual main character in the ensemble cast).
    My TTT:

    Liked by 1 person

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