I recently read two different fantasy novels I've had recced to me as refreshingly progressive but still mainly just light escapism and had two quite different reactions.
The 10 000 Kingdoms by N K Jemisin: This has been widely touted as THE great Epic Fantasy Novel By and Featuring A POC, but I've also seen lots of people really irritated at all the praise, and I can see where both are coming from. It is a cheesy, self indulgent book that is most enjoyable if you breeze through it quickly without thinking too hard and have similar narrative kinks to the author (lots of incest between gods and the Angst Of The Immortal Made Slave. Think Dark Jewels crossed with Chalion). While the prose is very readable the execution leaves a lot to be desired, especially in fleshing out things like the main romance.
If the protagonist was white the book wouldn't seem as remarkable, but she isn't, and her POCness (both by the standards of our world and the standards of hers) is both a significant part of her character and a natural seeming part of the story rather than feeling pasted on. That shouldn't
be remarkable, but it is. I'm not in a position to judge how well race is handled but Jemisin certainly shakes up the tropes of generic Eurofantasy while telling an entertaining yarn and I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series (though I could stop here and feel satisfied enough. For that alone she deserves praise :D)
Un Lun Dun by China Mieville: I like fantasy, but am often pissed off by how very in love it is with Kings and Destiny. People keep recommending me China Meiville as an antidote and I keep being disappointed and this was no exception.
The main character is the plucky desi friend of the dreamy blonde Destined One Who Will Save Us All. I really like that setup, and I like her and the characters, and the basic worldbuilding and plot structure etc was all fine with lots of inventive ideas and cute drawings. But as with Railsea what I think ultimately annoys me is that he's obviously trying to write a more progressive version of the early 20th century kids books he enjoyed as a boy, but the progressiveness DOES feel pasted on.
As with Railsea the protagonist meets people from charming, quaint, strange subcultures, all of whom end up being totally loyal to her and she leads them all to victory despite being very young and inexperienced. It all feels very typical of the naturally noble young Spirit of Englishness and those plucky adorable working class folk who love to serve them. He throws in some POC and some background queerness and competent female characters who do stuff which is all great, and if I wasn't constantly told how BRILLIANTLY LEFT WING and SUBVERSIVE it all is I probably wouldn't care.
Admittedly I haven't read his adult books since they all sound too depressing, but if they're better that's actually more annoying: it's children who really need their assumptions challenged, not adults. Terry Pratchett does it much better imo (not without missteps, but he doesn't take himself so seriously) as do Miyazaki and le Guin. I do like that he encourages children not to trust the government though, you can never teach them that too young :D( Spoilers for Un Lun Dun )