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Top 25 Best Fantasy Books by Female Authors

The Best Female-Authored Fantasy Novels

In the fantasy genre, female authors are notoriously underrepresented, and although a few of their names have become well-known, these are in the minority, especially when compared to their male counterparts. 

This need not be the case, as there are plenty of talented, imaginative female authors writing on alternate worlds, often pushing the boundaries of the genre itself, as many of the books on this list do.

Female authors are more likely to consider themes of importance to women, often placing strong women at the center of their stories, such as the case with many (but not all) of the following books. 

And though the books on this list are here due to the gender of their writers, this is not the only thing that makes them special. All of the novels are great reads aside from who wrote them, with compelling tales, believable characters, and either original, newly created worlds, or new takes on our own. We hope by reading some of the novels below, you'll see that women can write fantastic works of fantasy, whether you’re a fan of coming of age stories, gritty war tales, or epic fantasies.


A Wizard of Earthsea

(Ursula K. Le Guin)

Le Guin needs no introduction as one of fantasy's greats, influencing countless others after her, most notably Neil Gaiman, J.K. Rowling, Salman Rushdie, and David Mitchell. She's won every fantasy award you can get, and some multiple times, so it goes without saying that choosing just one of her books for this list was quite difficult. Yet A Wizard of Earthsea, first in the Earthsea series, won out in the end due to its status as a classic and influential work, compared to the likes of Lord of the Rings and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. In the novel, Le Guin analyzes and overturns many overdone fantasy tropes, such as the triumph over good and evil or the infallible wizard set within the scope of a coming of age story. Everything has a purpose in the short yet wide-reaching work, and Le Guin makes sure that every character counts. These include the strong yet seemingly diametrically opposed female characters put into the path of the main character, a young wizard named Ged.

A beloved and highly praised classic bundled into a fairly easy read, A Wizard of Earthsea is a definite read (or re-read) for fans of fantasy.

Read if You Like:

coming of age stories, wizards, magic

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The Curse of Chalion

(Lois McMaster Bujold)

Lois McMaster Bujold did not start off writing fantasy, instead rising to fame in the early 1990s as a prolific science-fiction novelist, winning numerous accolades such as the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards for her work. With The Curse of Chalion, it became clear she could write just as captivatingly about siege warfare as she could about interstellar intrigue. The novel is her second foray into fantasy, launching the tremendously popular Chalion series, set in a world based on medieval Spain (history buffs will especially enjoy this one). Though the story is told through the eyes of a damaged (male) knight returning home, Bujold does not disappoint with her female characters, especially the princess Iselle, who takes the plight of her arranged marriage and turns it on its head, becoming politically savvy and learning to make the rules of her world work in her favor. No damsels in distress here.

For a tremendously satisfying and intricate storyline interwoven with a theology including humanlike gods, pick this one up. Though part of a series, the books stands alone; not that you'd want to skip out on the sequel, Paladin of Souls, which won all the awards that The Curse of Chalion was nominated for.

Read if You Like:

history, medieval fantasy, mythology

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The Forgotten Beasts of Eld

(Patricia A. McKillip)
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Awards Won:1975 WFA

This book won the inaugural World Fantasy Awards just over forty years ago in 1975, but this classic story hasn't slipped from the ranks since then. The novel stands out from the pack for many reasons, though McKillip's dreamlike, graceful prose is one of the oft-praised aspects of the book, so different from the usually straight-forward storytelling of many fantasy novels. Sybel, the novel's heroine, lives alone on a mountain, surrounded by magical beasts (yes, including a dragon), until a baby, the heir to the kingdom, is dropped off at her door by a prince. Though this is far from what she expected or wanted, Sybel learns to care for and love the child.

Quite different from typical political plot driven novels (though one does exist here), the understated novel beautifully deals with themes such as motherhood, love, fear, and revenge, themes that as a woman, McKillip clearly had on her mind. Readers will be drawn in by the intriguing characters, including Sybel's pack of mythical creatures, lyrical words, and deep, human themes. This novel is also a nice choice if you don't want to commit to a series; it is a standalone novel that wraps up in a fitting, though perhaps not entirely satisfying, ending.

Read if You Like:

character-driven stories, mythical animals, revenge stories, complex characters and relationships

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With a Martin-esque plot and Jim Butcher pace, The Axe and the Throne is a definite "must read" for even the pickiest fantasy fans.

In his stunning debut, Ireman has built the type of world so vivid and engrossing that leaving it at the end is agony. In spite of leaning toward grimdark, where authors often enshroud every scene in depressing darkness, there is no lack of cheerful moments or brilliant scenery. Yet the pangs of near-instant nostalgia that come after you put down a book like this have less to do with the inspired setting, and far more to do with those who inhabit it. 

From savage, unremorseful heroes, to deep, introspective villains, the cast of this story is comprised of believable characters capable of unthinkable actions. And it is these characters -- the ones you wish you could share a drink with or end up wanting to kill -- that forge the connection between fantasy and reality. Keethro, Titon, Ethel, Annora. These are names you will never forget, and each belongs to a man or woman as unique as they are memorable. 

No book would be complete without a its fair share of intrigue, however, and there is no lack of it here. Each chapter leaves you wanting more, and Ireman's masterful use of misdirection leads to an abundance of "oh shit" moments. Do not be fooled (or do -- perhaps that's part of the fun) by storylines that may appear trope-ish at first. This is no fairytale. 

Available on Amazon & Audible, Barns & Noble, iTunes, Google, and Kobo.


Howl's Moving Castle

(Diana Wynne Jones)

If you've heard of Howl's Moving Castle, it may be because the book has been adapted into a stunning film by Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki. But no matter if you've seen the film or not, the award-winning book remains a classic of fantasy literature, and a truly enjoyable read. Jones creates a fun, magical world that doesn't take itself seriously, down to the unconventional romance that doesn't feel forced and irritating, like so often seen in fantasy novels.

The story is the tale of a shy girl whose world is suddenly shaken up as she is thrust head-first into adventure full of wizards, talking fire demons, and a castle that walks. Though many beloved female fantasy characters are intrepid women who confidently sling arrows and wield swords, Sophie seems like just the opposite. Far from making her boring, her shortcomings and shyness in many ways make her a much more relatable character than those battle-armored women, and readers will be cheering and laughing along with Sophie's antics and new-found confidence by the end.

Read if You Like:

coming of age stories, magic, wizards, romance

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Assassin's Apprentice

(Robin Hobb)
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Award Nominations:1997 BFS

Assassin's Apprentice, the first installment in Hobb's epic Farseer trilogy, is not only a fan favorite, but a stalwart of the genre whose author has been praised by literary giants like Orson Scott Card and current fantasy golden boy George R.R. Martin. In some ways the book is more of what you'd call traditional fantasy (including dragons, swordplay, clashing kingdoms), but Hobb's execution of both plot, description, and character are far from dull or typical, especially impressive as a female author in a dominantly male sub-section of the already male dominated fantasy genre. In the book, the main character, Fitz, is the illegitimate child of royalty, one who possesses magical powers and gets knocked around a lot.

What makes The Farseer series so thrilling (and often painful) to read is that the characters aren't untouchable; they make mistakes and pay for them. They pay even when they don't make mistakes, because that's life, whether we live in a fantasy world or not. The series has been immensely popular, and today there are no less than five mini-series, including 15 books, set in the Realm of the Elderlings, with a sixteenth due out in 2017.

Read if You Like:

assassins; coming of age stories, complex characters and relationships; heroes who suffer a lot; deep world building

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The Mists of Avalon

(Marion Zimmer Bradley)

The Mists of Avalon takes one of the most well-known and classic medieval fantasy legends that of King Arthur and retells it through the eyes of a woman, Morgaine. As such, it is undoubtedly a must-read for not only feminist fantasy lovers, but all readers of the genre. Morgaine, a sorceress/priestess is present in the typical legends, is often cast as an evil and one-dimensional character set on foiling Arthur's best-laid plans. In Bradley's version, Morgaine takes center stage as a powerful yet misguided woman struggling in a man's world. As a priestess, she physically represents old belief systems (Celtic paganism) which are falling out of favor, threatened by the rise of a new religion (Christianity). Bradley treats Morgaine's case with sympathy, portraying a well-known villain as someone just trying to do her best with the hand given to her.

The book is a refreshing departure from typical golden-boy heroes (or heroines) who see the path to goodness without any inner conflict or going down darker paths. The Mists of Avalon is not only a feminist fantasy classic, but a compelling story in its own right that received the Locus award, praise from sci-fi great Isaac Asimov, and spawned the Avalon book series as well as a TV series.

Read if You Like:

retellings of classic legends, magic, religious stories, paganism, tragic characters

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The Curse of the Mistwraith

(Janny Wurts)

The Curse of the Mistwraith is the first volume in the Wars of Light and Shadow series, and though the story is self-contained, the many hints to what will come in the future will likely have you picking up more novels in the series. The novel has many Tolkienesque elements that readers will enjoy, from a fellowship of characters to dark wraiths, and is told in a similar, larger-than-life manner. Wurts's world is intricate, full of fantasy favorites, including the medieval European setting, mages, sorceresses, and hints at centaurs and unicorns. Though the novel does not center on a female character (the main protagonists are two half-brothers), there is an entire ancient order devoted to women, the Koriathain Order, who use crystals to obtain and use magical powers.

Wurts warrants inclusion on this list not only for a solid work of epic fantasy but for her creative use of storytelling in setting up the novel's structure, which consists of numerous sections divided into chapters. The Curse of the Mistwraith is an engaging read with wonderful prose certainly worth delving into.

Read if You Like:

Deep world-building, magic, medieval Europe

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The Mirror Empire

(Kameron Hurley)

This first installment in the Worldbreaker Saga (the second came out last October) is an epic fantasy with intriguing world(s), an engaging plot, and complex characters. Throughout the 500 plus page novel, Hurley takes world-building to a new level, and challenges the norms of the fantasy genre with her discussions of gender fluidity, alternative marriage and family structures, all within a fascinating and dynamic setting that is a character itself. The book's actual characters, in large part multifaceted women who are neither flawless nor strictly evil, struggle through everything from a world rife with ethnic tensions to the very basic desire of a girl to be reunited with her mother. Be forewarned: this book is dense; after all, it packs in the histories of multiple nations spanning more than one world (don't worry, it comes with a glossary and character guide). And don't get too attached to the characters either think a Game of Thrones style approach to character safety.

But if you're searching for a knock-out novel that pulls you into a magical world of doppelgangers, assassins, blood sacrifices and a whole lot more, pick up The Mirror Empire. You won't be disappointed.

Read if You Like:

multiple points of view, deep world building, epic fantasy, political plots

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ASH: A Secret History

(Mary Gentle)

Ash: A Secret History is one of the few novels on this list with ties to the present world, framed from the start and throughout as a story a historian finds in dusty manuscripts. Gentle is so serious about her writing and creating an authentic world that she got a Master's degree in War Studies in order to write this novel. The historical portion of the novel follows Ash, a woman in the 15th century who is guided by a mysterious Voice and gets involved in real historical wars retold with magical elements. Ash is a shrewd mercenary whose imperfections only make her more admirable as she navigates her world with a toughness that at times might seem cruel.

The novel itself, in its 1000+ pages, can often come across that way as well, with a gritty edginess that comes with the very real portrayal of war in the Middle Ages. Though it may seem long, the plot twists and turns, with unexpected elements like artificial intelligence and transvestites that will keep you reading all the way to the unexpected ending.

Read if You Like:

alternate history, medieval Europe

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Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: A Novel

(Susanna Clarke)

The year it came out, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell won no less than six awards, including Time's Best Novel of the Year. New York Times called Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell a "Hogwarts for grownups," and Neil Gaiman enthusiastically raved about the Clarke's prose and story in The Guardian, listing her among one of his favorite authors. The massive novel is somewhat different from typical high fantasy, and instead is set in 19th century England, where the titular magicians set out to change the reputation and use of magic during the time of the Napoleonic Wars. The novel is in large part a story of their relationship as well as an investigation of opposites: reason and unreason, the North and South of England, magic and non-magic. Clarke's heavy use of footnotes to flesh out her intricate alternate world are another element setting the novel apart from most fiction novels, and while some readers might be put off by them, those looking to lose themselves in a well-rounded world will find them intriguing and helpful.

While critics may dislike the length (800 pages) and at lament the at times slow-moving pace, fans emphatically praise her witty style, and characters of a magical world that could have been our own.

Read if You Like:

magic, magicians, coming of age stories, alternate history

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Kushiel's Dart

(Jacqueline Carey)

The unforgettable Phdre n Delaunay, the main character of this multiple award-winning novel, is a woman who experiences pain as pleasure. It's not what it sounds like though; Kushiel's Dart is no 50 Shades of Grey. The novel takes on adult themes, yes, prominently discussing human sexuality within the setting of a fantasy world. While this rarity in the world of fantasy certainly makes the work stand out, the book is so much more than that. In the somewhat mystical novel, Phdre navigates her world as a courtesan and spy, uncovering intricate plots while simultaneously learning how to wield the power she holds as a woman, enjoying sex while using it for the power that the act has to control others.

Carey's lush description and world building of this alternate medieval Europe colonized by rebellious angels creates an environment that is certainly a departure from traditional fantasy, and an incredibly well-done one at that.

Read if You Like:

adult themes, alternate history, medieval Europe, political intrigue, deep world-building

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His Majesty's Dragon

(Naomi Novik)
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Award Nominations:2007 HUGO

The Napoleonic Wars seem to be an especially fascinating era for writers; this series is the second on the list set in this time period at the turn of the 19th century. His Majesty's Dragon, the first in the Temeraire series, takes place in an alternate version of the world where intelligent dragons are used as military air forces in both Asia and Europe.

The books center on the dragon Temeraire and his handler, Will Lawrence, who fight on the side of British forces, Lawrence having become a dragonrider when an egg unexpectedly falls into his hands. Lawrence, originally part of the Naval Corps, must learn to navigate the very different world of the Aerial Corps of which he has just joined, while at the same time rearing his dragon and teaching him about the world. This development of the curious bond between dragon and rider is one of the strengths of this book, with fans reveling in their humorous and heartwarming interactions.

While the book may not contain many female characters, the ones that do exist are progressive for their time, riding dragons themselves. There is no good vs. evil' battle here, which many fantasy fans may find refreshing, letting themselves instead imagine what the world could have been like if dragons existed.

Read if You Like:

dragons, alternate history, military fiction

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The Goblin Emperor

(Katherine Addison)

The Goblin Emperor received awards and nominations for all of the well-known fantasy and sci-fi book awards when it came out a couple of years ago, so if that's not reason enough to pick this one up, we'll lay it out for you. First, the plot is engrossing, following the story of Maia, a humble, half-goblin prince who never expected to get into the family business until a not-so-accidental crash kills the emperor and his three older brothers, leaving him no choice.

The story, told in third person through Maia's perspective, follows him as he struggles against everything thrown at him, and attempts to remain true to his values and stick up for what he believes in, albeit a bit hesitantly at first for much of the book. Throughout, Addison gracefully addresses themes of love, gender, sexuality, social class, and power structures, adding to the depth of the novel.

Readers shouldn't be off-put at first by the large cast of characters elaborate family names, as the always available glossary helps keep them on track. There's no sequel (yet), and the story wraps up with a satisfying ending.

Read if You Like:

steampunk, magic, political intrigue, deep world-building

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Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone

(J.K. Rowling)

Say what you may, but on a list of fantasy books with female authors, J.K. Rowling, likely the most popular female fantasy author of all time, can hardly be left out. The Harry Potter series created engaged, imaginative readers out of an entire generation, thanks to Rowling's intricate and well-fleshed out world within a steaming train's ride of our own. Rowling draws a lot upon mythology in her work, including mythological animals like hippogriffs, character names, and incorporating the story lines of myths themselves into various plots and subplots, giving the so-called children's book a depth not usually found in books this easy to read. Adults that didn't read the series growing up might shy away from starting this series later in life, but this would be a mistake.

The series belongs on this list especially for its strong female characters, most prominently Hermione Granger and Professor McGonagall, both highly intelligent women who steer the Harry (and others) back on track when they go astray. Bottom line though, the books are transporting, enjoyable reads that will unleash the imagination of readers of any age.

Read if You Like:

coming of age stories, wizards and witches, mythology

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War for the Oaks: A Novel

(Emma Bull)

For lovers of urban fantasy, The War for the Oaks is a must-read, as it more or less pioneered today's ever popular fantasy subgenre, one where fantasy elements seep into a present, often gritty world. Here, in present day (1980s) Minneapolis, the main character, Eddi, must learn how to use the music that she creates (the beginning starts off as her quitting the rock band she was in and running away into the night) to put a halt to a faerie war. The novel also features a love triangle between Eddi and two faeries, and though it may sound cheesy, Eddi's treatment of this predicament is refreshingly mature, especially compared to many other urban fantasy romances that have flooded the market today.

This is a book for musicians and music aficionados especially, as music plays a central role in the story, with Eddi's band playing rock standards as well as songs of her own. The book won the Locus prize for best first novel, and if fantasy genius Pat Rothfuss's word is to be considered, he gave the book 5/5 stars on Goodreads, so it must be good.

Read if You Like:

urban fantasy, rock music, faeries, romance

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The Golden Key

(Melanie Rawn)
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Award Nominations:1997 WFA

The Golden Key is the only book on this list with multiple authors (and three of them at that), perhaps because such works have a tendency to be disjointed, a result of the difficulty caused by attempting to meld multiple authors' differing styles. This isn't the case here, with each author writing one section of the three part book (Jennifer Roberson wrote the first, Melanie Rawn wrote the second, and Kate Elliott wrote the third). Tying the three stories together is a unifying plot, following two forever interconnected families whose histories are recorded using paintings instead of words. The Grijalva family of gifted painters guide events around them according to their desires, while the royal do'Verradas rule Tira Virte, the story's country of focus, a country which is in many ways an alternate version of Spain. The novel spans multiple generations over the course of 400 years, but mostly follows the main characters, Sario and his beloved cousin Saavedra, both gifted members of the Grijalva family.

Creative readers will love this intricately woven story where art is magic, and the protagonist is in fact an antihero who often goes too far in the pursuit of what he wants. While each of the three authors intended to write another novel in this world, only Melanie Rawn has done so in her book The Diviner, a prequel to The Golden Key which was published in 2011.

Read if You Like:

art, magic, complex characters and relationships, family sagas, deep world-building, antiheros

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Tooth and Claw

(Jo Walton)
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Awards Won:2004 WFA

Many fantasy novels contain dragons, but how many of them take the point of view of these mythical creatures? Jo Walton's Tooth and Claw does just that, telling a story in the style of a Victorian romance, with a cast of dragons as characters. In explaining the concept, the author herself writes, "This novel is the result of wondering what a world would be likeif the axioms of the sentimental Victorian novel were inescapable laws of biology." For example, female dragons must refrain from contact with the opposite sex because such romantic activities turn their scales a different color: an obvious sign. Cannibalism also plays a prominent role as a way to absorb the strength and power from the deceased. Family and religious politics are a strong theme throughout, with a focus on social class struggles, arranged marriages, and more issues that will be familiar to any readers of authors like Jane Austen or the Bronte sisters.

The result is a fun and imaginative read, a mash up of genres that is definitely different from anything out there.

Read if You Like:

dragons, Victorian romance, historical novels, social conflict

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A Cavern of Black Ice

(J. V. Jones)

Set in the same world as her bestselling The Book of Words trilogy, A Cavern of Black Ice is the first book in the separate Sword of Shadows series. This gritty novel follows the stories of its two stubborn main characters, Ash, and Raif, both of whom are a little different from the world in which they live. Ash is locked away by her adopted father, tormented by reoccurring nightmares for which she has no explanation. Meanwhile, Raif is a fiercely loyal member of the Hailsmen tribe who begins to question that loyalty as certain things come to light about his clan. The novel unravels slowly in a stark, cold climate, the perfect backdrop for the types of visceral scenes that Jones describes in often agonizing detail.

Readers will enjoy the dark magical elements, multiple characters (Raif's sister and uncle also play prominent roles) and sweeping epic fantasy not normally written by a female author. Although Jones isn't as well-known as some of her fantasy counterparts, her work is well worth a read, and has even been compared to the likes of popular fantasy authors George R.R. Martin and Robin Hobb.

Read if You Like:

deep world-building, epic fantasies, magic, multiple character plotlines, heroes who suffer a lot

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The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

(N. K. Jemisin)

First book in The Inheritance Trilogy, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms centers on the novel's narrator, Yeine, granddaughter of the ruler of the world. Yeine suddenly is named heir to this throne, despite the fact that she grew up outside of the political arena, and arrives in the floating city of Sky only to be immediately thrust into the middle of a struggle for power. She remains concerned with her own agenda though: uncovering the mysterious circumstances surrounding her mother's sudden death. As a black woman interested in racial and cultural tensions, Jemisin's captivating fantasy world is also rife with conflict between races, albeit those of gods, demons, and mortals. Her unique characters are driven by emotion, politics and other very believable motives, imperfect gods included.

There's a lot to keep track of here, from the various settings to the cast of characters, but it never feels overwhelming. At the center of it all, Yeine, an emotionally complex and likeable heroine, will weave her way easily into reader's hearts. The trilogy is already completed, so no need to wait for subsequent novels if you end up loving this one.

Read if You Like:

political intrigue, family sagas, first person POV, deep world building, racial conflict, mythology romance

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The Golem and the Jinni

(Helene Wecker)

In Wecker's debut novel, two very unusual immigrants arrive, separately, in 19th century immigrant New York. These two characters are (unsurprisingly) a golem named Chava, created by a Jewish rabbi in Poland, and Ahmad, a jinni originating in ancient Syria. Their chance meeting ends up sparking an unusual yet believable friendship of polar opposites, and the strength of the novel is undoubtedly their conversations on a variety of subjects including free will, desire, and of course their differing reactions to dealing with the isolating struggles of being inhuman in a human world. The resulting story is a multiple award winning novel where magic exists in a historical space, a novel where the characters grow and change as result of select incidents and resulting introspection. For example, Chava is an unusual character in that she is a woman containing decidedly (for the time) unwomanly characteristics such as strength and the ability to protect others around her. Her time and circumstances limit her ability to use these powers however, and she must learn to live within these societal restrictions so as not to draw attention to herself. Any female reader will easily emphasize with her struggle.

Fans of the book will be please to know that Wecker recently announced a sequel, due out in 2018.

Read if You Like:

mythology, historical fiction, immigrant stories, romance, folklore

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The Queen of the Tearling

(Erika Johansen)

One of the more recently published novels on this list, Queen of the Tearling has elicited strong reactions; this seems to be one of those love it or hate it books. The premise may seem somewhat familiar: a princess must claim her thrown after the unexpected death of her mother, as well as combat the evil sorceress who attempts to dethrone her. Yet the book is so much more than that, and far from being a traditional princess, the main character, Kaleigh, is one that changes significantly over the course of the novel. She starts off as a timid girl with low self-confidence who must suddenly learn how to rule when the job of Queen is thrust upon her. Critics may dislike her initially weak character, but it only makes her growth more believable as she truly comes into her own. The setting, while not as deeply developed as some other fantasy epics, is perhaps more intriguing for that, leaving readers to wonder what is really going on in this somewhat dystopian but at the same time medieval world.

With a movie adaptation both starring and produced by Emma Watson as well as the second novel of the planned trilogy in the works, it's clear that Johansen isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

Read if You Like:

fairytales, coming of age stories, good vs. evil

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The True Game Series

(Sheri S. Tepper)

Warning: get ready to commit if you enjoy this stories; The True Game series is not just a trilogy, it's a trilogy of trilogies. This unique delivery of her story, comprising of a short novels instead of longer ones, makes for a pleasurable, if different reading experience. Each of the novels follows a certain character, with the second two series centering on female characters Jinian and Mavin (the first centers on the coming of age of the boy Peter, Mavin's son). A self-described eco-feminist', her work is concerned with both of these themes, and without giving too much away from the story, the novels could also be considered crossing over to science fiction. In her world, the Lands of the True Game, humans have developed various abilities, such as shapeshifting, the ability to see the future, and telepathy, just to name a few. Wizards also exist in this world in which the characters must play games in order to survive.

While the first series could benefit from a tighter writing style, Tepper's world and imagination truly shines, drawing readers in for more.

Read if You Like:

magic, wizards, space exploration

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Alanna: The First Adventure

(Tamora Pierce)

While Tamora Pierce's novels are mainly marketed towards younger readers, her Song of the Lioness series is still a worthwhile read, especially if you're looking for a break from some of the darker and denser suggestions on this list. In the series, started in the first book, Alanna: The First Adventure, the protagonist, Alanna, ditches dresses to don britches and masquerade as her twin brother, Thom, in order to train as a knight. The book is a good deal shorter than many other fantasy tomes, with Pierce choosing her words carefully and packing in the action. The story is set in Tortall, unsurprisingly very much like medieval Europe, but with its own unique touches, and of course, a good deal of magic.

Readers will love the plucky and stubborn Alanna, perhaps even seeing themselves in the young heroine. The plot is a straight forward, good vs. evil story, which critics may take issue with. But for a lighthearted and fast book for a rainy Sunday afternoon, Alanna perfectly fits the bill.

Read if You Like:

young adult novels, coming of age stories, magic, swordplay, medieval Europe, romance, character driven stories

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The King's Dragon

(Kate Elliott)

The King's Dragon, first in the seven volume fantasy epic by Kate Elliott (pen name of Alis A. Rasmussen), combines political intrigue with heroics set in Novaria, a world heavily based on medieval Europe, with fictional countries corresponding quite directly with actual ones. The plot centers on two characters: Alain, a young man with a mysterious background thrown onto the battlefield, and Liath, a young woman who gets trapped into an unfortunate situation, and must find her way out. The storyline is typical to others in the epic fantasy genre, one of political strife both inside and outside of the kingdom, yet Elliott skillfully weaves her story so as not to feel cumbersome for readers of the genre. Elliott herself has a background in archaeology as well as medieval sword-fighting, so it's no wonder that she describes the history and action as well as she does, creating an intricate world with humanlike beings, a new religion, and a believable magic system.

It's this deep world-building that has drawn the attention of others, for good reason. Sci-fi master Orson Scott Card has significantly praised her work multiple times, saying on his blog that she is "one of the best world creators in fantasy literature."

Read if You Like:

epic fantasy, dragons, medieval Europe, deep world-building, historical fiction, magic

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The Privilege of the Sword

(Ellen Kushner)
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Awards Won:2007 LocusF
Award Nominations:2006 NEBULA, 2007 WFA

Though The Privilege of the Sword is actually the second in a series, the witty and intelligent novel does well a highly praised stand-alone, winner of the Locus award and nominated for both World Fantasy awards and Gaylatic awards. The novel starts out with nave, teenage heroine Katherine, who moves from the countryside to live with her uncle in the city, where she meets a host of women whose lives are controlled by men. Luckily for her, she escapes out of the cycle of marriage and enters training to become a swordsman, dressing like a man, and more often than not, being perceived as one, a scenario that all women have (let's face it) imagined at some point.

Though the novel does receive some demerits for an abrupt ending, this is still a fun read, especially if you'd like a break from magic interfering with everything, as this one has none.

Read if You Like:

coming of age stories, gender-bending, swordplay

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