Top 25 Fantasy Books for Women
Also known as Fantasy Books with Strong Female Protaganists
Some women want fantasy books that are different from those for men. Now, I know many women read the same fantasy as the boys and are fine with that, but for the women who want fantasy with strong female protagonists, fantasy that's not all about some hunk whose mission is to slay dark lords and sleep with as many women as possible while doing so, this list is for you.
Why have I created this list? I've heard many women complaining most fantasy novels are 'boy' fantasy. Sounds familiar? You know, fantasy books with male protagonists, pathetic females whose sole role is only to be saved by the hero, and to be part of a ham-fisted romance. If you like that sort of book as a woman, that's fine. But if you are a woman who likes strong female characters and books that don't cater to the male mind (and yes ladies, MOST of the fantasy books are written by men FOR men), this list will give you some ideas.
While admittedly, most fantasy books are geared toward the male reader, there are some very well written books that may appeal to SOME women who like a "softer," more "character-driven" fantasy tale. To aid these ladies in the quest to find good fantasy literature that appeals to such sensibilities, I've listed the best fantasy books for women, or to put it more politically correctly, the best fantasy books with strong female protaganists. Those ladies who are offended by my title "Fantasy Books for Women," my sincere apologies, but this list is simply my attempt to help certain women find books that they may find particularly interesting. This is not only limited to girls -- guys who don't mind reading books with complex female protaganists will enjoy the books on this list too.
do note that this list has become somewhat controversial over the past
couple of years (I've had several women post long essays on the comment
section "critiquing" my selections as completely sexist) mainly due to
the mere fact that I've even suggested there may be a difference
between what females and males prefer.
So let me reiterate my intent for this list: it recommends books with VERY strong female protagonists, strong (and realistic) romance, and characters you can emotionally connect with. If you ladies want to read fantasy books with shoddy female characters, books with strong male protagonists, and books where females are treated like crap, then feel free to check out the Top 25 Fantasy Books list. There's a lot of good stuff there that both men and women will enjoy, but this specific list just has some particular books that you may connect with on an emotional level.
Updated September 2012: Added new books and shuffled the list around to give the better books a higher rating.
Book Flap Description
Bingtown is a hub of exotic trade, and home to a merchant nobility famed for its liveships--rare vessels carved from wizardwood, which ripens magically into sentient awareness. The fortunes of one of Bingtown's oldest families rest on the newly awakened liveship Vivacia. For Althea Vestrit, the ship is her rightful legacy unjustly denied her--a legacy she will risk anything to reclaim. For Althea's young nephew Wintrow, wrenched from his religious studies and forced to serve aboard ship, Vivacia is a life sentence. But the fate of the Vestrit family--and the ship--may ultimately lie in the hands of an outsider. The ruthless pirate Kennit seeks a way to seize power over all the denizens of the Pirate Isles...and the first step of his plan requires him to capture his own liveship and bend it to his will....
The author and protagonist are both women. This is a very strong series with a realistic character and realistic, often complicated, relationships. Romance is a strong element in this book, but it's not handled in the ham-fisted method that abounds in most fantasy books. But good romance is not the only thing this book has going for it. The world Hobb has created is simply marvelous. This is one landscape you just want to explore; it's quite simply magical. Robb's prose is also top notch and her descriptions transport you into the fantastical world she has created. I highly, highly recommend this book to both men and women. If you want a fantasy that's different, compelling and has some very strong female characters who will appeal to all women, read this series!
McKinley is one of the best female-empowerment writers in the fantasy genre, crafting masterful fantasy tales with compelling, realistic, and strong female protagonists. She’s a hero to many woman and (shamelessly stolen from somewhere on the web) according to some women, has done more for the women’s movement with a single semi-colon than most ever will. The Hero and the Crown is considered to be McKinley’s magnum opus – it’s not shoved in your face like some of the other, more modern fantasy books, but it’s well worth digging around in the back aisles of your local library or bookstore to find. This is the story of Aerin, a female protagonist who's probably one of the best developed in the whole genre. She is the everywoman, a girl who faces the same struggles that many a woman deals with, and in the face of these struggles, learns to overcome them – and not by the helping hand of some dashing young prince who rides in from the forest to save the day. No, this is female empowerment where a woman has the potential to solve her own problems and does so. There are no sudden plot devices that save the day, no deus ex machina that fixes all problems, just good old-fashioned struggling and learning and using the knowledge gained to find a solution. So for one of the most compelling fantasy tales with a seriously strong contender for the best written female protagonist ever, this is a book you cannot skip.
Sorcha is the seventh child and only daughter of Lord Colum of
Sevenwaters. Bereft of a mother, she is comforted by her six brothers
who love and protect her. Sorcha is the light in their lives, and they
are determined that she know only contentment.
But Sorcha's joy is shattered when her father is bewitched by his new
wife, an evil enchantress who binds her brothers with a terrible spell,
a spell which only Sorcha can lift-by staying silent. If she speaks
before she completes the quest set to her by the Fair Folk and their
queen, the Lady of the Forest, she will lose her brothers forever.
When Sorcha is kidnapped by the enemies of Sevenwaters and taken to a
foreign land, she is torn between the desire to save her beloved
brothers, and a love that comes only once. Sorcha despairs at ever
being able to complete her task, but the magic of the Fair Folk knows
no boundaries, and love is the strongest magic of them all...
Mariner writes some of the best female characters in the fantasy genre. These fantasy books are good. Really, really good. With some intelligent, complex, and interesting female protagonists and some really well handled romance, this trilogy is a gift to all women -- and men. It's Celtic fantasy with a very strong romantic element, a lush, vivid world, and some really compelling characters -- especially the protagonist (a woman). Fantasy written by a girl, for the girls. This is romantic fantasy at it's best. Read!!
Amazon Book Description
The land of Terre d'Ange is a place of unsurpassing beauty and grace. It is said that angels found the land and saw it was good...and the ensuing race that rose from the seed of angels and men live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt. Phèdre nó Delaunay is a young woman who was born with a scarlet mote in her left eye. Sold into indentured servitude as a child, her bond is purchased by Anafiel Delaunay, a nobleman with very a special mission...and the first one to recognize who and what she is: one pricked by Kushiel's Dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one. Phèdre is trained equally in the courtly arts and the talents of the bedchamber, but, above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze. Almost as talented a spy as she is courtesan, Phèdre stumbles upon a plot that threatens the very foundations of her homeland. Treachery sets her on her path; love and honor goad her further. And in the doing, it will take her to the edge of despair...and beyond. Hateful friend, loving enemy, beloved assassin; they can all wear the same glittering mask in this world, and Phèdre will get but one chance to save all that she holds dear. Set in a world of cunning poets, deadly courtiers, heroic traitors, and a truly Machiavellian villainess, this is a novel of grandeur, luxuriance, sacrifice, betrayal, and deeply laid conspiracies. Not since Dune has there been an epic on the scale of Kushiel's Dart-a massive tale about the violent death of an old age, and the birth of a new.
Unique, passionate, sad, jubilant -- these are all words that come to mind when reading Carey's tremendous effort. These are fantasy books for women (and guys too). The protagonist is a woman and probably the most complex female character in the entire genre of fantasy.
Book Flap Description
The ruling Asharites of Al-Rassan have come from the desert sands, but over centuries, seduced by the sensuous pleasures of their new land, their stern piety has eroded. The Asharite empire has splintered into decadent city-states led by warring petty kings. King Almalik of Cartada is on the ascendancy, aided always by his friend and advisor, the notorious Ammar ibn Khairan -- poet, diplomat, soldier -- until a summer afternoon of savage brutality changes their relationship forever. Meanwhile, in the north, the conquered Jaddites' most celebrated -- and feared -- military leader, Rodrigo Belmonte, driven into exile, leads his mercenary company south. In the dangerous lands of Al-Rassan, these two men from different worlds meet and serve -- for a time -- the same master. Sharing their interwoven fate -- and increasingly torn by her feelings -- is Jehane, the accomplished court physician, whose own skills play an increasing role as Al-Rassan is swept to the brink of holy war, and beyond. Hauntingly evocative of medieval Spain, The Lions of Al-Rassan is both a brilliant adventure and a deeply compelling story of love, divided loyalties, and what happens to men and women when hardening beliefs begin to remake -- or destroy -- a world.
Gavriel Kay has never written a bad fantasy novel. He always populates his worlds with fully realized characters. His female characters are always strong, with sassy personalities and strong intelligence.
Book Flap Description
Follow Lois McMaster Bujold, one of the most honored authors in the field of fantasy and science fiction, to a land threatened by treacherous war and beset by demons -- as a royal dowager, released from the curse of madness and manipulated by an untrustworthy god, is plunged into a desperate struggle to preserve the endangered souls of a realm.
I HIGHLY recommend you ladies read this one. It's a great story about a strong female character written by an outstanding female author. It's got everything there is to like in a good fantasy novel: great characters (especially female ones in this book), awesome romance, and a great plot. This is technically a sequel to The Curse of Chalion, also another great book (for men and women), but The Paladin of Souls can be read as a stand alone.
If you are planning to read Paladin of Souls, then my recommendation
is to read Curse of Chalion, then Paladin of Souls, then The Hallowed
Hunt, as the three books are connected (albeit loosely). I know I said
Paladin of Souls is a standalone, and it is, but it's worth reading
Chalion first if you can get it. If not, then it's not that big of a
Seriously, this is a lovely series with an outstanding female
protagonist. Romance, love, loss, adventure -- this series has it all.
The novel is by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts, but it's pretty clear
that Wurts wrote this all on her own -- the characters are a whole
level better than Feist's regular work. The protagonist is a woman who
controls her own destiny. The book could be classed as historical
fiction, but the setting is that of an Asian fantasy world, one that is
fascinating. Don't worry though, it's not all just historical fantasy
-- there's plenty of fantastical elements that will keep hard core
fantasy fans entertained.
Books set in an Asian fantasy landscape are pretty rare. If you liked the sort of mystical Asian landscape portrayed in this series, you might Find Sean Russell's Brother Initiate and Gather of Clouds a good read as well. Guy Gavriel Kay also has a new book, Under Heaven, that's sort of an alternative version of China (with elements of magic to it).
Book Flap Description
Here is the magical legend of King Arthur, vividly retold through the eyes and lives of the women who wielded power from behind the throne.
A retelling of the classic Arthurian tale from a woman's perspective
(literally). IF you read ONE book about King Arthur, Lancelot,
Guinevere, then make sure it's this one. Some outstanding female
characters in this book and it's got everything most women would love.
And yes, this one appeals to the guys too.
This is a modern fantasy book with modern sensibilities for the modern woman. It’s the story of a woman’s transformation from possessing brittle strength to becoming a woman of steely strength. It’s a novel that takes you on the journey that follows Katsa as she matures and evolves. There’s quite a bit of romance involved as well, but it’s handled so deftly that the whole process never comes off as ham-fisted. Magic is present in the story, but it’s tastefully done with never so much of it thrown at you that it gets overwhelming. For a book that doesn’t flinch at addressing some of the social issues that woman currently face, a book that doesn’t flinch at thumbing its nose at some of the conservative values society adheres to, and a book with a well-drawn female protagonist, a gripping plot and an interesting, fantastical world, you won’t do any better than Graceling. This is one of those complex, intelligent books that will stick with you long after you've finished turning the last page. Highly recommended by any woman who’s tired of clichéd fantasy plots and stereotypical female heroines.
A young woman sentenced to die is given a second chance: to become the poison taster for the Commander – a job that’s pretty much a death sentence. She takes the job to buy some time to plot her escape. But she stumbles into a complex world that’s every bit as confining as the cell she once occupied. This is a fascinating and compelling novel that matches a resourceful, intelligent, and well developed protagonist with an equally interesting plot and setting. It makes for some great reading that will delight you. There are some well-trod paths here with the plot and character: she starts off as inexperienced and even jaded because of her past, but soon learns to find her own voice, makes positive friendships, and comes to realize her own strengths as a person and a woman. This is a great story that shows a good deal of personal growth in how the protagonist thinks and acts over the course of the story (it’s a trilogy).
A new series that's been getting a lot of great reviews. And with good reason. An interesting plot, lots of political maneuvering, and a very well done female protagonist This series is more intelligent than many of the other fantasy books out there. So if you like SMART fantasy with a strong female protagonist and a fascinating fantasy world, pick this book up.
This is Pierce’s best piece – a fantastic and touching tale about Daine, a young girl with the magical ability to speak to animals. It’s a perfect blend of adventure, humor, and romance – all bound together with Pierce's great prose and strong voice. This is a trilogy.
Berg writes some of the best female heroines in the genre – all of them are carefully developed personalities with a lot of depth to them. There are a number of good books to pick from (and many of them feature a well-drawn male protagonist), but my pick goes to her The Bridge of D’Arnath series which features a magical story about a disgraced noblewoman who slowly puts the pieces of her shattered life back together, and finds out that happiness and even love just still might be possible. The world is well drawn as is the wonderful cast of characters – the female protagonist especially stands out.
Oh yes, this book is good. Abercrombie is a male writer, but the man is just so damn clever he's able to pull off some pretty good female characters. Abercrombie has a darker edge to his work -- it's gritty, the characters are gray, and it's also BLOODY and violent. But it's intelligent fantasy. Best Served Cold is the mother of all revenge tales about a woman betrayed. The protagonist is a woman and she's a woman you don't screw over.
Amazon Book Description
Fleeing persecution to build a free colony on the planet Lenfell, the magic-wielding Mageborns find their new home torn apart by civil war between the Mage Guardians and the Lords of Malerris.
Melini Rawn is a great at writing realistic female characters. The description of the novel does not do it justice. This is a wholly character-driven book, with complex, deep characters and an enticing world. Unlike some of the other fantasy books for women mentioned above, the entire plot is not based on romance, but the strong female characters, well-developed world, and addicting plot make this a must read for the fairer sex.
Book Flap Description
At the dawn of the nineteenth century, two very different magicians emerge to change England's history. In the year 1806, with the Napoleonic Wars raging on land and sea, most people believe magic to be long dead in England until the reclusive Mr Norrell reveals his powers, and becomes a celebrity overnight. Soon, another practicing magician comes forth: the young, handsome, and daring Jonathan Strange. He becomes Norrell's student, and they join forces in the war against France. But Strange is increasingly drawn to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic, straining his partnership with Norrell, and putting at risk everything else he holds dear.
A remarkable book written in a sort of Victorian-era flowery prose. The flowery prose my be off-putting at first, but the mesmerizing story soon sucks you right in. Romance is a definite (and important) element in this novel, but it is certainly not a romantic fantasy. However, the strong narrative, rich characters, and compelling story make this a novel that must be read. Women who love the Jane Austen style settings and prose will especially be delighted.
Booklist Description Next in line to become archangel in the angel-led dominion of Samaria, Gabriel must lead the next chorale praising the god Jovah, which means he needs a wife--fast--to sing beside him. Guided by the local oracle and the light emanating from the Kiss of the Gods (a homing device in his wrist), he finds his Jovah-selected fiancee in a common Edori slave girl named Rachel. The marriage proves, however, anything but romantic. Far from rejoicing in the sudden freedom that her marriage brings, Rachel quickly becomes a thorn in Gabriel's side, using her newfound influence to help her downtrodden Edori brethren. Displaying sure command of characterization and vividly imagined settings, Shinn absorbs us in the story of how Rachel and Gabriel eventually unite in true love and respect. With place-names such as Gaza and Jordana, she tantalizingly hints at her Samaria's connection to an ancient Israeli past, and she tempers the angelic milieu with talk of her angels' technological heritage in an entertaining sf-fantasy blend that should please fans of both genres.
This is Fantasy written just for women. With a strong love story and some interesting world-building, this SF-Fantasy hybrid is a heavenly success. The two protagonists loathe each other and it's interesting to see how their relationship evolves over the span of the novel. Those looking for a complicated love story, look no further than Archangel -- it's a fantasy book that will make women swoon!
massive 7-tome epic fantasy series is about as good as it gets when it
comes to having a strong female protagonist; there is in fact a cast of
strong characters – both male and female – but the female characters
are particularly well drawn. Highly recommended if you want a full-on
epic fantasy in the vein of say, Jordan but with heroines who don’t act
Amazon Book Description
Melanie Rawn's best-selling debut is a novel of love and war, magic and madness, and deadly dangerous dragons that hold the secret to unimaginable wealth that could prove key to mutual peace-or a bloody tyrant's reign. And among it all, an idealistic young ruler struggles to civilize a culture that understands the strength of the sword-but has yet to discover the true power of knowledge
Those ladies wanting some epic fantasy with a female bent, well, this is what you've been waiting for. This is not your standard peasant boy becomes hero and beats up dark lord plot, however. It's epic fantasy on a grand scale with a cast of very strong female (and male) characters. The romantic relationship between the male and female protagonists is the main focus of this novel, but the world-building is first class with an interesting magic system, lots of political tension, and a strong plot. For those girls who want a fantasy book with action and good romance, this is your book.
Book Flap Description
In a world outside reality, a young girl's spirit hovers between incarnations, knowing neither her past nor her future. In the temporal world lives Nevyn, who long ago vanquished the maiden's hand in marriage and forged a terrible bond between three souls. Now he must atone the wrong of his youth.
The entire premise of the series is also pretty interesting: a man
and woman are constantly reborn and in each life somehow cross paths
and fall in love over and over.
And who doesn't love a magical story about two lovers trapped in a cycle of rebirth – always destined to meet one another with each passing cycle? It’s a unique concept and the author plays with a lot of different themes such as rebirth, destiny, unfinished business, and soulmates. Romance and love is definitely a huge part of the whole series (and in fact, the whole premise of the series is hinged on it), but it’s not beat-you-over-the-head romance and it’s more of a romance of the soul – destiny if you will – than all-out raw physical passion, as many pulp fantasy novels love to depict.
Lots of romance, betrayal, redemption in this one. Great for those
who like romance fantasy or even something a little different.
Book Flap Description
Sent to a boarding school in Ancelstierre as a young child, Sabriel has had little experience with the random power of Free Magic or the Dead who refuse to stay dead in the Old Kingdom. But during her final semester, her father, the Abhorsen, goes missing, and Sabriel knows she must enter the Old Kingdom to find him. She soon finds companions in Mogget, a cat whose aloof manner barely conceals its malevolent spirit, and Touchstone, a young Charter Mage long imprisoned by magic, now free in body but still trapped by painful memories. As the three travel deep into the Old Kingdom, threats mount on all sides. And every step brings them closer to a battle that will pit them against the true forces of life and death—and bring Sabriel face-to-face with her own destiny.
Some outstanding female characters in the Abhorsen trilogy. These books are epic fantasy with a darker edge. And they are (somewhat) scary as well. The three books all feature a strong female lead. This are some of my favorite books. So if you are looking for an epic fantasy with strong female characters, good romance, and a hell of a lot of adventure, these are the books to read. Sabriel is the first in the trilogy and arguably the best one, featuring a very compelling female protaganist.
They also made my (previous) Top 25 Best Fantasy Books list.
Book Flap Description
Ged was the greatest sorcerer in all Earthsea, but once he was called Sparrowhawk, a reckless youth, hungry for power and knowledge, who tampered with long-held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world. This is the tale of his testing, how he mastered the mighty words of power, tamed an ancient dragon, and crossed death's threshold to restore the balance.
The first book is about a male character, but the story is such that
it will appeal to women too (and the author is female). In the later
sequels, there are some very strong female protagonists as well. Le
Guin is a fantastic author and she's written some very strong books in
the past, many of them with a decidedly female bent. Earthsea is a
classic coming-of-age tale, but it's so well done and so beautifully
told, I highly recommend this book as a must read.
For female protaganists:
The Tomes of Autun (book 2) and book 4. Coming from the author of
The Left Hand of Darkness, you can expect well-drawn female characters
who are not content to play second fiddle to any male hero.
Black Jewels Trilogy is the saga of a young but still-innocent Queen more powerful than even the High Lord of Hell-and the three sworn enemies determined to win her and gain a prize that could be terrible beyond imagining...
I've actually been meaning to add this series, but it slipped my mind earlier. This egregious slip has been pointed out multiple times by some of my female readers. My apologies ladies, mistake rectified.
is a really interesting series. I like it myself and would recommend it
to both men and women. The author sort of takes the heaven and hell
conceits and flips them around. Satan is the good guy and God is a
bastard. The world portrayed is pretty dark, with young "witches" who
are gifted with power being the ones who bear the brunt. This series
offers a really strong female lead, an interesting world (and magic)
and a lot of romance. This book is a must read by any of you ladies who
like romantic fantasy or dark fantasy, or even just fantasy!
Yet more epic fantasy. This one is a "man's fantasy" but there are some well-written female characters as well. Well recommended. Again, this is "guy fantasy" but there are also some good female characters -- strong ones.
More epic fantasy from a male author. But this one centers about a female protagonist. The protagonist is very well written and is pretty kick ass as well (no victim, she). Sanderson doesn't do a very good job with the romance angle, in my opinion, but overall it's a great series to read.
And For More Recommendations...
Mary Gentle knows how to write fine characters. She immerses you into her world; the world itself is not just some shoddily slapped together fantasy world, but one that's researched and designed with great care. It's a world that's quite similar to the world of the European renaissance period. The book mixes magic, detective work, and a bit of spook (think a less frightening version of an Edgar Allen Poe tale).
would you ladies like this book? The author really does a fine job with
her characters. The main protagonist is a man, and not a woman, but
there's plenty to like about the character and it's written in a way
that builds a good emotional connection to the character.
Amazon Book Description
Once every thousand years the phoenix of Jehanglan burns to death in a magical release. For millennia the emperors of Jehanglan have tried to harness the awesome power of the phoenix's rebirth. One has finally succeeded, using black magic and the enslavement of a dragon. Far away at the Crown of the World, Dragon-lord Linden and his new wife, Maurynna, are trying to live the life of happy newlyweds. But all is not well. Since her first Change into dragon-form, Maurynna has been unable to duplicate it. And as her inability to Change drives her into a dark abyss of depression, Linden begins to doubt the love he was once so sure of... At this time of personal crisis, these two must journey to Jehanglan and marshall all of their diplomatic and martial skill to penetrate the treachery of the empire and set free the phoenix. But to do so they must face the dragon--the dragon who just might be a Dragonlord gone mad....
Another great fantasy book for women. This book is romance masquerading as a fantasy novel. But, it manages to do justice to both genres. Even though romance is the primary force in this novel, the story is very well written and the author has a definite knack for creating exotic landscapes and strong interpersonal relationships. With lots of romantic tension between the two main characters and a strong plot, this is a thoroughly enjoyable book. It's actually one of the better romantic fantasy novels out there. If you enjoy the standard elements of a romance novel with the trappings of a fantasy world, this book will satisfy you.
This series is very well written with strong female and male lead. The author's characterization is very strong and I have a feeling that some women may find this series (and other series by the same author), quite good. I will point out that this author has been well recommended by some of the commentators here as well.
Book Flap Description
The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back
from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon — when
she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient stone circles
that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach — an
"outlander" — in a Scotland torn by war and raiding Highland clans in
the year of Our Lord ... 1743.
Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into intrigues and dangers that may threaten her life ... and shatter her heart. For here she meets James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, and becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire ... and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.
Personally, I'm not a fan of this series. Maybe it's a guy thing,
maybe not. But I have a horde of female friends who LOVE this series to
death. I have read the first couple of books myself, and the female
character is well done. For women who want a romantic,
pseudo-historical fantasy with a good female lead, this series will
please you greatly. Again, I've had multiple women request that I add
this to the list, so here it is.
Rhapsody is a woman, a Singer of some talent, who is swept up into events of world-shattering import. On the run from an old romantic interest who won't take no for an answer, Rhapsody literally bumps into a couple of shady characters: half-breeds who come to her rescue in the nick of time. Only the rescue turns into an abduction, and Rhapsody soon finds herself dragged along on an epic voyage, one that spans centuries and ranges across a wonder-filled fantasy world-- a world so real you can hear the sweet music of Rhapsody's aubade and smell the smoldering forges deep within the Cauldron.
I was quite impressed with this novel when it first came out. Haydon creates an interesting world, some interesting characters, with lots and lots of tension, and a hell of a lot of romance. While romance in a fantasy book is not unusual, this book is all about the romance. I'd probably say this novel is a pretty strong combination of a genuine fantasy novel mated with a bodice-ripping romance. The combination works. Don't expect anything deep or original, but the main character (a woman) is an interesting character. The hero characters however are a bit too perfect. The sequel books radically lower the quality (Haydon falls prey to the "milk the cow" disease) but I recommend reading the first book if you are looking for some strong romantic fantasy.
Liveship Traders (Robin Hobb)
The Hero and the Crown (Robin McKinley
The Sevenwaters (Jacqueline Carey)
Kushiel's Dart (Jacqueline Carey)
The Lions of Al-Rassan (Guy Gaverial Kay)
The Paladin of Souls (Lois McMaster Bujold)
Daughter of the Empire (Raymond & Janny Wurts)
Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
Graceling (Kristin Cashore)
Poison Study (Maria V. Snyder)
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (N.K. Jemisin)
Wild Magic (Tamora Pierce)
Son of Avonar (Carol Berg)
Best Served Cold (Joe Abercrombie)
The Ruins of Ambrai (Melini Rawn)
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (Susanna Clarke)
Archangel (Sharon Shinn)
Crown of Stars (Kate Elliott)
Dragon Prince Trilogy (Melini Rawn)
Deverry cycle (Katherine Kerr)
Abhorsen Trilogy (Garth Nix)
Earthsea (Ursula K. Le Guin)
Black Jewels (Anne Bishop)
Codex Alera (Jim Butcher)
Mistborn (Brandon Sanderson)