Top 25 Fantasy Books for Women guide to 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.

I 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.

Click to view and vote on the crowd ranked version of this list

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.

Amazon Description

Lovely 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 deal.


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.

Similar Recommendations

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!


This 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 like tweens.

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. Description

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.

Black Jewels 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).


Why 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.

Amazon Description
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.

If you like the story. Share it!



what of sara douglass?

Frantastic Stuff

Two is that you? It's Fran.

Anna Griffin

Chronicles of Elantra by Michelle Sagara. I love the world this is set in, with a variety of unusual races. The main character is female, and while she has a lot of men in her life it isn't romantic....though there were several openings for this, the book develops the character instead of romance. I appreciate that a lot.


Green Rider series by Kristen Britain!!

Jonna Rockets

I was about to post that if Graceling is #2 and # 9 on these lists then what does that say about the other books. Then I remembered I never finished Graceling. It if Fire that destroyed the Cashore franchise for me. *personal opinion*

Tuesday Wang

Wheel of Time has some pretty strong female voices also.


Michelle West is the strongest character writer I've read in the genre, and she has dozens and dozens of believable, multi-faceted people of both genders. Very little in the way of romance, but she explores instead questions of family, hope, fear, duty, etc. One can read literally thousands of pages where women discuss topics that have nothing to do with men.

I've read Robin Hobb, I like Robin Hobb, but she can't compare to the breadth and depth of what West does.


Hello to all my fellow book reading fantasy lovers! A few years back I read a wonderful fantasy novel which I am trying to find again but Ive forgotten who is the author, the title and name of characters. I know, my horrible memory is just… horrible! Perhaps some of you would be willing to help me out by reading the following paragraph, in which i will summarize the storyline and help me remember the title of this book?

So its the story of a young woman who while growing up, when she got mad and would look into someone’s eyes, that person would start having difficulty breathing, as if they were choked, and would last as long as the eye contact would hold.
Years later as a young woman, she meets a king that has that same effect on people when he gets mad. It is some sort of gift that only the royals of that land possess. One night he kidnaps her. Later with the king and his knights or trustees they all drink this kind of potion that makes you hallucinate… When the heroine drinks it she then starts to talk in the sacred language of the royal family. Which leads to her needing to train in swordsmanship... Anyways long story made short, the vision she had when drinking the potion comes true and with it her saving the king’s people.

Does this plot line sound familiar to any of you?? Thank you in advance to all those who help! :)


The hero and the crown


Oops. Wrong McKinley book. The blue sword.


Why is there only a title for the top 25 Fantasy books for women? Should there not be one for the top 25 Fantasy books for men? There is an overall title for top 25 Fantasy book of all time.


"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." In reply to this- I think what you have said is very misleading as most of the 25 top fantasy books you have selected are not about some hero saving the day and sleeping with as many women as possible.-I have read George R R Martin, robin hobb, Joe abercrombie and Steven Erickson and they have certainly not created shoddy female characters, they have created both strong male and female protagonists and I think most of the 25 top fantasy books haven't been written just FOR men. I know you have picked these books for SOME women that want strong female protagonists but i can't help but wonder at your choice of books. For example Poison study by Maria V snyder.....I think if you had actually read this book (couldn't stop cringing at the dialogue) it would be in worst fantasy books category coinciding with twilight. I really like your top 25 fantasy books but if your going to have a list specifically for women, perhaps you should get a women to do it? Or maybe you did?


OMG! A thousand times, Thank you!!!!! :D Cant wait to read it again


I think you'll find women like the same in their fantasy as men do - well realised characters, solid plot, engaging writing.

Or are you claiming that all men like their women to be downtrodden servants, or that I can't enjoy Conan like the guys?

Aida Green

You have to be kidding, right?

If this is things women will like ( and no thanks, swooning is not something I require from my fantasy) why no GRRM as you have on the 'men's' page?

Thanks for thinking of us poor girlies, but no thanks

boing boing

Women's fantasy is a subgenre? Dude, are you serious? I mean, did you SERIOUSLY mean to imply that one of the biggest readerships of fantasy is a SUBGENRE?

Secondly, get to know more women besides your mom and her friends. There are MANY female fantasy fans who LOVE fantasy with male protagonists, with down-and-dirty themes and fighting. Military, dark...they love it just as much as 'the boys'.

Third, are you implying that writers only write about weak victimized women when their protagonist is a male? That's sure how it sounded....


The Fantasy novels I truly love generally have strong male and female characters, working side by side. Women aren't as weak and delicate as men seem to think we are. We survive childbirth, don't we? I like military action & blood & violence in a novel as much as the next "guy".


I understand many of the offended comments left on this page; however, I appreciate your effort in making this list. While all of my favorite fantasy novels/series are found on other pages, I do enjoy reading books that have strong female protagonists, which many of the novels listed on the other pages do not. I have one friend in particular who only likes to read novels about strong women and is always complaining about weak females in other novels, so such a list would be perfect for her. I don't see your top 25 books as "the men's page" as a previous commenter noted; instead, I see that you made an effort to make a separate page that includes books that some women readers may prefer. I don't see that as condescending or sexist. Also to say that women count as "one of the biggest readerships" of fantasy seems kind of silly, since there are only two genders and men clearly read more fantasy than women. While I see myself as a feminist, I think it is dangerous to make claims of sexism based on the idea that *some* women *may* have different preferences than men. Essentialism can be dangerous, but it is true that one can often make generalizations about the genders with a degree of accuracy. For example, I wouldn't recommend the Sookie Stackhouse novels to any man that I know, regardless of how much I like them, because I assume that most men like different things in a novel than many women do. Don't be so damn sensitive.


I think Ursela K. Le Guin's novels, especially "The Other Wind" and "Tehanu", are some of the best written books out there (and my personal all time favorites). The books even address gender issues in a graceful and intelligent way. Women who are looking for real female characters, not just romance that happens to be in a imaginary land will love them.

Garth Nix is a male author who is able to write female characters very well. They are just as complex and powerful as his male characters, nor are they some idealistic fantasy (which many women authors are guilty of creating as well).

Marion Zimmer Bradley and her co-writer, Diana L. Paxton created characters whose strength lay within their femininity. A refreshing embrace of all that make women different but equally valuable (I'm speaking in general, not specifics). She also has some kick but female warriors as well.

While I think the list was a great idea, how about calling it the Fantasy/Romance list?



I was surprised it didn't even get an honorable mention on your "man's list"


One of my favorite ever books was The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. It's an Arthurian tale from the priestesses perspective. If you are looking for some other reads you might try it.


What I see here is a bunch of people getting so caught up in a differentiation between men and women that they are failing to even comment on the books themselves. Perhaps it would have been better to title it "Books with strong female characters"... or "Books that aren't a boy's tale of coming of age". In case you mistake that comment for me being a chauvinistic male I am indeed a woman (working in a strongly male dominated field, no less) and I love Fantasy... I love the gritty Erikson and Martin, I love the Lord of the Rings, I love all of Neil Gaiman's works, I love the hilarity of Terry Pratchett, I love the childish fun of Harry Potter and the Dealing with Dragon's series and I even enjoy some of the wishy washy drivel that you read once just because you are looking for a quick unchallenging read (although I have no illusions about it's quality).

When there is discrimination going on it is important to point it out... but pointing out that many of the top fantasy stories of our time really are "Boys tales" is just reality... what this list states as it's purpose is to highlight some of the books that are "Girls tales" instead... It isn't to say that guys won't like these books just as much as we (girl's) like those "boys tales". Just that they are a little bit of a different mold. And I was pleased to see entries that are among my favourite books (although a little dissappointed that the Black Jewels trilogy didn't show up in this list... as they are some of my favourite reread comfort books).

And the picks made here are, in my opinion fairly decent ones.

The Kushiel's Dart Trilogy, for example is one of my favourite series ever. The characters (both male and female) are amazingly rendered, the prose is so smooth it melts into the background and you forget you're reading. The plot is overarching and strong and the twists are clever... the books are certainly not mystery novels but they have some of those elements in that they are led by the quest to uncover intrigue and that if you pay attention all of those little details are there and when the answer is revealed you have those genuinely perfect moments of "oooooh!" as all those little details fall in to place perfectly with nary a loose end or contradiction.

And while a strong theme of the novels is love it certainly wouldn't classify as a romance... It really is hard to place in the subgenre classification and really is it's own series.

Ship of Magic (and the other Liveship Traders books) is a similarly spectacular if completely different read of the sort you cannot put down. It follows a few main characters all of whom are strong and distinct and the complexities of the moral and societal issues that are involved in the world are dealt with so deftly that they are worthy of some of the great science fiction writers that handle such things so well. This is all occurring in a very lively and alive world with action and suspense filling every page. Anyone who has ever been interested in ships ever will not be dissappointed by the realistic and thoroughly researched and believable ship-board descriptions.

And of the books on this list that I have read not a one of them is only about the female characters... in fact what makes them excellent is the strong characterization of all of the characters. Besides just suggesting that women and men have a tendency to think slightly differently isn't discrimination... it's truth... look into some neuroscience. The genders may be equal but equality does not mean identicallity. There is no doubt in my mind that systematic gender discrimination is still going on ( but personally... I feel this list is more about the books than it is about the gender gap...


I was specifically googling and searching for fantasy books with a female lead and some romance that didn't involve me trawling through the blurbs of online bookshops - basically this list!

Ta very much for that, i'll check some of these out.

I'd also recommend Maria V Snyders "study books" altho they are in the young adult section i'd say they are on the outside edge, a little too disturbing at times to give to a teenage girl. Also Alison Croggon's books of Pellinor are awesome, loved every word.

So in summary, i was searching for some novels which are specifiacally female targeted and driven but not too 'feminist' i found them here, easily laid out with a comment on each. So Tas very much for that.



To be fair, you were offended because a list on the internet categorized women. Imagine what reading Conan would do to you.


A suggested reading for those that enjoy strong female main characters along with a mix of medievel, present date and futuristic plots has to get a hold of Traci Hardings fantasy series. She began with the ancient future trilogy which is followed by the celestial triad series along with the mystique trilogy and her new series the triad of being which im reading atm. They are fantasic plots that are easy to follow with memorable and lovable characters up until the last page! Highly recommended! Especially because she is a fellow Aussie!


Traci Harding series are fantastc, strong memorable characters with a mix of medievel, present date and futuristic storylines! Well done to a great aussie writer!


Crikey! Some people may be reading WAY too much into the intent of this list. I LOVE high fantasy and it has been very difficult to find truly good recommendations of fanatsy fiction series that have strong female protagonists (with or without strong male main characters). Try a search on Google or Bing and its slim pickins. This list has led me to some series that I love and may have not found otherwise. PLEASE ADD SOME MORE RECOMMENDATIONS!! I can appreciate the classics like Tolkien, Jordan, and Martin but my preference is well-written, character-based high fantasy that I can emotionally connect with the protagonists. Even in the best novels it is much easier to find that connection with female protagonists than with male, at least for me. Plus, some of the series with female leads turn out to be simple mindless romance, but the majority of your recommendations are not that (unless otherwise noted!) I'm halfway thru Liveship Traders and have read most of the others, so I need some more of the good stuff!! :o)



if you want torture dark and female there's about 100 pgs worth of gruesome and completely described torture by a cult of women in Goodkind's Wizard's First Rule. In fact it describes how young girls are captured and tortured so they can in turn torture a variety of men. gruesome but entertaining.


I agree, I enjoy all kinds of Fantasy books, but I especially love to feel emotionally connected to the characters. Being female, I often connect better to well written female characters.

I previously mentioned Ursela K Le Guin and Garth Nix. I would like to also add some authors of young adult fantasy with great girl leads: Scott Westerfeld, Libba Bray (Gemma Dyle books are amazing), and Cassandra Clare.


Try Patricia Mckillipp for mysterious, award-winning writing, beautiful prose and no swooning!


Thank you for all the recommendations... Top 25, Great, Good, Women, Kids! I've always enjoyed fantasy, but have only read a few of the books on your lists. I can't wait to get started. Prompting my search for best books was N.K. Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, Book One of the Inheritance Trilogy. Very enjoyable! Unfortunately, Book Two probably won't arrive until 2011 so I need a few things to read between now and then.


Would just like to quickly put my 2cents in anne bishops black jewel trilogy is one of the best dark romatic fastasy books i have ever read the charactors pull on your heart strings weather you are male or female, it is a tragic tale of a young girl destine to become a great and powerful witch who surrounds herself with beautiful and deadly male characters that will have any female dreaming of becoming part of their world


Where is Ursula LeGuin on this site??? Left Hand of Darkness and the Earthsea series are undoubtedly up there with the best of their genres!


Thanks a million for this great list!!! I love reading fantasy, Hobb and Marillier are among my favourites, now I believe I can add more. Thank you again!


Racheal - if you like the dark risque fantasy and haven't read the Kushiel series, you HAVE to order/buy it immediately!!! I read the Anne Bishop books, but the Kushiel series is OUTSTANDING - great storylines and non-traditional characters. It took me about 100 pages to really get into the first book but since then I've read all 6 of them several times. If you're squeamish about erotica you might want to skip it, but the author works it into their world's spirituality. Interesting twist, I thought. Bishop has a touch of it in the Black Jewels, but Kushiel takes it to a whole other level.


I love dark fantasy so absolutely love The Black Jewel Series. But my all time best romantic fantasy book is called Warprize by Elizabeth Vaughan. Elizabeth won a RITA for the book and normally it is found in the romance section but it is a fantasy book. She wrote Warprize, Warsworn, and Warlord. Right now Warprize is out of print but I hear it comes out again next year. This is NOT a dark fantasy series but the characters are very strong and think any of you would enjoy it. Happy Reading!


You should read Graceling! It is a very impressive novel that makes the reader feel empowered and noble. It's about a girl who is born with a Grace (special skill that is above ordinary level). In her land, Gracelings are feared and mistreated; but she is born with a killing Grace. She can kill anyone in hand to hand combat, archery, swords, whatever. She was taken in by the king before she could be killed as a danger to society, and is made into a royal thug. However, when a prince with the same Grace visits the court, he makes her realize that she doesn't have to be a thug, and that she is actually a beautiful, kind person.

Read Graceling!


Why is Diana Gabaldon not on this list? You have "A Song for Albalion", which are basically the same. Yet Diana's book I would say are geared to women but, I know many men who read and lov her books as well. Her "Outlander" series is awesome. Pleas, Please add her to this list!


try Fiona Mcintosh..she is amazing!!! and Kristen Britain... also k.s nikakkis, she is new to the scene but her triology is one of the better ones i have read.

Alia Atreides

The Empire trilogy by Raymond E Feist and Janny Wurts was a series with a very strong female character, it was superbly developed and the plot was complex. The characters had depth, not the unidimensional type with one strong trait that defines them and that's it. It was very realistic character-wise and very well thought. 10 out of 10 for this series.


I would suggest Michelle Sagara and Maria V snyder


I ove the Abhorsen Trilogy, The game of thrones and The liveship Traders!


Yeah, none of those female characters were strong characters. (Shrugs) They seemed a bit blank to me.


I wished to join some of the other commenters in their thanks. This is this website contains the best fantasy lists I have found so far. I’m slowly graduating from the teenage/young adult section to the adult fantasy, and at first I was massively disappointed. As a kid or a teen I had read series like LoTR, Abhorshen, Narnia, the Dark Matter chronicle, and everything from Robin Hobb to Robert Jordan and much what’s on your lists that did not contain graphic sex or massive violence. Then after reading G.R.R. Martin (as my first real adult fantasy series), I couldn’t find anything remotely interesting for quite a while and got disenchanted after reading some rather terrible bestselling books. As such I wanted to say thanks for rekindling my love of fantasy.


I agree with Latis. Why not just rename the list to "Fantasy books with well-developed characters and/or strong female protagonists" ? That way, you don't assume that men are less likely to appreciate books with good character development. That said, I absolutely love all of your lists. Thank you so, so much for making them. It has made reading fantasy a joy again for me - now I can instantly find quality without slogging through best-selling trash to get there.

Helen Holmes

Tamora Pierce is also a good author for any women who are looking for a lighter read. Fabulous characters both male and female, ones who you cant help but fall in love with. However these books are aimed slightly at teenagers (hence them not being quite as long as some of your masive tomes of fantasy books) but still a really good read no matter what your age


I know it's a bit late to put my two cents in but Carol Berg should definitely be on here. She is very good, much better than Anne bishop , even though I love the black jewels trilogy. Carol Berg writes beautifully, never repeating herself, you become wrapped in her words, which flow smoothly. She is beautifully descriptive, heartbreakingly romantic, and unerringly exciting. Definitely should be in the top 25. I highly suggest her books to all sexes.


i am in the third book of "The Mortal Instruments" by Cassandra Clare and i cannot put down the books. i enjoy every page and sad to see myself getting closer to the end of the series.

Highly recommend her books.


I have read the Black Jewels Series by Anne Bishop but I would recommend her other series Tir Alainn. The first series is very dark & somewhat disturbing. The Tir Alainn series is softer but equally compelling.

I would also recommend reading Maggie Furey's series Artifacts of Power. If you like a more romance based fantasy I recommend Elizabeth Vaughan's Warprize series.


Piratica : Being a Daring Tale of a Singular Girl's Adventure Upon the High Seas by Tanith Lee

For a younger crowd, but still a great read!

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle

More SF than Fantasy, but has a great female protagonist + femal author.

Sybil Galer

Thanks for several good lists of fantasy. Been reading since I was 13(currently 62) so I'm accustomed to boy fantasy. I vividly remember the female firsts for the unique experience of female protagonists--Elizabeth Moon's--Paksennarion, LeQuinn--Left Hande of Darkness mixed gender, McCaffrey-Dragons of Pern, Robin Hobb--Liveship Traders. I'm grateful for the current trend of writing mixed gender novels. We live in a world of two genders and even the best swordsman still needs to eat, bathe, and dress. We read fantasy to understand humanity is complex situations. Leaving out either half of the population diminishes the world created. Blessings upon Brandon Sanderson, Martin and Stirling for getting it.


Great list! I've read many of these and can't wait to get others. I would add Holly Lisle's Secret Texts and Talyn+Hawkspar on here. Her books are very compelling with great female protagonists. hmmm, now I want to go read them again...

Also, Sharon Shinn's other series, start with Mystic and Rider.

Also, I hate to say it, Hamilton's Merry Gentry series is VERY adult, but can be fun. It's not top 25 though.


Thank you very much for compiling this list! More often than not I pick up a fantasy book and am disappointment with it. This list however, has given me a selection of fantasy of which I have read three recommendations and have enjoyed every single one.

I have another set of books which i believe should make it on this list; The Obsidian Trilogy. Although the main protagonist is male, it isn't just a bunch of men going around lopping each others head off! It is sensitive, wittily written and the attention to detail is amazing. Furthermore romance is a prominent theme running throughout the trilogy- which of course is a must!


I actually think the Liveship Traders trilogy is inferior to the six Farseer books in terms of emotional depth. But maybe I'm so used to "male" fantasy that I don't see the flaws. Quite honestly, though, if Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrel is on this list (male protagonists), I don't quite see why Lord FitzChivalry is so cruelly rejected. But that's just my opinion :-) .


You forgot anything by Anne McCaffrey. It is not just her recent passing that brings her to mind. Her amazing, strong female characters were written as a deliberate rebuke of the "damsels in distress" of early sci-fi/fantasy. There are many young women who first came to the genre because of the Dragons. In a post-post-feminist world these characters may not hold the weight that they did in the 60s and 70s but the storytelling is timeless.


I really appreciate a list with books with strong female characters, as I’m always looking for new books to read, so thank you! Now, to the big BUT. I find the name of the list and your tone somewhat condescending. Women are fantasy readers too and we 'ladies’ make up 50% of the world population. Treating us like we’re not regular fantasy readers is uncool. And I think there are plenty of guys around who enjoy reading books with strong female characters. Top 25 fantasy books with strong female characters ( that means you’ll have to adapt your list somewhat), would be a much better, and much more interesting title. That way I probably wouldn’t mind it being listed right above the top 25 for children...

I’d also like to add this: Not being able to write decent female characters, or only extremely cliche stereotyped female characters is a serious flaw for a writer, and I think you should treat it that way. From what I can tell from your reviews, you don’t go easy on writers who depend on other tired cliches.


Not only do I, as a woman, completely agree with what you're saying, but I will go further and demand that rather than renaming the list, there should be an equally condescending list entitled 'Top 25 Fantasy Books for Men', based around big brawny male protagonists that are in a constant egotistical conflict (killing a few people every now and then, and committing lots of back alley sexual deviousness, of course) so that its not just the female gender that is being stereotyped.


i love fantasy novels with strong female characters, but it's hard to find good ones so thank you very much for this list. it'll keep me busy for a while =D


I echo JulesG's recommendation of the dark fantasy Kushiel series by Jacqueline Carey. Carey is an adroit writer whose prose is lyrical, mesmerizing and elegant. Unlike Jules, I was caught by the very first line of Kushiel's Dart and not released until "The end." I have purchased and read each of Carey's works and am fascinated by her unique ability to change her voice with every series. I find it somewhat difficult to pigeon hole the Kushiel's series. It has a strong flavor of alternate history, a dollop of romance, a splash of philosophy, all stirred with fast action, sophisticated dialog and complex plot. Carey has become one my favorite new authors along with Brandon Sanderson. I have one caveat about recommending this series. If you aren't a person either interested in or accepting of alternative sexual mores and desires then skip the series. If you can accept that we aren't all wired the same then you have a treat waiting. I made the mistake of recommending them to a well-read fundamentalist Christian friend and they were not well received. I can report that men find the series equally appealing. The highest compliment may be that at the close of the first book my partner got out of bed to take a walk. He said, he needed some solitude to process the lingering flavor of the novel. A great read stays with you as does a great character. Phaedra, the protagonist, lingers. Not because of her sexuality but because of her honor, tenderness and strength of character.


What is your opinion of the Vampire Academy series? I know, it would attract mainly younger women, but these six books I really enjoyed reading. Lots of suspence, surprises....Think about it


I completely agree with everything you said. I've read the 6 books of the Kushiel series many times and I am surprised each time with the detail and beauty of Carey's writing.


I would not recommend this series , simply because there is no conclusion. It would appear there are no plans by the author to finish book three. Melanie Rawn is a good author but stick to her finished works to avoid the frustration !

Great lists !

Gail Olms

I would highly highly recommend the series written by Maria Snyder which includes, Poison Study, Magic Study and Fire Study. The main female character is very clever with some amazing powers that she discovers within herself. All of the supporting characters are very strong, too. Snyder is a very creative author.


I just wanted to add another series to this list that I think is tragically underread.

Witches of Eileanan series by Kate Forsyth

A really amazing world with interesting traditions and magic. Set in a vaguely Scottish arena, the books follow two twins- Isabeau and Iseult.

I've been completely captivated by this series for over a decade now. It really deserves to be read!! Fantastic romantic plot, a lot of intrigue and magic, but fantastic battles and war writing as well. It really has it all!



I totally agree- I loved the two books Flesh and Spirit and the sequel- beautiful writing, surprising twists, especially for the first time reader of Berg, and character development/growth of the male protagonist. My prior favorites were the J. Carrey series, but these two were even better ( though I found some of the other Berg novels darker and not as interesting). I'm looking for more in this vein.


Yes, these are quick easy reads from the teen section of the library- quite fun. I hope there will be follow-ups.


You should really add Jennifer Fallon's Wolfblade Trilogy to this list (and maybe some others too, but I might be biased). It's about Marla Wolfblade, a very strong female character written by a great female author.


I think that Wit'ch Fire (The Banned and the Banished) by James Clemens is incrediblily good, and the main character is female.


Katharine"s Kerr Deverry Series would have to come close to being my all time favourite fantasy series.....16 books in all....but I would never refer to it as a romantic fantasy. I for one am not a big fan of too much romance in a story There is love but on a very deep soul level. How the characters interact with each other from lifetime to lifetime was fascinating, and not just two characters but there are many characters that appear within each lifetime.


I've got to find me a good fantasy series now that winter is in full swing. I've started the Steven Erikson's malazan series, halfway through the 2nd book and I am struggling to get through it. I'm just bored to tears with it and find the characterisations so shallow.

So I'm going to have a good peruse over these lists ...think I've read about 11 of the above list and prolly half of the best fantasy list...mmmm...decisions decisions.


It's true that there are plenty of interesting and a few venomous female characters in A Song of Ice and Fire, but the author seems to have chosen to put them in a world where they are treated like crap. All I've heard is the dominant males going on about whores and weak pathetic women, and while the feisty character of Arya is a small redemption, misogyny is rampant in Westeros, with sisters being sold for armies, rape everywhere, and women not being allowed to do anything except sew, and definitely NOT inherit or rule anything. It's a medieval fantasy, true, so this is reflective of real history, but fantasy nonetheless, so one has to wonder why George R R Martin decided to make his fictional world so sexist.

Just thought that was a relevant point for the pro-women fantasy list!


Great list.Wil have to check out most of them but i really love a.S.o.I.F and Abercrombie which i seriously love(though best served cold was no match imo for his First LAw Trilogy). Would be nice if you checked out Licia Troisi, an italian author, and her Chronicles of the Emerged World trilogy. The protagonist is a female half-elf Nial, the last of her kind. It s not a complex book but i think it s enjoyable. Let me know what you think.Thank you!


Forgot to mention that LeGuin is wonderful.Her take on platonic philosophy and the magic of the language is gorgeous.


I really find it sexist that there is a category for the ~best fiction for women! Robin Hobb and the book you speak of there... is a popular favourite of mine, and we should not be patronising to women or to contrary either - selecting their needs as special! It is thinking and treating women as less than men...

I presume you mean these books are full of less strategic battles, fights... generally less challenging, unless it is on some Romantic arena... perhaps a bit more emotionally dramatic, akin to that of some soap opera?

Every writing group I have ever been to has been more frequented by women than men, but while and this is my experience - a lot of women tended to be more inclined to treat it as a hobby, while the men were "mostly" more focussed. While this is the choice of the individual - I do not believe women or men deserve special treatment. Niether do I "at all" agree with the Orange Book Prize for women.

Having said all that, I would disagree just as much if there was a specific category for "men," as if my needs were different less or special...

To conclude once more - Robin Hobb, is a favourite author of my own.

Actually to make a point, the best books as do the best people - quantify the best traits of women and men, they do not seek to exaggerate and isolate either! So this category is a mistake in itself...

In fact in the last few years, I have noticed for the very reasons above, this is why male and female fall short... hot entirely emcompassing these traits in their books, or over stating those "supposedly" unique to their genre.

Sebastian White

I really find it sexist that there is a category for the ~best fiction for women! Robin Hobb and the book you speak of there... is a popular favourite of mine, and we should not be patronising to women or to contrary either - selecting their needs as special! It is thinking and treating women as less than men...

I presume you mean these books are full of less strategic battles, fights... generally less challenging, unless it is on some Romantic arena... perhaps a bit more emotionally dramatic, akin to that of some soap opera?

Every writing group I have ever been to has been more frequented by women than men, but while and this is my experience - a lot of women tended to be more inclined to treat it as a hobby, while the men were "mostly" more focussed. While this is the choice of the individual - I do not believe women or men deserve special treatment. Niether do I "at all" agree with the Orange Book Prize for women.

Having said all that, I would disagree just as much if there was a specific category for "men," as if my needs were different less or special...

To conclude once more - Robin Hobb, is a favourite author of my own.

Actually to make a point, the best books as do the best people - quantify the best traits of women and men, they do not seek to exaggerate and isolate either! So this category is a mistake in itself...

In fact in the last few years, I have noticed for the very reasons above, this is why male and female fall short... hot entirely emcompassing these traits in their books, or over stating those "supposedly" unique to their genre.


Thanks for compiling this list. I love to read fantasy, and it's great to find books with strong female characters.

If you like historical fantasy, 'The Court of the Midnight King' is a very good read, and I also enjoyed 'Blessed of the Earth by Annette Wilson.

There are some books on your list that I haven't read, and I'm looking forward to those.


For those of you who are offended - take a chill pill for once. There are much more concerning sexist issues in the world than a well-meaning guy writing fantasy book lists. And I am extremely appreciative! I love fantasy but I am also a huge girly girl and I like when the female is the lead so I can imagine being her and I like romance. With that in mind, imagine how hard it's been for me to figure out which of the bazillion fantasy books on earth have that as a feature and are not complete crap! It is quite difficult and requires hours of searching amazon reviews so thank you for saving me a whole lot of time - my next library trip will be a big one,

F owl

honestly, I am a man who much prefers reading books with a female protagonist. I really think the reason you get so much crap for this list is not due to the selections within, (as many are really great reads) but due to the wording of the list itself.

my suggestion is that you rename it to "top 25 fantasy books with a female protagonist" or some such.

as I mentioned before I'm a man, and it bothers me that you imply men wouldn't enjoy books with strong female leads, good romance, and interesting characters. beause that is honestly exactly what I look for in books. I despise gritty testosterone driven shit fests like conan the barbarian where women are either cowering brain dead weaklings, or sexual stereotypes given flesh.

I know for a fact that I am not the only one who thinks this way either, I know plenty of men who also prefer romance to gritty battles.

you're free to take my advice or leave it, but honestly it'd probably cool the flames a bit, and be more accurate for those male like myself who enjoy a good look through the eyes of the opposite sex every now and again.

~F. Owl~

Sheree Berry

I was surprised not to see Kate Forsyth's Witches of Eileanan series on this list. The six book series is absolutely amazing. I had so much fun reading these books. You're right Lauren, she is tragically under read!



I'm noticing a distinct lack of entries for books with strong female characters that aren't heavily focused on romance. Give me a female fantasy that can stand on its own without relying on a man. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm perfectly fine with there being romance IN the books. It's a rare fiction story that doesn't have a romantic subplot somewhere. But why can't it just be a subplot? Why does female fantasy have to have a huge romantic focus. I just want some good female heroes!


How can you possibly publish a list of 'Top Fantasy Books for Women" (or indeed, 'Top Fantasy Series" without out including Kate Elliott? She builds world that make Jordan's look like playschool and writes characters so well, she should be English. Sorry, buyt after this omission, I can't take this site seriously.


I appreciate the list, thanks for putting it together. I get why some people find the title a little condisending, but it helped me find it on a google search so don't worry about it.

I'm finding the list really hit or miss. Some of these books were already of my favorite, some of them that I've read are amazing and some are a lot of work to get through and not particularly enjoyable. The list creator seems to be really into the political manuvering, prose filled, fight scene kind of book. Does anyone have any suggestions along the: anne bishop, Sharon shinn, marion zimmer bradley kind of writing. Not the: Kushiel series, lions of al-rassan (which I don't even understand why it is fantasy other than 2 moons) kind of overly discriptive books. I'd appreciate them. thanks!


I think you're a little overly serious in your love for this author (maybe dude who wrote the list hasn't seen her yet, ther are a lot of fantasy books out there!) but I appreciate the suggestion of a great new author. After looking at her stuff on line I'm hoping I wil love her stuff. Seems like my style of writer, so thanks!


I think you're a little overly serious in your love for this author (maybe dude who wrote the list hasn't seen her yet, ther are a lot of fantasy books out there!) but I appreciate the suggestion of a great new author. After looking at her stuff on line I'm hoping I wil love her stuff. Seems like my style of writer, so thanks!


I've really enjoyed reading through all of Lois McMaster Bujold's books, not a dud in the bunch, although "Hallowed Hunt" didn't do much for me. I highly recommend her Vorkosigan "science fiction" series, starting with the two Cordelia books, "Shards of Honor" and "Barrayar", combined in "Cordelia's Honor". And then all the Miles Vorkosigan books. Also her "Sharing Knife series" is also great reading. They are quite different from "The Curse of Chalion" and "Paladin of Souls". Another author I have appreciated this year is Patricia Briggs. I was kind of so-so about her new urban fantasy series ("Moon Called"Mercy Thompson), although it grew on me. However, I discovered all of her older classic fantasy books were even more satisfying reads. I liked the Raven duology, The Masques duology, The Hurog duology, (I can't think of another author that has so many duologies) and I read all of her stand-alones, they were all interesting and entertaining. They tend to have violence, and a light touch with the romance. Good escapism, if you like classic fantasy with creative twists. Sometimes I just want a light read.


brilliant series. one of the few i've read again (and again). different enough to the usual fantasy out there, and it contines to grow and surprise. i must admit it petered after the first eight books, but for hose alone it deserves to be recommended above all but a few fantasy series of the last thirty years. and i'm a man, but enjoy depth of character and plot over depth of swordplay.


brilliant series. one of the few i've read again (and again). different enough to the usual fantasy out there, and it contines to grow and surprise. i must admit it petered after the first eight books, but for hose alone it deserves to be recommended above all but a few fantasy series of the last thirty years. and i'm a man, but enjoy depth of character and plot over depth of swordplay.


brilliant series. one of the few i've read again (and again). different enough to the usual fantasy out there, and it contines to grow and surprise. i must admit it petered after the first eight books, but for hose alone it deserves to be recommended above all but a few fantasy series of the last thirty years. and i'm a man, but enjoy depth of character and plot over depth of swordplay.


Must add The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind! Strong women, strong men, good morals, beautiful romance.


I really enjoyed the Sharing Knife series by Lois Bujold. The series consists of 4 books and focuses on the relationship between a human (farmer) woman and a supernatural (Lakewalker) man. The setting appears to be the 19th century American frontier and the map looks a lot like the Great Lakes region. The protagonists' relationship is written realistically. The magic level is low compared to something like the Wheel of Time, but still very interesting. Bujold's writing is so clear and vivid. This series is truly a page turner.

Jack Drakey

First of all, I would like to say that I have no problem with this list. And I'm a woman. So. You're clearly not trying to be condescending and are simply making a list of books that we (meaning anyone in general) might like depending on their preferences. That being said, it would be quite nice if people would simply LOOK AT THE BOOKS ON THE LIST and not comment on your supposed intentions.

Might I also add that I truly appreciate the list, because I've been looking for well-written female protagonists and will most likely enjoy the books you recommended. Please keep updating the list!

Olaf Berdowski

Why there are non of Trudi Canavan`s books here? There are many strong women in her books, actully my favorite women characters.


a song of ice & fire and Malazan book of the fallen deserve to be on this list because of their realistic portrayal of women. & I haven't read Jonathan strange & Mr Norrele , but I know the major characters are male so I don't see why it should be here.


Well, I'm sure everyone has something to say and you can never please all but I just wanted to say thanks for this list and the others. I'm from Romania, most of these books I never heard of, basically here I only find the books after they have a movie, so I'm really glad to suddenly have a lot of options - I intend to purchase them online :)


I thought this was a pretty good list, especially since it started with Robin Hobb (I love me some Robin!) buuuuut then I saw Graceling on the list. Please remove it. That book is an insult. The character is drowning in self pity ninety percent of the time, the prose is awful and the plot is ridiculously thin. This would appeal to the twihards that want a stronger female character or something. It is not decent fantasy. Not to mention that it ended with the most ridiculous 'twist', like the author decided that she had no idea how to end the book and said 'Well alright, this should do. I'm bored with this.'.


It seems to me like your view of an empowering fantasy read that women enjoy is a bunch of romance, 'cause all women love romance and all strong female leads really care about is their womanly heart. I expected some kick-ass females, not a list of a bunch of teen female air-headed fantasy. I happen to love dragon slaying and kicking as, especially when a woman does it. Is there a problem with that? Is your view of women same as that of Stephanie Mayer and the sort?


Would highly recommend Ian Irvine's "A View From The Mirror" and "Well of Echoes" quartets. Both series have very strong female lead characters. Superbly written and not the usual run of the mill fantasy. Would love to see these feature in at least one of the 'top' lists on here, as I think Irvine has done an excellent job in creating something completely different.

Katharine Kerr's Deverry series would have to be one of my all time favourites though, lost count of how many times I've read them now!


Rediscovering thanks for the list, will check them out. "for women " or whatever, more lists just means more books to find.

Buffy V

I agree. I started to find Martin's work misogynistic and more than a little patronizing, which became downright irritating when it suddenly dawned on me that he didn't actually have a purpose in exposing some of the female characters to the sheer number of atrocities that he did. I read somewhere (his own website?) that he wanted to make his world as real as possible, and that's why no character is safe, but it seems like a suspiciously convenient excuse to torment female characters sadistically in every other chapter. In fact, as a well-read fantasy nut who enjoys the wonderful escapism of the genre, it became tedious and depressing to be reminded at every turn of the atrocities that were perhaps committed against women in the past, for the sake of "historical realism." In my opinion, he's not the best fantasy writer out there today.

In fact, your number one "women's" writer," Robin Hobb, is a far better writer, in my opinion, in terms of social commentary, characterization, and historical realism, although I would recommend the Farseer trilogy over the Liveship Traders trilogy any day.

All this being said, I love this site and think your choices are mostly sound, especially when you are working in your comfort zone of epic fantasy. I have found so many good reads by browsing through the lists on this site so keep up the good work and don't let the ridiculous trolls (and I don't mean the ones you'd find in LOTR) get you down! Don't apologize for including male authors! Jim Butcher's work may not take itself as seriously as some other epic series out there, but Codex Alera is one of my favourites!

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