A WOMAN'S GUIDE TO THE FANTASY GENRE

Hello there! Did you read my guide to romance? Did you think, if only this book maven would tackle the complicated world of fantasy written for women, yes, women, not girls? Well this list is for you.
  1. The fantasy genre has a bad rep when it comes to female characters (looking at you, Tolkein).
    What is a girl to do if she doesn't want to read about A. chaste, beautiful prize-women on figurative (and literal) pedestals or B. tough, bitchy evil queens who suck men dry through vagina contact or C. the physically capable, yet emotionally underdeveloped sidekick?
  2. Fantasy for women isn't limited to white teenagers!
    Female fantasy writers are diverse as are their characters. By simple virtue of the fact that most protagonists are not human as we know it, they easily stand in for marginalized groups (women, POC, lgbt). They are generally the underdog, the outcast or the other. These books, more so than any other genre, bring diverse authors together on the same shelf. Not heteronormative! Not whitewashed! Let's do this.
  3. Marion Zimmer Bradley
    Let's talk about the baddest bitch in Fantasy. She started with the Darkover series, wrote some Tolkein fanfiction (about Arwen), rewrote Arthurian legend featuring all the ladies (The Mists of Avalon), encouraged people to write fanfiction set in her worlds to get them started writing AND started the Sword & Sorceress anthology which showcase fantasy short stories with heroines only and has been published for 30 years. Baddest. Bitch. Ever.
  4. Ursula LeGuin
    More than any other one of these lady authors, Ursula LeGuin broke through in a man's world. Her every word is written with intention and so much beauty. She is one of the only authors in any genre that I highlight on top of highlights. I suggest starting with The Wizard of Earthsea but I leave you with this unbelievable line from The Left Hand of Darkness, "I am an artist too, and therefore a liar. Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth."
  5. Octavia Butler
    Ok, so she generally writes Sci Fi, but I can't leave her off this list because Kindred is everything. Another woman who took on a white male genre and embraced the ability of fantasy to change perceptions and to explore social and cultural dynamics.
  6. Tamora Pierce
    Mentioned by myself and @zoe before and yes, these are technically YA, but if you've ever wanted to be a hero (me) you must read these books. Tamora Pierce writes girls stepping into and redefining traditional male roles (Knights, sorcerers, thieves). The Wild Magic series is my favorite, but I cannot say enough about The Song of the Lioness series as well. I read them both regularly.
  7. Jacqueline Carey
    Ok, I've said it a million times in lists, BUT one of the most dynamic and sexually positive female protagonists I have ever read. Phedre from Kushiel's Dart is why I escape into fantasy. She is badass but vulnerable, she is sexual and painfully aware of the power and downfalls of her own body, she always saves the day, and she's the best goddamn spy I've ever read.
  8. N.K. Jemisin
    Monsters Angels and gods of all colors. Sexual ambiguity. EXPLICIT FEMINISM. If I could live inside someone, it would be N.K. Jemisin. Is that weird to say? I would actually want to be in the command center of her brain, even when she sleeps. Anyway... The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is fantastic.
  9. Laurell K. Hamilton
    Another legend. Her Anita Blake series is defining for me. Anita is killer--dark, passionate with a bevy of lovers and so many nicknames. She slays. Fans of Buffy, meet Anita.
  10. Deborah Harkness
    I have to throw in Deborah because the books she writes are of the moment. Her Discovery of Witches series has vamps and witches and a solid grounding in mythology, history and literature. So good.
  11. Lev Grossman
    I've got to give it to a dude that writes amazing women. His Magicians series centers around Quentin (a bit bumbling but powerful) but it is in the female characters that it makes me live. Alice, Julia, Janet are so nuanced and sensational. Highly recommend.
  12. Also amazing: Guy Gavriel Kay, Mercedes Lackey, Margaret Atwood, Trudi Canavan, Anne McCaffery, Lois McMaster Bujold, Gail Carriger, Kristen Callihan, Diana Wynne Jones, Thea Harrison, Seanan Mcguire, Anne Bishop, Garth Nix, Juliette Marillier
  13. This is a LONG list. If you made it this far, you can probably finish a 700 page fantasy novel! Can you read these books so we can talk about it? Seriously.
  14. Jennifer Roberson
    She wrote this six book series about a a pair of sword fighters. Two really great characters with great chemistry. And the main female is a BAMF.
    Suggested by   @swhatley