Good epic fantasy with heroines who matter?


Liity LibraryThingin jäseneksi, niin voit kirjoittaa viestin.

Good epic fantasy with heroines who matter?

Tämä viestiketju on "uinuva" —viimeisin viesti on vanhempi kuin 90 päivää. Ryhmä "virkoaa", kun lähetät vastauksen.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 14, 2014, 11:24 am

I keep my blog over at The Green Dragon, but I like to come here with my Recommendation requests.

In April 2013, Jacqueline Carey wrote a blog for Fantasy Cafe, in which she noted the scarcity of female authors and good female characters in one specific subgenre of fantasy: epic fantasy written for adults. Female leads and protagonists are quite plentiful in YA and urban fantasy, but in epic and historical fantasy they can be difficult (though not impossible) to come by. Since I'm especially fond of epic and historical fantasy, this troubles me a bit.

The problem is not just with the male writers who dominate the subgenre. Female writers, too, tend to use male protagonists when they write epic fantasy. Here's a paragraph from my recent TGD blog on the subject:

"I expect male-heavy casts of characters from male authors. Yet quite a few women, when writing epic fantasy, choose male protagonists. Examples include Gail Z. Martin's Ice Forged, Laura Ann Gilman's Flesh and Fire, Elspeth Cooper's Songs of the Earth series, half the work of Carol Berg, half the work of Robin Hobb (though when Hobb does give us female POV characters, she does an awesome job), and everything by Sarah Monette, K.J. Parker, Naomi Novik, and Courtney Schafer. Of course these authors are free to write about any characters who take their fancy -- one of the first rules of literary criticism is "allow the author his/her subject matter," after all -- yet I can't help frowning at how many authors of both genders insist on putting men at the center of their epic fantasy and relegating women to supporting-role or background status, as if a compelling epic-fantasy world can't be built around a woman's story. When I read the reviews of the epic fantasy offerings coming up in 2014, I lost track of the number of times I read variations of the following: 'the only thing I didn't like about this book was the treatment of the female characters -- their scarcity/superficial portrayals/etc.'"
(I'm just now starting Melissa Scott's Burning Bright, and it reminds me: Even Scott, who gives us many a superb female protagonist in her science fiction, feels compelled to use male main characters when she switches genres to historical fantasy -- as if there were some irresistible instinct to put men in the lead in that genre, even if the fantasy setting you're creating is pretty egalitarian when it comes to gender roles.)

So I'm looking for a list of writers, male and female, who buck the trend and let female characters play important or leading roles in epic fantasy. I'll start with a few examples:

Almost anything by Juliet Marillier, especially the original Sevenwaters Trilogy;
Trudi Canavan's Black Magician Trilogy;
Most of Brandon Sanderson's work, including Elantris, the Mistborn series, Warbreaker, and Words of Radiance, the second volume in the Stormlight Archive series;
Kristin Britain's Green Rider series;
Jennifer Fallon's Tide Lords series and Medalon series;
Melanie Rawn's The Ruins of Ambrai and Dragon Prince;
Robin Hobb's Liveship Traders and Rain Wilds Chronicles;
Most of the work of Mercedes Lackey, Kate Forsyth, and Kate Elliot;
Lynn Flewelling's Tamir Triad;
Elizabeth Bear's Range of Ghosts, etc.;
Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Dart series

The kind of thing I'm after in this thread:
1) no "crossover fantasy" in the mold of Kay's Fionavar Tapestry; I like a good crossover fantasy, but it's not what I'm looking for in this particular thread.
2) no YA. Again, as above, I like a good YA, but finding female lead characters is not a problem in YA.
3) an emphasis primarily on adventure rather than romance.
4) I'm looking for "heroines who matter," so no stories in which the major female characters are Bad News.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 14, 2014, 12:02 pm

I'll pipe up with three starters for ten: Elizabeth Moon's Deed of Paksenarrion, Jo Walton's King's Peace/King's Name pair (unless this doesn't pass muster as it's based on myth, albeit from the perspective of a fictional heroine), and Katharine Kerr's Deverry saga, which has strong heroines in spite of being based in a male-dominant society for the majority of its run. Romance is a major thread in Deverry, but it was the magic and the adventure that kept me with it - and the latter half of the books are far less romance focused.

kesäkuu 14, 2014, 12:22 pm

Well, I would tentatively say Anne Bishop...It fits your current requirements, but we've discussed her work before in other threads. Her Black Jewel books are not everyone's cup of tea. Besides that, although the female heroine does matter, I do feel Anne Bishop undermines just about all the women's strength... So yes, it fits the bill of this thread, but you probably shouldn't read it.

Next one that comes to mind: The belgariad by David Eddings. Unless we're going to claim that it's YA because the main character is young? I'll admit I read this as a teenager and it's not uber-complicated or anything. So maybe it is YA. Sorry, I'm not good at classifying YA unless it's in the mold of Divergent, The hunger games or Twilight. Some people claim Seraphina is YA too, and I totally didn't get that vibe. In any case, Eddings wrote Polgara. Certainly somebody who matters...

You haven't mentioned Tanya Huff yet, have you? She definitely fits on your list with Sing the four quarters and sequels. Then there's some books that I think you recommended to me at some point (or otherwise someone else here, in which case you probably already know them): Mystic and rider by Sharon Shinn and Scriber by Ben S. Dobson.

Then there's The ghatti's tale by Gayle Greeno. Holly Lisle's Diplomacy of wolves. L.E. Modesitt's The soprano sorceress (prepare to be irritated a little, though). Everything I know by Michelle Sagara West (I've never heard you mention her, I think. Have you read anything by her? If not, try The hidden city. It's very good.). And I'm not entirely sure how epic it is, because I only just bought it, but City of silk and steel by Mike, Linda, and Louise Carey might also fit.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 14, 2014, 3:21 pm

2: The King's Peace definitely fits here. The Deed of Paksenarrion does as well, although I was a little dissatisfied with Sheepfarmer's Daughter earlier this year -- the style was a little too sparse and lacking in introspection to suit me, though I hear that's less of a problem in the latter two volumes. Deverry will be worth a look.

3: I have West's The Broken Crown and The Hidden City on my shelves. I need to move those up through the TBR ranks.

I read Huff's The Silvered a couple of months ago, and I would definitely be interested in exploring her work further.

I've never heard The Belgariad called YA. More often, I've heard it mentioned as being of the same ilk as the Sword of Truth series (which I might want to try sometime) and the Wheel of Time series (which I have no intention of trying, ever). So it would belong here rather comfortably. I could see myself giving these a try, especially Polgara the Sorceress.

Mystic and Rider and Scriber -- great stuff.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 14, 2014, 3:34 pm

>4 kceccato: Mystic and Rider and Scriber -- great stuff. Indeed!

The broken crown does have a very different style from The hidden city. It's a bit more stilted and stately. I do find it beautiful, but I think The hidden city flows better.

I've been trying to read Sheepfarmer's daughter but I haven't managed to get through it. Some bits are nice, but there were also pieces that I found extremely boring.

kesäkuu 14, 2014, 6:44 pm

Agreed, I found Paks a bit dry through the first book - I felt I was rewarded in the later books for persevering (the story took an unexpected turn, which I appreciated), but it's not a trilogy I intend to revisit.

I struggle with Sword of Truth - I realise it's a nominal fit for this category, but there's so much awfulness directed at its female characters (in terms of violence, being undermined, needing constant rescuing regardless of having powers, or being stupidly evil). I eventually abandoned the series for being formulaic and leaving a very bad taste in my mouth.

I do have a feeling I'm forgetting something obvious though. I might have to go stare at my books and work out what it is!

kesäkuu 15, 2014, 2:29 am

>4 kceccato: I think The Belgariad is much cosier, lighter, and less dark then The sword of truth. Other than the fact that they are both epic fantasy, I wouldn't necessarily compare them. I like them, but I don't think I would start with Polgara. It's a good book, but it makes more sense story-wise to read the others first, even though it's a sequel.

kesäkuu 15, 2014, 4:53 pm

Here's an older one - Dreamsnake by Vonda McIntyre

It won the Hugo and the Nebula

kesäkuu 16, 2014, 4:22 am

Daughter of the Empire and the two sequels by Janny Wurts and Feist

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 16, 2014, 5:44 am

Marie Brennan, the Lady Trent books starting with A Natural History of Dragons and Warrior and Witch.

Rachel Neumeier, borderline YA similar to seraphina but i enjoyed House of shadows which did not strike me as YA.

Daughter of Exile by isabel glass and bloodrights, by N. Lee Wood, both about female heirs fighting for their rightful places

Kristin Kathryn Rusch while better known for Sf did heart readers and the white mists of power

I have not yet read works by any of the following but belive them to be focused on female characters, sarah zettel, mary corran and helen lowe

ETA to add Wheel of the Infinite and Songspinners had female protagonists, but the rest of the respective authors' works have male protags (albeit with a strong secondary female presence) i have found this pattern quite frequently with many writers, writing men is simply more successful for some.

kesäkuu 16, 2014, 5:54 am

10: These books look interesting; I'll have to check them out. I've read Brennan's Doppelganger; haven't gotten around to the sequel yet but it's on my To-Do list.

I looked up the Rusch books on Goodreads. Heart Readers would qualify here, but I saw no mention of a female character at all in the synopsis or reviews of The White Mists of Power.

Wells' The Fall of Ile-Rien also trilogy has a female protagonist, although at least one male character is presented as a co-protagonist. I've read the first book, and it's quite good, although it reads a little slow for some reason.

kesäkuu 16, 2014, 6:19 am

Re: white mists of power, maybe i misremembered, but i did think that the titular mists were produced by a female sorcerer, unfortunately all my books are in storage atm so i can't get to it to double check.

Jude Fisher starting with sorcery rising i really enjoyed this tale of a blacksmiths daughter swept up in an adventure after she went to a large fair with her family which come to think of it belongs in the trader thread too.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 16, 2014, 10:44 am

Patricia Kennealy Morrison's Keltiad series, particularly the Books of Aeron, The Silver Branch, The Copper Crown and The Throne of Scone would fill the criteria. Even the books that deal with Arthur are weighty with heroines who matter and are real, not too virtuous to be believed.

The Avalon series by Marion Zimmer Bradley with Pamela Dean is another. And yes, anything by Juliet Marillier is wonder-full.

kesäkuu 16, 2014, 10:01 pm

I've read hardly any of the books being mentioned here. I need to work on that - the TBR pile is inflating once more.

10> How good is Kristin Kathryn Rusch fantasy? I've really enjoyed the first two books in her Retrieval Artist series (I've yet to find the rest), but her fantasy works don't seem to get as good reviews.

kesäkuu 25, 2014, 7:40 pm

I always start second guessing myself on threads like this. How "good" is good enough to mention, how "epic" does it have to be, etc. ^_^ For what it's worth... some books on my shelves that may fit the bill...

Bujold's Paladin of Souls

Chaz Brenchley's Outremer - Story is roughly equally split between two protagonists - one boy and one girl - both of whom carry an equal weight and agency in the plot. (Likewise the Moshui books by Daniel Fox have a 50/50 split between a couple of male & female leads.)

Glenda Larke - Stormlord series. Female character is co-protagonist and has her own journey... though the titular Stormlord is male, so it may count as being more "about" him than her.

Paula Volsky's Illusion and The Grand Ellipse have female protagonists. The Wolf of Winter switches from a male to female protagonist halfway through. They're standalones and set in fantasyland versions of different time periods from the usual pseudo-medieval stuff, so not sure if they count as "epic fantasy".

Elizabeth Ann Scarborough's Songs from the Seashell Archives... probably classed as YA nowadays (?) but they were regular adult fantasy back when I read them. Likewise much of Patricia C. Wrede's stuff.

Carole Nelson Douglas's Sword and Circlet series has co-protagonists, with the story being ABOUT the woman. I read and loved these a looooong time ago. Not sure how they'd hold up today.

Donaldson's The Mirror of Her Dreams and sequel may also count? I could never get past about the first few pages of Thomas Covenant, but remember liking this duology a lot, and it's definitely a female protagonist's story.

A few that I'm not particularly fond of, but may be of interest due to the exclusively female protagonists:

- Indigo books by Louise Cooper
- Aurian books by Maggie Furey
- Bitterbynde books by Celia Dart-Thorton

kesäkuu 26, 2014, 9:33 am

I'm surprised The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by NK Jemisin hasn't been mentioned. The main character in the first book is female and the second book also has a (different) female protagonist; the third doesn't, though there are plenty of important female characters.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 1, 2014, 11:09 am

I'll second the first book in Sanderson's Mistborn series and Brennan's Doppelgangers duology.

For those who haven't tried him, Sanderson is particularly good at action scenes, and the magic in his world is fairly physical and therefore suitable for combat.

kesäkuu 28, 2014, 3:06 pm

Also Julian May with her exile series beginning with The Many Colored Land. Very terrific female characters.

kesäkuu 28, 2014, 9:28 pm

Now I'm going to go nuts until I figure out which one of Julian May's books I read years ago. I remember liking it, because I remember the name.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 28, 2014, 10:12 pm

I second >10 Musereader: (Brennan's Lady Trent novels) and >15 Niko: (Bujold's Paladin of Souls). I like Sharon Shinn's fantasies (the Archangel series and Shape-Changer's Wife), but there are elements of romance in her stories that may disqualify them.

heinäkuu 6, 2014, 10:32 pm

>18 majkia: Agreed, some great female characters. I need to start that series again. I read all of the second set of the series, set in modern times, but only got half way through the Many Colored Land series. I especially liked how the outcasts become important in the Pliocene world they went to.

heinäkuu 17, 2014, 3:29 am

The Steerswoman's Road by Rosemary Kirstein would seem to fit.

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 20, 2014, 8:54 pm

Devon Monk's Allie Beckstrom series was great; Rachel Caine's 2 weather warden series with 2 kick-ass heroines, djinn, and an angry Mother Earth, were very interesting although ultimately I did not choose to keep them; Laura Ann Gilman (maybe) (quite good but for me not a keeper); Lori Handeland with a variety of deadly heroines who fight supernatural foes; Kim Harrison; Karen Chance; and an author new to me --Stacia Kane -- who has a series of books featuring an orphaned witch with a history of abuse and a current drug addiction who works for the Church (the power of the time), and her boyfriend, an enforcer for a local mobster, and her sometime boyfriend, the son of a local Chinese mobster, and I would never have believed it but I loved this series.

syyskuu 21, 2014, 8:24 am

23: Those are good examples, but they look like Urban rather than Epic Fantasy.

syyskuu 22, 2014, 6:46 am

>22 merrystar:

Kirstein's series is science fiction not epic fantasy (or any other fantasy for that matter). It isn't obvious in the first book but becomes increasingly obvious as the series goes on.

lokakuu 29, 2014, 7:30 am

Not sure if they count as epic fantasy but Jane Lindskold's Firekeeper series and Elizabeth Kerner's Tales of Lanen Kaelar trilogy both have strong female leads.

lokakuu 29, 2014, 7:55 am

The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley definitely qualifies.

lokakuu 29, 2014, 12:41 pm

I'm not sure if it is epic either, but I just finished Who fears death, African fantasy with a heroine and her friends. I think it is sort of epic, it has a quest and everything. Just no medieval European setting with wizards and knights, something one almost comes to expect from epic fantasy...

lokakuu 29, 2014, 6:39 pm

Dragon Keeper series by Carole Wilkinson,

marraskuu 10, 2014, 6:32 am

What about Game of Thrones... there are some wonderful women heroes in those books?

maaliskuu 8, 2015, 3:46 am

Anything by N K Jemisin.

maaliskuu 8, 2015, 3:47 am

Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly has a very strong and well-written female protagonist.

huhtikuu 15, 2015, 2:24 pm

Has anyone mentioned Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series yet? Maybe I missed it. Seems to fit this.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 15, 2015, 10:19 pm

>33 jnwelch: It's urban fantasy / paranormal romance rather than epic fantasy.

That sub-genre tends to have female protagonists aplenty, though many stories tend to dedicate absurd amounts of page real estate to who they'll end up paired with.

huhtikuu 16, 2015, 9:37 am

34: That is one of my big issues with urban fantasy (and not as much of a problem, I've noticed, in urban fantasies where the protagonist is male). My main objection to urban fantasy, however, is the style. I just don't care for that gritty noir feel in general. If I'm going to put up with it, I want to get the benefit of exploring fascinating new worlds built from the ground up, not our familiar world with a frisson of the supernatural added to it.

A perfect example of a recent read that fits this thread precisely is Michelle West's Sun Sword series, starting with The Broken Crown. This story is full of women. The majority of the important characters are female. It's almost as politically twisty as A Song of Ice and Fire, though not quite as rough with the violence. (A lot of the violence is understated. It's simmering there, in the THINKING of men like General Alesso.)

huhtikuu 20, 2015, 11:53 am

>23 anyother: Ah, okay. Thanks, Jarandel. Mercy is growing on me, and I'm told the series gets better as it goes along.

For some reason, unlike kceccato (>35 kceccato:), urban fantasy really works for me, with War for the Oaks being the first I tried and enjoyed. Maybe I like it in part because I live in a big city (Chicago).

huhtikuu 20, 2015, 3:32 pm

It does get better, Joe!

The Mercy Thompson urban fantasy series is one where the romance, what there is of it, is secondary (maybe even tertiary) to the character and plot development and always plays a vital part, rather than just being thrown in there for a selling point. And no gratuitous sex either, which is such a relief. Mercy's the strongest female urban fantasy character out there that I've found, though I like a few others (including Meg Corbyn of The Others series by Anne Bishop and Sharon Li of the Magicals Anonymous series by Kate Griffin).

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 21, 2015, 1:44 pm

I know this derails the thread a little bit, but since the question of female protagonists in urban fantasy has come up, I'm moved to ask-- Which urban fantasy heroines actually have female friends? I've heard that Anita Blake actively despises other women, and that Mercy Thompson, while not a "female misogynist" like Anita, doesn't have (m)any female friends either. Elena from Bitten also interacted only with men, which I found off-putting. (Did she really have to be the world's ONLY female werewolf?) The scarcity of friendships between women may be one of the reasons female-led urban fantasy has such a reputation for revolving around sex.

So, which female leads in urban fantasy actually have female friends and/or sisters who are important parts of their lives? I think Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels has at least one good female friend, and Myfanwy of The Rook has more than one. It's been a while since I've read War for the Oaks, but I recall Eddi McCandry having a female best friend. Who are some others?

huhtikuu 21, 2015, 2:23 pm

>38 kceccato: Does Written in red count as urban fantasy? Because Meg has several female friends. I'm not so into more traditional urban fantasy, so I cannot help you there.

huhtikuu 21, 2015, 2:23 pm

Meg Corbyn from The Others series does--several, in fact.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 26, 2016, 2:18 pm

Jacky Rowan (Jack the Giant Killer / Drink down the Moon or the omnibus Jack of Kinrowan by Charles de Lint) has a female best friend, Kate Hazel.

Also if I remember right the YA urban fantasy The Grimm Chronicles by Isabella Fontaine & Ken Brosky starts a bit love-triangle-y, though less overwhelmingly so than others, there's at least one sympathetic female from the the start (older worker where the protagonist volunteers), and the cast enlarges to several teenaged friends of both genders as the series goes on.

huhtikuu 21, 2015, 2:39 pm

>40 Marissa_Doyle: Great minds think alike...

huhtikuu 21, 2015, 3:00 pm

38> You're right about Kate Daniels, but not until the second book when she meets Andrea and Julie (who's more like an adopted niece).

I'd agree with the others about Meg in Written in Red - she's got Tess and a few girls who work in the shops.

While I didn't like Rosemary and Rue much, Toby did have some female friends.

Jilly in The Onion Girl by Charles De Lint has female artist friends.

The vampire protagonist of Cherie Priest's Cheshire Red books gets female friends in the second novel - Hellbent.

Chloe Neill's Dark Elite series is different than a lot of YA urban fantasy in that the protagonist's female best friend is actually important.

Sunshine by Robin McKinley has a best friend who's a librarian and her mysterious land lady.

Those are the ones I find when I go through the books I have urban fantasy. Stray Souls by Kate Griffin might to, but I can't remember much about it besides that a female shaman is the protagonist and that there's no or very little romance.

huhtikuu 21, 2015, 4:08 pm

>43 pwaites: And those elemental girls as well.

huhtikuu 21, 2015, 4:45 pm

Sharon Li (from Kate Griffin's Magicals Anonymous series) has a number of female friends and allies, though only one or two are what you'd think of as humanesque. (Two of my favorites are Sally the art-loving banshee and Gretel the gourmet troll.)

huhtikuu 22, 2015, 9:02 am

Daisy in Agent of Hel and sequels has not only a female best friend but a mother who is a)alive and b) supportive, caring and interesting in her own right. There is also an awesome female other in the character of Lurine.

huhtikuu 22, 2015, 11:25 am

>42 zjakkelien: Absolutely! ;)

And in the most recent book in the series, Vision in Silver, Meg's friendships with both other women in the Courtyard and with other Blood Prophets who have been released are much more front and center.

huhtikuu 22, 2015, 2:21 pm

>47 Marissa_Doyle: I'm waiting for the price to go down on that one... I loved the first two!

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 22, 2015, 4:15 pm

Thanks for the responses, guys. It's interesting to know there are antidotes to "Anita Blake Syndrome" out there. If I were going to give urban fantasy more of a try, it would be with books like these, where it's NOT all about "the Exceptional Woman and the Legion of Guys."

47, 48: I've had a few people recommend Written in Red and its sequels to me, and I always take recommendations under advisement, at least, even if I don't leap at them immediately; I try not to dismiss them out of hand. The reason I'm a little slow to try these is that while I expect I might like and take an interest in Meg's friends (especially Tess), I'm far from sure about Meg herself. Descriptions I have read of that character, in both positive and negative reviews, make her seem a bit too... well... Bella Swan-esque for my liking. The helpless waif just isn't a trope I favor, particularly when said waif is romantically paired with an uber-powerful male. She's referred to as his "squeaky toy"! I can't help but find that off-putting, particularly if we're supposed to think it's cute. If Anne Bishop were to write a spin-off with Tess as the protagonist, I'd be all over it in a heartbeat.

One reason that urban fantasy in general isn't to my liking is that it just doesn't give me enough of what I read fantasy for. I don't read fantasy just for the supernatural creatures. I read it for the opportunity to experience other worlds, places to which I could never travel in real life. I read it for the worldbuilding as well as the characters. Even when urban fantasy offers considerable richness when it comes to characters (e.g. The Rook -- I still smile when I remember how much I enjoyed that book), it is, by its very nature, lacking in the worldbuilding department.

THIS is why I want to see more heroines who matter in Epic Fantasy. I don't want to be told that if I want to read about interesting and capable heroines, I should just settle for reading Urban Fantasy instead. There should be room for such heroines in both genres, for the benefit of readers like me who prefer the Epic stuff and readers like jnwelch who prefer the Urban.

huhtikuu 22, 2015, 4:52 pm

>49 kceccato: I think the romantic aspects of the Written in Red books might have been exaggerated in those reviews you mention. And I didn't find Meg at all a helpless waif--more someone very damaged by her past who has managed to retain some agency and is eager to achieve more. But yes, the world might not be "different" enough for your tastes...although I really don't consider these (or The Rook) to be urban fantasy.

>48 zjakkelien: Unfortunately, I didn't think Vision in Silver was very good--it's written almost as if she wasn't sure whether to wrap the series up, or keep it going, so it ends up feeling rushed and falling somewhat flat. Which is really too bad because Written in Red was just so awesome. :(

huhtikuu 22, 2015, 5:39 pm

>50 Marissa_Doyle: Ah, that's disappointing... I'll still read it, but thanks for the heads-up...

>49 kceccato: I agree with Marissa on Written in red. It might not be to your taste, but one of the things I like about it is that for as far as you can say that it contains romance, it is taking it as slow as a progressing glacier. And Meg may not be physically impressive, but I would not call her a helpless waif. I was rather impressed with how she builds a new life for herself and how she bounces back from bad experiences. She is a very strong character but not in a loud kind of way. But yeah, if you're looking for sheer power, then she doesn't have it. Neither does any male human for that matter. The power belongs to the terra indigene, not to the humans. Be that as it may, Meg stands her ground and, thank heavens, she is not feisty. I'm not very fond of the feistiness in urban fantasy...

huhtikuu 22, 2015, 7:27 pm

>49 kceccato:, 50, 51 I also agree that there's not much romance and that I like Meg. Here's what I said in my review about the second book:

"As I mentioned before, I like how slowly the romance plot is moving. Based on the events from the last book, Meg and Simon have become friends. It’s pretty obvious where the relationship is heading, and even one of the other viewpoint characters remarks on it.

As with the last book, how much you like it largely depends on your reaction to Meg. She’s not an action girl or snarky or sarcastic – she’s a sweet character who’s frightened of mice and who’s determined to make her own choices in life. She escaped from a terrible situation and is still coping with how to live day to day. I really liked her for how sweet and kind she is, and I found it believable how many other characters liked her too."

I've seen a lot of reviews that seem to be pointing at her and yelling "Mary Sue! People like her, she has friends, Mary Sue!"

huhtikuu 22, 2015, 10:42 pm

52: I didn't get much of a "Mary Sue" vibe from the reviews. I just don't know how I would manage to swallow that whole "squeaky toy" business. It makes my teeth itch just thinking about it.

Not every character has to be feisty or physically powerful. But I like heroines to have interests and opinions. I like them to be competent and capable, even if it's in areas other than fighting. And a strong moral/ethical sense is always a plus. I do like kindness in a character and think kindness tends to be underrated. But I like it to go hand in hand with competence.

huhtikuu 22, 2015, 11:01 pm

>52 pwaites: Sheesh. Just because a character is nice and non-snarky, they get accused of Mary Sueishness? Those reviewers need to lighten up a bit.

>53 kceccato: I would call her competent, as far as she's able to be--she's been kept in isolation from the world before the start of the books, and basically has to learn to live. She's resilient in the face of overwhelming changes, and begins to learn to thrive in her new, much much bigger (and very complicated) world.

The "squeaky toy" business was actually kind of funny and didn't bother me at all, because the characters it originates with aren't human so it lacks the "baggage". I don't know--maybe you still won't like it...?

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 22, 2015, 11:24 pm

54: The thing about kindness is that it can't really come from a position of weakness. The ability to be kind must spring, at least in some sense, from having the strength and the know-how to aid someone else. So I suppose kindness IS competence to some degree. (By far the kindest heroine I have ever read about in speculative fiction is the magnificent Snake in Dreamsnake -- not an action girl, not a fighter, but still one of the most impressive heroines in the genre.)

One thing would sell me on the Others series, though:
How are the female terra indigene portrayed, really? Are they bad news, or do some of them have some decency and kindness about them? Are THEY loyal friends? One of the things that I disliked about Stolen Songbird, one of my recent YA reads, was the portrayal of the female trolls; if you're looking for a book featuring a significant sympathetic portrayal or two of a female Other, this is NOT the one to go to. I'd like to know that at least a couple of the female terra indigene are developed in more interesting and sympathetic detail before picking up the series.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 23, 2015, 12:16 am

The terra indigene whether male or female are almost too "other" to be considered "kind" or "decent," though they have a code that they follow which includes protecting all terra indigene and those humans they claim as their own. The female terra indigene are like female humans ~ some are loyal and inspire respect and even love, while others you'd want to stay clear of. Sometimes both at the same time. (Thinking of Tess.) Yet, none of them are evil in the way humans can be evil (greedy, lustful, jealous, selfish, cruel for the sake of cruelty, murderous, etc.). Possible When the Lakeside Courtyard hires Meg to work for them, she becomes one of them, though she is not "pack." And it is only by her own actions ~ her courage, insight, helpfulness, honor ~ that they come to respect her. They are definitely not "kind" to humans who transgress the laws, but they are willing to work with those who respect them and their laws and to share their land with them. One of the things I love about that world is that, unlike the usual werewolf trope where the supernaturals have to try to fit in the human world, most of the world belongs to the terra indigene, and they are the ones in charge; the humans are only allowed to live on terra indigene land as long as they behave themselves.

As far as the "squeaky toy" business goes, that came about when Meg and one of the wolf pups bonded, and it described the game they played sometimes where the pup would chase Meg. Another possible It's true that, eventually, the pup's uncle ~ Simon Wolfgard ~ sometimes joined in the game, but it was never a gender thing, at least as far as I understood it, but a human/nonhuman thing.

ETA that I love some of the female indigene characters: Tess, Jenni Crowgard, Nyx Sanguinati, and Winter Elemental, though all of them (except Jenni) can be pretty damn terrifying if you get them riled.

huhtikuu 23, 2015, 9:05 am

56: Storeetllr, thanks for clarifying the context of that name. I'm glad I know that.

Now I think I may read the series eventually, when I'm in the mood for a UF. I might want to check out one of Anne Bishop's epics/historicals first, though, just because those are my preferred subgenres.

huhtikuu 23, 2015, 11:06 am

Just started this one, but Cobalt Zosia in A Crown For Cold Silver looks to be one of the most interesting female protagonists I've come across in a while. A middle-aged fantasy heroine is a kind of refreshing take in my experience.

huhtikuu 23, 2015, 3:17 pm

I agree with Storeetllr, Marissa and pwaites. And I definitely think the terra indigene are kind. Sure, not to people who break their rules, but they are kind to Meg, and they are kind to the girls who work in the shops. They even show some kindness to the cops who are friendly to them. They don't always know how to be kind to humans, and they definitely won't let anyone abuse their kindness. But that doesn't mean they don't have it.

And it's been said before, but whatever inequality there is between the different characters is a human-terra indigene thing, not a gender-related thing.

huhtikuu 23, 2015, 3:29 pm

>57 kceccato: Oh, and before I forget, I don't know which other Anne Bishop books you are referring to, but I don't think I would recommend the Black Jewels books to you... I liked them, but there are a lot of weaknesses under the guise of female strength.

huhtikuu 23, 2015, 7:43 pm

58: tottman, that one's fairly high on my radar screen. It's a "mark-time-for-the-paperback" deal.

60: The Bishop work I had my eye on is Belladonna.

huhtikuu 26, 2015, 7:28 am

>61 kceccato:, I also do not recommend the black jewels. The women are supposed to be the leaders but there is a lot of posturing between the men and idolisation of the female hero who only gets a female friend in the third book, prior to that all the females are bad.

However the Tir Alainn trillogy starting with Pillars of the world it is about a clan of females, main character has a older female mentor and men are quite background untill the second book iirc. And you are right about Belladonna it does have a strong female showing in the characters mostly because of the female protagonist, it is a good book. Though it is a sequel to sebastian which despite the title has a strong female second lead character who has female friends.

huhtikuu 26, 2015, 8:17 am

I've just been reading Girl of fire and thorns and it is about a girl (technically YA as she is 16) who starts off very solitary at the beginning as she is sent away from her home to become the queen consort of a neighbouring country with only her nurse and maid for company, during the books she does find other strong women in the story. She is very intelligent and grows into being a leader.

I am just about to read Emilie and the Hollow World which is about a girl who stows away on a ship and is "Taken under the protection of the Lady Marlende" so this looks promising regarding female characters.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 27, 2015, 5:06 am

>62 Musereader: Not to mention the fact that other supposedly strong women like Surreal are a washout. She is continuously posturing, pretending to be badass, but she never actually does anything. Also, the strongest magic user might be a woman (Jaenelle), but the next three strongest magic users are the male Daemon, Saetan and Lucivar. So even though there are a few other women who are unusually strong, they are still trumped by the men. And the thing that irks me the most: after Jaenelle saves the world, she rejects her power! What bull! Poor little her never wanted that much power and to be stronger than everyone around her. She prefers to putter around with potions and illusions instead of being a queen and ruling. Riiigghht. I've read books in which men reject getting extra power, but to reject power they already have? Never seen it before. So even if she doesn't like being so powerful (she is dozens of times stronger than the next-strongest person), she could have gone down to that level or a little above. But instead she stops ruling and fills her days with I don't know what. Eugh. Really didn't like how Anne Bishop made that turn out...

Thanks for you info on Pillars of the world, I haven't read that one yet...

huhtikuu 27, 2015, 8:55 am

>64 zjakkelien: TBH i don't think anybody but Janelle in those books do anything, they just posture and threaten until the other one backs down, i got fed up because no fights ever happened - no wonder they got enslaved by bitch queens. Try (not) reading anne mcaffrey, she does the same to her female characters, once they achieve their objective they just don't care anymore and let their husbands run the show.

I remember liking Tir Alain for the prominence of female characters who had the adventure and the fact that it was less concerned with sex than blood jewels or emphera. but it was 7 years ago now so i could be remembering wrong.

The emphera books are paranormal romance in a dreamworld which is something different and i didnt think the females were boring like some

huhtikuu 27, 2015, 10:59 am

>63 Musereader: And a book bullet taken with Emilie and the Hollow World! It looks good.

huhtikuu 27, 2015, 3:52 pm

>65 Musereader: Hmm, I believe you are right... Well, Saetan does kill someone at some point, doesn't he? And Lucivar throws people into troughs. ;)

joulukuu 1, 2015, 7:50 pm

Having just finished Promise of Blood, I can tell you that it's a book you would want to avoid. The most important female character is the villainess.

joulukuu 2, 2015, 9:16 am

Did we mention the Cinder series (Lunar Chronicles) yet? Both fairy tale and sci-fi elements in it. The fourth volume, Winter, just came out and was a satisfying conclusion. Multiple heroines.

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 5, 2015, 8:30 am

86: I'd heard that Promise of Blood probably wouldn't be my cuppa. I understand that female characters get more attention in the sequels -- "be patient and wait, yet again!" Aaargh! No, thank you.

69: Cinder is wonderful (though I absolutely despised Scarlet and haven't been able to bring myself to read Cress due to my massive disappointment with Scarlet, a non-heroine straight out of the Bella Swan school of can't-do-anything-right-and-needs-to-be-rescued-constantly-by-dangerous-bad-boy-love-interest.) The only problem with Cinder, vis-a-vis this thread, is that it isn't epic fantasy. Also, it's YA, and while I love a good YA novel, visible and significant female characters aren't really a problem in that genre.

Something like Miles Cameron's The Red Knight would come a little closer. That one is definitely epic fantasy. I wish the women were a little more visible, but they do make a contribution. I particularly like Amicia, Sauce, and Mag.

Another recent read that would qualify here is Sam Sykes' The City Stained Red, which has two important female characters among the core group of mercenary anti-heroes. One of them is a female Other. Both are interesting.

joulukuu 8, 2015, 10:04 am

>70 kceccato: As you can tell, I liked all the Lunar Chronicles books. I haven't heard of anyone else having that reaction to Scarlet. I wasn't put off by her at all. You may appreciate her more in the later books. A quartet of interesting heroines isn't common.

joulukuu 9, 2015, 4:22 pm

71: This is my Goodreads review of Scarlet, which goes into detail about my dislike. jnwelch, you need not fear Spoilers; everyone else, be warned.

If, in the sequels, she actually succeeds in achieving one goal she sets out to achieve, then I'll think better of her.

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 9, 2015, 5:11 pm

>72 kceccato: Thanks. You'll think better of her in the sequels. :-)

The other three (Cinder, Cress, Winter) and Iko remain more prominent, though.

joulukuu 10, 2015, 8:27 am

73: That's good to know. But one thing I really need to know before I read further. I don't mind being Spoiled; in fact, I'm asking for it...

Does Cinder eventually win the love that she deserves? It still drives me nuts that she gave up everything she knew for a guy who couldn't care less whether she lives or dies.

joulukuu 10, 2015, 10:42 am

Yes, she does. :-)

joulukuu 10, 2015, 3:53 pm


I'm happy to know the rest aren't like Scarlet, and that Scarlet eventually grows a spine (of sorts), because like kceccato, I found her insipid and boring and, yes, a lot like Bella from Twilight. In fact, I never finished Scarlet after reading about 2/3 of it. Guess I'll finish it and go on to the rest.

maaliskuu 22, 2016, 10:35 am

Hambly is a great choice for female protagonists. While much of her work is crossover, the Dragonsbane trilogy is pure fantasy. The first book is told entirely from the viewpoint of the female lead, so it's spot on for what you're looking for.

maaliskuu 24, 2016, 7:48 am

Very well thought-out essay today from Kate Elliott, about writing women characters into fantasy:

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 30, 2016, 4:50 pm

Hi, the Copper Cat trilogy by Jen Williams has amazing female characters.
It starts with The copper promise.

maaliskuu 30, 2016, 2:11 pm

I was going to mention Hambly, but I see she's already represented. Favorites also mentioned already include Robin Hobb, Janny Wurtz, and of course Juliet Marillier. Some others I can think of offhand:

Jennifer Roberson and her Sword-Dancer books
Katherine Kerr and her Deverry Cycle books
Marion Zimmer Bradley in just about anything she wrote
Mercedes Lackey in many things. Many know her main 'world', but also her Elemental series
Jim Butcher's Codex Alera series has some nice, strong female protagonists, and though his The Aeronaut's Windlass is steampunk rather than epic fantasy, it fits the bill.

huhtikuu 9, 2016, 11:18 am

78: Love that essay!

79: I've been eager to get my hands on The Copper Promise, but the darn thing hasn't gotten a US release yet. Very frustrating.

80: Hambly is awesome and rarely gets the attention she so richly merits. I'm not sure about Codex Alera, though. I've read the first four books and they're quite entertaining, but I have some issues with them. While we do have multiple POVs, Tavi is the real protagonist, the chosen one, the special one, the one to defeat the (female) villain at the end. Also, it bugs me that the advocate for women's rights in this patriarchal world is the series' most evil human female character. Isana, I will admit, is a heroine who merits admiration, though she's flawed and makes mistakes, but Amara, sad to say, comes across as a worthless little whiner who hangs on her big strong man and has neither interest nor impact on the large events swirling around her. Kitai, my favorite, never quite manages to rise to protagonist status. Oh, and I hated the portrayal of Phrygiar Navaris, the evil sword-wielding psychopath who has to be defeated by our hero Tavi. Just hated her -- particularly since, as far as I've seen, there aren't any formidable swordswomen on the Good side. She may be the reason I haven't gone back to the series since I read Book 4.

My thread was inspired at least in part by what I see as a retreat from female-centered stories, or at least from proper attention being paid to them. So many of the most wildly popular and frequently talked-about epic fantasy series of the past ten years, the ones we hear about and read about whenever "Best Of" lists crop up, tend to be very male-heavy, and reviews say things like, "This is great except for the female characters." Look, for example, at this Goodreads list of Best Fantasy of the 2010s, and note how many female leads there AREN'T:

To be sure, the list includes some excellent titles with female characters in prominent roles (The Golem and the Jinni, The Girl With All the Gifts, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, The Thousand Names, Words of Radiance). But in terms of quantity, compare it with this list:

Epic/historical fantasy with heroines who matter is certainly out there, as all these suggestions attest, but I wish it could win the same kind of regard as works by Mark Lawrence, Patrick Rothfuss, Brian McClelland, Brian Staveley, Brent Weeks, Peter Brett, and R. Scott Bakker seem to. We're still up against the notion that stories like this have universal appeal, while works with women in central roles will appeal only to a female audience. Look at all the complaints on Twitter about Star Wars: Rogue One being the second film in the franchise to focus on (gasp) a female hero! Because for some fans, apparently, two is two too many. The complaints I've seen point out that when a story has a female lead, that automatically gives said story an overt political agenda. Gah!

It is to weep.

huhtikuu 9, 2016, 2:55 pm

huhtikuu 10, 2016, 11:11 am

As a totally self-serving aside, of the 6 novels I've written, all have female protagonists except one, where there is a male lead and a female lead. And she's the strongest character I've yet written! (though sometimes makes undiplomatic mistakes).

huhtikuu 21, 2016, 11:55 pm

Has nobody mentioned Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson? So so many important lead female characters.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 22, 2016, 8:16 am

84: The problem is that I've heard and read a horde of comments that say the female characters in WoT are HORRIBLE -- one single narrow-minded and unkind shrew, divided into many and given different names and appearances to keep readers from noticing that "they" are really the same unsympathetic figure who is not the least little bit heroic and therefore does not deserve to be called a heroine. The one character who is mentioned again and again as being the series' most likable character is also the most misogynistic, and that's pretty telling; apparently the women of the series are so dreadful that they deserve the hatred he aims at them. I've heard these same comments a little too often not to take heed of it and avoid that series. Persuade me that even one of the women in this book is actually heroic -- courageous, kind, and wise -- and does NOT need to be spanked into decent behavior and I might consider reading it.

Another thing that rouses my suspicions is that nearly all the readers I've heard sing this series' praises are men. That doesn't mean those praises shouldn't be taken seriously in and of themselves, but when the fanship is skewed toward one gender or the other, I tend to wonder why. (When I'm reading Goodreads reviews for a particular book and I notice that EVERY five-star review is contributed by a male reader, I start to think the book may not be for me.)

Books that have a strong component of "battle of the sexes" and gender essentialism (all MEN are this way, and all WOMEN are that way, emphasis on "all") are the last thing I'm looking for.

Sanderson's Cosmere work is a different matter. The ending of Warbreaker still pisses me off, but I've enjoyed all the other works I've read by him.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 22, 2016, 10:03 am

>84 Joseph_Scifres: >85 kceccato: Well, the eye-rolls and skipping that threatened almost each time Moiraine, Egwene and braid-tugger, whatever her name was, loomed large in the picture were a big component of why I dropped the series by book 3 (apparently yet one of the generally best regarded by fans before the Sanderson ending volumes).

Some seem to say they get better later but it was already the 3rd door-stopper so back they went to the kind loaner. "There are other books I want to try."

huhtikuu 22, 2016, 5:07 pm

>84 Joseph_Scifres: >85 kceccato: The Wheel of Time was a formative series for me in my early teens, but I have a hard time rereading it now. It does some things very well- epic sweep for one, and I am still wistful for another series with so many female wizards and the high-magic setting with an even higher-magic background and a female mentor/Gandalf equivalent as cool and powerful as Moiraine- but there is a lot of Weird Gender Stuff that bothered even fairly oblivious to that sort of thing pre-teen me.

Jordan was, it seems, strongly gender-essentialist, believing that men and women were different to the point of being mutually incomprehensible (a fact that both men and women remark upon to a truly grating degree- if you are looking for "men *eyeroll*" or "women *sigh*" this is your series); this is a series where power is explicitly tied to gender, with male wizards "seizing" their power and female wizards "embracing" it, and attempting to find a gender-neutral source of power let loose a great evil that destroyed the world and tainted the male half of wizardry so much that all male wizards are destined to go mad. (I wince at the thought that this was probably a conscious or not-so-conscious social commentary on feminism.)

Part of this is a view that women do things through manipulation and trickery, and throughout the series all of the various female characters that were different and actually fairly interesting at the beginning gradually turn blend together into a single caricature who happens to have different names. Male wizards become increasingly More Better than female wizards too (men are stronger, men get stronger elements while women tend toward talents like healing, if a group of both male and female wizards are working together in a group a male wizard _must_ lead, and so on).

Besides that, there are a number of non-wizardly irritations that also increase (weirdly sexualized rituals among the female wizards- lots of nakedness for no particular reason, lots of beating and spanking as punishment), in fact one of our three main male heroes spanks his love interest of roughly the same age like a child to punish her, and, the last straw that's kept me from reading out of sheer curiosity to find out what happens, out of the original four kids who start off on the journey, three boys and a girl, guess who dies at the end? Yep- the girl.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 22, 2016, 5:44 pm

87: That falls exactly in line with what I've heard.
The idea that gender is an impassible barrier to understanding is a deeply depressing notion, IMO. After all, when someone claims, "I don't understand Women," or "I don't understand Men," that's simply another way of saying that all "Women" and all "Men" are essentially the same, that within our gender we don't vary, that whatever individualism one might stumble onto within those Groups is shallow and inconsequential. To meet one woman, or to meet one man, is to meet Them All.

I stand with Kate Elliott when she warns writers that we should "get rid of the word of 'them,' the idea of an unknowable Other with a mysterious psychology." I favor works by authors who follow this prescription.

It would be nice to see more female wizards, though. Aside from Diane Duane's contemporary YA series, the only series I can think of that uses "wizard" as a gender-neutral term is Elizabeth Bear's Eternal Sky Trilogy (Range of Ghosts et. seq.) We meet two female wizards; both are awesome; and even better, they're good friends. There is some weirdness in which a female wizard must sterilize herself in order to access her power, but beyond that, I'd recommend it as coming very close to the kind of thing I'm looking for.

huhtikuu 22, 2016, 8:03 pm

88> On the Eternal Sky Trilogy, the male wizards have to sterilize themselves as well, so it's not just applied to the women.

I'm reading The Silent Tower by Barbara Hambly, and I think it's used "wizard" to describe both men and women? I'm sure there must be more fantasy books out there that use "wizard" for both genders, but the two you named are the only ones I can think of off the top of my head. Esk from Equal Rites is a female wizard, but in that case "wizard" is still a term that's usually considered male within the world of the book. From what I've seen, "mage" seems to be the go to gender neutral term for magic user, although Stroud's Bartimeaus trilogy did use "magician" for both men and women.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 22, 2016, 8:44 pm

89: "Magician" is also a gender-neutral term in Trudi Canavan's Black Magician Trilogy -- a series I would have enjoyed much more if it hadn't suffered from galloping Smurfette-itis.

Hambly's The Witches of Wenshar, I seem to recall, includes a brief sequence in which the difference between "wizard" and "witch" is discussed, even though "wizard" is supposed to be a gender-neutral term. Technically Kyra from Stranger at the Wedding should have referred to by this term, but she rarely is.

I'd forgotten that about the Eternal Sky Trilogy. So I can have one less reservation about recommending it!

huhtikuu 25, 2016, 2:07 pm

Harry Dresden books have males and females both being considered 'wizards', and some females are in power in the White Council. In fact, Martha Liberty is one badass woman wizard :P

huhtikuu 25, 2016, 5:20 pm

>86 Jarandel: >87 sandstone78: I no longer feel bad about only making it through 6 books. I enjoyed the first three and they went steadily downhill from there IMO.

huhtikuu 26, 2016, 1:20 pm

>86 Jarandel:, >87 sandstone78:, >92 Narilka: I actually finished them all, and tip my hat to Brandon Sanderson for a wonderful job finishing the series up after Jordan passed away.

For me, the biggest problem was "bloat" after the first five. After their success, any editing apparently went AWOL, with the books getting longer and longer and minor plotlines getting way too much page time. I can understand the other comments made, including frustration with tics like braid-tugging. But it is a pretty remarkable and complicated world he created, and even with the annoying bloat (which Sanderson managed to streamline), I enjoyed the ride.

toukokuu 30, 2016, 6:21 pm

>77 wootage:: I agree that Hambly writes very strong female leads, in particular the protagonist of DragonsBane. A possible downer for kceccato is that the protagonist is very isolated (indeed, her isolation is important to plot choices).

toukokuu 30, 2016, 6:27 pm

Also not sure if this falls squarely in epic fantasy, but Elizabeth Bear's All the Windwracked Stars and followup has an incredibly important lead female character. The actual story has hints of sci fi underpinnings (like Robert Jordon's fluourescent lights in the Wheel of Time, but much less obvious), combined with a powerful retelling of Norse mythology.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 31, 2016, 12:50 pm

94, 95: Hambly is nearly always a good choice. I remember stumbling across an article by no less a figure than Brandon Sanderson who expressed undying appreciation to the middle school teacher who pointed him toward Dragonsbane when he was twelve years old. He credits that book with setting him on the path he's currently following.

All the Windwracked Stars is a bit on the urban side, though it does include mythological characters. I tried to read it once and found it not quite to my taste. However, I didn't give it as much of a chance as I should have, and I've read and loved her Eternal Sky trilogy since then. I may need to give it another go in the fullness of time.

The only thing wrong with Hambly is that, as far as I'm aware, she hasn't come out with any NEW epic fantasy in recent years. (I think she's doing mostly historical mysteries now.) Too many of the most recent and the most highly praised works of epic fantasy let the side down where female characters are concerned -- though I'm anxious to get my hands on Guy Gavriel Kay's Children of Earth and Sky. Max Gladstone's Craft Sequence is excellent, but it feels more like urban than like epic fantasy (admittedly it's VERY difficult to classify).

kesäkuu 17, 2016, 4:06 pm

>96 kceccato: I'm going to go slightly sideways here, and ask what it is about epic fantasy that its fans like, and that make it important to find examples where there are strong female characters.

What got me thinking about this was Guy Gavriel Kay's historic fantasy novels. They are certainly epic in scope and plot, but not perhaps epic fantasy. Indeed the fantasy elements seem to fade away in his books, and if you're look for an “awesome” +10 chaotic good spellcast to save the day, he's probably not your author. I suspect that in all of his books you can find strong female characters. One that stands out for me is The Lions of al Rassan, because of the trio of viewpoint characters, one is a female doctor (set at the end of the Moorish rule in Spain, albeit loosely disguised in an alternate universe).

A Kay novel that works quite differently is the Sailing to SarantiumLord of the Emporers pair. (Sarantium is loosely disguised Byzantium.) To me, parts of this feel almost James Tiptree Jr-esque. The mosaicist, Crispin, who provides most of the viewpoint is male, but its his interaction with women (Alixana, Gisel, Styliane Daleina, Shirin) that make up the plot. Although the women are not primary characters, they drive the plot.

Ok. Back to my question. What Kay writes is epic and it's fantasy, but perhaps not what most people mean by epic fantasy. What would a fan of traditional epic fantasy find missing?

kesäkuu 17, 2016, 4:24 pm

>96 kceccato: Back to HTG epic fantasy. Steve Erikson's Malazan Empire series have a lot of strong female characters, particularly in the Malazan army. In one of the novels, cannot remember which, one of the plot threads follows a group of Malazan ex-military who are now barkeepers. Among the ex-militia is a lesbian couple around whom the thread centers.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 17, 2016, 5:23 pm

>97 david_c: Not so much missing, as a different emphasis I think.

Epic fantasy even if it tends toward grand scopes is also often about a limited set of characters putting themselves out there and imposing a considerable slant or turn to events through individual talent and power, often toward a goal clearly identifiable as "good" or "as things were before and should remain / be brought back to". Individual consequences of the large scale events, especially on the antagonist side, are often swept under the rug by making the opponents some kind of irreconcilable Other, giving the protagonists a clear situation of defending themselves and others, or allowing those protagonists to work toward or luck upon opportunities for end-game surgical strikes against the Big Bad and his immediate cadre, or the Big Bad's weakness.

Historical or simili-Historical Fantasy depicts characters who may or may not rise to considerable power over the events around them, but who are ultimately riding/struggling against/unwitting participants of much broader circumstances. And while we may like to think of History as going in a general direction of greater opportunities for a larger number of humans, particular sequences of it may not be so clear-cut if you don't take only the victors' speech and its face value. And you're usually dealing with humans only or mostly, usually much closer to the baseline than Epic Fantasy protagonists or villains get to be. They have to have gotten where they are through plausible chains of events and motivations ("there's an Empire of Evil named Mordor conveniently surrounded by square-shaped mountains here on the map where 95% of the Evil in the world comes from" usually won't cut it). There's only so much hero-ing or other-ing or monster-ing them or sweeping the dead of Battle XYZ under rugs that you can do without slipping off-genre.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 18, 2016, 2:50 pm

97, 98, 99:

The terminology may mean different things to different readers.
I use the term "second-world fantasy" to mean any fantasy novel set in a time and place noticeably distinct from our own. These settings usually have a historical aura, taking us back to our mythic past. Juliet Marillier's Blackthorn and Grim novels, Kate Elliott's Spiritwalker Trilogy, and the Sun Wolf and Starhawk books of Barbara Hambly are second-world fantasy without necessarily being epic fantasy. Second-world fantasies may be "low fantasies," concerned with the fates of a small set of characters in a small-scale setting (my own novels are like this), or epic fantasies, concerned with the fates of nations.

Epic fantasy differs from "low fantasy" not in its quality (many "low fantasies" are absolutely beautiful) but in its scope. Epic fantasy is usually concerned with war, politics, or both, and as such, romance is kept to a minimum. That is precisely why I'm keen to see more women playing prominent roles in epic fantasy -- because I want good writers to show us that female characters are capable of so much more than falling in love and languishing on the sidelines while the male characters get to do vital, plot-affecting deeds. If the only way a female character can affect events is to get captured and need rescuing, NO, THANK YOU.

We are, quite delightfully, moving beyond this, but still it troubles me how few of the very wildly popular epic fantasies released in the past, say, ten years (by the usual suspects -- Lynch, Rothfuss, Lawrence, Bakker, Liu... okay, hammering the dead horse again) continue to relegate women to small, unimportant, and/or highly stereotyped roles. Everyone seems to adore Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind, for instance. Yet in all the Goodreads reviews/ Reddit threads/ discussions surrounding this book, I have yet to read a single positive word about the female lead. She must surely be one of the most despised characters in all contemporary fantasy fiction, and she's the reason I have no interest in the series. Just how many brilliant writers are there who can do anything and everything EXCEPT create heroines a reader can admire and root for? (The popularity of grimdark also complicates matters, since in grimdark, not a single character, male or female, is capable of kindness or worthy of admiration.) Male writers aren't the only ones guilty of this, either. I just read a round of Goodreads reviews for Karen Miller's The Falcon Throne, and here again I find the repeated accusation that female characters are forced into minor and stereotypical roles while male characters overwhelmingly dominate the plot -- as if nothing more, nothing better, can be expected of epic fantasy.

I do love The Lions of Al-Rassan, and so far I'm enjoying Children of Earth and Sky as well.

kesäkuu 18, 2016, 6:16 pm

It's not released yet, but I highly suggest you check out Foz Meadow's An Accident of Stars when it comes out. I've just finished reading an ARC of it - it's a portal fantasy where all four POV characters are female, so it's often women who are moving the plot forward. There's also a number of relationships between female characters, my favorite probably being the mentor/student dynamic between the two POV characters from earth.

kesäkuu 19, 2016, 12:33 am


Kay's earlier works, -- Tigana and The Fionavar Tapestry, are much more strongly fantasy based, and I like them equally compared to his later more "historical" novels. While the mechanics which underly the worlds/stories are different, the detailed-world, interesting characters and epic storylines are present in both cases. So I don't feel that any critical elements are missing.

kesäkuu 20, 2016, 5:03 pm

>97 david_c: (&98)

I have not yet read Kay. I own several of his books because some of them intrigue me, and I have no doubt they will be quality, but I have such a vehement dislike of historical fiction that I can't bring myself to start one. I have never been able to articulate what sets me off, but I will try.

It's not enough that it be secondary world because any place I haven't been is already as good as secondary world to me. Kansas? May as well be Oz. It's not enough to have dragons or crazy creatures if they are treated simply as scary fauna or talking, flying horses, because the real world is already filled with crazy creatures you haven't thought of yet, many of which we could communicate with if only we knew how. And it's not enough to have a wizard casting magic missile or a fighter with a +2 flaming broadsword, that's just technology. My cell phone is as good as a spellbook. And pure allegory or substitution is enough to send me into fits of rage (I ranted up a storm after the ending of the Life of Pi movie.)

I think it's all about the way the story is told. Which things are abstracted and how and why. I had several paragraphs here originally, but they were neither articulate nor coherent so I deleted them. Maybe, which is the more appealing story to you? Rome founded by one of pair of brothers raised by a she-wolf, Rome founded by some descendants of Trojan War refugees, or Rome founded however it actually happened? That's the difference, I think. Either way, Rome was founded, but they say different things about Rome.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 21, 2016, 11:32 am

>100 kceccato:, I might argue the definition of "epic" is not just a broader scope but also higher stakes. To me it suggests a villain capable of conquering or destroying the entire secondary world of the story. I'm finding the further we get from this idea, the more the fantasy genre proves capable of evolving or producing something literary. Epic fantasy delighted me when I was younger, but now I compare it with the latest Hollywood summer blockbuster - all explosions, all the time (and too many damsels in distress, as you've noted and to throw a bone to this topic). I've become more keen on seeking out the Oscar-worthy. Once in a while there is still something that can bridge the two and we receive the best of both in one package (Peter Jackson's LOTR at the movies; George Martin on the book shelf).

>103 macsbrains:, I'm noting the strong contrast between your insightful third paragraph concerning Rome, and your disliking the ending of Life of Pi: "Which is the more appealing story to you" seems to be the point that both are making. Incidentally I don't think Kay's work can be mistaken for historical fiction, it only contains more obvious echoes of real world history than most fantasy novels do. Citing George Martin again, he models his series on the War of the Flowers, but IMO you can't draw one-to-one parallels when you're reading it. In fact the more history you know, the less you might enjoy Kay. I knew a bit too much already about events of the T'ang Dynasty to really enjoy Under Heaven and I still regard it as his weakest.

kesäkuu 21, 2016, 12:44 pm

>104 Cecrow: I think the broader scope is needed in epic fantasy, at least, what makes it different. I think of Robin McKinley's The Hero and the Crown which has a wonderful heroine with epically high stakes, but even though the circumstances causing the conflict could have supported an ensemble cast, it's not epic fantasy because the story is a single character's personal journey. I think epic fantasy tries to tap into the desire to belong to a larger whole: all the disparate people and their threads coming together is the point, not the means.

As for my problem with the ending of Life of Pi, I was perfectly on board with a guy sailing the ocean for a year with a tiger in a lifeboat, but the moment the story says to me, (spoiler text, just in case:) "but the tiger was not really a tiger! or was it?!" I say, "well that misses the point, and now you've completely ruined it by suggesting to me that tigers are not people are not tigers which is a patent untruth." Basically, it takes the fantasy elements out of it, and allows reality to intrude with its muddy feet. A she-wolf fostered Rome and that's truer than any other version.

marraskuu 27, 2017, 3:46 am

I may have missed it, but I did not see anyone list Rhapsody from the Symphony of Ages series by Elizabeth Haydon.
Also listed was Jaqueline Carey's Kushiel series, but her third trilogy the Naamah trilogy also has a strong female lead in Moiren.
A new fantasy series also has a brilliant female lead is the Twelve Kings of Sharakai by Bradley P. Beuleu (I probably spelled his name wrong) Ceda is a very strong addition to strong fantasy heroine's.

joulukuu 11, 2017, 8:01 pm

Posted this on the Dec thread but it fits here. Spent the day with The Girl in the Tower, and as good as The Bear in the Nightingale was, this was even better! Loved Vasia, a Russian girl who sees the folk spirits that guard households in pagan Russian. Her battle to keep her village protected from evil, as well as her intelligence make her the kind of female character we love to read. The books are based on several Russian folk tales.

huhtikuu 15, 2019, 9:42 am

Useat käyttäjät ovat merkinneet tämän viestin asiattomaksi eikä sitä enää näytetä. (näytä)
Hi. I was doing a search, found your message and am now a member of Library Thing. Still learning my way around and the dos and don'ts but I wanted to respond to you. Yes! Potent females are lacking everywhere and in particular in the Epic Fantasy genre that is, indeed, dominated by male heroes. I was so frustrated by the lack I decided to write my own Heroic Epic Fantasy and put a woman in charge. The story evolved and grew. Eventually, I decided I needed to share it even if no one ever read it. With a budget of zero and no readers or proofers, because I could not afford them, I wrote and published the first book in my Colony series, Among Us. No one wanted to hear about an Epic Fantasy with a woman taking on the challenges that belonged to men. "It's too dark. It's too violent. It makes me uncomfortable. I don't like seeing her get hurt." Really? I was slammed in the face with how society stereotypes and 'gendertypes' and can't accept the concept of equality. Women around the world are faced every day with fights--for their children, their families, their rights and even their lives. Why should their strength be kept hidden and denied? It made me angry so I kept going with the story. It has evolved into four novels in the series with two more planned and a companion book called The Essential Hitchhiker's Guide to Colony that provides details about the hidden society of equals. My writing has improved and evolved over time and I have never stopped writing. I now write both novels and screenplays and one of my screenplays has been optioned to create a game application and a movie based on the very potent female lead who fights her way through a hell created by those around her. If you have not found a good read and you are not concerned about entering a dark world, I invite you to consider Among Us. Thank you. Have a wonderful day. (Didn't know how to create a link but did list the books in my library--still learning. :-)

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 15, 2019, 10:13 am

>108 MorganSummerfield:, see this page about how authors can use LibraryThing:

If everyone with a book to sell started mentioning it in every topic, we'd never be able to talk about anything else and the LT discussion forums would become advertising wasteland. You didn't know, I get it. It's not a comment on whether or not your book sounds interesting.

huhtikuu 25, 2019, 10:04 pm

Useat käyttäjät ovat merkinneet tämän viestin asiattomaksi eikä sitä enää näytetä. (näytä)
Hi you should read my book Phantom Knights their a group of harpy women that kick ass search KD Bond :)

huhtikuu 29, 2019, 1:36 pm

>105 macsbrains: "it's not epic fantasy because the story is a single character's personal journey. I think epic fantasy tries to tap into the desire to belong to a larger whole: all the disparate people and their threads coming together is the point, not the means."

How large a role do these "disparate people" have to have before it counts?

In the LotR it's hard to point to any one character and say "protagonist" because Aragorn, even though he shows up late and leaves early, is just as important and plot driving as Frodo is for at least half of the total length of the story.

So what if there was only either an Aragorn or a Frodo... would the story still be epic fantasy?

huhtikuu 29, 2019, 6:33 pm

>111 LShelby: Without the rest of the 'main parties', I doubt the hobbits would have been able to make anyone take them seriously except maybe the elves. Aragorn on his own also probably wouldn't have been able to budge Rohan and Gondor. Without the large armies and other assorted supporting groups on the protagonists' side it would not be epic fantasy IMHO. Just an infiltration story (Frodo) or maybe a small elven warband's suicide run into Mordor (Aragorn) ?

huhtikuu 30, 2019, 11:19 am

There are couple fantasy series with strong female characters that I enjoyed.

One was the Tamir trilogy by Lynn Flewelling. This was pretty epic to my memory.

Also, Elizabeth Scarborough did some wonderful stories with strong female characters. They are a series but I'm not sure that the series has a "series name". The first couple books are Song of Sorcery and The Unicorn Creed which feature Maggie who is a hearth witch. Later on the characters' children (girls) from those first two books are featured in a couple other books. I really, really liked the first two books, but was so attached to Maggie and the other characters from the first two books, I had a hard time getting into the other stories with the kids.

toukokuu 3, 2019, 5:10 pm

>111 LShelby:

I'm trying to be coherent, but I apologize if I don't succeed; writing is like pulling teeth for me and this post has already taken over 2 hours.

I have to admit that I have not read LoTR (not for lack of tries in my youth) but I have seen the movies several times, so I will use that narrative to answer the question.

I'll digress for a moment and say that I don't think traditional epic poetry and modern epic fantasy are the same kind of thing and that I wouldn't call (the movie version) of LoTR epic fantasy. I think the problem I kept having while trying to read the books in the first place is that I was trying to read them as if they were fantasy and not read it as I would the Iliad or Beowulf so I was getting stuck. When I try again, I think switching protocols will help a lot with my enjoyment and ability to appreciate them. I have tried to articulate to others before how this makes a difference, but I haven't convinced anyone yet, so obviously I'm not explaining it very well.

Ok, on to the question. If we do begin with the premise that LoTR is epic fantasy, I think just having Frodo's thread and Aragorn's thread would not enough to qualify. It would need at least the third thread of Merry & Pippin getting abducted and independently making some tree friends, and even that only because it connected to the other threads by removing Isengard from the picture. I can't think of any books only three threads off the top of my head (it may be hard to balance) but I can think ones with four, so that may be the minimum. I feel two just sets up a dialog or commentary. How big or how long these threads are I think should just be inversely proportional with the number of threads.

LoTR (movie) doesn't feel epic fantasy to me precisely because I consider it just Frodo's and Sam's thread with everything else as window dressing. If I were given the option to read just "Frodo & Sam's Story" excised exactly as it was already depicted, I would be satisfied. It would mean something a little different absent the larger context (you need to see how big the world is to compare how very small 1 pair looks against it), but it's their journey I find most compelling (and because I hadn't read the books, I actually didn't already know what would happen if/when they got to Mt. Doom, so that was intense). However, if it was just Aragorn's part (i.e. everything else not Frodo & Sam) I would not be very interested. In fact, before you brought my attention to the fact that Aragorn is important to the plot... I kind of didn't notice he was important to the plot... not because of the length of his screen time, but because I didn't know his history to feel the weight of it. He just seemed to be a nice guy who for reasons was the only one able to do a few things.

Maybe I'll feel differently about the books when I eventually read them, who knows.

toukokuu 24, 2019, 10:56 am

I did not see Elizabeth Haydons series A symphony of Ages listed, though perhaps I missed it. Also one can't forget The Golden Compass which introduces the literary world to fiery Lyra Ballaqua.
A newer series which starts with the book Twelve Kings of Sharakhai stars a female protagonist who is pretty bad ass. There are elements of romance however, it isn't the only purpose Ceda serves in the book.
Some stand alone fantasy novels that have a female lead are Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie and Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames (This one is technically a sequal, but with new characters.)

While I agree they are rare, there are certainly a lot of amazing female protagonists out there in the fantasy genre. There are also a lot of amazing female side characters that I have often wished were featured more or made as the leads. Hopefully there is a shift in the genre to begin featuring more women in leading roles.