Fantasy is a genre that has the ultimate ability to create new, profound worlds. It is a genre that inspires vivid imagery of new colours and dimensions the likes of which we may have previously thought unimaginable.
Female fantasy writers have long been at the forefront of this illuminating genre, and so we thought we should share some of our favourite fantasy novels by female authors.
1. The Bear and the Nightingale (Katherine Arden)
Katherine Ardern is quickly becoming a contemporary fantasy legend, with her “Winternight” trilogy depicting stunning tales in icy Russian backdrops. The Bear and the Nightingale is set in the Russian wilderness and sets up a conflict between western religion and Russian folklore, with the novel’s protagonist, Vasya Petrovna, defying her loved ones in order to save them from the looming threat that has encircled her village.
This list boasts everything from Young Adult novels brimming with magic and violence to high fantasy epics chronicling war and drama. We’ve limited our picks to two books per author, and these books include entries in multi-volume series, standalone novels and a collection of short stories. Nearly 150 titles received at least one vote, but we’ve narrowed it down 50 books we recommend without reservation.
2. Binti (Nnedi Okorafor)
Binti is the first of the Himba people to have been accepted at the prestigious, intergalactic Oomza University. However, accepting her place at the revered institution would require a life changing decision: to give up her place in her family.
Binti runs away from home in an effort to join the university, but her travel is soon interrupted by the Meduse: a race of jellyfish-like aliens that have it in for the Khoush people.
Binti is then drawn into a situation where she has to use the knowledge of her people to survive the perilous journey and, of course, make it to the first day of class alive!
3. The Belles (Dhonielle Clayton)
Camelia Beauregard dreams of being the number one “Belle” in lavish Orleans. Belles have the ability to control beauty, something is prized above all else in vein Orleans.
However, Camelia soon learns that the life she was dreaming of is nothing short of superficial, with her powers being more formidable, and risky, than she had ever imagined.
Thus, she is drawn into the ultimate dilemma by the princess of Orleans, who asks her to use her powers to risk the lives of her and her sisters in order to save the life of the princess.
4. Flame in the Mist (Renée Ahdieh)
Mariko has always known her place within the samurai world as her father is a respected warrior. Skilled in alchemy, Mariko’s talents are overlooked by the people for the simple reason that she is a girl.
Having been promised a marriage for nothing more than political gain, Mariko is forced to escape a deadly clan who is attempting to kill, you guessed it, Mariko herself.
But instead of going into hiding, Mariko sets out for vengeance, with surprising outcomes and tragic dilemmas along the way…
5. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns (Julie C. Dao)
Xifeng is a beautiful girl destined to be Empress of Feng Lu. Xifeng sets out to fulfill this destiny, promised to her by her wicked aunt Guma, but encounters dangerous, mystic hurdles along the way.
Xifeng is left with a choice: does she spurn the man who loves her in order to harness the cruel magic that runs in her family to fulfill her destiny?
Five stunning novels
Each one of these beautiful novels is full of wondrous imagery and gorgeous prose that make them a joy for fantasy readers across the world and sometimes adding joy to lifestyle. From intergalactic space travel to samurai battles, Russian folklore and cruelty in lavish settings, these five stellar novels are worth adding to any fantasy reader’s list!