I am a fan of books from a wide variety of genres, for a wide variety of age groups. However, there is one common thread in the books I feel the most passionate about, and that is well-written characters. When I find a book with a strong protagonist that I can actually like and yet also believe in as real, I am thrilled. Sometimes finding one of these characters that just happens to be female, and one I would want to hold up to my daughter or nieces as a role model, is very hard. A teen or young female character who does not act as a victim even if the situation might make others feel like one. They act and do everything they can to make their life, and the lives of others, better. Thankfully, I have read fantasy for a long time, and have found a few. Here are the authors, and some of their noteworthy books that you can recommend to the young girls and young adults in your life.
1) Tamora Pierce is my go-to recommendation for everyone that walks into the library and is looking for a fantasy book. Alanna: The First Adventure is the first book in the first series, Song of the Lioness, by Pierce. Alanna is a young girl that poses as her twin brother to become a knight and deals with the issues of bullying and personal strength. There are currently nine series by Pierce, two of which are geared for young adults, while the rest are for children, and she is still actively writing in at least one of them. My favorite series starters from Pierce are Alanna: The First Adventure, First Test (Protector of the Small), Trickster’s Choice (Daughter of the Lioness), and Terrier (Beka Cooper).
2) Robin McKinley has written a number of books that take classic stories, or plots that are reminiscent of them, and give them a solid twist. One of my favorites, The Hero and The Crown is about Aerin, who has the guidance of the wizard Luthe and the help of the blue sword to secure her birthright as the daughter of the Damarian king and a witchwoman of the mysterious, demon-haunted North. The Blue Sword, Beauty, Chalice, Spindle’s End, Pegasus, and Sunshine are other books I would recommend from McKinley.
3) Cornelia Funke is the author of the Inkworld series, which begins with Inkheart. You might recognize the shared title from the movie which was released in 2008. In Inkheart, twelve-year-old Meggie learns that her father, who repairs and binds books for a living, can “read” fictional characters to life when one of those characters abducts them and tries to force him into service. The sequels Inkspell and Inkdeath are equally good reads. For younger readers, I recommend Funke’s Igraine the Brave, The Princess Knight, and the Ghosthunter’s series which begins with Ghosthunters and the Incredibly Revolting Ghost!.
4) Patricia C. Wrede is the author of the Enchanted Forest Chronicles quartet, which begins with Dealing with Dragons in which Cimorene is everything a princess is expected not to be. She is headstrong, tomboyish, and smart. But most of all she is bored, so bored that she runs away to live with a dragon and in the process finds the family and excitement she’s been looking for. Other books that I would recommend by Wrede are Sorcery & Cecelia: or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, Thirteenth Child, Mairelon the Magician, and Shadow Magic– all of which begin their own series.
Other authors that tend to offer up strong female children, teens, and adults as main characters in fantasy include: Libba Bray, Kristin Cashore, Cassandra Clare, Robin LaFevers, Maria V. Snyder, Garth Nix, Holly Black, Lilith St. Crow, Rachel Vincent, Elizabeth Moon, Kristen Britain, Edith Nesbitt, Dianna Wynne Jones, Patricia A. McKillip, and Sharon Shinn.
I know I left some great authors out, some are on the tip of my tongue even as I type this. Do you have a favorite fantasy book or author with strong female characters?