Fantasy booklist: women warriors

Some women warriors.

51evljSGbFLJessica Amanda Salmonson‘s Tomoe Gozen trilogy tells the legendary history of a famous woman samurai from the 12th-13th century, in an alternate universe Japan called Naipon where all the fantastical and mythical creatures (like dragons and demons and ghosts) are real. Best read in order: *Tomoe Gozen, *The Golden Naginata, and Thousand Shrine Warrior.

Robin McKinley‘s early books are about young women who become warriors due to fate and necessity; the books also feature strong equine (The Hero and the Crown, The Blue Sword) and/or canine characters. Although *The Outlaws of Sherwood (a re-telling of the Robin Hood legend with a reluctant hero and some unruly, can’t-keep-em-down women) has neither horses nor dogs in main roles, it kicks ass.

McKinley’s Deerskin is based on a little-retold fairy tale about rape and incest, in which the ‘warrior’s’ struggle is to escape, survive, and speak out. (Some very good dog characters in this book.)

In Sunshine, the story of a baker turned vampire-killer and her vampire friend, McKinley moves away from YA and classic fantasy.

In Chalice, a very original fantasy world is built around the importance of humans staying in connection with the land, and the woman beekeeper who restores that connection in a besieged and damaged country. (A different kind of ‘warrior’, but since we’re on McKinley…)

UnknownJo Clayton’s Duel of Sorcery trilogy is about Serroi, woman warrior and magician, a ‘misborn of the windrunners’ who was abandoned by her people and raised by a powerful wizard named Ser Noris. Throughout her childhood the wizard used her  affection for him to harness her magic for his own ends. (The puppies she befriended were turned into demon-dogs, for instance.) The trilogy – Moongather, Moonscatter, and Changer’s Moon – follows Serroi’s escape from Ser Noris, her training and life as a warrior and a mage, to her final confrontation with the wizard. (Best read in order, hard to find but saw some on Amazon.)

Tamora Pierce‘s Tortall has many women warriors, including Keladry and Alanna; the ‘dog’ (cop) Beka Cooper (see earlier post); Aly, a master spy and revolutionary (who is more of a strategist, but can certainly fight) in Trickster’s Choice and Trickster’s Queen; Dane the wild mage who can transform into and speak with animals; and so on.

Fantasy booklist: Cinderellas

There are lots of fairy tale retellings in fantasy fiction; here are some Cinderellas. For websites and other books, click on author’s name.

519YRT1J5GLMercedes Lackey’s Cinderella story, Phoenix and Ashes, is part of her Elemental Masters series (about magicians of the four elements of earth, air, water, and fire). Here the wicked stepmother is an Earth mage gone to the bad, the ‘prince’ is a wounded WWI fighter pilot and an Air mage so haunted by the war he can’t use his magic, and Eleanor, the Cinderella, is an untaught Fire master kept in thrall by her own little finger, that her stepmother cut off and buried beneath the hearth. With no one alive to teach her except her dead mother’s herbalist friend (the godmother), and barely able to leave the house, Eleanor learns her art by traveling in visions through the Fool’s journey in the Tarot deck.

Two plain and unmagical Cinderellas:

Then there’s Anne McCaffery‘s books about a scapegoated young girl who is a brilliant musician, living on a faraway world (called Pern) that dragons keep safe: *Dragonsong and its sequel Dragonsinger. Menolley is good with animals (the wild fire lizards that are related to dragons), and a great distance runner; but she is skinny and plain (often gets mistaken for a boy, which she isn’t trying to do), and her social skills are stunted. This doesn’t keep her from having amazing adventures in her quest to find a place to make her music.

41VKA9QJ10LFor a completely different take on being bullied and going for what you want anyway, there’s Tamora Pierce’s *Protector of the Small quartet – First Test, Page, Squire, and Lady Knight — about Keladry, a girl who trains to be a knight in a land where women warriors are rare. One great thing about these is that, unlike Pierce’s other woman warrior, Alanna (who has her own quartet), Kel has no magical powers to fall back on, although, like Menolly, she is good with animals and gets their help. Kel achieves her knighthood through her own brains, determination, and sense of justice.

Which, while we’re at it, is why *The Huntress was such a wonderful comic. She was the B side of the Marvel Wonder Woman comics (written by Paul Levitz, Joe Staton, and Bob Layton) back in the late 1970s and early ‘80s. The Huntress is Batman’s daughter – lawyer Helena Wayne by day, a different kind of crime-fighter at night. No magic bracelets or invisible plane for her, The Huntress makes do by being smart as a whip, a tricky, strong fighter, and what repartee! (Not Cinderella, despite orphan status. Click on The Huntress link above for a great blog about the Helena Wayne version of the Huntress.)

Each author mentioned above is extremely prolific; each has written a series of books set in another world: Lackey’s world is Valdemar, McCaffery’s is the planet Pern, and Tamora Pierce’s is Tortall. (Lackey and Pierce also each have crime-buster heroines; Lackey’s is about an occult P.I., Pierce’s is about a young woman who works as a cop – a “dog” – in a tough part of a city in Tortall. (See Terrier, Bloodhound, etc.) If you click on the author’s name, you’ll go to her website and be able to browse.