Top Ten Tuesday (3): Top Ten Girl Power Fantasy Novels

May 18, 2015 2015, discussion post, Kim, Top Ten Tuesday 50

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Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. This week was a “choose your own topic” week so, me being me, I chose Top Ten Girl Power Fantasies.


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Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Katsa’s grace is killing and in many ways she personifies the “Strong Female Character” trope. But the presence of romance is nearly always a must in my fantasy books and I love Katsa’s journey because she learns that having love and having independence are not mutually exclusive. You can be a traditional bad ass and also be invested in the traditionally feminine. Plus, I sure would love to have her with me in a zombie apocalypse.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

The first fantasy novel I read and I adored it! This also remains one of my favorite works of feminist fiction to this day (and what a great intro f0r the young ones). While Ella is cursed with literal, actual obedience, girls in the real world are faced with the strictures of (non magical) obedience and the ever important goal of being a “good girl.” I love this book for its heroine who journeys from her restrictive boundaries and finds adventure, magic, and love along the way.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Alina’s journey and growth throughout this trilogy is a joy to behold. I loved watching her go from isolated orphan to empowered Grisha. Alina often gets flak for not always being in control of her power or be the ever capable hero. But I think she’s all the more human for it and I love her. There are many ways to be “strong” and that includes having the courage to admit our weaknesses and to lean on our friends. I don’t manage to find the time to re-read a lot of books but I want to binge this entire series again soon. That is high praise indeed.

The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima

This is a somewhat lesser known series but it is such a gem. The Seven Realms are ruled by a matriarchy (yaaaaaaaasssss) and Raisa ana’Marianna is the queen-in-training. This is a traditional fantasy with magic and evil wizards, a queendom that could rise or fall, political machinations, and epic quests (and yes, there is a captain of the guard). I adore Raisa. One of my very all time favorite characters, she is ambitious and unafraid to relentlessly fight for her queendom. She is thoughtful and compassionate and committed to always doing what is right even when weighted down by pressures both magical and internal. You really need to read these books if you haven’t already!


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Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Oh boy. This is a 2015 addition to my all time favorite books. Agnieszka is the naive village girl chosen and forced by a wizard to ten years of seclusion in his tower (What?! Why?! Read it and you’ll see!). I don’t want to spoil things but I can tell you that Agnieszka is smart, witty, and capable and that she does not simply give in to her fate. Also, there’s a really wonderful girl power friendship in this book. Also, also there is a bloodthirsty sentient forest. It is just 500 different levels of wonderful. Be sure to come back on Tuesday for my joint review discussion with Layla!

Taming the Forest King by Claudia J. Edwards

This one can be tough to find as it’s out of print, but my dear Wendy gifted it to me for my birthday last year. It’s absolutely worth the trouble to acquire a copy, though. Tevra is an army general nearing middle age who has been sent to the boonies in an attempt to expedite her irrelevancy. There she finds more trouble and magic than anyone bargained for. This is very much old school fantasy (pub’ed in 1986) but it is old school fantasy with a bad ass yet secretly tender lady warrior. And what could be better than that? Oh yes, I know. A romantic plot line with Tevra’s loyal second in command. :D It’s just a lovely story.


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Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Oh, Phina Madamina. I do love me a good guile hero. You don’t need to be quick with a sword to qualify as a girl power fantasy! Seraphina’s smarts and commitment to doing what’s right make a compelling heroine of a “normal” girl in this fantasy setting.   It’s refreshing, actually, to have a non-warrior MC in a fantasy. The Seraphina duology also has the added benefit of being the most satisfying queer friendly YA fantasy I’ve encountered in years.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Dear, sweet Lyra and her precocious wit. I can’t imagine any character other than this spirited girl being able to carry the seriousness and complexity of this series. These books are modern classics for a reason and Lyra’s courage, inquisitiveness, and bravery are the main reason for that.

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Ah, and here is another wonderful guile hero. Kestrel’s smarts and mind for strategy are the talents she is known for. It’s heartbreaking to see what she’s gone through as this series has gone on (please, Marie, don’t completely destroy me in the final installment). But it has been such a treat watching Kestrel maneuver and outmaneuver both friend and foe. I adore that this is a female fantasy MC whose main weapon is her brain.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Here’s a woman in fantasy who has been through hell and back. Like Katsa, Celaena is very much the archetype of the “strong female” fantasy warrior lady. But she is so much more. The depth and exploration of emotion the books have gone through, and the tragedies and triumphs of this character have already been epic in scale and we are only on Book 4. She’s one of the strongest characters I’ve encountered in all of fantasy and I love her times a million.


Now, you may be asking yourself, “Kim, where’s the Tamora Pierce? The Juliet Marillier? The Robin McKinley??” I actually have never read anything by those authors. know, I know. I really do know. It’s happening and soon, I promise. Are there any others I’ve missed? Please let me know! I’m always looking for new fantasy novels with kick ass ladies of all stripes!

kim teal







50 Responses to “Top Ten Tuesday (3): Top Ten Girl Power Fantasy Novels”

  1. Nethmini

    I just…the thing that I love about these kind of posts is that it gives us readers a list of books with a badass female lead. Not gonna lie, it’s hard to find those these days that haven’t got the “be macho or nothing” female. I want a female that loves glitter and pink dresses but could call out a douchebag and slit his throat in a frilly tutu!
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  2. Thomas

    Love the diversity of how you write about strength here! It is great to acknowledge that women do not have to mold to one type of perseverance or power dynamic to possess an inspirational inner drive; it shows young readers of all gender identities that female-identifying individuals can kick butt in a multitude of ways, whether through doing away with bad guys, forming healthful relationships, and more.
    Thomas recently posted…Why I Write The Quiet Voice: Thomas’s Twentieth Birthday Edition

  3. Jocelyne

    When I saw the words “girl power fantasy”, I immediately thought of Tamora Pierce! I read a lot of her novels when I was young and still continue to reread them from time to time. I love her Tortall universe and the heroines of each series – you definitely need to give her books a try! My favourites are the Tricksters series and the Beka Cooper trilogy.

  4. Jemma

    This is such a brilliant list there’s only a few I haven’t read on here and I’m definitely adding then to my reading list <3

  5. J. Oh

    :) I’ve read all of these except The Demon King and Taming the Forest King. Time to go add them to my list!

  6. Carina Olsen

    Oh, love. <3 This post is all kinds of gorgeous Kim :D Thank you so much for making and sharing. <3 I haven't read all of these books, but I have read lots of them :D GRACELING. MY LOVE. Uuuugh. Love it so. THE GOLDEN COMPASS. Dies. I adore Lyra. Last book is my favorite in this trilogy. Sigh. So much love. <3 Also love Shadow and Bone :D And Seraphina. <3 And The Winner's Curse :D I have won Uprooted, so hoping to read it soonish, just waiting for it to arrive :) Yay for reading about such amazing girls sweetie. <3 I love awesome girls.
    Carina Olsen recently posted…Cress Tuesday #82

  7. Brenda

    I really love the trend of strong female characters, the ones that can use wit and strength and bantering so well. Katsa and Alina are two on your list that I particularly enjoyed, but must get to Seraphina sometime soon. Also need to check back in for your review of Uprooted, that cover and need to know more about the bloodthirsty sentient forest now.
    Brenda recently posted…Top Ten Foreign Language Edition Covers for Book I Loved to Read

  8. A Canadian Girl

    As I was reading your post, Kim, this is exactly what I was thinking, “W where’s the Tamora Pierce? The Juliet Marillier? The Robin McKinley??” I hope you get around to reading those authors soon!

    I read Ella Enchanted when I was a kid and still love it to this day. I also loved Graceling, Shadow and Bone, and Seraphina. I’ve got Uprooted on my wishlist.

    I’ve never heard of Taming the Forest King but I’m now going to look into it. Perhaps the library will have a copy.
    A Canadian Girl recently posted…Review: Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge

  9. Katie @ Bookish Illuminations

    What a fantastic list! Of course, I loved Shadow and Bone and Ella Enchanted. I own Graceling and need to read that. I also haven’t read The Demon King or the one from 1986. I started Seraphina awhile back and just need to pick it up again but was loving it. And of course, I love The Winner’s Curse, The Golden Compass, and Throne of Glass! The theme of your Top Ten Tuesday is perfect–I still may get a list up later today. I’ve been behind in my TTT.

    I’m about halfway through Daughter of the Forest by Marillier–another book I’m drawing out…
    Katie @ Bookish Illuminations recently posted…Goodbye, Scarlet & Robin: Lion Heart (2015) by A.C. Gaughen

  10. Nikki

    Haven’t read a single one of these yet but almost all of them are on my TBR shelf.

  11. jen and em

    So many great books. I haven’t read Uprooted and Taming the Forest King. Definitely adding them to by TBR list. Thanks.

  12. Amy @ Pages of Starlight

    Awesome list! I love girl-power, especially is such a traditionally male genre as fantasy. Most of these books are either ones I’ve read and liked (Graceling and Throne of Glass) or that I want to read. Pretty much the only ones on this list that I don’t already have on my TBR list is Ella Enchanted and The Golden Compass. Just yesterday I first heard about Taming the Forest King and added it to my list – as I’m already hearing about it again, maybe something’s telling me I need the book. I’ve got The Demon King and Seraphina both just waiting for me to get a chance to read – and I’m wanting to read Shadow & Bone. I’m planning on buying The Winner’s Curse and as I keep hearing AMAZING things about Uprooted, that will be my next purchase I think.
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  13. kindlemom1

    I’m a huge sucker for girl power! I love a strong heroine that has a strong group (or even one) women to back her up!

    Some of these I still need to read but I’m excited to read them all knowing that the heroine can kick some butt in one way or another.
    kindlemom1 recently posted…Review: Siren’s Fury by Mary Weber

  14. Pili @ In Love With Handmade

    Hmmm, I’ve read and loved most of these books, but I haven’t read Graceling yet, and I feel like I’m gonna be adding more books to the already overwhelming TBR pile.

    I have been thinking but I cannot think of more aside from Auraya from the Age of Five trilogy by Trudi Canavan!! My fave heroines that are not in your list are from either historical fiction or science fiction, or at least the ones that come to mind!
    Pili @ In Love With Handmade recently posted…Xpresso Book Tours Blog Tour for Hunting Season by Nikki Jefford!!

    • Kim

      Oh my gosh I can’t believe you haven’t read Graceling yet, Pili! You would adore it!! I mean, it should really be toward the top of your TBR. (All of these books should be if you haven’t read them.)

      And I’m not sure I am at all familiar with the Trudi Canavan books. I will have to investigate. Thank you, Pili!
      Kim recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday (3): Top Ten Girl Power Fantasy Novels

  15. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

    Wonderful list, I agree with all your choices. I just read a book that could work with this category — The Bees, which is literally about the life of a honeybee who doesn’t fit into the expectations of her society. And it’s all about female power in the hive! The guys are just drones.
    Lory @ Emerald City Book Review recently posted…New in Paperback: The Bees

    • Kim

      Oh my gosh, Cait, you would LOVE The Demon King! Yes, run to that library! Then come back and thank me. And I am new-ish to the Graceling train as well having only read it last year but it is definitely one of the better YA fantasies. And such a lovely romance. Celaena I really don’t need to go on about anymore than I usually do. :p
      Kim recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday (3): Top Ten Girl Power Fantasy Novels

  16. JJ

    I love your choice of topic! The only one of these I’ve read is Throne of Glass, but I have a couple on my TBR and after reading your list I’m going to have a couple more! Man these top ten Tuesdays are sending my TBR out of control!
    JJ recently posted…Top Ten Tuesdays #5

    • Kim

      Oh man! I am not even a little bit sorry to add all these books to your TBR. *evil smile* I really do love TTT’s for that, though! And if you were only going to have read one of these I’m glad its TOG (excellent life choice!) but you should give the others a go too. They’re all phenomenal.
      Kim recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday (3): Top Ten Girl Power Fantasy Novels

      • JJ

        I both love and hate TTT’s for that-I find so many books I want to read, which is great, but it means that my TBR gets so huge. I’m at over 130 books on my list already, I’m never going to read all of them!
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  17. Cristina

    I agree with so many of your choices!
    I haven’t read a couple of books, and they will be going straight to my to-read list.
    I would recommend you Garth Nix’s Abhorsen series. They are very very good, with female protagonists that were my childhood heroes, specially Lirael (book #2).
    I hope you like them :)

    • Kim

      Ahhh yes yes! The Abhorsen books are absolutely on my TBR! Those are definitely on my “YA fantasy classics from my childhood that I totally missed and need to read asap” shelf. He has a new book coming out later this year that I am also super, super excited about. I will try to get the Abhorsen’s before that, though! Thank you so much, Cristina.
      Kim recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday (3): Top Ten Girl Power Fantasy Novels

    • Kim

      I know, I know! I am really excited to finally read some Tamora Pierce. Especially because a lot of the YA fantasy that’s coming out now are written by authors who were majorly influenced by her growing up. I’m so intrigued to see the similarities I can spot. But overall just really excited to finally read her books. :D
      Kim recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday (3): Top Ten Girl Power Fantasy Novels

  18. Jess @ Curiouser and Curiouser

    I LOVE your choice of topic. :) There are so many books on your list I haven’t gotten around to reading yet and I so want to – particularly The Demon King and Seraphina. I do love Ella Enchanted, though; I read it back in primary school and thought it was so much fun. Great list!
    Jess @ Curiouser and Curiouser recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday | My TBR

    • Kim

      Oh that is such a relief to hear actually because I’ve been afraid of reading it as an adult! I was about 12 when I read it so I hadn’t yet lost the ability to experience reading as a kid (which is just a whole different level of reading–so sad to ever lose it). It was also the first real fantasy sort of novel I read and I don’t know why I didn’t immediately start voraciously reading alllll the fantasy because I really had enjoyed it so much! Silly young Kim.
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