Vaginal Fantasy Book Club discussion

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Book Discussion & Recommendation > Strong female leads, not romance, recs

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Carolyn Smith | 32 comments I asked about this in the Gabriel's Ghost forum, but it's a better general topic.

What about fantasy books with strong female lead but not necessarily romance in them? Off the top of my head--the Honor Harrington books, although there are romances in a couple of them, but those feel like natural parts of Honor's life progression rather than the core of the story.

Naomi Kritzer's Fires of the Faithful does end up with a couple, but their development is also not the core of the story but a natural part of their lives.

I'm having trouble thinking of any where there is no romantic connection at all. Podkayne of Mars (I read that so long ago I don't remember).


Sanasai | 24 comments The Necromancer Chronicles by Amanda Downum are fun. The Drowning City is the first one. Past and present relationships play a part in the lead's choices and reactions, but they are just one of many factors in the overall plot. Then there's Remnant Population which has a strong, confident grandmother as a lead, not something you get to see every day!

The girl in The book of Earth, first part of The Dragon Quartet Omnibus, Volume 1
starts off as the traditional damsel in distress but at least gets to rescue herself instead of waiting around for a man to do it, and that series is just a pretty good story overall.

Oh, and Firekeeper in Through Wolf's Eyes is great fun, she's definitely no-one's delicate little lady!


Lindsay (roguefire) | 85 comments I'll second the Dragon Quartet Series! Loved it and have found not many people know about it. The first one definitely has what you're looking for.


AnnaBanana Pascone (snapdragnful) | 89 comments Sharon Shinn has written a ton of books with amazingly strong, likeable female characters. For more contemporary fantasy, Debora Geary is a great author, and also very accessible on FB. Also, the great Anne McCaffrey was an an amazing and prolific author whose novels run the gamut of scifi & fantasy, almost always with strong female leads.


message 5: by Carolyn (last edited May 13, 2012 07:00PM) (new)

Carolyn Smith | 32 comments Anne MeCaffrey is somewhat problematic, at least the social structure on Pern, despite the women being ostensibly "strong". On re-reading I was rather disappointed. And noticed a lot of stuff that I missed as a teenager.

This article sums up a lot of my issues with Pern,http://blogs.feministsf.net/perturbed...

What I find really disturbing is that I didn't really notice this when I read the books as a teen, but as an adult I see it quite glaringly. May explain why so many teens love Twilight and don't see the stalkerish behaviour as creepy.


AnnaBanana Pascone (snapdragnful) | 89 comments Anne MeCaffrey is somewhat problematic, at least the social structure on Pern, despite the women being ostensibly "strong". On re-reading I was rather disappointed. And noticed a lot of stuff that I missed as a teenager.

Ha, you are right. After reading that article it reminded me why I chose not to re-read the Pern series. Let's just chalk it up to McCaffrey having been from a different generation. Its a shame her stuff doesn't have explicit sex scenes, it would be an interesting conversation to have here.

Twilight is an abomination.


Rachel | 89 comments An interesting pick is Wings of Wrath by C.S. Friedman. Technically, the main character used to be a sex worker, but has now become a fairly powerful mage. It's been awhile since I've read the books, but I don't remember much romance at all. It's mostly about the main character learning how to use her powers, set against the backdrop of a looming war.


Daniela (DanielaCanela) | 5 comments Carolyn wrote: "Anne MeCaffrey is somewhat problematic, at least the social structure on Pern, despite the women being ostensibly "strong". On re-reading I was rather disappointed. And noticed a lot of stuff that ..."

Amen. The whole Dragonrider universe has a definite creepy factor. If it was just one book with its, um, troubling attitudes to women fine, but it's pretty bloody consistent.


message 9: by Molly (last edited May 22, 2012 10:56PM) (new)

Molly (AnIllLuckName) | 139 comments Sadly, not a whole lot comes to mind. But I went through my 'read' list and found a few that fit the bill.

Margaret Atwood writes great female characters in general. The Handmaid's Tale and The Year of the Flood are two of my favorites, both set in dystopic futures. Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower features a young black woman as the protagonist--a definite rarity. I would also recommend the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman and Patricia Briggs's Mercy Thompson series, starting with Moon Called. And for Sherlock fans, The Beekeeper's Apprentice features the indomitable Mary Russell as Holmes's kickass young protege.

I'll have to check out everyone else's recommendations. Yay for strong leading ladies!


Michelle ♣ Ndayeni (Ndayeni) | 64 comments Many of Mercedes Lackey's books would qualify I think, particularly many in her Valdemar series/universe. Many of them do have elements of romance to them, but the romance is generally secondary to the main plots. Of particular note might be By the Sword, which can be read on its own, but would make a bit more sense after first reading the Tarma and Kethry books The Oathbound, Oathbreakers, and Oathblood. There is also her Diana Tregarde series, includuing Children of the Night, Burning Water, and Jinx High.

I'm sure there are many other examples among her many works, but those are the first that spring to mind. Hope it helps.


message 11: by Laura (last edited May 23, 2012 06:43AM) (new)

Laura | 111 comments Nice nice!

The Sealed Letter and then there is Tomorrow, When the War Began series - http://www.goodreads.com/series/40990...

Plus the follow up books- http://www.goodreads.com/series/55790...

But I have to say the Tomorrow series is aimed for Teens.


message 12: by Jeffery (last edited May 23, 2012 10:55AM) (new)

Jeffery Sargent (TheSarge) | 168 comments {sarcasm mode} Mickey Spillane's books have lots of women in them...{/sarcasm mode}


Tina Hsu (aloudnoise) | 1 comments Maria V Snyder's "Study" series has a strong female character, and a smidgen of romance. Poison Study is the first and best of the series. Magic Study and Fire Study complete the series, and the romance (such as it is).


message 14: by Felicia, Grand Duchess (new)

Felicia (feliciaday) | 530 comments Mod
I think that Katherine Rusch has a sci-fi series with a woman protagonist that doesn't have any romance. And there are TONS of series I've read that have slight romance but no sex and female characters, like CS Friedman and Joan Vigne?


Jeffery Sargent (TheSarge) | 168 comments Felicia wrote: "I think that Katherine Rusch has a sci-fi series with a woman protagonist that doesn't have any romance. And there are TONS of series I've read that have slight romance but no sex and female chara..."


Sheri Tepper has done plenty of strong female novels, with scant sex. And a lot of them are short-sh (to accommodate the short-novel-needers).


Jennifer | 1 comments Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels series, starting with Magic Bites. Good strong female lead and the world Andrews has built is excellent. There's some romance but it's a slow build over the series and I like that the two alpha-type characters work at compromise instead of one ending up dominant.


Guinneys_mum | 2 comments These are the types of books that I thought this group was going to focus on instead of being all about the sex. However, I certainly read my share of what a friend refers to as 'how-to books'! :P

I haven't read the books in quite some time but I remember Anne McCaffrey's Tower and the Hive series as having strong female characters?


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Stephen King's Dolores Claiborne


Kamil | 938 comments The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon. That's a trilogy i would recommend; althgrough there is no romance (actually it's hinted but the male dies before the heroine could develop feelings for him. It's a proper heroic fantasy whith a girl as the chosen one


Heather (LostInIN) | 7 comments Kamil wrote: "The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon. That's a trilogy i would recommend; althgrough there is no romance (actually it's hinted but the male dies before the heroine could develop feelings fo..."

That is exactly what I was thinking! Very strong female character. Also, somewhat romance, but the Mercy Thompson books aren't bad. Or the Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon.


Drakhoran | 3 comments Way back when most SF was published in magazines rather than books James H. Schmitz wrote quite a few stories with female protagonists like Telzey Amberdon and Trigger Argee . Baen recently reprinted a lot of those stories in collections and I highly recommend them.


Keith (Teleport-City) | 56 comments I just started in on Elizabeth Moon's Heris Serrano series. Although I start it started slow, Moon's "Vatta's War" series turned out to be a lot of fun for me, and she writes a great female lead that is cool and competent without sacrifices any sense of humanity or being overly perfect. I'm really looking forward to the Serrano series as a result.


Kandi (KandiH) | 10 comments I second Sharon Shinn's books, romance being secondary to and growing organically from the plot. I especially enjoyed the Twelve Houses and Samaria series.

Michelle Sagara's (West sometimes) Elantra has a strong female character and there's only a hint of romance.

C.E. Murphy's The Walker Papers series also qualifies.


Beverly Forster | 17 comments Kim Harrison's The Hollows/Rachel Morgan series has some romance but the books actually follow the progression of the main character(s) and romance is never the main aspect of the story.


message 25: by Rose (last edited Jul 18, 2012 07:41AM) (new)

Rose Be | 3 comments One of my favorite new authors is Tana French, and I would recommend her book The Likeness. Cassie, our heroine, works in Dublin's police department, and she looks suspiciously like the dead girl in a case with no leads. Bored with her desk job, she's persuaded to pretend to be the dead girl-- even though the killer is most likely one of the dead girl's housemates.

Another book that doesn't get nearly enough hype, in my unsolicited opinion, is The Secret History of Moscow. Russian women are still supposed to marry early, but our protag Galima never did-- unlike her younger sister, who at least got a baby and so gets the bulk of their mom's (baby's grandma's) attention. Until the younger sister turns into a bird and flies away. Grandma's convinced Galima's crazy, which might be true. But people are turning into birds all over Moscow, so Galima teams up with street dweller Fydor to try to get her sister back again... and falls straight into Russian mythology.

Finally, although they're the most romance-inclusive yet, I really like Sunshine and The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley. In Sunshine, the main character (nicknamed Sunshine) is a coffeehouse baker... until she's kidnapped by vampires and finds she's unusually good at killing them. I know it sounds like your standard UF, but the book's both a little older than the current deluge and a little more unique. It also includes things like magic tattoos, a motorcycle sweetheart, delicious deserts, and were-parakeets. Our heroine in The Blue Sword goes by Harry, and she finds herself orphaned and broke at twenty-some years old. She goes to live near her brother, gets respectfully kidnapped... by people who then give her a warhorse.


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