Sci-fi and Heroic Fantasy discussion

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SF/F Book Recommendations > Strong Heroine

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message 1: by Sandra (new)

Sandra Lozada | 2 comments Hi all, I'm fairly new to good reads, especially new to sci-fi fantasy. I read my first sci-fi fantasy book in about two weeks, it's called The Red Sisters by Mark Lawrence. I really enjoyed it and found myself wanting more to read but with the second of the trilogy not coming out until April 2018 I'm stuck trying to find something else to get lost in. Hence this topic, can someone recommend a book with a strong heroine. I really like getting lost into a character and since I'm new to reading sci-fi I'm hoping for some guidance. Thanks for all your help!!


message 2: by Michael (new)

Michael | 152 comments In sci-fi the first two that occurs to me are Tanya Huff's Confederation series that features a female space marine officer, and David Weber's Honor Harrington series about a female starship captain of the same name. Another is Michael Shepherds Kris Longknife series about another female space navy officer. This is just a few ideas to start. I'm sure others will jump in with many more suggestions.


message 3: by Cat (new)

Cat | 343 comments More towards the fantasy spectrum, I'd recommend any of Kristin Cashore's books, starting with Graceling however, any of her books in that series can actually be read as standalone books quite easily. 110% strong heroines!


message 4: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 2170 comments My wife has really been enjoying Juliet E. McKenna's books. She's reading them in the order published. She says the different series spin off each other taking existing characters on further journeys. I believe most have a strong heroine.

Tales of Einarinn
1. The Thief's Gamble (1998)
2. The Swordsman's Oath (1999)
3. The Gambler's Fortune (2000)
4. The Warrior's Bond (2001)
5. The Assassin's Edge (2002)
A Few Further Tales of Einarinn (2012)

Aldabreshin Compass
1. The Southern Fire (2003)
2. Northern Storm (2004)
3. Western Shore (2005)
4. Eastern Tide (2006)

Chronicles of the Lescari Revolution
1. Irons in the Fire (2009)
2. Blood in the Water (2010)
3. Banners in The Wind (2010)

Hadrumal Crisis
1. Dangerous Waters (2011)
2. Darkening Skies (2012)
3. Defiant Peaks (2012)
The Wizard's Coming (2011)


message 5: by S. (new)

S. D. Howarth (sdhowarth) | 5 comments Feist/Wurts empire series. A very good trilogy with a strong female lead.

Terry Brooks Psions quartet - the series and book 3 have a strong female lead. I haven't read much if his work since then so he may have more.

David Gemmell Ironhands Daughter duology - female lead.

Last of the Renshai Trilogy. Mitran is one of the main characters and has an interesting tale through the series.


message 6: by [deleted user] (last edited Jun 05, 2017 06:54AM) (new)

hi, Sandra,

Definition of a "strong heroine" can vary.

If you're looking for an epic fantasy heroine who's good with swords, etc., I suggest....

Sheepfarmer's Daughter by Elizabeth Moon(a bunch of sequels if you like it.)
Rhapsody: Child of Blood by Elizabeth Hayden
The Wayfarer Redemption by Sara Douglas

Sanderson's Mistborn - The Final Empire trilogy is like a sword & sorcery, though the heroine is something like a sorceress.

On the margin of sword & sorcery, a variety of Anne McCaffrey's Pern / Dragonrider stories:
Dragonflight trilogy, Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern


As Obi-wan said, there are other ways to fight. The following offer strong leading ladies in fantasy worlds who don't wield weapons or spells:

Ursula Le Guin's Tehanu: Tenar is struggling to raise a crippled, abandoned girl in the Earthsea sword & sorcery universe. She doesn't use a sword, and she doesn't cast spells, and in my opinion it makes her seem even stronger.

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier is essentially a fantasy retelling as a Celtic Six Swans Grimm Fairy Tale, whose heroine is trying to break the curse on her brothers.

Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey features a courtesan/spy as its protagonist in a fantasy world where that's a religious calling.


message 7: by Kivrin (new)

Kivrin | 452 comments Sandra wrote: "Hi all, I'm fairly new to good reads, especially new to sci-fi fantasy. I read my first sci-fi fantasy book in about two weeks, it's called The Red Sisters by Mark Lawrence. I really enjoyed it and..."

I just finished Nevernight by Jay Kristoff. Really enjoyed the lead badass assassin in training--Mia.

If you're into fantasy and like your female heroes very fallible but usually triumphant in the end, you could try Michelle Sagara's Cast series. The first one is Cast in Shadow. Kaylin can be annoying, but she does have some cool powers.


message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

Kivrin wrote: "If you're into fantasy and like your female heroes very fallible but usually triumphant in the end, you could try Michelle Sagara's Cast series. The first one is Cast in Shadow. Kaylin can be annoying, but she does have some cool powers. .."

I read some of the series, finally gave up. I give it high marks for an unusal alternate world, but the plot of each of the first three books seemed to go along until some desperate moment when the heroine's mysterious tatoos suddenly rise up and fix all the problems. I felt very dissatisfed having such deus ex machina resolutions.


message 9: by Brendan (new)

Brendan (mistershine) | 743 comments G33z3r wrote: "Ursula Le Guin's Tehanu: Tenar is struggling to raise a crippled, abandoned girl in the Earthsea sword & sorcery universe. She doesn't use a sword, and she doesn't cast spells, and in my opinion it makes her seem even stronger."

A thousand votes for Tenar.

Maybe it should be considered more "advanced" fantasy and not so much for beginners but I think Jemisin's Broken Earth series deserves mention.

We'll have to do the discussion of strong heroin in fantasy at some point as well. Check out Steph Swainston's Castle series for all the magical fun that can go on with strong fantasy heroins.


message 10: by Tani (new)

Tani | 52 comments A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan is the first of a series that was just recently completed, and has a wonderful heroine with a strong dose of both science and myth. It's a historical fantasy, set in an alternate Victorian age.

The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid is a young adult scifi that I enjoyed recently. Lots of political maneuvering mixed with some solid action, fun character development, and a romance that I actually enjoyed.

Jim C. Hines has a fairy tale retelling series
that starts with The Stepsister Scheme. Each of the main characters is from a fairy tale: Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella. He does a darker spin on the fairy tales, and the stories are action-packed and imaginative.

I also second Kristin Cashore, and would add that in general Tanya Huff, Elizabeth Moon, and Patricia Briggs are just a few authors who have a strong emphasis on amazing female characters in their books. You could basically choose anything by them and be in a pretty good place.


message 11: by Rachel (new)

Rachel | 522 comments I want to second several of these :

Lessa of the dragon riders of Pern (Dragonflight is the first as I recall) was the strongest thing I encountered as a youth - still first name I think of when raising the words strong heroine.

I have really enjoyed the Lady Trent series mentioned.

I love almost everything CJ Cherryh has written - you could go with the Chanur books for strong female characters who are cats(in space!)

Also other series by McCaffrey - I reread all her stuff so many times as a young adult.

In a much more hard-core vein Ninefox Gambit has a crazy strong female lead (and a lot of war/death)


message 12: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 2510 comments If you like Urban Fantasy there is Kelly Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld, where you have witches, werewolves, vampires and all other kinds of supernatural women main characters. I was surprised how much I actually enjoyed reading it.

Everything else I came up with were already covered by others


message 13: by Robert (last edited Jun 10, 2017 11:28AM) (new)

Robert Edward | 39 comments For well-known series, James S.A. Covey's The Expanse series includes a few. Naomi Nagata is richly drawn, complex, and flawed (all of the characters in that series are well-developed). Chrisjen Avasrala, though not exactly a main character, is great as well- maybe I just love her foul-mouthed, "IDGAF because I know I'm smarter than all of you" personality.

For lesser known/independently published stories, I liked George Olney's Guardians at the Gates of Hell. It's got an ass-kicking female lead character as part of a race of supersoldiers, and one or two other supporting characters.

That said, the role of women in the society is a little inconsistent and oddly regressive when compared to the rest of the setting he's drawn. They all go on one combat mission but then are relegated to support roles. Part of the story involves breaking that paradigm, so in that way the heroines are potential trailblazers. (I haven't yet read the sequel so I don't know if it plays out that way.)

Still worth at least the free read on Kindle Unlimited. If hearing about the first women in the American infantry, Rangers, Marines, etc. inspired you, this is along the same lines with a sci-fi twist.


RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) Hmmm. When I first read the topic I thought it said "Strong Heroin." I was going to mention Trainspotting and The Basketball Diaries.

But strong heroines? I always liked Molly in Neuromancer even though she's not the main character.


message 15: by Christine (new)

Christine (christineelisabeth) | 8 comments Randy's comment makes me laugh, what a blundering misunderstanding! A strong heroine does not always look like WONDER WOMAN (who has the power to end a war...)
Or a woman who is in the military, and sent to the front of some war to fight. A female can be heroic in many ways that don't appear to be grand, but are still considered lifechanging events, like preventing a young, bullied person from committing suicide or jumping in a pool to save a toddler from drowning...just sayin'


message 16: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 2510 comments Actually...there's a strong heroine on heroin in Chasing the Dragon by Nicholas Kaufmann which also involves an actual dragon


message 17: by Michael (new)

Michael | 152 comments I only read part of Kelly Armstrong's first "Otherworld" books and I found the female protagonist rather contemptible. On the other hand, as a genre, urban fantasy is almost defined by strong female protagonists. Some particularly good examples (IMO) being the books by Patricia Briggs, Seanan McGuire, and Carrie Vaughn.


message 18: by Silvana (new)

Silvana (silvaubrey) Daniel Abraham's The Dagger and the Coin series features two main pov characters who are females and do not know how to fight (their strength are based on wit, persistence and elan) so you can be excused from the tropey female warrior/assassin type.


message 19: by Andy (new)

Andy | 74 comments A few spring to mind here, some already mentioned. Janny Wurts does strong heroines really well. The Wars of Light and Shadow are great (I'll warn you the series is not complete). Her Empire series with Feist is superb.

Melanie Rawn's Dragon Prince has a few strong female characters.


message 20: by Lori (new)

Lori (loriann25) | 19 comments Erika Johansen's trilogy starting with Queen of the Tearling. The young adult queen Kelsea is an intelligent strong character but not without moral weaknesses. The story is filled with twists and the author wraps it all up fabulously in the end!


message 21: by Gary (new)

Gary Sundell | 203 comments Andy wrote: "A few spring to mind here, some already mentioned. Janny Wurts does strong heroines really well. The Wars of Light and Shadow are great (I'll warn you the series is not complete). Her Empire series..."

The Dragon Prince series is terrefic.


message 22: by Sabrina (new)

Sabrina Flynn Marking Time by April White has a great female protagonist who is a freerunner and time traveler. Very cool world mythology too.

I'm with Christine. I personally enjoy books that don't have the cliche version of 'strong'. I feel that a lot of current entertainment have basically taken the Rambo archetype and stuck boobs on it, then slapped a 'strong' label on the girl. Punching a guy in the face to establish dominance is not what I consider strong, anymore than a guy who did that.


message 23: by Christine (new)

Christine (christineelisabeth) | 8 comments Sabrina wrote: "Marking Time by April White has a great female protagonist who is a freerunner and time traveler. Very cool world mythology too.

I'm with Christine. I personally enjoy books that ..."


Sandra wrote: "Hi all, I'm fairly new to good reads, especially new to sci-fi fantasy. I read my first sci-fi fantasy book in about two weeks, it's called The Red Sisters by Mark Lawrence. I really enjoyed it and..."

Thanks for all the comments!


message 24: by Sandra (new)

Sandra Lozada | 2 comments Thank you all for the recommendations. I have a few in mind I want to read! I'll let you know how it goes!!


message 25: by Andy (new)

Andy | 74 comments I'll add another author - NK Jemisin.

Let us know which ones you go for, and what you think of them.


message 26: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Andy wrote: "I'll add another author - NK Jemisin.

Let us know which ones you go for, and what you think of them."


Thumbs up to Jemisin! She also has protagonists of color.


message 27: by Sarah (new)

Sarah I love Robin Hobb's Liveship series for its believable female characters. And I agree with many of the above commentators that we need a broader definition of what constitutes a "strong" female protagonist. I'm tired of super swordsmen (of any gender.)

Equally interesting, I think, would be a list of books to avoid because their portrayals of women are so retrograde you don't want to give the author your money!


message 28: by Andrea (new)


message 29: by Carro (new)

Carro | 28 comments Suggestion of a couple - anything by Barbara Hambly - variety of strong women from a computer programmer (The Silicon Mage to an Edwardian medical researcher Those Who Hunt the Night to a mercenary The Sun Wolf and Starhawk Series: The Ladies of Mandrigyn, The Witches of Wenshar, and The Dark Hand of Magic.
Lois McMaster Bujold both for fantasy and sf - though in the sf you'd primarily want the Cordelia books for a female main character. The Sharing Knife: Beguilement and Legacy has a young farm daughter away from home for the first time - but she is definitely strong.


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