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Topic: Looking for Fantasy/Medieval Books with Female Heroines

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Subject: Looking for Fantasy/Medieval Books with Female Heroines
Date Posted: 9/20/2009 5:40 PM ET
Member Since: 5/26/2009
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Hi everyone! I am looking to start reading a fantasy/medieval series with strong female lead characters. I have been looking at Anne McCaffrey and her Pern series but don't know where to start. I would like to start at the first book in the Pern series but don't know which one that is. Also, my husband suggested Terry Brooks but I would like to start with a female author. Any suggestions would be appreciated!



Date Posted: 9/21/2009 2:52 AM ET
Member Since: 7/19/2008
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Green Rider by Kristen Britain


The Sharing Knife series by Lois McMasters Bujold


Robin McKinley. 


Last Edited on: 9/21/09 2:59 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 9/21/2009 11:14 AM ET
Member Since: 3/11/2008
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Since I just finished the series, I have to recommend the Kushiel series by Jacqueline Carey.

Last Edited on: 9/21/09 11:15 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 9/21/2009 3:52 PM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
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Definitely second the recommendations of McKinley and Carey. . . I love Bujold as well, but I think the Chalion books are more medieval; the Sharing Knife books are in a pseudo-American setting. The first one (The Curse of Chalion) has a male protagonist, but the second has a wonderful female protagonist.


I would also recommend trying Patricia McKillip; if you definitely wanted the focus to be on a female lead character, try Alphabet of Thorn, Cygnet (a duology including The Sorceress and the Cygnet and The Cygnet and the Firebird), or The Forgotten Beasts of Eld. She is different from the other authors mentioned in that she jumps around to a lot of characters in each book rather than having a single narrator or point of view character, but those novels are centered around a female character.


And if you were open to something with a more SF bent, you could try The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis. It involves time travel to the time of the Black Plague, so half of the book is set in medieval times, and it has a wonderful female protagonist.


As to your question about the Pern books. . . I always recommend people start with the original trilogy: Dragonflight, Dragonquest, and The White Dragon. (You can usually find them in the omnibus The Dragonriders of Pern.) They occur in the middle chronologically, but the series is definitely not one that needs to be read in chronological order, because it spans a couple thousand years, and most of the books aren't related to each other at all, other than being in the same setting. However, I don't know that they are what you are looking for, as the books earliest in the chronology and latest in the chronology make it clear that Pern was settled by people from a far-flung human empire and simply fell out of contact with said empire -- but at the beginning they still had plenty of technology, and the last several books are about the people of Pern rediscovering that technology.


And if you like the Pern books, I'd recommend Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover books as well. They were written around the same time, and are also at that junction of SF and fantasy -- though the fantasy element is telepathy rather than dragons. Bradley is a stronger writer than McCaffrey, and she has some wonderful female characters in the Darkover series. If you wanted one that's set before the rediscovery (when the books become more SF than fantasy) I'd recommend Hawkmistress; if you didn't mind the SF elements playing a larger role, try the omnibus The Forbidden Circle (which includes The Spell Sword and The Forbidden Tower) or try the three Renunciate novels, The Shattered Chain, Thendara House, and City of Sorcery.

Date Posted: 9/21/2009 10:59 PM ET
Member Since: 7/19/2008
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I sort of assumed that medieval was refering to horses and a quest.  Rather than a setting.  As so many fantasies are not set in our world or history.  But I do agree on Bradley over McCaffrey.   I loved McCaffrey as a tween.  Now, they just seem too similiar to each other.

Another classic series is Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea books.  The point of view does switch around. 

Sarah A Hoyt's books on the Shakespeare era are wonderful.

Date Posted: 9/22/2009 9:39 AM ET
Member Since: 8/26/2008
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Also look into Mercedes Lackey, the majority of her books feature strong female leads, a medevial type setting, and usually a bit of romance. Try starting with Arrows of the Queen, which is the start of her Valdemar series. Or if you like reworking of fairy tales Fire Rose 1st book in her Elemental Masters series or The Fairy Godmother, 1st book of her Five Hundred Kingdoms series. You've received a lot of great suggestions, hope you find something you enjoy. Happy reading :)

Date Posted: 9/22/2009 12:41 PM ET
Member Since: 5/19/2008
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Tamora Pierce writes a lot of  "she-ro" books, but they are young adult.  They are really great though :)  I especially love the Alanna series, the Immortals series, and the Trickster's books (Trickster's choice and Trickster's Queen).  Robin McKinley, too, of course.  I haven't read much MZB but I will have to check out the Darkover series.

Date Posted: 9/22/2009 3:24 PM ET
Member Since: 5/26/2009
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Thanks for all the wonderful answers! I didn't know they were here until I checked just now. I guess I will have to change my settings. lol. I ordered the Dragonflight book by Anne McCaffrey. I am definately going to read over all your recommendations and pick some more.

I appreciate all your help!!!



Date Posted: 9/23/2009 8:44 AM ET
Member Since: 8/10/2005
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Trudi Canavan has a great trilogy that I really enjoyed, The Black Magician trilogy starting with The Magician's Apprentice. She has another trilogy as well but haven't sampled that one yet.

I also second the Kushiel series. I've just discovered the Pern books myself and have been listening to the audio versions. So far I've read the original three "Dragonriders" series and the three Harper Hall books and liked them all, but they are rather light and fluffy stuff--which is what I like in an audiobook. I also just listened to Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern, and have to admit it's really difficult sometimes the way she jumps around in time. I had to go and look up where this one fit timewise in relation to the others, as there were no familiar character names at all, only familiar place names.


Date Posted: 9/23/2009 9:12 PM ET
Member Since: 1/17/2009
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Oh yeah, The Black Magician trilogy is really good! I read her other trilogy but I dodn't like it quite as much. Also, the Path trilogy by Diana Pharaoh Francis was pretty good. The Black Jewels trilogy by Anne Bishop (starts with Daughter of the Blood). The Tamir trilogy by Lynn Flewelling (starts with The Bone Doll's Twin).
Date Posted: 9/24/2009 3:47 PM ET
Member Since: 2/24/2009
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I agree about the Black magician trilogy.  One of my favorites :)  Didn't care for her other trilogy.

Kate Elliott and Elizabeth Haydon also have fantasy series with mostly female lead.

Bowden P. (Trey) - ,
Subject: Fifth Millennium
Date Posted: 9/24/2009 4:11 PM ET
Member Since: 9/26/2006
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Saber and Shadow by SM Stirling and Shirley Meier http://www.paperbackswap.com/book/details/9780671721435-Saber+and+Shadow Shadow's Son http://www.paperbackswap.com/book/details/9780671720919-Shadows+Son+Fifth+Millennium The Cage http://www.paperbackswap.com/book/details/9780671698362-The+Cage+Fifth+Millenium+Bk+3 The Rose Sea http://www.paperbackswap.com/book/details/9780671876203-The+Rose+Sea
Subject: thanks
Date Posted: 9/24/2009 4:23 PM ET
Member Since: 5/26/2009
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Thanks again for all the responses. I will be sure to check them out. Happy reading to all!




Date Posted: 9/25/2009 10:14 AM ET
Member Since: 2/24/2009
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Currently reading Chronicles of Elantra by Michelle Sagara and there is a female heroine :)

Date Posted: 9/29/2009 11:56 PM ET
Member Since: 8/15/2009
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Check out all of the Sword and Sorceress anthologies edited by Marrion Zimmer Bradley.  Of course Bradley's Mists of Avalon is a classic.  I have worn out at least two copies of it.  Heinlin's Friday is one of my all time favorites.    Hm, I am digging through my memory. I seem to recall the Well of Souls series as being good, I believe it is written by Jack L. Chalker.  C. J. Cherryh writes some good stuff as well.  Holly Lisle and Andre Norton are two more.   Sharon Green, Tanith Lee.  I might dig up some more in a bit, but these are some of my all time favorites. 

Date Posted: 10/1/2009 12:01 PM ET
Member Since: 11/14/2005
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Oh, my goodness! I was just starting to clear out some of the series and sets that I was gathering to read, and just got my list down to 7 pages from 14! I knew I was missing some good newer stuff than I had been looking at. All the recommendations above sound so great, I'm just going to have to add them to my searches and my current 2700+ TBR room! hahahaha

I'm very partial to McCaffrey, Lackey, & MZB I plan to have read everything they ever wrote before I'm done at PBS! Tamora Pierce's books may be considered YA, but a lot of McCaffrey & Lackey's are too aren't they? Just good reading is all that matters to me. I love a female main character, but truly love anything Fantasy, Medieval, or low-tech. Tanith Lee was suggested, and I agree she is a very amicable writer. I'm looking forward to Britain's Green Rider series, and I like Bujold too.

Nothing new here in my post, just confirming good choices for you and admiring the new suggestions that I didn't have. I was just thinking of adding to my list since so many had started getting filled and crossed off. Nearly have them all either found or added to my WL, still have about 50-80 books or so to look up. I finally got tired of hoarding my credits and looking only for deals and bobs to get them and starting spending my credits to get what IS available and adding to my WL those that aren't.

I'm very greatful for the newly added authors & series, tho I didn't see much in the way of magic with females as main characters. I realize, it is most often a man, but I'd love to see some more listings of series/sets that deal greatly in magic, elves, and such, with a strong female character. She doesn't have to be THE main character, but strong ties to the story would be good (and a stong character for her, not the damzel in distress type  :)

ETA: I knew Anne McCaffrey used to have a link to someone that maintains a chronological & reading order of her books that she recommends, so I went to look see if it is still on her site. It is still listed in her FAQs and is very good for keeping track of where to start and where to go next, and very helpful in getting the books all on your shelf before starting to read them. I read all that was available 20 yrs ago, and now have to re-read a good deal to get caught up to the current books. But, I will probably wait to start reading to see how serious Todd, Anne's son, is about taking the World of Pern any further with his own writings. Anyway, here's your links:

11) Q: What is the chronological order of all Pern books?

A: Hans van der Boom has compiled a PDF reading order that you may download by clicking here. It’s updated through to Skies of Pern, but very comprehensive and will be useful to those who have been waiting so patiently for it to return. This should help!

Last Edited on: 10/1/09 12:14 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 10/1/2009 1:15 PM ET
Member Since: 7/19/2008
Posts: 15,485
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For new fantasy, I really like Lisa Shearin.  And Moira Moore is fun.  I didn't mention them as they don't feel medieval to me.

Date Posted: 10/2/2009 3:56 PM ET
Member Since: 3/1/2009
Posts: 26
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I have to second The Green Rider series if you like Lackey's Valdemar series you'd like it also. I am not-so-patiently waiting for the 3rd book in the series (WL'ed).