On the Fantasy-Faction – Fantasy Book Discussion Facebook page today a gentleman asked for recommendations on what people regarded as the best fantasy written by female authors. Since I started reading fantasy in 2012 I have read many incredible books and series by extremely talented female authors and have decided to compile this list of fourteen authors I recommend and which of their books to check out first. I’m not restricting this list to just grimdark and dark fantasy so I will add genre tags to each of the authors so readers can decide if any of these books sound like their cup of tea. I’m aware that there are many amazing female authors that I haven’t included here so if you have read any that you’d like to recommend then, by all means, let us know in the comments.
Melissa Caruso – The Tethered Mage (Swords & Fire #1)
Tags: Fantasy, YA, Politics, Magic
In the Raverran Empire, magic is scarce and those born with power are strictly controlled — taken as children and conscripted into the Falcon Army.
Zaira has lived her life on the streets to avoid this fate, hiding her mage-mark and thieving to survive. But hers is a rare and dangerous magic, one that threatens the entire empire.
Lady Amalia Cornaro was never meant to be a Falconer. Heiress and scholar, she was born into a treacherous world of political machinations. But fate has bound the heir and the mage.
War looms on the horizon. A single spark could turn their city into a pyre.
Fonda Lee – Jade City (The Green Bone Saga #1)
Tags: Fantasy, Adult, Urban Fantasy, Politics, Magic
Magical jade—mined, traded, stolen, and killed for—is the lifeblood of the island of Kekon. For centuries, honorable Green Bone warriors like the Kaul family have used it to enhance their abilities and defend the island from foreign invasion.
Now the war is over and a new generation of Kauls vies for control of Kekon’s bustling capital city. They care about nothing but protecting their own, cornering the jade market, and defending the districts under their protection. Ancient tradition has little place in this rapidly changing nation.
When a powerful new drug emerges that lets anyone—even foreigners—wield jade, the simmering tension between the Kauls and the rival Ayt family erupts into open violence. The outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones—from their grandest patriarch to the lowliest motorcycle runner on the streets—and of Kekon itself.
Jade City begins an epic tale of family, honor, and those who live and die by the ancient laws of jade and blood.
Robin Hobb – Assassin’s Apprentice (The Farseer Trilogy #1)
Tags: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, High Fantasy, Magic, Animals, Assassins
Fitz is a royal bastard, cast out into the world with only his magical link with animals for solace and companionship.
But when Fitz is adopted into the royal household, he must give up his old ways and learn a new life: weaponry, scribing, courtly manners; and how to kill a man secretly. Meanwhile, raiders ravage the coasts, leaving the people Forged and soulless. As Fitz grows towards manhood, he will have to face his first terrifying mission, a task that poses as much a risk to himself as it does to his target: Fitz is a threat to the throne… but he may also be the key to the future of the kingdom.
Anna Smith Spark – The Court of Broken Knives (Empires of Dust #1)
Tags: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Grimdark, High Fantasy, Adult, Dragons
They’ve finally looked at the graveyard of our Empire with open eyes. They’re fools and madmen and like the art of war. And their children go hungry while we piss gold and jewels into the dust.
In the richest empire the world has ever known, the city of Sorlost has always stood, eternal and unconquered. But in a city of dreams governed by an imposturous Emperor, decadence has become the true ruler, and has blinded its inhabitants to their vulnerability. The empire is on the verge of invasion – and only one man can see it.
Haunted by dreams of the empire’s demise, Orhan Emmereth has decided to act. On his orders, a company of soldiers cross the desert to reach the city. Once they enter the Palace, they have one mission: kill the Emperor, then all those who remain. Only from ashes can a new empire be built.
The company is a group of good, ordinary soldiers, for whom this is a mission like any other. But the strange boy Marith who walks among them is no ordinary soldier. Marching on Sorlost, Marith thinks he is running away from the past which haunts him. But in the Golden City, his destiny awaits him – beautiful, bloody, and more terrible than anyone could have foreseen.
R. F. Kuang – The Poppy War (The Poppy War #1)
Tags: Fantasy, Adult, Epic Fantasy, Magic, Grimdark
When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.
But surprises aren’t always good.
Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.
For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .
Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.
Sam Hawke – City of Lies (Poison Wars #1)
Tags: Fantasy, Adult, Grimdark
I was seven years old the first time my uncle poisoned me…
Outwardly, Jovan is the lifelong friend of the Chancellor’s charming, irresponsible Heir. Quiet. Forgettable. In secret, he’s a master of poisons and chemicals, trained to protect the Chancellor’s family from treachery. When the Chancellor succumbs to an unknown poison and an army lays siege to the city, Jovan and his sister Kalina must protect the Heir and save their city-state.
But treachery lurks in every corner, and the ancient spirits of the land are rising…and angry.
Winner of the 2018 Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Novel, the 2018 Ditmar Award for Best Novel and the 2018 Norma K Hemming Award (for works exploring issues of gender, disability, race or class).
Tamsyn Muir – Gideon the Ninth (The Locked Tomb #1)
Tags: Fantasy, Science Fiction, LGBT > Queer, Horror, Adult, Mystery
Gideon the Ninth is the most fun you’ll ever have with a skeleton.
The Emperor needs necromancers.
The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.
Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bullshit.
Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Her characters leap off the page, as skillfully animated as necromantic skeletons. The result is a heart-pounding epic science fantasy.
Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.
Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.
Of course, some things are better left dead.
Samantha Shannon – The Priory of the Orange Tree
Tags: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Adult, Dragons, Magic
A world divided.
A queendom without an heir.
An ancient enemy awakens.
The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction—but assassins are getting closer to her door.
Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.
Across the dark sea, Tané has trained all her life to be a dragonrider, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.
Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.
Sarah Kozloff – A Queen in Hiding (The Nine Realms #1)
Tags: Fantasy, Adult, Epic Fantasy, High Fantasy, Magic
Orphaned, exiled and hunted, Cérulia, Princess of Weirandale, must master the magic that is her birthright, become a ruthless guerilla fighter, and transform into the queen she is destined to be.
But to do it she must win the favor of the spirits who play in mortal affairs, assemble an unlikely group of rebels, and wrest the throne from a corrupt aristocracy whose rot has spread throughout her kingdom.
J. A. Andrews – A Threat of Shadows (The Keeper Chronicles #1)
Tags: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Adventure, Magic
Do some choices change us too much for us to ever change back?
There was a time when Alaric was a Keeper, one of the men entrusted with counseling the queen, protecting the people’s histories and ancient stories, and working magic in defense of the land.
But in a desperate attempt to save his dying wife, he has sacrificed it all— abandoning his duties, betraying his deepest beliefs and falling ever deeper into darkness.
So far, he has done nothing but fail, and his wife’s time is growing short.
Now, haunted by his past, Alaric has found one last chance at a cure, hidden in a magical Wellstone buried a century ago. With the help of a handful of quirky companions, the stone—and the cure—are finally within his grasp.
But he’s not the only one searching for the Wellstone.
His quest grows more perilous as he discovers that his companions are harboring dangerous secrets their own. It becomes almost impossible when he unearths rumors of a gathering shadow threatening the land—whispering of the return of a dark lord, thought to be defeated.
To face this enemy, and have any chance of saving his wife, Alaric needs to be the Keeper he used to be, not the broken man he has become.
Can he put the failures and pain of his past behind him to stand against the approaching threat? Or, in the face of all the growing shadows, will it be the darkness within himself that destroys everything?
M.L. Spencer – Darkmage (The Rhenwars Saga #1)
Tags: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Grimdark, Magic
The hope of the world rests in the hands of a Darkmage.
The Well of Tears is open and the terror of the night has been unleashed. Now, the last Sentinel left alive with the power to defend his world against the minions of the Netherworld is a man destined to be corrupted into the image of what he hates. In the name of duty, Darien Lauchlin will see oaths forsaken, crowns toppled, friends sacrificed and the land he loves desecrated. For there is a very thin line between duty… and brutal inhumanity.
Tasha Suri – Empire of Sand (The Books of Ambha #1)
Tags: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Romance, Adult, Young Adult
A nobleman’s daughter with magic in her blood. An empire built on the dreams of enslaved gods. Empire of Sand is Tasha Suri’s captivating, Mughal India-inspired debut fantasy.
The Amrithi are outcasts; nomads descended of desert spirits, they are coveted and persecuted throughout the Empire for the power in their blood. Mehr is the illegitimate daughter of an imperial governor and an exiled Amrithi mother she can barely remember, but whose face and magic she has inherited.
When Mehr’s power comes to the attention of the Emperor’s most feared mystics, she must use every ounce of will, subtlety, and power she possesses to resist their cruel agenda.
Should she fail, the gods themselves may awaken seeking vengeance…
Empire of Sand is a lush, dazzling fantasy novel perfect for readers of City of Brass and The Wrath & the Dawn.
Jenn Lyons – The Ruin of Kings (A Chorus of Dragons #1)
Tags: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Adult, Dragons
Kihrin is a bastard orphan who grew up on storybook tales of long-lost princes and grand quests. When he is claimed against his will as the long-lost son of a treasonous prince, Kihrin finds that being a long-lost prince isn’t what the storybooks promised.
Far from living the dream, Kihrin finds himself practically a prisoner, at the mercy of his new family’s power plays and ambitions. He also discovers that the storybooks have lied about a lot of other things too: dragons, demons, gods, prophecies, true love, and how the hero always wins.
Then again, maybe he’s not the hero, for Kihrin is not destined to save the empire.
He’s destined to destroy it.
Rena Rossner – The Sisters of the Winter Woods
Tags: Fantasy, Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Adult
Raised in a small village surrounded by vast forests, Liba and Laya have lived a peaceful sheltered life – even if they’ve heard of troubling times for Jews elsewhere. When their parents travel to visit their dying grandfather, the sisters are left behind in their home in the woods.
But before they leave, Liba discovers the secret that their Tati can transform into a bear, and their Mami into a swan. Perhaps, Liba realizes, the old fairy tales are true. She must guard this secret carefully, even from her beloved sister.
Soon a troupe of mysterious men appear in town and Laya falls under their spell-despite their mother’s warning to be wary of strangers. And these are not the only dangers lurking in the woods…
The sisters will need each other if they are to become the women they need to be – and save their people from the dark forces that draw closer.