There are so many different reasons to love books, but one of my very favorites is their ability to use the power of storytelling to take you on incredible adventures. I'm always on the look out for new reads that do just that, which is why I was excited to find these empowering fantasy novels starring women. Published within the last year, each one isn't just merely entertaining, but inspirational, too.
When it comes to book characters, females have the capability to kick ass in every genre, but fantasy makes it particularly easy for them to slay, one inspiring adventure at a time. Featuring supernatural spectacles, fantastical feats, and plenty of magic and mythology, fantasy novels are chock full of opportunities for girls and women to become true heroines in the face of danger and in spite of gender expectations.
By nature, fantasy includes complex characters that go beyond the typical one-dimensional women so often inked onto the page. The genre is known for taking a deep-dive into its protagonists psyches to explore the many different thoughts, motivations, and beliefs that drive them. When that character happens to be a girl or a woman, the resulting story has the opportunity to truly empower readers by showing them all the incredible things females can do, think, and feel.
From new young adult series to stand alone adult adventures, here are 13 empowering fantasy novels starring women from the last year. Get ready to be inspired.
'Caraval' by Stephanie Garber
In Stephanie Garber's stunning debut, one young woman gets swept up in a game of magic, love, and heartbreak that could have dangerous consequences for the person she loves more than anything else: her sister. Featuring wonder and fantasy in the same vein of The Night Circus and staring an unforgettable heroine, Caraval is an imaginative and captivating novel that proves when family is on the line, there is no telling what a woman will do to keep her loved ones safe.
'All the Birds in the Sky' by Charlie Jane Anders
With the world on the brink of an apocalypse, what has the power to save humanity, science or magic? Charlie Jane Anders's novel searches for the answer while telling the story of Laurence and Patricia, two childhood best friends who were racing to prevent total world annihilation on their own before they were drawn back together by forces beyond either of their control. An inventive story about magic, technology, fate, and friendship, All the Birds in the Sky is only made better by protagonist Patricia, who shines through as a relatable character that inspires readers to follow their hearts.
'Den of Wolves' by Juliet Marillier
In the latest installment of the Blackthorn & Grim series, our heroine, magical Healer Blackthorn and her companion are faced with new challenges, deadly secrets, and old enemies in another adventure set in medieval Ireland. Like the two novels before it, Den of Wolves proves that, no matter what struggles Blackthorn faces, the woman has the power to prevail.
'The Burning Page' by Genevieve Cogman
In Genevieve Cogman's imaginative fantasy novels, our heroine, Irene, takes a particularly geeky (albeit bad ass) form of a librarian spy. The Burning Page, the series' third installment, has Irene on a magical mission on the back of her dragon assistant, Kai, to St. Petersburg's Winter Palace, where she hopes to find the key to restoring the Invisible Library and saving the universe as we know it. Funny, exciting, and oh-so-inspiring, this is the kind of fantasy novel that will have female readers everywhere gearing up for their own adventure.
'A Torch Against the Night' by Sabaa Tahir
In this second stunning installment of Sabaa Tahir's An Ember in the Ashes series, fugitives Elias and Laia are on the run from Martial soldiers who chase them through the heart of the Empire on their mission to rescue Laia's brother from a dangerous prison. Braver and more confident than before, the book's heroine Laia continues to grow in this sequel while she fights for herself, her people, and her family. A Torch Against the Night is a thrilling, action-packed follow-up that will show readers exactly what young women are capable of achieving, when they truly start to believe in themselves.
'Vassa in the Night' by Sarah Porter
In this modern fairy tale, Brooklyn is an enchanted kingdom, enchanted wooden dolls can talk, and shoplifting can cost you your life. Vassa in the Night, a dark and modern retelling of a Russian fairy tale, follows 16-year-old Vassa on an adventure that starts with a trip to the store to get lightbulbs and quickly turns into a quest to save her neighborhood from dark magic. Starring a cynical yet fearless young heroine whose self reliance and bravery get her through each daring feat, Vassa in the Night is a must-read for fantasy fans looking for a fun story and inspiring characters.
'Fire Touched' by Patricia Briggs
In her ninth urban fantasy adventure, coyote shapeshifter Mercy Thompson proves once again how kick ass women can be, especially when they have a little bit of magic on their side. The tension between humans and the fae run high in Fire Touched, but Mercy and her mate just may have found a secret weapon that can stop an impending war: a human child stolen by the fae. If Mercy and her pack can protect him, they just might be able to protect the entire human race.
"The Obelisk Gate" by N. K. Jemisin
In this powerful follow-up to The Fifth Season, award-winning sci-fi and fantasy author N. K. Jemisin brings readers back to the world of Stillness, where our heroine, Essun, is fighting against the clock to learn all she can about her lover and trainer Alabaster's plan to restore the world and end the deadly cycle of the Seasons. When she isn't busy trying to save civilization, Essun is warding off threats to her world, or searching for her daughter who has incredible orogenic power of her own. An accomplished addition to an outstanding trilogy in the making, The Obelisk Gate is an exciting and empowering read about love, faith, and fighting for our children.
'The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe' by Kij Johnson
A modern spin on the classic H. P. Lovecraft tale, Kij Jonson's The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe stars a heroine whose wit, guts, and heart get her through a dangerous dreamland. When one of her students elopes with a dreamer and is taken from the waking world, professor Vellitt Boe risks everything to bring her back and save their town. Rich with dreamy details and overflowing with a mix of horror and wonder, The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe is an empowering story with an ending you won't soon forget.
'A Court of Mist and Fury' by Sarah J. Maas
In Sarah J. Maas's bestselling series, empowering female fantasy heroes take center stage. A Court of Mist and Fury continues Feyre's adventures as she learns to use her High Fae powers to stop a great evil from tearing down everything in her world. Even stronger and even more powerful than in the previous story, Feyre continues to inspire readers to shape their own futures.
'The Rose & the Dagger' by Renee Ahdieh
Is there anything more empowering than the fight for true love? In The Rose & the Dagger, one courageous and inspired young woman, Shazi, sets out on her own to not only stop a curse that threatens those she loves, but prevent a war that could tear her world apart. In this remarkable sequel to The Wrath and the Dawn, Renée Ahdieh's bestseller shows readers just how far a young woman will go to protect her beloved husband, her family, and herself.
'A Shadow Bright and Burning' by Jessica Cluess
Set in Victorian England, A Shadow Bright and Burning follows a young woman on her journey to becoming a powerful sorcerer. Henrietta Howel, who has the ability to burst into flames, is unlike the other sorcerer trainees at her school, and she wonders if she is the one they prophecy talks about. As she starts to learn more about the magical world around her, she begins to question everything she thought she knew, but the great battle threatening to tear apart her city forces Henrietta to find out who she is and what she's willing to fight for. In this story about the powers of virtue and evil, fate and choice, Henrietta stands as a complex and empowering force for good.