The best fantasy series starters that bring out the heroine in you

Why am I passionate about this?

I can’t lay claim to expertise in the fantasy genre, but I am passionate about it! My best friend introduced me to fantasy a few years ago, and my life has never been the same. As a nerdy kid, I read high-brow books like Wuthering Heights and War & Peace, but it wasn’t until I started reading, writing, and watching fantasy stories like LOTR that my imagination really ignited. I’m a woman with picky tastes, so finding a good story that I can relate to is an ongoing and satisfying quest. Most importantly, if I can make even one person’s day brighter with my own writing, it’s all worth it.

I wrote...


By Autumn Stevens,

Book cover of Faelaw

What is my book about?

A personal tragedy thrust her into a mystical realm. Will this bewildered mortal find her purpose by saving its people from destruction? Gwen Findlay is emotionally spent. After losing her last living family member on her birthday, the heartbroken young woman breaks down in her beloved aunt’s home. But in the midst of her tidal wave of grief, she’s transported to a magical world—and into the bloodthirsty jaws of a sea bear.

As her destiny unfolds, will she survive the cruel trials ahead? Faelaw is the wholesome first book in the Faelaw Chronicles epic fantasy series. If you like resilient heroines, crackling chemistry, and action-packed quests, then you’ll love this modern twist on a classic tale.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Sabriel

Autumn Stevens Why did I love this book?

Sabriel was one of the first fantasy novels I picked up and read. In my early search, I found it difficult to find good fantasy stories that featured female heroines both realistically and respectfully. That’s why I was so delighted when I found this book.

Sabriel is the 18-year-old daughter of the Abhorsen, and she’s called to an epic quest filled with strange magics and deathly dangers. I like that she has lots of help along the way, besides being a necromancer herself who’s following in her father’s footsteps.

Personally, I don’t like my book heroes to come pre-packaged and the best at all the things without having to work for it. Sabriel must work hard, overcome considerable odds, and lean on her companions to win the day. Good stuff!

By Garth Nix,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Sabriel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

A stunning anniversary gift edition of the second in the bestselling Old Kingdom fantasy series.

Sabriel has spent most of her young life far away from the magical realm of the Old Kingdom, and the Dead that roam it. But then a creature from across the Wall arrives at her all-girls boarding school with a message from her father, the Abhorsen - the magical protector of the realm whose task it is to bind and send back to Death those that won't stay Dead. Sabriel's father has been trapped in Death by a dangerous Free Magic creature.

Armed with her…

Book cover of Returning: Mira's Return, Book 1

Autumn Stevens Why did I love this book?

Returning was a short and sweet read that I happened on by chance. It’s a prequel novella about a siren who’s searching for her very own ‘The One’. With a romance story at its heart and an edgy tone, it’s a fast-paced urban fantasy that I ate up in a couple of days.

I liked the worldbuilding, the crisp dialogue, and the intriguing premise. The book is a little old-fashioned in theme, but oh-so-satisfying in a nostalgic way as you hustle to survive and fall in love right alongside Mira, the main character of Returning.

I’m giving it bonus points because it’s set, in part, in Canada, which is where I’m from. Any time I see even a smidge of my beautiful home country in fiction, it makes my heart smile.

By A.L. Knorr,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Returning as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

Mira is a mermaid on a mission.

It’s time to leave the ocean. Mira Belshaw has been at sea for… well, she doesn’t know how many years. It’s hard to keep track of time when you live in the ocean. But after enough time, the salt water triggers the desire to procreate, and her time is up.

For weeks, she’s been swimming north. Finding a mate is the most important thing to her right now, and to do that, she has to return to the place where she was last human - the coastal city of Saltford.

Equipped with everything…

Book cover of River of Shadows

Autumn Stevens Why did I love this book?

River of Shadows is a romance-leaning fantasy series starter, but here, the quest story comes first. It’s a fairy tale retelling with a bit of everything: a Beauty & The Beast arc, Hades & Persephone vibes, morbid humor, steamy scenes featuring the hapless Hanna and the God of Death… I could go on!

It’s an adult dark fantasy with horror elements that’s also chock-full of humor, mixing the tragic with the comic in an artful way. What’s not to love?

I will admit, Halle could have made her heroine a little less Mary-Sue, but we can forgive her that because the wondrous worldbuilding, plot, and varied characters more than make up for it. It was fun to read, making me LOL with every turn of the page.

By Karina Halle,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked River of Shadows as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In order to save my father, I have to marry the God of Death.

River of Shadows is a spicy, captivating, and atmospheric adult dark fantasy romance inspired by Finnish mythology, from the New York Times bestselling author of Black Sunshine. Perfect for those who want Hades/Persephone and Beauty and the Beast vibes with a dark Nordic folklore twist.

When 24-year old Hanna Heikkinen's estranged father dies, she reluctantly makes the trip to Northern Finland for his funeral. Being in the enchanting land of ice and snow feels miles away from Hanna's busy life back in Los Angeles, especially under…

Book cover of Beautiful Demons

Autumn Stevens Why did I love this book?

This story starts with Harper getting kicked out of a foster home before being sent off to the spooky Shadowford Home for Girls in the fictional town of Peachville, Georgia. Things go from bad to worse when a local cheerleader is found dead, and Harper gets sucked into a small-town mystery.

The book reads like a paranormal detective story, with a touch of romance. Harper is no P.I., but she is magic, and the twin mysteries of her origins and the town’s history dovetail nicely as the story progresses.

I particularly sympathized with the heroine’s plight as an outsider at a new school, something I’ve experienced many a time myself. The good thing about it is, it makes for some moving storytelling.

By Sarra Cannon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Beautiful Demons as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Harper Madison isn't like other girls. She has extraordinary powers, but her inability to control them has gotten her kicked from so many foster homes she's lost count. Shadowford Home for Girls is her last chance, and she hopes Peachville High will be the fresh start she needs.

At first, life appears to be looking up for Harper. She's making new friends and is strangely drawn to the guy next door. But when evidence ties her to the gruesome murder of a Demons cheerleader, Harper discovers this small town has a big secret.

Beautiful Demons is a fast-paced YA novel…

Book cover of The Queen of Blood

Autumn Stevens Why did I love this book?

This book is right up there with Sabriel as one of the first female-led fantasy books I read and loved. It’s an epic fantasy for adults, but I can see younger readers enjoying it, too. It’s wholesome and optimistic, with vivid descriptions of the natural world.

Daleina is an academy student learning elemental magic. She partners with Ven, a former champion, to save the land of Renthia from spirits bent on cleansing the land of humans. As you might imagine, that’s no simple feat.

This book resonated with me because I’m a nature child at heart. (Some might say a wild child… LOL). There is a sparkling magic in the great outdoors, and this book captures it beautifully.

By Sarah Beth Durst,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Queen of Blood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of a 2017 ALA Alex Award! A Best of 2016 pick! Set in the magical world of Renthia, The Queen of Blood is Sarah Beth Durst's ambitious entry into adult epic fantasy. With the danger of Peter Brett's The Warded Man, heart of Naomi Novik's Uprooted, and lyricism of Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind, this is the first chapter in a series destined to be a classic. Everything has a spirit: the willow tree with leaves that kiss the pond, the stream that feeds the river, the wind that exhales fresh snow ...But the spirits that…

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Ballad for Jasmine Town

By Molly Ringle,

Book cover of Ballad for Jasmine Town

Molly Ringle Author Of Sage and King

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Novelist Editor Sociolinguist HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) Good witch

Molly's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

A human child raised by the fae is an uncommon thing. But Rafi was such a child.

Now grown, half-fae but mortal, he lingers on the edge of human society in Miryoku, a nearby town sharing a border with fae territory. He doesn’t want to join the human world properly; he just wants to play music with a local cover band and avoid the cruelest members of his fae family.

Then, he meets Roxana, and his world shifts. She’s a human metalworking witch, up for a friendly fling with Rafi before she and her twelve-year-old daughter move away from Miryoku…

Ballad for Jasmine Town

By Molly Ringle,

What is this book about?

A law-abiding metalworking witch and a form-shifting half-fae musician embark on a secret romance, but soon become caught in escalating tensions between fae and humans that threaten their hometown. The second story after the popular Lava Red Feather Blue comes alive in Ballad for Jasmine Town.

The town of Miryoku has ocean views, fragrant jasmine vines, and a thriving arts scene, including a popular nineties cover band. It also sits on the verge, sharing a border with fae territory, a realm of both enchantments and dangers.

Rafi has been unusual all his life: a human born to a fae mother,…

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