The best fantasy tales about women over 40

Why am I passionate about this?

I started writing a series about menopausal werewolves eleven years ago, right before my fiftieth birthday. I wanted to see more women like me in science fiction and fantasy: middle-aged and older women who had led full lives but were still up for more adventure, new worlds, eager to see what came next. I also started a bibliography project on older women protagonists in speculative fiction and began proposing and speaking on convention programming about older women in the genre. We’ve had a lot of great discussions and agree that the needle is slowly moving toward more and better representation. I’m thrilled to be a part of that.


I wrote...

Silver Moon: A Wolves of Wolf's Point Novel

By Catherine Lundoff,

Book cover of Silver Moon: A Wolves of Wolf's Point Novel

What is my book about?

Becca Thornton, divorced, middle-aged, and trying to embrace a quiet life, discovers that there are still plenty of surprises to be had when her menopause kicks in with bonus lycanthropy. And she's not the only one. The seemingly peaceful and dull town of Wolf's Point has its own all-female werewolf pack and Becca has just become its newest member. But it's not all protecting Wolf's Point, midnight meetings at the Women's Club and monthly runs through the woods. There are werewolf hunters in town and now they've got Becca and the Wolf's Point Pack in their sights.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Paladin of Souls

Catherine Lundoff Why did I love this book?

I think this was the first fantasy novel that I can remember reading that featured a middle-aged woman as the hero of her own story and it came along at just the right time in my life.

Add to that, the world building is some of Bujold’s best work and Ista is a marvelous character. This is someone who’s led a terrible sheltered life in many respects, some of it under a terrible curse, and yet here she is, planning and carrying out her own rescue.

The plot gives her lots of opportunity to grow as a character, providing a still comparatively rare depiction of a woman coming into her own at midlife in a fantasy genre often full of “blokes in cloaks.”

By Lois McMaster Bujold,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Paladin of Souls as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Lois McMaster Bujold has won the Hugo award four times, and the Nebula award twice. This is her second epic fantasy and the sequel to Curse of Chalion.

The Golden General's curse has been lifted from the royal family and Cazaril can now rest easy and enjoy his new life with his bride Betriz.

However, life for Ista, the Dowager Royina has not improved. With the death of her mother, the Provincara, and with her surviving child Iselle now ruling Chalion from the Capital Cardegross, she is left without purpose. Her brother's family still think she's mad and aim to…


Book cover of The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe

Catherine Lundoff Why did I love this book?

In a genre full of stories of almost infinite variety, this is one that caught my eye.

A middle-aged female professor of mathematics goes on a quest with her cat to track down a former student who is the only one who can save their world from destruction. Sounds cozy, doesn’t it? Except for the world-ending part.

And the fact that Vellitt’s path lies straight through a dreamscape out of the Lovecraftian mythos in this critique/homage to H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. But you don’t have to have read the latter to enjoy the journey.

Vellitt is a marvelous character, the world-building is brilliant and the cat is the perfect addition that helps set the tone for a new and different kind of quest fantasy.

By Kij Johnson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

World Fantasy Award winner, Hugo, Nebula, John W. Campbell, and Locus Award finalist for Best Novella, and one of NPR's Best Books of 2016

Professor Vellitt Boe teaches at the prestigious Ulthar Women’s College. When one of her most gifted students elopes with a dreamer from the waking world, Vellitt must retrieve her.
d"Kij Johnson's haunting novella The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe is both a commentary on a classic H.P. Lovecraft tale and a profound reflection on a woman's life. Vellitt's quest to find a former student who may be the only person who can save her community takes her…


Book cover of City of Blades

Catherine Lundoff Why did I love this book?

General Turyin Mulaghesh is on the brink of retiring to her long dreamt of remote island post where she can lay around on a beach, getting happily drunk with a beautiful young man or two and do as little as possible.

But she’s a legendary hero of the Saypuri Republic, or perhaps a war criminal, depending on which side of the many battles that she’s fought you were on. So instead, she gets pushed into one last mission, one that has her confronting the deeds of her past and, possibly, getting a shot at redemption.

She is cynical and sweary and has done terrible things, as well as good ones and, at least for me, is one of the most relatable older women in fantasy. 

By Robert Jackson Bennett,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A triumphant return to the world of City of Stairs.
 
A generation ago, the city of Voortyashtan was the stronghold of the god of war and death, the birthplace of fearsome supernatural sentinels who killed and subjugated millions.
 
Now, the city’s god is dead. The city itself lies in ruins. And to its new military occupiers, the once-powerful capital is a wasteland of sectarian violence and bloody uprisings.
 
So it makes perfect sense that General Turyin Mulaghesh— foul-mouthed hero of the battle of Bulikov, rumored war criminal, ally of an embattled Prime Minister—has been exiled there to count down the…


Book cover of Larque on the Wing

Catherine Lundoff Why did I love this book?

Larque is an unusual and sympathetic protagonist. She’s a wife, mother, and moderately successful businesswoman, but thinks of herself as a failed artist.

She also has the ability to create doppelgangers, temporary doubles of the people in her life. But this time, they’re a lot less temporary. Sky is her ten-year-old self, rebellious and contemptuous of the choices her adult self has made, and Lark is a young gay man dealing with life in the early 1990s.

And Larque is both of them, as well as herself and the menacing Virtuous Woman who lurks in the background, waiting for her chance to take over Larque’s life. It makes for a wild midlife crisis in which Larque has to decide who she wants to be and what she wants for her creations.

By Nancy Springer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Larque on the Wing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Larque creates temporary people from nothing, which does not become a problem until a ten-year-old version of herself leads her on a search for lost dreams and she returns stronger, braver--and male


Book cover of The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi

Catherine Lundoff Why did I love this book?

How can I not wrap up this list with my latest discovery, namely a novel about a devout Muslim female pirate who successfully retires, raises a family…and gets pulled back into her former life for one last adventure?

It’s got a swashbuckling middle-aged heroine, adventure, a fantasy heist, a chosen family, and splendid worldbuilding so really, what more could I ask for from a book that I didn’t write? I should note that unlike the other books I’ve included, this one is the first book in a trilogy, so if you like it, there’s more ahead!

By Shannon Chakraborty,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A thrilling, transportative adventure that is everything promised–Chakraborty's storytelling is fantasy at its best." -- R.F. Kuang, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Babel and The Poppy War

"An exhilarating, propulsive adventure, stitched from the threads of real history, Amina’s adventures are the reason to read fantasy." -- Ava Reid, internationally bestselling author of Juniper & Thorn

Shannon Chakraborty, the bestselling author of The City of Brass, spins a new trilogy of magic and mayhem on the high seas in this tale of pirates and sorcerers, forbidden artifacts and ancient mysteries, in one woman’s determined quest to seize a…


You might also like...

Love, Sex, and Other Calamities: 15 Stories and a Poem by Ralph Hickok

By Ralph Hickok,

Book cover of Love, Sex, and Other Calamities: 15 Stories and a Poem by Ralph Hickok

Ralph Hickok Author Of Vagabond Halfback: The Saga of Johnny Blood McNally

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in Green Bay and my dad was the official scorer for the Packers, so I was immersed in pro football history even as a child. During my careers as a newspaper feature writer and editor and as an advertising copywriter, I also became a sports historian. My magnum opus was “The Encyclopedia of North American Sports History,” 650,000 words. But my favorite by far is my biography of Johnny Blood. I was 12 or 13 when I decided I wanted to write it, 33 when I began working on it, 38 when I finished it, and 78 when it was finally published.

Ralph's book list on the history of pro football

What is my book about?

From Kirkus Reviews: "This debut short-story collection paints the wistful life of a newspaper journalist as seen through his sexual and romantic encounters...

Throughout, Hickok writes in an assured style, pulling readers along. The narrow sexual focus results in a distorted picture, yet other aspects of Art's life emerge at the edges—his intelligence, his career as a journalist, and even the sincerity with which he gives in to his male urges and construes sex as love... 

Subdued yet alluring; a pensive reflection on the male psyche."

Love, Sex, and Other Calamities: 15 Stories and a Poem by Ralph Hickok

By Ralph Hickok,

What is this book about?

A man arrives in a new city, hoping to start a new life, but he’s still haunted by memories of past loves…
A 12-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl have a brief romantic encounter when their families are vacationing in neighboring lakeside cottages…
Two teenagers enjoy sexual experimentation when she babysits for her little brother while her parents are out drinking…
A high school boy has a crush on an older woman who identifies with Molly Bloom…
A college freshman falls in love with a high school freshman and is amazed at the depths of her passion…
A guy wins…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in gay men, Pirates, and war crimes?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about gay men, Pirates, and war crimes.

Gay Men Explore 120 books about gay men
Pirates Explore 86 books about Pirates
War Crimes Explore 17 books about war crimes