The best sci-fi/fantasy books featuring fierce warrior women

Who am I?

I grew up in Texas during a time when girls still had to wear poofy dresses and pantyhose, and boys got to have all the fun. The whole idea of traditional womanhood never fit me. It took a long time, but I finally reconciled with the fact that being able to run in heels and pop a grackle off the birdfeeder from thirty yards out are not mutually exclusive: a skill is a skill, and the injection of some femininity into a traditionally masculine feat can be wildly refreshing. We’ve only just begun to explore the genre of the fierce warrior woman—mine is merely one of infinite definitions.   

I wrote...


By Shae Ford,

Book cover of Harbinger

What is my book about?

A long and bloody rebellion wracked the six united regions of the Kingdom. Now the new King wields the vast and unvanquished army of Midlan and has granted a small group of thugs unbridled rule over the other regions. The King has also outlawed the practice of whispering—which is a problem for Kael.

It’s not like he asked to be born a whisperer. When he rescues a wounded girl from the perils of the Unforgivable Mountains, his luck only gets worse. She couldn’t have been just any girl: she had to be Kyleigh—the sword-wielding renegade knight with all of Midlan on her trail. She leads him on one mad quest after the next—eventually pulling off an act of such mischievous proportions that it threatens to change the Kingdom as they know it.
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Gearbreakers

Shae Ford Why did I love this book?

There are actually two undeniably kickass women in this book: one is the perfect hybrid of humanity and technology created to pilot gargantuan killing machines, while the other is a foul-mouthed outlaw who routinely climbs inside these machines and blows them the heck up. You can imagine the chaos that ensues when these women finally join forces and set their sights on destroying the oppressive supercity of Godolia—along with its vast army of terrifying mecha gods. I was delighted by this book for a number of reasons, not the least of which being its many bloody battle scenes and its cast of endearing characters. The tenuous relationship between Sona the Pilot and Eris the Gearbreaker kept me on edge until the very end. This is an impressive debut novel from a talented young writer, and I am looking forward to the next installment.  

By Zoe Hana Mikuta,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Two girls on opposite sides of a war discover they're fighting for a common purpose—and falling for each other—in Zoe Hana Mikuta's high-octane debut Gearbreakers, perfect for fans of Pacific Rim, Pierce Brown's Red Rising Saga, and Marie Lu's Legend series.

We went past praying to deities and started to build them instead...

The shadow of Godolia's tyrannical rule is spreading, aided by their giant mechanized weapons known as Windups. War and oppression are everyday constants for the people of the Badlands, who live under the thumb of their cruel Godolia overlords.

Eris Shindanai is a Gearbreaker, a brash young…

Book cover of Sabriel

Shae Ford Why did I love this book?

One of my all-time favorites, Sabriel follows the story of a young necromancer as she battles the forces of the underworld to save the Old Kingdom from a looming darkness. When her father is attacked by an evil spirit and trapped in death, Sabriel becomes the next Abhorsen—and must take up the grisly task of putting the undead to rest. I have read this book so many times that I’m surprised the pages haven’t fallen out of the spine. The world is darkly immersive, and the magic system is fantastic. Sabriel’s bravery in the face of unimaginable evil is something that resonated with me even at an early age. I think reading this book was probably the first time I was exposed to a heroine of warrior caliber, and its message has certainly stood the test of time.

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 Gideon the Ninth

Shae Ford Why did I love this book?

I honestly can’t remember when I’ve laughed so hard reading a book! I don’t read a lot of space-themed stories, but this one had me hooked from the first sentence. The story begins when Gideon Nav (accomplished swordswoman/lovable jackass) and Lady Harrowhark (wickedly good necromancer/mildly psychotic ruler of The Ninth) are summoned off-planet by the mysterious Emperor of The First. Gideon and Harrow soon find themselves trapped in the Emperor’s decrepit mansion, along with the rulers and cavaliers of the other eight houses, and forced to compete for a chance to claim immortality. The story is a well-crafted mystery set in a darkly wrought, necromantic universe—and the fact that Gideon and Harrow absolutely hate each other adds a great deal of humor (and foul-mouthedness) to their attempts to escape the Emperor’s haunted palace.

By Tamsyn Muir,

Why should I read it?

21 authors picked Gideon the Ninth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

15+ pages of new, original content, including a glossary of terms, in-universe writings, and more!

A USA Today Best-Selling Novel!

"Unlike anything I've ever read. " --V.E. Schwab

"Lesbian necromancers explore a haunted gothic palace in space!" --Charles Stross

"Brilliantly original, messy and weird straight through." --NPR

The Emperor needs necromancers.

The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.

Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead nonsense.

Tamsyn Muir's Gideon the Ninth, first in The Locked Tomb Trilogy, unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Her characters leap off the page, as…

Book cover of The Guns Above

Shae Ford Why did I love this book?

This novel begins in the fiery aftermath of a gruesome airship battle—and it only gets better from there. Our heroine, Josette, is a scrappy, hardworking airship captain who must contend with the undermining efforts of the fleet’s dubious general and his spies, all while fighting *actual* battles against an enemy that wants to blow her crew out of the sky. What really captured my attention about this book was the incredible descriptive voice displayed by the author: from the gory battle scenes to the complex inner workings of an airship, this is a truly immersive adventure. Josette is a smart, relatable heroine who pulls no punches and doesn’t let herself get sucked into the political minutiae, which keeps the story moving at a good clip. 

By Robyn Bennis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

They say it's not the fall that kills you.

For Josette Dupre, the Corps first female airship captain, it might just be a bullet in the back.

On top of patrolling the front lines, she must also contend with a crew who doubts her expertise, a new airship that is an untested deathtrap, and the foppish aristocrat Lord Bernat, a gambler and shameless flirt with the military know-how of a thimble. He's also been assigned to her ship to catalog her every moment of weakness and indecision.

When the enemy makes an unprecedented move that could turn the tide of…

Book cover of The Witches of Eileanan

Shae Ford Why did I love this book?

Another 90’s throwback, The Witches of Eileanan is the first in a six-book series featuring a slew of warrior women. Our heroine, Isabeau, is a young witch who has spent most of her life in seclusion—honing her skills while trying to remain hidden in a world where witchcraft is outlawed. Shortly after her sixteenth birthday, Isabeau is forced to abandon the safety of her home and embark on a quest to save her kingdom from dark forces. She meets many fellow warrior women along the way, all of whom are rendered in glorious, unabashed badassness that was truly revolutionary in its day. While this series is undeniably a trailblazer in the realm of heroine-centric fantasy, and certainly an excellent read for anyone on the hunt for fierce warrior women, I do want to warn potential readers that there are a few instances where female characters suffer sexual abuse. The casualness with which these instances are transcribed is jarring, and truly an unfortunate relic of old epic fantasy.

By Kate Forsyth,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Named Best First Novel by Locus

'Twas a time when dragons left their lair and evil shadowed the land....

On the Day of Reckoning, the witches of Eileanan were outlawed--and violations of the new order were punishable by death. Eileanan's Great Towers, once meccas of magic and learning, were left in ruins. And now, the entire land trembles in fear....

Yet deep in the mountains, in the shadow of Dragonclaw, a young girl is being tutored in the old ways. Ignorant of her past, uncertain of her future, the foundling Isabeau will soon be forced down a dangerous path of…

You might also like...

The Lion and the Fox: Two Rival Spies and the Secret Plot to Build a Confederate Navy

By Alexander Rose,

Book cover of The Lion and the Fox: Two Rival Spies and the Secret Plot to Build a Confederate Navy

Alexander Rose Author Of Empires of the Sky: Zeppelins, Airplanes, and Two Men's Epic Duel to Rule the World

New book alert!

Who am I?

A long time ago, I was an early-aviation historian, but eventually realized that I knew only half the story—the part about airplanes. But what about airships? Initially, I assumed, like so many others, that they were a flash-in-the-pan, a ridiculous dead-end technology, but then I realized these wondrous giants had roamed and awed the world for nearly four decades. There was a bigger story here of an old rivalry between airplanes and airships, one that had since been forgotten, and Empires of the Sky was the result.

Alexander's book list on Zeppelin airships

What is my book about?

From the author of Washington’s Spies, the thrilling story of two rival secret agents — one Confederate, the other Union — sent to Britain during the Civil War.

The South’s James Bulloch, charming and devious, was ordered to acquire a clandestine fleet intended to break Lincoln’s blockade, sink Northern merchant vessels, and drown the U.S. Navy’s mightiest ships at sea. Opposing him was Thomas Dudley, an upright Quaker lawyer determined to stop Bulloch in a spy-versus-spy game of move and countermove, gambit and sacrifice, intrigue and betrayal.

Their battleground was the Dickensian port of Liverpool, whose dockyards built more ships each year than the rest of the world combined and whose merchant princes, said one observer, were “addicted to Southern proclivities, foreign slave trade, and domestic bribery.”

The Lion and the Fox: Two Rival Spies and the Secret Plot to Build a Confederate Navy

By Alexander Rose,

What is this book about?

From the New York Times bestselling author of Washington's Spies, the thrilling story of the Confederate spy who came to Britain to turn the tide of the Civil War-and the Union agent resolved to stop him.

"Entertaining and deeply researched...with a rich cast of spies, crooks, bent businessmen and drunken sailors...Rose relates the tale with gusto." -The New York Times

In 1861, soon after the outbreak of the Civil War, two secret agents-one a Confederate, the other his Union rival-were dispatched to neutral Britain, each entrusted with a vital mission.

The South's James Bulloch, charming and devious, was to acquire…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in airships, witchcraft, and lesbian topics and characters?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about airships, witchcraft, and lesbian topics and characters.

Airships Explore 20 books about airships
Witchcraft Explore 299 books about witchcraft
Lesbian Topics And Characters Explore 124 books about lesbian topics and characters