The best unconventional heroines in fantasy by female authors

Who am I?

I've been a fantasy reader since the fourth grade when my father introduced me to The Hobbit. As I grew older, I found myself drawn to female-led fantasy stories. Before I started writing fiction, I reviewed books on a (now defunct) blog, learning from those authors as I critiqued what worked and what didn’t. Now, as a fiction author in my own right, I’ve focused on the story elements that truly speak to me; characters who live and breathe on the page, adventures through magical lands and diverse cultures, myths that feel so true they could almost be real, and heart-pounding action that breaks me out of my own safe little world.

I wrote...

Sanyare: The Last Descendant

By Megan Haskell,

Book cover of Sanyare: The Last Descendant

What is my book about?

A woman on the run. A mysterious magical heritage. When Rie Lhethannien is attacked by assassins from the enemy Shadow Realm, she finds herself mired in an ancient battle between the elven realms. Framed as a traitor, she has no choice but to forsake her oaths and flee to enemy lands to prove her innocence. Can she uncover the truth of her past before the high elf king takes her head?

If you like action-packed fantasy filled with mythological creatures, magic, and mayhem, you won't want to miss this!

The books I picked & why

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Cursed Luck

By Kelley Armstrong,

Book cover of Cursed Luck

Why this book?

Kelley Armstrong has long been one of my favorite authors, but this book in particular struck a positive chord with me. The quirky heroine, Kennedy, is an actual adult without being a middle-aged divorcee. A twenty-something entrepreneur, she runs a small business selling formerly cursed antiques (which she can verify, since she’s a curse weaver who unmakes curses.) Of course, things get complicated when a new client tries to coerce her into a job that sets her at odds with the rest of the magical community. I loved the fresh contemporary setting—no dark and seedy urban underground—and the surprising twist on ancient mythology. All in all, it was a really fun, clean, modern fantasy for grown-ups.

The Elf Tangent

By Lindsay Buroker,

Book cover of The Elf Tangent

Why this book?

The Elf Tangent is an adorable (yet surprisingly dangerous) romp through the woods. Our heroine, Aldari, is an intellectual princess who has reluctantly agreed to marry the prince of a neighboring kingdom (sight unseen!) to save her own people. As she travels to her wedding day, her party is attacked and she and her bodyguard are kidnapped by elves who need her help to break a generations-old curse. For once, someone needs—and appreciates—her brains! Caught between the needs of her people and the intriguing puzzle presented by the elves (oh, and the enticing commander of their party), Aldari must use her wit—and at one point a shovel—to get out of her predicament.


By Rachel Rener,

Book cover of Inked

Why this book?

The first chapter is titled "Butt Cobras". That was enough of a recommendation for me! I loved the sense of humor throughout this book, including the over-the-top Jewish mother and the fact that our heroine, Talia, is a tattoo artist who’s afraid of needles and has no tattoos of her own. Add in magical tattoos that come to life—including the titular butt cobra and a rainbow-colored bird named Biscuit—a trek through the fae lands where carnivorous magical plants try to eat her, vampires are real, and a siren saves her life in exchange for a vial of her blood... and well, you have an action-packed adventure that’s nearly impossible to put down.

The Wicked & The Dead

By Melissa Marr,

Book cover of The Wicked & The Dead

Why this book?

Half witch, half…something else…Genevieve is a zombie hunter. Sort of. Undead are legal in this near-future alternate New Orleans, but only if they consent to be raised. So when a bunch of anti-draugr businessmen starts rising from their graves Genevieve is hired by both the Queen of the Undead and the wealthy son of one of the victims. Thing is, Genevieve isn’t entirely human, and her magic isn’t quite working properly. Fruit makes her drunk, and alcohol gives her energy. There’s only one person who can help—without getting caught in the crossfire and ending up dead himself—the local bar owner, Eli. With wicked action sequences and a unique twist on the vampire/zombie motif, I thought this one was more than worth the read.

Reign & Ruin

By J.D. Evans,

Book cover of Reign & Ruin

Why this book?

This book was an emotional rollercoaster ride filled with everything I love about epic fantasy, but without the stereotypical cookie-cutter women. Set in an alternate ancient middle east, where sultans rule and magic is elemental, Naime is the only child of the declining sultan. She’s smart, self-controlled, a powerful air mage, and dedicated to the prosperity of her kingdom. Unfortunately, the king’s council is mired in tradition and opposed to a woman on the throne. With the threat of invasion from a technologically superior anti-magic nation, Naime must navigate the web of political intrigue to broker an alliance with the neighboring warrior realm. Enter Makram, brother to their king and one of the powerful (and feared) death mages. As obstacles are thrown in Naime’s way, success is not guaranteed. There were moments I had to pause to breathe, the tension was so high. I loved every minute.

5 book lists we think you will like!

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