The best fantasy books with women sleuths who use mind over might

Who am I?

As an amateur sleuth, I’m always intrigued by the structure of mysteries and the characters who solve them. Every remarkable story has a mystery at its core. Tales where the whodunnit drives the tension are my favorite, though. I’ve dissected countless stories from Sherlock Holmes to Phryne Fisher, breaking them down until the books have literally fallen apart. Thank goodness for e-readers! I’ve found that my favorites revolve around the magical, the witty, and the vivacious women who know how to distract with words while they pull prints off your cup. Those are the sleuths I want to write about often–and wish I could have a cocktail with! 


I wrote...

Between the Lines

By D. Hale Rambo,

Book cover of Between the Lines

What is my book about?

Life flourishes in the Book, a realm of stacked worlds, like the pages of a novel. Those who can travel through them are page-turners. Blessed with the power to go from one page to the next. For investigator Fiona Thorne, being a turner is normal life. Solving mysteries is where the excitement lives.

The page of fire is wasting away. Elementals are smuggled out in waves, but by whom? Fiona is on the job, and nothing will hold her back, not even the overbearing Travel Guild. With the fire page on the brink of winking out, she must race to unravel who the smugglers are and stop them. Can Fiona read between the lines and solve it in time?

The books I picked & why

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The Invisible Library

By Genevieve Cogman,

Book cover of The Invisible Library

Why this book?

I love libraries and books about books. What reader doesn’t? There are a lot of shenanigans and mysteries contained within this first in a series where librarians travel to other worlds to find books to add to the one true Library. There are werewolves, dragons, and the wittiest fae imaginable. And through them, all clever focused Irene consistently uses her smarts before she reacts to the conflict. Amid the chaos, she’s quick thinking which I love. You can’t trust just anyone to retrieve a good book and she makes it clear that a proper librarian is the universe's best option. 

The Invisible Library

By Genevieve Cogman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Collecting books can be a dangerous prospect in this fun, time-traveling, fantasy adventure—the first in the Invisible Library series!
 
One thing any Librarian will tell you: the truth is much stranger than fiction...
 
Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Most recently, she and her enigmatic assistant Kai have been sent to an alternative London. Their mission: Retrieve a particularly dangerous book. The problem: By the time they arrive, it's already been stolen.
 
London's underground factions are prepared to fight to the death…


The Eyre Affair

By Jasper Fforde,

Book cover of The Eyre Affair

Why this book?

Thursday Next was one of my first female detectives and she’s hard to top. This is another fantasy, an alternate history this time, with quips about classic literature, action and adventure, and even moments where the book characters go off script themselves! Thursday is the daring and quick-witted sleuth in the middle of it all. She’s a complex character who grows over the series and whom you truly wish well at the end of every chapter. 

The Eyre Affair

By Jasper Fforde,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Eyre Affair as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Meet Thursday Next, literary detective without equal, fear or boyfriend

Jasper Fforde's beloved New York Times bestselling novel introduces literary detective Thursday Next and her alternate reality of literature-obsessed England-from the author of The Constant Rabbit

Fans of Douglas Adams and P. G. Wodehouse will love visiting Jasper Fforde's Great Britain, circa 1985, when time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously: it's a bibliophile's dream. England is a virtual police state where an aunt can get lost (literally) in a Wordsworth poem and forging Byronic…


Soulless

By Gail Carriger,

Book cover of Soulless

Why this book?

Alexia is *chef’s kiss* when I think of witty women who figure it out for everyone else. She’s clever and funny. She knows how to turn a polite phrase into an insult that sparks the action she wants the insulted to take. And she knows how to get a job well done. Though there are often times she doubts being desirable or wanted, she’s confident in her abilities and that her expectations are worth being met. I love how she always seems to put herself in the middle of trouble, but not without power.

Soulless

By Gail Carriger,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Soulless as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Alexia Tarabotti is labouring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she's a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.
Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire - and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.
With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London's high…


The Watchmaker's Daughter

By C. J. Archer,

Book cover of The Watchmaker's Daughter

Why this book?

India is held back considerably by the time period in this historical fantasy series. However, she uses her wits and the gaps in polite society to take action time and time again. I love this series as a woman who doesn’t just let things happen to her. Though she’s of “little means,” she has talent and spirit that sees her through all the tension. When there’s a mystery around herself or her burgeoning powers, she’s the first to get information. If it comes to facing down a killer or a thief, she uses her words to enact power and turn the situation over to her side. 

The Watchmaker's Daughter

By C. J. Archer,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Watchmaker's Daughter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

USA Today bestselling series.

India Steele is desperate. Her father is dead, her fiancé took her inheritance, and no one will employ her, despite years working for her watchmaker father. Indeed, the other London watchmakers seem frightened of her. Alone, poor, and at the end of her tether, India takes employment with the only person who'll accept her - an enigmatic and mysterious man from America. A man who possesses a strange watch that rejuvenates him when he's ill.

Matthew Glass must find a particular watchmaker, but he won't tell India why any old one won't do. Nor will he…


The Book of Secrets

By Melissa McShane,

Book cover of The Book of Secrets

Why this book?

Helena is typical at the start of her journey. She doesn’t know of magic or anything odd about life. And it’s this start and subsequent growth through the course of this first book that makes her a delightful character. She uses a little intuition, confidence, and a heaping of observational skills, picking up context from other people in her new job as a caretaker for an old magical bookstore. And with that information, she stands up for herself, fills her own desires for growth, and becomes a valuable asset to the magical war around her. 

The Book of Secrets

By Melissa McShane,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Helena Davies just wants a job that will get her out of her parents’ basement. Instead, by the end of her first day at Abernathy’s Bookstore, she has a dead boss in the basement and the news that she is now a part of an endless magical war.

Abernathy’s is the world’s only living oracle, and Helena is now its custodian. Without any training, she must navigate her new world and find a place for herself within it. But there’s still a murderer on the loose—and Helena might be next on his list.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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