Non-faily adult fantasy
In a recent post about fantasy with really squidgy handling of female characters and rape, I made a claim I may not be able to back up. Which was, that I could produce a list of feminist/sex positive fantasy by consulting my bookshelves.
Okay, I can. But it's a short list.
It's pretty easy to come up with awesome women in YA fiction and Urban Fantasy, but some of us like swords and castles, and what then?
So what I'm really looking to build here is a list of books that:
1. Loosely fall under the category of "high fantasy" or "epic fantasy"
2. Are written for adult audiences
3. Do not feature titillating rape scenes, headbanging misogyny, women as cardboard sex objects, etc.
After all, most books mentioned under "feminist fantasy" are YA (Tamora Pierce, Robin McKinley, Garth Nix) and not everyone likes YA.
(I'm also going to note when things have problematic content that some people may or may not have issues with)
Inda by Sherwood Smith
First of a series set in a richly-built world, about Inda, a member of his country's ruling military class, from age 10 on. Even as a boy, he's a brilliant strategist (though a bit of an Aspie) and has to cope when political problems among the adult mean he has to go to sea. He takes up fighting pirates. It's pretty awesome. Meanwhile back home, his caste's women secretly plot to get the men to stop killing each other. Has awesome women, sex-positivity, and (so far as I've read) emerging gay and genderqueer characters.
Green Rider by Kristen Britain
Karigan G'ladheon knows where she's going when she gets expelled from her school from fighting. She's walking home and taking up a post in her father's merchant business. Then she meets a dying messenger of the King on the road there who begs her to carry his message to the capital... and much to her annoyance, she is chivvied into a hero's journey. Awesome women, varied quality of sequels; there's a scene with an attempted rape in the first book.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin
Yeine Darr's mother was a disgraced princess disowned from her cutthroat royal family for marrying Yeine's father. Then her grandfather declares Yeine his third potential heir, throws her into the deep end of serious political, military, religious, and spiritual conflict and appears not to expect her to survive. Ha ha. Awesome women, sex-positivity, seriously non-Western cultural assumptions about gender, characters of colour. The violence is as well-written as the rest of the book, which means it's actually a lot pointier and perhaps more disturbing than your typical fantasy.
Sky of Swords by Dave Duncan
Duncan's King's Blades books are 100% PULP FANTASY GARY STU ESCAPISM. And aren't explicitly feminist. They're fun popcorn that's surprisingly light on fail. It's set in kind of an alternate Tudor England, and it's about this school for the BESTEST swordsmen ever who are AWESOME and dangerous and manly and also the ladies love them. However, Duncan's ideal woman is smart and strong and capable. Which means that when I get lots of awesome sword stuff, I also get men acknowledging that their one true love has had sex before and it's fine, as well as Princess Malinda, who is like the Elizabeth/Mary composite character who has to make serious sacrifices to save her country. Sky of Swords is her book, but it's in a trilogy with The Gilded Chain and Lord of the Fire Lands, and as time-travel is a plot point, some bits of some books are set in an AU timeline. As for objectionableness, well, the series features a Henry VIII cognate, and sequels feature not!Ivan the Terrible. You take what you can get.
A Song for Arbonne by Guy Gavriel Kay
Set in an AU version of medieval Provence, where women rule a Court of Love and there are troubadors and tournaments everywhere. Arbonne's women have managed an unprecedented amount of freedom and power, but it's frail at best; their culture still relies on arranged marriage, and their neighbours to the north are misogynistic bastards who think they're all heretics. Has disturbing stuff with the misogynistic bastards, cultural disdain of homosexuality, and violence. Also sex-positivity and awesome women. I love all his work but dude sometimes has Issues, but: The Fionavar Tapestry also fits the bill here, although the rape of a main character and her subsequent actions and recovery play a significant role in the plot.
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