It’s International Women’s Day! And I was so unprepared. But I wanted to celebrate here on this li’l blog of mine, so what better way to shout about amazing women than by recommending some amazing women characters, written by amazing women authors?
Can I say “amazing women” any more times?
The Priory of the Orange Tree
by Samantha Shannon
Of course this had to be on this list. Priory has become one of my favourite books, and I’ll be yelling about it for years to come. Following multiple characters from a queen, mage, alchemist and wannabe dragon rider, this is an epic fantasy book that rival Game of Thrones. It’s an intense, politically driven story featuring a lead F/F romance and more diversity besides, and honestly it’s a book that was so needed in the fantasy genre. I adore this book, and it’s become my agenda to get as many people to read it as possible.
The Bone Season
by Samantha Shannon
Another Samantha Shannon? Can you tell she’s my favourite author? The Bone Season series is a long standing favourite of mine, and you’ll see me yelling about this one for many years to come thanks to it being an ongoing seven book series (yaaaas!). Set in a dystopian world where clairvoyance exists but is illegal, we follow Paige Mahoney as she navigates a criminal underworld and attempts to survive a world where her very existence is a crime. I needed to add this one to the list because Samantha Shannon herself made a very good point – during one of her events for Priory, she mentioned how The Bone Season isn’t being dubbed as a “feminist fantasy” book like Priory is, despite the lead character being a strong female character. And heck, she’s right. It so deserves to be on the feminist lists. Paige Mahoney is one of my favourite characters. She’s one of the strongest characters I’ve read about, highly independent and intelligent, and I so desperately want more people to pick up this series. Also – diversity in all the characters, both in race, appearances and sexuality.
Tangleweed and Brine
by Deirdre Sullivan
Fairy Tale retellings are a massive deal, right? Well here’s one of my recommendations for ya. This is a short collection of fairy tale retellings focusing on brave and resilient heroines. They’re deliciously dark, and paired with the most beautiful illustrations. The stories themselves are twisted away from their originals, and so they’re like completely new stories but with that familiarity we long for. This is a recent read for me and I just adored it. While I won’t claim it as an explicitly diverse read, one of the stories does feature a F/F romance and the illustrations include varying skin tones. But really, this is just a wonderful little book and so stunning – and like I said, entirely focused on the women of fairy tales!
by Madeline Miller
Ok I know this one is huge already, but I couldn’t resist adding it to the list. This is a greek myth retelling, Circe being a sorceress from The Odyssey. She gets a tiny amount of page time in The Odyssey, and so Madeline Miller created an entire story for her. This book ended up becoming a fast favourite of mine. Circe is one of the most fascinating characters of Greek myth in my opinion, a sorceress in exile and living on her own island, at one with the plants and animals. She seen as vengeful, turning unwelcome visitors to animals – but why is she that way? Well, with this book, now we know. Or now we can imagine. This is just such a beautifully woven story full of magic and wonder, and seeing Circe this way just convinced me that she needed highlighting all the more. She goes through so much, lives in a harsh world but is resilient and strong, and her story being so closely tied with nature just wins me all the more. You don’t have to know her story before reading this one – this probably tells you more about her than you’d get from the originals anyway.
State of Sorrow
by Melinda Salisbury
This is one of my favourite YA fantasy books. Just throwing that out there. This book is set in a world where the chancellor banishes happiness after the death of his wife years ago, the people being unable to even smile or wear colour without punishment. But the chancellor is incapable of ruling anymore, and so his daughter – the protagonist – runs an election against him. A teenage girl taking an active role in politics? In a fantasy story? WE LOVE. This story has so much more to it beyond that synopsis too. It’s honestly such a gripping story, and the situations our lead gal has to see herself through are intense. The female friendship in this is one of my favourites, and one of the leading characters is in a wheelchair – which in itself feels amazing as disability rep is not often come by in fantasy stories. The sequel just came out yesterday and I can’t wait to get to it. I also happen to have a giveaway for this first book happening RIGHT NOW on my twitter – it closes on Sunday 10th so be sure to head on over and entre if you’re interested!
The Radium Girls
by Kate Moore
For something a bit different, how about a nonfiction? This is another one I’ve discovered recently and my god, it’ll stay with me forever. So this book is about women during the first world war who worked in Radium factories, painting dials and watches to make them glow. Oh how glamourous, right? Well yes…until years later, the women started getting mysterious, agonising illnesses. The radium poisoned them one by one, and the companies claimed no responsibility. This book tells the story of these remarkably strong women and their fight for justice, in a world where their illnesses were nonexistent in all medical records and the laws to help them simply…didn’t. Now this is one of the hardest books I’ve ever read. It’s gruesome, harrowing, enraging and heartbreaking. But so so important. If you can manage reading gory details, please read this book. These women went through an unimaginable amount of pain and suffering, but every moment fought for their own lives, their own justice, and for the future of other women. From these women, medical, scientific and political advances were made, and we need to know about it. I also didn’t realise it was one of Emma Watson’s choices for her feminist book club Our Shared Shelf, so get on it folks. It’s Emma Watson approved.
by Yaa Gyasi
This book was a huge deal when it came out, and I want it to return. This book follows two sisters – one sold to slavery, one becoming a slave trader’s wife – and the generations that follow in their families. While not focusing entirely on women, this book does inherently begin with these two sisters and the effect their situations have on generations to come. More women follow, and I can honestly say the stories of each of them stuck with me. This book just shows so many women in varying situations and settings, each one being very much her own identity and owning it, no matter how much the world tries to batter them down.
The City of Brass
by S.A. Chakraborty
And finally, another YA fantasy favourite of mine. The City of Brass is one of those books that reminded me why I adore fantasy so much. Following a conwoman called Nahri who doesn’t believe in magic, her world is very drastically turned upside down when she accidentally summons a djinn warrior. Nahri is one of my favourite characters. We see both her strengths and weaknesses, her intelligence and worries. We see her adapt and change as a woman, navigating a world completely new to her. And speaking of the world, based on 18th century Cairo, the world building in this is beautifully rich and so easy to get stuck in. The sequel came out in February, so I highly recommend getting stuck into this series now!
So that’s it! Those are my book recommendations for International Woman’s Day!
Have you read any of these? Do you have any recommendations of your own? Let me know in the comments below!
Until next time,