I have had the most fun reading so far this month! One of my favorite things about reading in lots of genres is I’m always in the mood to read something, I just have to follow the shifting winds of my whims to find my next book of the moment. This fall I went on a mystery/thriller bender—it was like two solid months of murder, and I had a great time. Now with cold temperatures settling in, I’m looking to escape—and nothing takes me away from reality faster than fantasy.
So today I have for you three very different fantasy series, all written by women and all featuring fascinating female characters. What more could you want?
The Queen of the Tearling trilogy by Erika Johansen
Admittedly this trilogy is not breaking news—the final volume has been out since 2016. However, if you, like me, suffer from Swiss cheese memory and thus prefer to wait until an entire series is published and read it all in one go, now is the perfect time to get into the Tearling. I started the first book over Thanksgiving weekend wanting to be completely swept up in a story, and it did just that. I did not want to put it down—and I couldn’t order the second and third books fast enough. Kelsea was raised in a secluded forest by foster parents, but now that she’s in her late teens, a group of men shows up and she’s forced to go with them to take on her role as queen of the realm. Her foster parents told her maddeningly little about why she was hidden and what awaits her as queen, and her escorts are hardly more forthcoming. All those unanswered questions make these books just about as page-turning as they could possibly be. Kelsea is an incredible heroine—imperfect, complicated, occasionally selfish, but deeply principled, and I just loved her. Despite the mention of The Hunger Games on the cover, and despite the fact that Kelsea is a teenager, this trilogy feels very adult fantasy to me, so calibrate your expectations accordingly.
Call of Crows trilogy by Shelly Laurenston
So while some series work best for me if I read them all at once, other series that are more loosely connected I like to read one at a time. Coming back to the old, familiar characters is the best kind of comfort reading! Shelly Laurenston’s Call of Crows series is about a group of badass ladies given a second chance at life (and superhuman abilities) by a Viking goddess and tasked with fighting evil, human and otherwise. Although there is an overarching plot to the series and the books should be read in chronological order, because each book focuses on a different Crow it’s fairly easy to keep everything straight even if you go a while in between books. I read The Unleashing, the first book, back in May, and it was pure delight to dive back into the crazy world of the Crows with The Undoing. In fact, I liked this second book even better because it’s about Jace, the introverted book loving Crow (relate much?) who also happens to have the gift/curse of uncontrollable rage in a fight (still relating…). And this time, Jace saves the day with research! And ass-kicking. But she spends a lot of time in a beautiful library with her beautiful bespectacled Protector boyfriend (or at least the guy who’s campaigning to be her boyfriend—Jace is going to take some convincing). So yeah, this was the perfect urban fantasy romance for me. Add in the irreverent humor, creative cursing, supportive female friendships…what’s not to love? I think I’ll save the third book in the series for when I need a little pick-me-up.
The Iron Seas series by Meljean Brook
If romantic fantasy is great, then steampunk romantic fantasy must be over the top fabulous, right? The world of The Iron Duke is incredibly complex and intricately designed—it’s a swashbuckling adventure but it’s also a workout for your brain, or at least it was for me, as someone who hasn’t read a ton of steampunk and isn’t used to the ins and outs of the tech. Airships! Clockwork prostheses! Nanoagents in people’s blood! And if that doesn’t hook you, how about political machinations and a rumored weapon of mass destruction? And finally, a steamy interracial romance with a hero who is literally a man of steel (or more probably iron…it is in the title after all…oh well, let’s just go with metal…although he is a man of mettle as well…I’ll show myself out). Based on the shirtless man on the cover I expected this to be total fluff, but actually there’s so much going on thematically I don’t think it qualifies. Although with romance, you always have that guaranteed happy ending, which I like to remind myself of when the characters are dangling by a rope over shark-infested waters and the like. I will say that at first I was put off by the dynamic between the two leads—the hero is a little too alpha male, there’s too much of an “I claim you” vibe, and a mishap occurs with respect to consent, but by the end I was totally rooting for them. The subsequent books in the series (I believe there are three more so far) are about different characters, so I think I will ration these out for a while and extend my enjoyment!