To be totally honest, I think one of the main reasons I am the way that I am is because I grew up on a steady media diet of Buffy, Xena, Captain Janeway, and Samantha Carter from Stargate.
These women helped provide emotional support when I felt like I wasn’t enough of a “Betty Crocker,” when I was told I was “too ambitious” or “abrasive.”
And, while I’m reminiscing about all the things these characters taught me, *this* post is about some of my new literary heroes. Women who are allowed to be more complicated and vulnerable than their 1990’s counterparts. In a world that feels like it’s taking slivers of my soul, I find myself replenished (yes, using that word intentionally) through new mythologies.
Hey, I’m 26, and I still need sheroes.
Below, you’ll find a list, in no particular order of some of my favorite urban fantasy reads/series, featuring kickass women, AKA “strong female leads”. If I missed an author in this roundup, please do tweet corrections at: Brianne Huntsman. I’m always looking for a new series to devour.
1. “The Parasol Protectorate” Series by Gail Carriger
Set in the 1870’s, this steampunk series follows the adventures of Alexia Tarabotti. Unlike other series (side eye), Alexia doesn’t spend the first 4 out of 5 books in the series as a star-crossed lover — Carriger has Alexia going on adventures *with* her one true love, which I’m all about.
Also, I love this series, because Carriger doesn’t try to make Alexia a modern feminist. There’s elements of classism and remarks on “The Vote” that are pretty inline with what an upperclass woman *would* think during the times. Overall, this is a series that I love to reread, and my copies have crinkly pages — having been read while I’m taking bubblebaths. Gail also has an AWESOME Facebook group.
Get the first book here.
2. Various Series — Patricia Briggs
Like a lot of fantasy/sci fi authors, Briggs has written several series all taking place in the same world. Her heroines can be problematic (can we discuss writers tapping into the “Native American” trope?), BUT her sheroes are multi-layered and *different*. You won’t find the cookie cutter “badass” heroine here.
My favorite series of hers it the “Alpha and Omega” series, as the main character is more introverted and shy, and doesn’t break down doors with guns blazing, sharing a different kind of strength instead. I also appreciate Patricia’s updates on Facebook.
Get the first book here.
3. Various Series — Ilona Andrews
Okay, so this writer — or rather “writers,” as some of the books under this pen name are written by a couple — takes place in a space between a mythical world (called “The Edge”) , and earth as we know it. Another series (Kate Daniels) deals with earth in a post-apocololyptic future, where magic has returned.
I appreciate this author because they (? not sure on pronouns?) tackle issues like class and wealth. They fall into a similar category as Briggs, writing multiple series in one world, in fact, having multiple series within different worlds. They’re prolific AF, and I can’t wait for their 3rd book in the Hidden Legacy series. (Although, fair warning, when I went to Barnes and Noble to get a hard copy, I had to go to the romance section to find it!)
Also, if you’re part of the Ilona Andrews team reading this, I love the website redesign! ❤
Get “Burn for Me” here!
4. Various Series — Seanan McGuire
Another writer who falls under the “Prolific AF” category is Seanan McGuire. I fell in love with her work when stumbling across the “Toby Daye” series (takes the slant of “Fairies living in and around San Francisco” slant, think of it as Holly Black for adults) and I also love her Incryptid series (family of human-ish folks who protect the world from supernatural creatures, and protect supernatural creatures from the world).
Her characters are selfish, flawed and beautiful, and feel like courageous friends.
Check out the Incryptid series here.
5. “Spider” Series — Jennifer Estep
Okay, so “Gin” the assassin main character in this series (that includes giants, vampires and witches) does more closely follow the “badass shero” set, using knives to fuck with anyone who gets in her way.
BUT, what I do love about this character is that Gin flips gender roles on their head. While we’re used to seeing #MoodyAF male protagonists or love interests, Gin holds that crown for herself. Altogether, a great read — and a longggg series, which I always love. (TAKE MY MONEY, ESTEP!)
More info on the series here.
6. Various Series — Laurell K Hamilton
Honestly, Laurel K. Hamilton should’ve appeared further up in this list, as she’s one of the Godmothers of Urban Fantasy (I made up that title on the spot, but I’d bet $$$ I’m not the first person to use it).
Her series follows the evolution of Anita Blake, a detective and necromancer in modern day, and includes QUEER PEOPLE, kink and BDSM, etc etc, in her books and POLYANDRY (like polyamory, but most of Blake’s male partners don’t have other partners). Hamilton’s writing of Anita Blake is the best goddamn character growth/evolution I’ve ever seen. Taking notes here!
I ALSO really enjoy the Merry Gentry series, about a fairy princess in the modern day, who is ALSO polyandrous.
Check out the first in the Anita Blake series here.
7. White Trash Zombie — Diana Rowland
Okay, I know I keep mentioning that the writers discuss “Class” as a Theme™, but that’s because it’s so goddamn RARE. (Like, honestly, do we need another urban fantasy novel featuring a rich protagonist who can’t find love? Like, we already have Batman, y’all.)
ANYWAYS, this series follows Angel Crawford a “loser” who due to a series of events, becomes a zombie. I don’t want to spill the good stuff, but if you love sheroes that are “unlovable women” this series is for you.
Snag the first book here.
8. “The Hollows” by Kim Harrison
For the longest time, I got Kim Harrison and Laurel K Hamilton mixed up, because they’re names are so damn similar (was this intentional book marketing? Unclear.).
Anyways, “The Hollows” is a series with a witch, Rachel Morgan, as the leading HBIC, set in Cincinnati. The world includes elves as powerful businessmen, vampires as cops, etc etc. I really enjoy how seamlessly Harrison incorporates real business dealings (Business Gay™ ftw).
Check out the first book here.
9. Dana McIntyre Series by S.M. Reine
Dana McIntyre is a sort of bounty hunter/Buffy type, who is also a plus-size lesbian. I AM OBVIOUSLY INTO THIS. Also, S.M. Reine is a badass self-published author, who has published ~50 books in Dana’s universe.
I read the entire series in 2 days.
Bummed the list ended? Me too. Let’s hang out on Twitter and tweet at authors together, mmmkay?