Oh my god this is fucking AWESOME!
This is so fun!
I didn’t know what to expect, but it’s really extremely good. And it’s easy more thriller-esque than it is comedy.
It’s funny too, but it’s got me in a dizzying adrenaline rush…
And you can stop with the “Kristen Stewart doesn’t smile” talk. She smiles in here, even if she doesn’t smile, I smiled because she made me smile, she’s a funny chick.
The original rec request was for adult, female-led fantasy like Tamora Pierce, and I tried to stick with that, but I do really love low fantasy and YA, so a bunch of it snuck in…
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse - Probably my favorite fantasy novel of the year. It’s set on the Navajo reservation following a climate change-related apocalypse. To add more complications, gods and monsters of Navajo legend have returned. Maggie is a Jessica Jones style reluctant protagonist, forced into a quest she doesn’t really want. This world, guys, this world. I’m desperate for the next installment. (Content warning: violence against children, death of a child, possibly something else I can’t remember)
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire - Girl comes back from magical land, can’t deal, goes to school for people who went to magical lands and can’t deal with the normal world. Look, meta portal fantasy books are probably my favorite micro-genre, and they’re having a moment right now (see: this book, but also In Other Lands, The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland…, The Light Between Worlds etc.). This is one of my two absolute favorites (also In Other Lands, which you should also read, but has a male protagonist and thus didn’t make the list). This book is chock full of everything I love, from queer characters (of many kinds!), classification systems (is the world high logic? high nonsense? wicked? virtuous?) and genre bending (oh, did I mention it’s also a thriller?) (Content warnings: violence including some minor body horror, semi-fantastical disordered eating)
The Circle by Sara Elfgren and Mats Strandberg - This is one of the most underrated fantasy series I know (which is not terribly surprising, given it’s both translated and published by an indie publisher). The basic pitch is: The Raven Cycle meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but with witches, an all-female cast, and queer content. Oh, and it’s set in Sweden. Not sure why you’d need a longer pitch, but if you do: this book also has some of the best character building I’ve seen in YA fiction. It takes characters you hate in the first book, and somehow makes you care deeply about them by the end of the third one. (Content warning: consent issues relating to love magic - but strongly condemned by the narrative)
Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman - So, I definitely waffled about putting this on the list, because this isn’t an unqualified rec. Basically, this book involves the ‘girl dresses like a boy’ trope, and I’m not sure it really sidesteps all of the problems that trope can entail (that said - I’m not sure it falls afoul of them either - my eye for reading that stuff is not great, and although I’ve looked, I’ve yet to come across a review of it by a trans person). I ended up putting it on the list anyway because I deeply appreciated much of it’s commentary on coming to terms with yourself as a girl in a sexist world, and it’s rare commitment to letting it’s female protagonist be truly angry (aka ‘unlikeable’). The book follows Tess, a noblewoman in a high fantasy world who is unwilling and unable to live up to the expectations placed on her. She runs away and ends up tagging along on an old friend’s quest to find a mythical serpent. What follows is more of a pilgrimage than an adventure, following Tess as she makes peace with herself as a woman. (And if anyone does have thoughts about how the ‘girl dressed as a boy’ trope is played in this novel - or knows of any reviews that explore it - I’d love more insight) (Content warning: sexual assault).
Seconds of other peoples recs:
A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan, Grace already recced this one before I could get there, but I have to re-up it. The way these books address the evolutionary and phylogenetic questions posed by dragons delights my biology-loving heart, and the aro/ace side character in the second book was also wonderful.
Jo Walton - Grace recommended My Real Children, but my favorite is actually Among Others, which is, like most of my favorite books, meta low fantasy (although heads up that pretty much any possible child-related content warning applies)
And a couple drive-by recs I don’t remember enough to write about, but loved:
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by NK Jemisin The Queen of the Tearling, by Erika Johansen Binti by Nnedi Okorafor