By Yoon Ha Lee (@motomaratai)
By Yoon Ha Lee (@motomaratai)
|1. God Stalk, P.C. Hodgell
This is the first novel of the Kencyrath books, which concern a people who have been fighting a losing battle against an ancient entropic foe called Perimal Darkling ever since their leader betrayed them in exchange for a cold creeping immortality. Ages later, a darkling named Jame escapes from captivity with only shreds of her memory intact, and powers that suggest that she may be part of a prophesied trinity destined either to destroy or revive her people. Jame is both a trouble-magnet (as befits someone who is almost certainly an avatar of Destruction) and a fully-protagging protagonist. Nothing stays the same in her wake—sometimes for good, sometimes less so. My first encounter with this series was actually through the short story “Stranger Blood,” in which Jame appears, and which I found in Imaginary Lands, ed. Robin McKinley; it’s since been reprinted in the collection Blood and Ivory: A Tapestry.
|2. The Goddess Chronicle, Natsuo Kirino
A retelling of the Japanese origin myths from a feminist viewpoint, as a young woman struggles, with the aid of the goddess Izanami, to find out why she was betrayed by her lover. Lush and dark.
|3. Uprooted, Naomi Novik
A village girl named Agnieszka is chosen by a local sorcerer called the Dragon to serve him in his tower. Her contest of wills with him leads eventually to the uncovering of a conspiracy against the kingdom, and the revelation of an ages-old grievance. Many notable portrayals of women, from Agnieszka herself to her best friend to a sorcrerer-smith to the wood-queen who is the antagonist.
|4. The Dragonlance Chronicles: Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Dragons of Winter Night, and Dragons of Spring Dawning, Margaret Weis (with Tracy Hickman)
These books were terrifically popular when I was in middle school. I loved the fact that they featured strong female characters—from Tika the barmaid who leveled up to fighter (hitting people over the head with a frying pan!) to Lauralanthalasa the spoiled elvish princess who grew up to become a general and knocked the hidebound Solamnian Knights out of self-destruction and my favorite, the shamelessly sensual Kitiara and the dragon who was her companion. They are not by any means high literature, but as adventures they were a lot of fun, and I learned a lot from them.
|5. Claymore (manga series), Norihiro Yagi
The mangaka is male; the manga itself concerns an order of female half-demon demon-killers called Claymores. The relationships between the women and their rebelling against the Organization that controls them, as well as against the dark powers that control the island where they live, make for a gripping read, with lots of action.
|6. Angel Sanctuary (manga series), Kaori Yuki
Manga about a Japanese teenage boy in love with his younger sister, but as it turns out, his problems are only beginning: he discovers that he’s the reincarnation of the (female) angel Alexiel, who is condemned to live wretched lives as a human for rebelling against a corrupt Heaven, and his only way out is to take up the fight again.
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