17 High Action Fantasy Books With A Female Lead

Sometimes, we all need to get away from the grips of reality. We need a break from the humdrum of normal living. We need a taste of the unknown. Since not all of us can get away into the world of unknown whenever we want to, we depend on external stimuli to get our dose of fantasy. The genre “fantasy fiction” is fictitious construct but brilliant in rendering a different world for you to wade into. Here are some of the most popular fantasy books with a twist: all of these books have a strong female lead.

17. Sabriel(Old Kingdom), By Garth Nix

First Published: 1996

What It’s About:

The Old Kingdom holds a firm grip on its own vicinity, the people, and the nearby surroundings. Sabriel, however, grew up not knowing much about it all. Since she has always lived outside of the walls of the Old Kingdom, away from the power of magic and the dead who refuse to believe that they are dead. One day Sabriel realizes that her father is missing which compels her to enter the eerie world of the Old Kingdom to find her father. She crosses over into this fantasy world accompanied by Mogget – a cat with an almost malevolent spirit and a young Charter Mage called Touchstone. The book unravels the mystery of the Old Kingdom and detail Sabriel’s journey into the unknown.

Why You Should Read It:

If you love the Game of Thrones, get ready for another treat in print. Sabriel by Garth Nix is a New York Times bestseller – a part of the Abhorsen series. It’s a book with unique settings with a strong female protagonist across all the three books in this series.

Best Quote:

“Let this be my final lesson. Everyone and everything has a time to die.

16. Mistborn Series, By Brandon Sanderson

First Published: 2006

What It’s About:

Fantasy books come into a life of their own when accompanied by rich imagination and creativity at its extreme. The Mistborn Series narrates how evil and the good battle it out in any of the three books as a part of this New York Times Bestseller books namely: Mistborn, The Well of Ascension, and The Hero of Ages. While evil has ruled these lands with an iron fist for a long time, only until a trouble maker arrives to put up a revolt. This young girl no one trusts and she should also master Allomancy (the magic in metals). Could this be the end of atrocities that the evil has had over the lands? Is it the end of the dark lord?

Would the ordinary folk laboring in the ash fields be freed by this young female hero?

Why You Should Read It:

If you can excuse the tried-and-tested, all-too-common, good VS evil plots, Brandon’s narration is rich and epic. In a story that spans across four books (each of the books in the series can stand alone by itself though), the book is a must-have any fantasy fiction buff.

Best Quote:

“But you can’t kill me, Lord Tyrant. I represent that one thing you’ve never been able to kill, no matter how hard you try. I am hope.”

15. Alphabet of Thorn, By Patricia McKillip

First Published: 2004

What It’s About:

Masterful story telling knows no bounds, and Patricia McKillip has truly delivered goods again and again with many fantasy books. One of the her best and well-known rendition is The Alphabet of Thorn – a story of a young girl raised by a palace librarian to be a translator. Nepenthe comes across a mysterious book written in thorns that no one else can decipher – no one including the Wizards at Raine’s famous Floating school of Mages. Meanwhile the kingdom of Raine is in trouble and with a newly crowned queen who wants nothing to do with the responsibility of ruling the state. The book is all about what happens when the queen’s fate is entwined with that of Napenethe’s ability to unravel the mystery of the book.

Why You Should Read It:

For both the young and the adults, The Alphabet of Thorn can’t disappoint you. It reads fast, loads you with a sense of wonder on every page, and pulls you deep into the kingdom of Raine.

Best Quote:

“Every moment is like a wheel with a hundred spokes in it. We ride always at the hub of the wheel and go forward as it turns. We ignore the array of other moments constantly turning around us. We are surrounded by doorways; we never open them.”

14. The Harper Hall Trilogy, By Anne McCaffery

First Published: 1979

What It’s About:

The world of Pern has always suffered from a destructive force called Thread for centuries. The source of hope and the only way to protect Pern was all thanks in due for a few magnificent dragons – the numbers of those were slowly dwindling. While the powers of destruction gaining force and with the dragons almost gone, Menolly – a little fifteen-year-old – dreams of becoming a Harper. Menolly’s father isn’t exactly confident and feels that such an aim is unworthy of a girl and hence forbids her from perusing her dreams. Menolly, however, won’t give up and runs away taking shelter by the sea. There she meets nine fire lizards and her life changes forever from that moment on.

Why You Should Read It:

Do you like movies like How To Train Your Dragon? If you did, you’d love the story of the vivacious 15-year old Menolly as she joins hands with magnificent dragons and the whole science fiction setting that Anne McCaffrey is so natural at.

Best Quote:

“Maybes never are.”

13. The Ages of Chaos (Darkover), By Marion Zimmer Bradley

First Published: 1958

What It’s About:

Say hello to strange characters, aliens, places of wonder, and plots full of mystery. Be warned that this book is actually a part of a large collection of novels by Marion Zimmer Bradley. It’s all about what happens when a spaceship full of colonists gets lost on a habitable planet. It details how people adapt, survive, take advantage of a planet’s resources, how culture evolves, and how sociology is shaped. You’ll see what happens to the humans when they first make contact with the Ghost Wind – deep, strong, and psychic currents native only to this world.

Why You Should Read It:

If you are looking for your first fantasy book to read, go for Darkover. Without being too outlandish or Gory, Bradly smoothly introduces you to a world you didn’t know but also leaves you wanting more.
You just have to know. They came, and then what? We adapted, and then what?

Best Quote:

“You speak of being afraid. Yet fear is something you generate in yourself, from your mind’s lack of control; and you will learn to look at it and discover for yourself when you choose to be afraid.”

12. The Paladin, By C.J Cherryh

First Published: 1989

What It’s About:

Concise action, terse dialogues, and a fast adventure is what you get with The Paladin by C.J Cherryh written many years ago but it is guaranteed to keep your adrenaline rushing. It’s the story of a young girl Taizu who fights and battles her way through to find Saukandar– a warrior — so that she could get herself trained as a warrior. She seeks revenge from the emperor himself. Emperor now but a politician who slaughtered her family, made her live alone, and without a normal life ever. Saukandar was once loyal to the emperor but now lives in seclusion. He is left with a conundrum – should he show Taizu the door or teach her everything he knew, or maybe even join her in her journey?

Why You Should Read It:

The is the book if you want to see Cherryh’s work of art at its very peak. The strong Taizu character almost forces a happy-ending (if you like it that way) and you’ll find swords, sorcery, magic, spells, martial arts, and much more.

Best Quote:

“So Taizu walked out into the twilight, out into the open, disappointed, but braver in the failure of a miracle.”

11. God Stalk, By P.C Hodgell

First Published: 1955

What It’s About:

Kencyrs are aliens on the planet they now inhabit. For more than thirty centuries, their three-faced God used them as a weapon against the power of Perimal Darkling. Jame meanwhile knows little about the world she lives in, and about Kencyrs, and is only out looking for answers. Why did her home get destroyed? Why is her family dead? In a new life she’s been trying to lead, she finds herself doing everything against what Kencyrs do or believe. For starters, she apprentices with a powerful thief in the Thieves’ Guild. She explores the ways, rituals, and temples of thousands of Gods. She also kills a God and resurrects him. But who is she really? What is she doing? Will she know what her destiny is?

Why You Should Read It:

In a Genre that doesn’t exactly have some of the best books or writings possible, P.C Hodgell’s books come with a refreshing dose of energy and narration in labyrinthine plot-lines, a protagonist suffering from Amnesia, and more.
Go into a world of fantasy with Gods, plots, and resurrections – along with self-discovery, battles, and more.

Best Quote:

“Ahhh!” Jame said in sudden disgust, tossing away the mirror. Fool, to be obsessed with a past she couldn’t even remember. But it was all behind her now.”

10. The Hero and the Crown, By Robin McKinley

First Published: 1982

What It’s About:

Robin McKinley was always known for his epic sagas and larger than life characters playing out in one of the many popular books he wrote. The Hero and the Crown is a charismatic story of Aerin who has been haunted ever since birth by her own mother (a Witchwoman) who had cast a spell on the king and had died since she was disappointed that she gave birth to a daughter instead of a son (for the kingdom). The Witchwoman mother didn’t know, however, that Aerin would have a destiny of her own thanks to her mothers long-dormant magical powers. Aerin would be a hero one day. But how exactly?

Why You Should Read It:

There are many books in the Fantasy Fiction Genre. The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley, however, is an opus. The story is that of a teenage girl but her trials, tribulations, emotions, and everything else is certainly not teenage material. Be surprised with the many twists and turns in the tale and as the characters come to life.

Best Quote:

“She brooded, looking out over the wide low sill of the stone windowframe; she looked up, into the hills, because the glassy surface of the courtyard was too bright at midday to stare at long.”

9. Mystic And Rider, By Sharon Shinn

First Published: 2005

What It’s About:

King Baryn ordered that mystics and magicians are to be tolerated. However, hostility towards magicians has risen to intolerable levels. It is reported that the queen herself has ensnared the king with her magic powers. The king knows that he could be overthrown so he sends out Senneth to assess the threat across his kingdom. With a motley band of creatures with magical powers, warriors, and more, Senneth faces death on a land that’s ruled by a fanatical cult. The only way to survive is to do it together. But with such a motley group, will it ever happen? How will they fight the cult? What happens next?

Why You Should Read It:

Magic, fantasy, fairy-tales, and enchantment is all over the story that Sharon Shinn so masterfully unveils. It’s one of the books in the Twelve Houses series and it’s a gripping read until the last page. The book is all about gifted mystics, travelers, and an enjoyable plot. While it’s still fantasy, it’s still a believable read. If you ever wanted a thread of irritating but adorable characters and an ever growing web of relationships, Mystic and Rider is the book for you.

Best Quote:

“She should leave you. Or you shouldn’t leave her. I haven’t worked it out yet. But you shouldn’t be apart.”

8. The Magicians’ Guild, By Trudi Canavan

First Published: 2001

What It’s About:

Like it happens every year, the magicians of Imardin get together to purge the city of undesirables. Armed with sorcery (and not to mention tricks), they move confidently, and without fear. But one enraged girl – who isn’t even a child yet – throws a wrench at the magical invaders. The reality that the magicians didn’t ever want to see has surfaced. Someone outside their close ranks has magical powers that go beyond imagination. The young girl child is a raw, untrained mage who needs schooling before she destroys everything, including herself and the city she lives in.

Why You Should Read It:

With tons of magic, interesting characters, and a strong female lead, Trudi Canavan’s The Magicians’ Guild is a complete entertainer. Running like fantasy fiction, as it should, Sonea’s rebellion with untrained magical powers is a treat to your hunger for stories and fantasy.

Best Quote:

“The last young lady I met stabbed me. You know I’m cursed when it comes to women.”

7. The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, By Patricia A. McKillip

First Published: 1974

What It’s About:

Accompanied by a weird mix of creatures of fantastic menagerie called by the Wizardry, Sybel only has these playmates while growing up on the Eld mountain. With a baby bought to her to be raised, she didn’t care much for the humans until Coren – the man who had bought her the child – returns. Sybel spends a lot of time as the Wizard-in-residence having conversations with wild beasts. But when little Tam (the child) comes along before throwing Sybel’s life into a twisted fate full of hate and revenge. Chaos, choices, and ethics. It’s a story of powerful wizards, magic, surprises, and plot points that’ll make you wonder. Also, if you’d love books where you never get to guess the next few pages, you know you are in for a treat.

Why You Should Read It:

You couldn’t afford to go bored with 343 pages packed with enigmatic creatures, magical lands, and a gripping tale. It’s a story with beautiful, strong, and brace characters along with a great weave of words that’ll leave you hungry for more.

Best Quote:

“The man was hit in one eye by a stone, and that eye turned inward so that it looked into his mind, and he died of what he saw there.”

6. Daughter of the Forest, By Julier Marillier

First Published: 1999

What It’s About:

Clodagh is the third child of Sean’s six daughters. She is also the one everyone reaches out to when in times of stress or need. Known for her exceptional domestic skills and attention to detail. Clodagh takes over the responsibility of the entire household when her mother is soon to expect another child. Clodagh’s life takes a turn when her baby brother is stolen from a nursery and that’s when she steps outside of her realm. An adventurous journey follows as she seeks out her brother from the realm of fair folk and the Lord of the Oak.

Why You Should Read It:

Julliet Marillier has always been good with good and strong female leads in her novels and The Sevenwaters Trilogy does complete justice to her style of writing. Just before you think the ship has sailed with Julliet aboard, she comes out with a complete series with beautiful, even, and polished writing.

Best Quote:

“All that he had of her was his memory,where he held every moment,every single moment that she had been his.That was all he had,to keep out the loneliness.”

5. Green Rider, By Kristen Britian

First Published: 1998

What It’s About:

In a forest called Green Cloak, Karigan G’ladheon walks trudging along and pondering her future. But a galloping horse interrupts her thoughts with a rider impaled by two black arrows. As he lies dying on the road, Karigan learns that he is a Green Rider – one of the many legendary messengers of King Zachary. He was out on a mission to deliver a life and death message so he makes Karigan take on an oath, his green coat, a symbolic brooch, and even the title of a Green Rider. Little does Karigan realize that her life changes forever. Hounded by dark beings, the immense forest, and more to come.
Will Karigan accomplish her mission?

Why You Should Read It:

Green Rider is the first book of the much acclaimed Green Rider series and it’s a must have for every fantasy genre fan. There are no dragons but there is fighting. There’s magic, horses, and even some romance thrown in. The Green Rider series is a complete entertainer.

Best Quote:
“You’re a stubborn, ill-trained horse.” she said. The horse snorted and walked towards the North Road of his own volition.”Hey!” Karigan pulled back on the reins. “Whoa. Who do you think is in charge here?”

4. Dragondoom, By Dennis L. McKiernan

First Published: 1990

What It’s About:

A Thousand years ago, the prince of Vanadurin, Elgo, killed the Dragon Sleeth and came back with a bounty of extraordinary wealth from the beast’s lair. However, the bounty is cursed there’s more in store other than gems and gold. It bought misery and death to the nobles and the peasants. It bought in strife, destruction, and mayhem. As the conflict continues under the curse, along with a wizard who seems intent on avenging the Dragon’s death. Two sworn enemies also seek out a long-lost, legendary weapon: Warhammer of incredible power. But none of them have it easy because of the dangers laid out ahead of them…

Why You Should Read It:

The book – like all other books in the series – is full of imaginative prose complete with the bells and whistles such as dragons, dwarfs, warriors, magic, and weapons that are as elusive as magic is. It’s a great introduction to fantasy and a great alternative to the Hobbits (if you’ve had enough of them, that is). The fine story just flows, along with everything you expect in a fantasy series.

Best Quote:

“Should I, Can I, rescue one of them?”

3. Poisoned Blade, By Kate Elliot

First Published: 2016

What It’s About:

Jessamy is battling through to reach the top ranks of the fives – a complex athletic contest favored by everyone. She battles against formidable opponents and she has no other option but to succeed. The prize money, for Jes, is the only way to keep her hidden family alive. With a warlord watching her every move, facing Lord Kalliarkos with whom she is still in love, and with a huge responsibility on her head, Jes has only one way to go – up the ranks and to the very top of the Fives Championship. Will she make it?

Why You Should Read It:

As a world fantasy award finalist and one of the most prolific writers in the fantasy fiction genre, it’s a pleasure to have her introduce a female lead in her book Poisoned Blade (Court of Fives) and to see her racy prose do justice to Jes’s story, on her way to championship of the fives. If you’ve never read a fantasy book before, here’s for a good start. If you’ve read most of others on the list, see what Kate does to fantasy fiction.

Best Quote:

“I was missing.”

2. Black Unicorn, By Tanith Lee

First Published: 1991

What It’s About:

Suddenly, there comes a Unicorn that comes looking for a girl who doesn’t even have the remotest skill for magic. No one knows why – or from where the Unicorn came—except that it never made any sense that the Unicorn came looking for a girl who could only fiddle with broken machinery. Even Jaive, the sorceress, couldn’t fathom that the Unicorn came seeking the completely unmagical daughter. But Tanaquil finds herself set on an adventure, away from the fortress that rests on a desert. Why did the Unicorn come looking for the girl? What’s that the girl could do?

Why You Should Read It:

Tanith Lee has the gift of story telling and nothing proves that more than Black Unicorn. With wonderful characters like Tanaquil, her sidekick, and even the desert peeve will all amuse you as the story fleshes itself out.
Black Unicorn makes for a great read complete with fantasy bordering on fairy tales.

Best Quote:

“She braced herself for the pain of the perfect horn breaking her heart.”

1. A Game Of Thrones, By George R R. Martin

First Published: 1996

What It’s About:

A long time ago, a preternatural event throws seasons out of gear. In a time when summers and winters could last a lifetime, trouble starts to brew. Meanwhile, the king’s powers are failing too and his most trusted advisor dies a mysterious death. Enemies lurk in the shadows of the throne. Lord Eddard Stark is suddenly summoned to serve as the king’s new advisor but that threatens not only the king’s family but also the kingdom. With many sides on conflict, what happens to Stark? What’s the future of the King and the kingdom? Thus follows a saga of lords, kinds, ladies, soldiers, sorcerers, warriors, and assassins. While there are strong female characters, I’m listing this book because it’s a master piece, no matter who you think is at the lead.

Why You Should Read It:

How would we ever miss one of the most popular fantasy series ever? Game of Thrones is the perfect answer to the fantasy genre addict. George R R. Martin has truly produced masterpiece with The Game of Thrones and if you enjoyed the television series, you’ll absolutely love the book series – what with the gory detail revolving around mystery, romance, intrigue, and of course, adventure. If you ever had to read just one book, this would be it.

Best Quote:

“Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armour yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”

Conclusion

Fantasy fiction is one of the best ways for you to take some imagination on loan and just get off reality for as long as you read. Introduce yourself to a world you never knew could exist. Rub shoulders with the exotic, the mythical, the strange, and even the weird. Or maybe watch fighting, battles, and epic sagas unfold within the pages you hold. Which of these fantasy books would you like to grab your hands on now?

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