In honour of International Women’s Day
*Yes I said it. I grew up in the 90s and I’m not ashamed of my love of the Spice Girls
I don’t really need an excuse to champion the authors mentioned below but since it is International Women’s Day I have one anyway. I’m highlighting 5 of my favourite female authors and the complex characters they create. Each of these women are on my instant list, when I see they have a new book coming I’ll pre-order it (especially if there are special editions) and if they’re doing a book launch/talk event I will be booking a ticket. I’ve avoided duplication so while Agatha Christie, Robin Stevens, and VE Schwab all deserve to be on this list you can refer back to my other posts to see why I love them and you should too.
All the authors on this list have made me cry with their books. They’re that good.
Juno Dawson writes both fiction and non-fiction, as well as being a transgender activist. She was already a published author before transitioning and so had to do so in the public eye which must have required a great deal of strength. In non-fiction she has written Mind Your Head which covers topics around mental health, while This Book is Gay and The Gender Games cover LGBTQ+ topics. PROUD is an own-voices anthology she worked on with Stripes so that young LGBTQ+ talent would have a platform to tell their stories (not non-fiction but it was in the same photo so I included it in this paragraph).
Juno has written a wide range of fiction, mostly Young Adult. Her newest three all centre around girls in London. Although not a traditional trilogy so they could be read individually, there are some references to characters and events in the ones before that mean reading them in order is helpful.
Clean follows socialite Lexi Volkov as one particularly wild weekend prompts her brother to check her into a swanky rehab facility.
Meat Market shows the dark nature of the fashion industry when Jana Novak gets ‘spotted’ and plucked from normal life onto the catwalk.
Wonderland is a modern-day retelling of Alice in Wonderland with a trans heroine. Alice becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to her friend Bunny and follows the trail to Wonderland, the biggest party there is.
In my opinion Wonderland is the strongest of the 3, I binged it in a weekend, but I would recommend reading all of the above.
I haven’t included all of my copies of Juno’s books as some are listed with her deadname – her publisher is bringing out new editions but there are still old copies out there. Cruel Summer (high school reunion trip turns murder mystery), Say Her Name (high school horror), Margot & Me (three generations of women thrown together in difficult circumstances), and Hollow Pike (high school witchcraft and murder) are all worth a read. Her next book is due this summer and is called Her Majesty’s Royal Coven – obviously I’ve pre-ordered.
Leigh is an American goth queen and I am low-key in love with her. I first read Six of Crows without realising it was a duology and spent a miserable year waiting for Crooked Kingdom to come out so I could check if my favourite characters survived. As you can see, I have two copies because I love special editions and will willingly part with money to have multiple copies of my favourites.
The Grisha Trilogy (Shadow & Bone, Siege & Storm, and Ruin & Rising ) are set in war-torn Ravka. When orphan Alina Starkov harnesses a power she didn’t know she had in order to save her friend Mal she is quickly rushed to the capital of Os Alta to study with the Grisha under the instructions of the mysterious Darkling.
Six of Crows is set in neighbouring Kerch, in the city of Ketterdam, as Kaz Brekker forms a crew of six to run a heist on the impregnable ice fortress. While Kaz is definitely one of my favs, his trusty wraith Inej is a complete badass and their Grisha companion Nina’s relationship with food is highly relatable. Crooked Kingdom covers the aftermath of the heist – can’t really give too many details without spoilers.
Netflix have recently aired the first season of Shadow and Bone, an adaptation merging book 1 of the Grisha Trilogy and prequel events to Six of Crows. Leigh has been involved in adapting it and the show is SO GOOD. But read the books first, obviously.
Language of Thorns is a short story collection of tales told in the Grishaverse.
King of Scars and Rule of Wolves are follow-on novels for the Grisha Trilogy – I haven’t read them yet but my copies are beautiful and I am really looking forward to finding out what this character did next. (Wow it is difficult to do this without spoilers).
Ninth House is Leigh’s first adult novel inspired by her time at Yale and focussed on magical secret socities. Again, I haven’t read it yet (I own a LOT of books I haven’t read yet) but I don’t doubt it will be excellent.
Samantha Shannon started writing the Bone Season while she was studying at Oxford. The first 4 books in the series are published but there are 3 still to come. I’ve read the first three, The Mask Falling only just came out in paperback and I wanted the set to sort-of match so it’s high up my TBR. Paige Mahoney is part of London’s underground Clairvoyant society, forced to live in the shadows by a judgemental system. Following an altercation with a train official on her way home she is captured/arrested and taken to the lost city of Oxford where everything she thought she knew is turned on its head. Bone Season had me sobbing, Mime Order had me swearing, by Song Rising I was on my guard from the start – I can’t wait for Mask Falling.
The Priory of the Orange Tree is a multi-PoV high fantasy beast of a novel largely centred around two women – Ead in the West and Tané in the East. Ead is an outsider and lady-in-waiting at the court of Queen Sabran Berethnet trying to help Sabran from the shadows without drawing too much attention to herself. Tané is training to fulfil her life’s dream of becoming a dragon rider and hoping a secret from her past won’t thwart her ambition. This one has dragons, wyrms, magic, LGBTQ+ representation and so many good things. And made me cry (see the theme?).
Melinda Salisbury likes to hurt me with her books. I’m sure it’s not just me but I can’t speak for others. She also has some of the most beautiful covers on my shelves, which is quite the accomplishment.
The Sin Eater’s Daughter trilogy starts with Twylla, the court executioner who can kill with a single touch, adrift in the royal court, until she meets the charismatic Lief. With The Sleeping Prince we switch perspectives to Lief’s sister Errin, left looking after her mother and selling illegal herbal cures to pay rent. The Scarecrow Queen brings both women together in the culmination of the story. Mel is brilliant at tricksy narratives and duplicitous characters – I learned very quickly not to trust my initial feelings on any character, I’m never certain of their motivations until I’ve finished the book and she’s run out of pages to trick me on.
The Sorrow duology is set in a kingdom of perpetual grief, mourning the loss of their young prince who died just days before his sister Sorrow was born. Sorrow tries to live in the shadow of this legacy and survive in a court of politics and intrigue.
Hold Back the Tide is set in a town by a remote loch in Scotland that Alva cannot wait to leave. But something sinister is stirring in the loch that will make things far more difficult than just living in the shadow of a murderer.
Her Dark Wings is a retelling of the Hades and Persephone myth and due out in July. Again, can’t wait!
Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone is the reason I dyed my hair blue. She has the honour of the third and final shelf on my favourites bookshelf, alongside VE Schwab and Neil Gaiman.
The trilogy starts with Karou, blue-haired, tattooed, living in Prague and working for a chimaera called Brimstone when she’s not attending art classes. When black handprints start appearing on doorways Karou encounters Akiva, an angel seemingly on the opposite side of a war Karou didn’t realise she was part of. It’s another one that’s tricky to talk about without spoilers but is one of the many reasons I fell in love with Prague.
As you can see, I have two copies of this trilogy because I couldn’t resist the special editions. I really need to do a reread of the series.
Laini’s second series, Strange the Dreamer & Muse of Nightmares, centre on Lazlo Strange and Sarai. Lazlo is an orphan and apprentice librarian in search of his own story. Sarai is one of the Godspawn, children of the gods who survived the massacre that killed their parents, living above the city unknown to those below. More crying with these.
All 5 of these women are Queens who know how to write characters you’ll fall in love with, truly despise, cry over and cheer for. The female characters in their stories are complex and real – no manic pixie dream girls here. I recommend any and all of these, even the ones I haven’t read – I have faith in these women not to disappoint.