The definitive* list of fantasy novels with older female protagonists

I asked on Twitter for recommendations of fantasy novels with older female protagonists, and here’s what everyone came up with. (Note I was joking about “definitive”.)

magic system - lamp in a forest

* I lied. This list is most certainly not definitive, sorry.

Some time ago I wrote a post lamenting the dearth of older women who are fantasy protagonists. (At least, I think that’s what the post was about. It’s been a while.)

Recently someone reached out to me referencing the post, and because my TBR list isn’t long enough** I decided to seek out a list of such books.

I posted this tweet asking for recommendations. (I’m not embedding the post because that comes with malicious code.) As you can see, it garnered a lot of interest.

A tweet by A.S. Akkalon that reads:

I'm looking for fantasy books with protagonists who are older women. How much older? Anything older than your standard teen or twenty-something. Any suggestions?

#books #AmReading #WritingCommunity
A hot question, as it turns out.

In this blog post I pull out an (unfortunately not entirely) comprehensive list of the suggestions I received for your reading pleasure. Also to help me plump up my TBR pile.

I haven’t read all these books yet, so I can’t say whether you’ll enjoy them. (Even if I had read them I couldn’t say that because your reading tastes are kind of eclectic.)

If I omitted a book that was mentioned it was probably due to the vagaries of Twitter threads. Or I couldn’t figure out what book you were talking about. If I missed your book, please don’t be offended and do add it in the comments below.

In the tweet I asked about books with protagonists in their 30s or older, but let’s face it, women in their 30s are still very young. I’ve weeded out some books with protagonists I thought were under 40. Not because they’re not worth reading, but there were a lot of books.

I’ve used a few subheadings, but don’t get too excited–most of the list is one big jumble. Enjoy!

Fantasy novels with women in their 60s+ as protagonists

As far as I can tell, the protagonists in these books are grandmothers or in their sixties or older.

Becoming Crone by Lydia M. Hawke: This is the first in the Crone Wars series (currently 5 books). Claire Emerson has just turned 60, and her life is about to get interesting. This book will make you use the word “crone” with a lot more respect. Recommended by several different people on Twitter.

The Remarkable Retirement of Edna Fisher by E.M. Anderson: 83-year old Edna Fisher is the Chosen One, destined to save the Knights from a dragon-riding sorcerer bent on their destruction. Recommended by several different people on Twitter.

Mrs. Perivale and the Blue Fire Crystal by Dash Hoffman: 73 year old Mrs. Perivale, along with her her extraordinary family of six cats and her skeptical-yet-devoted butler Henderson, must find the stolen Blue Fire Crystal before the imbalance between elements destroys all of the magical land of Corevé. And there’s a sequel!

A Key, an Egg, an Unfortunate Remark by Harry Connolly: Marley Jacobs is a 65-year-old cross between Auntie Mame and Gandalf. She thought she had retired from her life fighting the supernatural. Apparently not.

A Necromancer Called Gam Gam by Adam Holcombe: Gam Gam is a grandmotherly necromancer seeking resolution for her past with the help of her loyal entourage: an undead cat and a spectral knight. She must protect a girl on the run from the Eternal Empire for the mysterious power she possesses.

Aunt Jenny and the Delayed Quest by Jim Burrows: The King’s Eye, the amulet that would unlock the portal to adventure and the Halflands, arrived forty-five years late. And did retired Aunt Jenny take up the quest? You bet she did.

Time Tourist Outfitters, Ltd. by C.N. Jackson and Christy Nicholas: Wilda Firestone, retired First Nations Temporal Agent and owner of a time tourism costume shop, thought her days of hopping through centuries were over. That is, until a dying explorer crashed into her store, unleashing a plague that sent countless travelers to an early doom…

Rough Passages by K.M Herkes: Superpowered grandmothers, courageous Marines, and extraordinary teens: welcome to a reality where every midlife crisis might become a national emergency.

Grandma the Barbarian by Trinity Zook: Puberty can be a difficult and confusing time in any boy’s life, and 11-year-old Chuck just wants to be like all the other boys—navigating school crushes, humiliating bullies, popping awkward boners are all part of Chuck’s daily battles—and he would give anything to just blend in. Unfortunately for Chuck, his grandma is anything but ordinary. Interdimensionally infamous Edith the Bone Muncher is a 10-foot tall, bikini-clad, battle-axe-wielding barbarian badass—and she’s come to visit her favorite grandson.

Highly recommended

These books came recommended by multiple people on Twitter. Most have female protagonists in their 40s or older, though some protagonists might only be in their 30s.

Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold: This is book 2 in the Chalion series. Consensus is you should read book 1 first, where Ista is introduced as a secondary character. I can’t try to summarise the blurb in one paragraph, but it makes me want to read the book. Book 3 was recommended as well.

The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi by Shannon Chakraborty: The first in a new trilogy of magic and mayhem on the high seas in this tale of pirates and sorcerers, forbidden artifacts and ancient mysteries, in one woman’s determined quest to seize a final chance at glory—and write her own legend.

The Bone Maker by Sarah Beth Durst: Five warriors—one broken, one gone soft, one pursuing a simple life, one stuck in the past, and one who should be dead. Their story should have been finished. But evil doesn’t stop just because someone once said, “the end.” Also pretty much any other adult book by this author.

Partial Function by JCM Berne: Monster hunter Akina Azure inherited the most powerful weapon in the martial world before retiring to a peaceful life raising her twin girls. The Reaver has them kidnapped, thinking Akina will trade that weapon for their safe return. Will she? Or will she use it to wreak a terrible retribution on the men who took her girls? You get one guess.

Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons by Quenby Olson: Miss Mildred Percy is a spinster. She does not dance, she has long stopped dreaming, and she certainly does not have adventures. That is, until her great uncle has the audacity to leave her an inheritance, one that includes a dragon’s egg. The egg, inevitably, hatches. You fill in the rest. And there’s a sequel!

Tea with the Black Dragon by R.A. MacAvoy: A mother and a mysterious Chinese man—who is more than he appears—search for her missing daughter in San Francisco. Also the sequel, Twisting the Rope.

The Broken Earth Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin: The trilogy begins with The Fifth Season. THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS . . . FOR THE LAST TIME. IT STARTS WITH THE GREAT RED RIFT across the heart of the world’s sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun. IT STARTS WITH DEATH, with a murdered son and a missing daughter. IT STARTS WITH BETRAYAL, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester. This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy. I blogged about the second book in the series some time ago. (It wasn’t a review.)

The Death Before Dragons series by Lindsay Buroker: The first book is Sinister Magic, and there are currently nine books in total. Val Thorvald is an assassin who takes care of magical bad guys who hurt people. Then she develops a dragon problem.

The Art of Prophecy by Wesley Chu: This is the first book in the War Arts Saga. A “superb fantasy saga” (Helene Wecker) of martial arts and magic, about what happens when a prophesied hero is not the chosen one after all—but has to work with a band of unlikely allies to save the kingdom anyway.

Tehanu by Ursula K. Le Guin: In this fourth novel in the Earthsea series, we rejoin the young priestess the Tenar and powerful wizard Ged. Years before, they had helped each other at a time of darkness and danger. Together, they shared an adventure like no other. Tenar has since embraced the simple pleasures of an ordinary life, while Ged mourns the powers lost to him through no choice of his own. Now the two must join forces again and help another in need—the physically, emotionally scarred child whose own destiny has yet to be revealed…

Swordheart (book 1 of the Saint of Steel) by T. Kingfisher: Halla is a housekeeper who has suddenly inherited her great-uncle’s estate… and, unfortunately, his relatives. Sarkis is an immortal swordsman trapped in a prison of enchanted steel. When Halla draws the sword that imprisons him, Sarkis finds himself attempting to defend his new wielder against everything from bandits and roving inquisitors to her own in-laws… and the sword itself may prove to be the greatest threat of all…

Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher: This isn’t the kind of fairy tale where the princess marries a prince. It’s the one where she kills him.

Paladin’s Grace by T. Kingfisher: Stephen’s god died on the longest day of the year… Three years later, Stephen is a broken paladin, living only for the chance to be useful before he dies. But all that changes when he encounters a fugitive named Grace in an alley and witnesses an assassination attempt gone wrong. Now the pair must navigate a web of treachery, beset on all sides by spies and poisoners, while a cryptic killer stalks one step behind…

Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books featuring the three witches: Equal Rites, Wyrd Sisters, and Witches Abroad.

More books, many also highly recommended

Yes, this isn’t a very informative heading. I thought I’d leave you the joy of the discovery.

The Sword of Kaigen by M.L. Wang: The Poppy War’s darkness meets The Last Airbender’s Elemental Magic. An emotionally supercharged novel about love and loss.

Magical Midlife Madness by K.F. Breene: This is Leveling Up book 1. A woman starting over. A new house with an unexpected twist. A cape wearing butler acting as the world’s worst life coach.

Love Like a Cephalopod by Cassondra Windwalker: Grenda is a 56-year-old executioner with a cat-sized venomous dragon in this dystopian fantasy.

How to Tame a Dragon by Lila Mina: Naomi knew Mr Cocky Jerk spelt trouble the second she crashed against him. But she never imagined she’d end up with his portrait under her skin, his swords under her pillow and an army of yokai after her. #UF with pan and genderfluid protags.

The Soprano Sorceress by L.E. Modesitt Jr.: Anna Marshall is a singer and music instructor at Iowa State University until she is magically transported to the world of Erde, where song is magic, making Anna a sorceress.

Death’s Mistress by Terry Goodkind: One-time lieutenant of the evil Emperor Jagang, known as “Death’s Mistress” and the “Slave Queen”, the deadly Nicci captured Richard Rahl in order to convince him that the Imperial Order stood for the greater good. But it was Richard who converted Nicci instead, and for years thereafter she served Richard and Kahlan as one of their closest friends—and one of their most lethal defenders. Now, with the reign of Richard and Kahlan finally stabilized, Nicci has set out on her own for new adventures.

Sistah Samurai by Tatiana Obey: Afro Samurai meets The Sword of Kaigen in this anime-inspired novella.

Gretel and the Case of the Missing Frog Prints by P.J. Brackston: Bavaria, 1776. When Albrecht Durer the Much Much Younger’s Frog Prints go missing, he knows exactly where to turn for help. Gretel (yes, that Gretel), now 35 and still living with her gluttonous brother Hans, is the country’s most famous private investigator, and she leaps at the opportunity to travel to cosmopolitan Nuremberg to take on the case.

The Pitfalls of Being a Goddess by Eva Leppard: Brigid Humboldt is a high school teacher who has worked hard to fashion a predictable, ordinary life after an anything but ordinary childhood. When scientists turn on the Large Hadron Collider, Brigid, inexplicably, becomes the co ruler of, well, everything. She quickly realises that not only must she learn the ropes of a new and not particularly welcomed job, she must also try and work out just which of the apparently multitudinous dark forces that surround her is trying to plunge the planet into an eternal pit of torment.

Laurie J. Marks’s Elemental Logic series: The first book is Fire Logic. This series introduces readers to the realm of Shaftal, an intricately imagined land whose people operate within the boundaries of their basic natures—here defined as logics—which sometimes bequeath them with access to magical, elemental powers and sometimes embroil them in unsolvable internal conflicts.

Too Much Magic by J. E. Andrews: A scholarly witch, Pepper Paull, buys an ancient book that changes her future. In a fight for her life against Hidden enemies her magic is put to the test. Destiny has taken a hand, ripping her from a solitary life to find friends who stand with her as the danger to the worlds around her is revealed.

Queens of Themiscyra by Hannah Lynn: In ancient Themiscyra, Hippolyte rules as Queen of the Amazons. Feared throughout Greece, their skills on the battlefield are unrivalled. But when a ship lands on their shores, it brings something more dangerous than the threat of war. It brings a future Hippolyte could never have dreamed of.

Silver Moon by Catherine Lundoff: Becca Thornton, divorced, middle-aged and trying to embrace a quiet life, discovers that there are still plenty of surprises to be had when her menopause kicks in with bonus lycanthropy.

A Sword of Bronze and Ashes by Anna Smith Spark: Kanda has a good life until shadows from her past return threatening everything she loves. And Kanda, like any parent, has things in her past she does not want her children to know. Red war is coming: pursued by an ancient evil, Kanda must call upon all her strength to protect her family. But how can she keep her children safe, if they want to stand as warriors beside her when the light fades and darkness rises?

A Woman of the Sword by Anna Smith Spark: Lidae is a daughter, a wife, a mother – and a great warrior born to fight. Her sword is hungry for killing, her right hand is red with blood. War is very much a woman’s business. But war is not kind to women. And war is not kind to mothers and their sons.

The Monsters We Save by Jentina Grey: Summer and Charles are the sworn keepers of an unstable rift between dimensions. Most of the time they enjoy an idyllic life in the country, but sometimes, things come through.

The Coven by Lizzie Fry: Imagine a world in which witchcraft is real. In which mothers hand down power to their daughters, power that is used harmlessly and peacefully. Then imagine that the US President is a populist demagogue who decides that all witches must be imprisoned for their own safety, as well as the safety of those around them – creating a world in which to be female is one step away from being criminal…

A Crown for Cold Silver by Alex Marshall: Five villans. One Legendary General. A final quest for vengeance.

The Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs: The first book is Moon Called. Mercy Thompson is a shapeshifter, and while she was raised by werewolves, she can never be one of them, especially after the pack ran her off for having a forbidden love affair. So she’s turned her talent for fixing cars into a business and now runs a one-woman mechanic shop in the Tri-Cities area of Washington State. But Mercy’s two worlds are colliding…

Polgara the Sorceress by David Eddings and Leigh Eddings: She soars above a world of warriors, kings, and priests. The daughter of Belgarath and the shape-shifter Poledra, she has fought wars, plotted palace coups, and worked her powerful magic for three thousand years. Now, Polgara looks back at her magnificent life, in this fitting crown jewel to the saga that is the Eddings’ Belgariad and Mallorean cycles.

The Tower of Taal by James Gould: Can a warrior from a different world travel through the dimensions and save a country under attack from the most evil sorceress to ever exist? An epic tale of romance, betrayal, and courage in mysterious lands and epic battles.

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley: In Marion Zimmer Bradley’s masterpiece, we see the tumult and adventures of Camelot’s court through the eyes of the women who bolstered the king’s rise and schemed for his fall.

Dust of a Moth’s Wing by R. Ramey Guerrero: Obsessed with returning his life-mate home, Nokhum violates the conditions of his pardon to meet with a Human who works with the leader of the slavers. This Human was supposed to have answers about what the Humans are doing with his people that they have stolen, but things don’t go as planned. What’s worse, one of Nokhum’s coworkers, Xiilena, has proof that the Council of Elders has members who are working with the Human slavers, meaning they aren’t likely to agree with Nokhum to send a party to rescue the stolen. His only choice is to seek the forbidden magics to find his life-mate.

DreaganStar by Nan Klee: Samantha Alexander is the Senior Psychologist of the five Dreagan Corporation lunar colonies. She is given the task of proving Jonathan Dreagan, the founder, the brilliant scientist and Chairman of the Board to be insane. It would be an easy task but for the fact that Dreagan is the originator of all of the technology around her, still a brilliant scientist, and the man she is rapidly falling in love with.

Death and Relaxation by Devon Monk: Welcome to Ordinary, Oregon! Police Chief Delaney Reed can handle the Valkyries, werewolves, gill-men and other paranormal creatures who call Ordinary their home. It’s the vacationing gods who keep her up at night. With the famous rhubarb festival right around the corner bringing hundreds of people into the little town, the last thing Delaney needs is a dead body washing ashore—especially when the dead body is a god.

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K.S. Villoso: From “a powerful new voice in fantasy” comes the tale of a queen who must unite her divided land, even if she’s hated by the very people she’s trying to protect.

Queens of the Wyrd by Timandra Whitecastle: Half-giant Lovis and her Shieldmaiden warband were once among the fiercest warriors in Midgard. But those days are long past and now Lovis just wants to provide a safe home for herself and her daughter – that is, until her former shield-sister Solveig shows up on her doorstep with shattering news. Solveig’s warrior daughter is trapped on the Plains of Vigrid in a siege gone ugly. Desperate to rescue her, Sol is trying to get the old warband back together again. But their glory days are a distant memory. The Shieldmaidens are Shieldmothers now, entangled in domestic obligations and ancient rivalries. Their road won’t be easy, and Ragnarok is coming.

Spirit Gate by Kate Elliott: A group of fanatics has risen to devour villages, towns, and cities in their drive to annihilate all who oppose them. No one knows who leads them; they seem inhumanly cruel and powerful. Mai and Anji, riding with a company of dedicated warriors and a single reeve who may hold a key to stopping the deadly advance of the devouring horde, must try, or the world will be lost to the carnage. But a young woman sworn to the Goddess may prove more important than them all . . . if they are not too late.

The Dry Country by Judith Pratt: Dreams, visions, monsters, and a landscape that changes as you walk through it. That’s the Dry Country. No one crosses the Dry unchanged. If you don’t change, you don’t make it. For those desperate enough to cross the Dry in search of a better life, there are Guides, who can navigate the mirages and transformations that make the Dry dangerous. Miskin runs away from home to travel the Dry Country and become a Guide. But everything goes wrong.

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey: When a gruesome murder is discovered at The Osthorne Academy of Young Mages, where her estranged twin sister teaches Theoretical Magic, reluctant detective Ivy Gamble is pulled into the world of untold power and dangerous secrets. She will have to find a murderer and reclaim her sister—without losing herself.

Eclipse and Pastiche by Celia Lake: These are historical fantasy romances set in the magical community of Great Britain.

The Last Rune series by Mark Anthony: The first book is Beyond the Pale. A strange rift in ordinary reality draws saloon owner Travis Wilder and ER doctor Grace Beckett into the otherworld of Eldh–a land of gods, monsters, and magic that is sorely in need of heroes.

The First Fangs Club series Kristen Painter: The first book is Sucks To Be Me. When 49-year-old Belladonna Barrone’s mobbed up husband does her the favor of dying in a car accident, she thinks she’s finally free of the crime family she unwittingly married into. But she’s not, and then things really go south, because vampires and werewolves are real.

The Windrose Chronicles by Barbara Hambly: The first book is The Silent Tower. A complex tale of dark magic, mystery and deadly danger involving a woman computer programmer who struggles to help a condemned wizard save–or perhaps destroy?–two worlds.

The Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series by Laurell K. Hamilton: The first book (of 30!) is Guilty Pleasures. Anita Blake is small, dark, and dangerous. Her turf is the city of St. Louis. Her job: re-animating the dead and killing the undead who take things too far. But when the city’s most powerful vampire asks her to solve a series of vicious slayings, Anita must confront her greatest fear—her undeniable attraction to master vampire Jean-Claude, one of the creatures she is sworn to destroy…

The Forty Proof series by Shannon Mayer: The first book is Midlife Bounty Hunter. One day I’m married, living in Seattle, and magic isn’t real. The next, I’m divorced and living in the guest room of my ex’s hotter- than-sin cousin’s place in Savannah . . . and talking to an animated skeleton named Robert. And when a job comes my way that offers me a chance to use my childhood training in the shadow world, I take it—I need the money more than I care about my sanity.

The Luminance Saga series by Steven Rudy: The first book is The Binding Tempest. When the Peace King of the Free Cities goes missing, an aging former war hero Ellaria Moonstone uncovers a plot to overthrow the tenuous republic. Fearing that a powerful being called a Sagean Luminary has returned to build a new empire, Ellaria sends for help from old allies and expatriates scattered across the chaotic frontier. Now three aging war heroes, long past their prime and haunted by their pasts, are all that stand against a dark entity threatening the future.

The Moonshadow Bay series by Yasmine Galenorn: The first book is Starlight Web. Moonshadow Bay…where magic lurks in the moonlight, and danger hides in the shadows. One month before January Jaxson turns 41, her husband ditches her for a trophy wife. Adding insult to injury, he steals the business she helped build, and kicks her out during the holidays.So when her best friend Ari suggests she move back to Moonshadow Bay—a quirky, magical town near Bellingham WA—January decides to take the plunge. January accepts a job at Conjure Ink, a paranormal investigations website, and her adventures begin.

Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly: As a vicious dragon stalks the Southlands, Crown Prince Gareth ventures to the forbidding North in search of the only man who can kill it. He is Lord Aversin, the Dragonsbane, whose dragon-slaying days have won him renown across the land. But when Gareth finds Lord Aversin, he discovers the mighty hero is squat and bespectacled, the ruler of a mud-village who admits that he killed the dragon not with a lance, but with ignoble poison. Still, he’ll have to do. Gareth and Aversin set off in company with Jenny Waynest, a witch with great ambitions but disappointingly puny powers—a ragtag crew destined to become legendary, or die in the attempt.

Tiger Burning Bright by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Mercedes Lackey, and Andre Norton: A priestess grandmother, a reigning queen mother, and a warrior princess daughter must use all their skill and strength in both open and secret battle to defeat an evil emperor and his truly odious, not to mention potent, sorcerous henchman.

The Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde: The first book is The Eyre Affair. Great Britain, circa 1985, when time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously: it’s a bibliophile’s dream. England is a virtual police state where an aunt can get lost (literally) in a Wordsworth poem and forging Byronic verse is a punishable offense. All this is business as usual for Thursday Next, renowned Special Operative in literary detection. But when someone begins kidnapping characters from works of literature and plucks Jane Eyre from the pages of Brontë’s novel, Thursday is faced with the challenge of her career.

Twicetime by Carol Carman: Building a bodyguard to kill your aristocratic niece’s vengeful ex-husband should be easy for a witch. All you need is the right body and the right magic, and soon you have a mindless killer to do your bidding. Of course, it all depends on what the butler brings back from the cemetery. For Frances Stein, reanimating the dead is one thing, but convincing the corpse there’s life after death is another. Finding out he’s neither mindless nor killer is something else entirely.

The Rose Daughter by Maria Lewis: Dreckly Jones – a 40-something oyster shucker according to her fake documents, 140-something sprite if you’re going to get all nit-picky about it – has become an expert at many things. Chief amongst them: hiding. When she meets a determined group of rebels who desperately need her help, she finds herself wanting to stick her neck out for the first time in a long while, though it could cost her everything.

The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson: In 1804, shortly before the Caribbean island of Saint Domingue is renamed Haiti, a group of women gather to bury a stillborn baby. Led by a lesbian healer and midwife named Mer, the women’s lamentations inadvertently release the dead infant’s “unused vitality” to draw Ezili—the Afro-Caribbean goddess of sexual desire and love—into the physical world. As Ezili explores her newfound powers, she travels across time and space to inhabit the midwife’s body, as well as those of Jeanne—a mixed-race dancer and the mistress of Charles Baudelaire living in 1880s Paris—and Meritet, an enslaved Greek-Nubian prostitute in ancient Alexandria. Bound together by Ezili and “the salt road” of their sweat, blood, and tears, the three women struggle against a hostile world, unaware of the goddess’s presence in their lives.

The All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness: The first book is A Discovery of Witches. In this tale of passion and obsession, Diana Bishop, a young scholar and a descendant of witches, discovers a long-lost and enchanted alchemical manuscript, Ashmole 782, deep in Oxford’s Bodleian Library. Its reappearance summons a fantastical underworld, which she navigates with her leading man, vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont.

The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk: This novel is a big, shaggy, sloppy dog of a fantasy about a great war taking place during the 21st century: A city of eco-feminist witches must stand up to the violence of an army bred on a repressive Christian ideology that justifies the greed of a corporate cabal of rich white men.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie: On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest. Once, she was the Justice of Toren — a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy. Now, an act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with one fragile human body, unanswered questions, and a burning desire for vengeance.

A Day of Fallen Night by Samantha Shannon: In A Day of Fallen Night, Samantha Shannon sweeps readers back to the universe of Priory of the Orange Tree and into the lives of four women, showing us a course of events that shaped their world for generations to come.

The Executioness by Tobias S. Buckell: Magic has a price. In Khaim, that price is your head if you’re found using it. For the use of magic comes with a side effect: it creates bramble. The bramble is a creeping, choking menace that has covered majestic ancient cities, and felled civilizations. In order to prevent the spread of the bramble, many lose their heads to the cloaked executioners of Khaim. Tana is one of these executioners, taking the job over from her ailing father in secret, desperate to keep her family from starvation. But now her family has been captured by raiders, and taken to a foreign city.

The Keeper’s Six by Kate Elliott: You never stop worrying about your kids, even when they’re adults. Kate Elliott’s action-packed The Keeper’s Six features a world-hopping, bad-ass, spell-slinging mother who sets out to rescue her kidnapped adult son from a dragon lord with everything to lose.

The Over Where series by Jane Lindskold: The first book is Library of the Sapphire Wind. Instead of mentors, they got monsters . . . That’s what Xerak, Vereez, and Grunwold think when three strange creatures shimmer into being within the circle of Hettua Shrine. Their conclusion is reasonable enough. After all, they’ve never seen humans before. As for Margaret Blake, Peg Gallegos, and Tessa Brown—more usually known as Meg, Peg, and Teg—they’re equally astonished but, oddly enough, better prepared. Age and experience have accustomed them to surprises. Despite doubts on all sides, the three unlikely mentors join forces with the three young “inquisitors” and venture out into the world Peg dubs “Over Where.”

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett: The city of Bulikov once wielded the powers of the gods to conquer the world, enslaving and brutalizing millions—until its divine protectors were killed. Now Bulikov has become just another colonial outpost of the world’s new geopolitical power, but the surreal landscape of the city itself—first shaped, now shattered, by the thousands of miracles its guardians once worked upon it—stands as a constant, haunting reminder of its former supremacy. Into this broken city steps Shara Thivani. Officially, the unassuming young woman is just another junior diplomat sent by Bulikov’s oppressors. Unofficially, she is one of her country’s most accomplished spies, dispatched to catch a murderer. But as Shara pursues the killer, she starts to suspect that the beings who ruled this terrible place may not be as dead as they seem—and that Bulikov’s cruel reign may not yet be over.

Between Wrath and Mercy by Jess Wisecup: After her daughter is kidnapped, Emmeline Highclere—a thirty-four-year-old mother living in isolation with memories and grief her only companion—must do everything in her limited power and divine abilities to get the girl back.

Love Bites by Kyt Wright: Elisabeth Bathory wears a police uniform and patrols the streets of London at night. Elisabeth Bathory is over four hundred and sixty years old. Elisabeth Bathory is a vampire. Elisabeth Bathory enforces the Edict ensuring humans are never killed by vampires. Humans are starting to turn up dead and it’s obvious her people are behind it.

Silver Spells by Kate Moseman: Luella Campbell is having the weirdest day ever. Getting fired from her job at the sunscreen factory for no good reason is bad enough, but when a mysterious dog brings a tempest into her former workplace, Luella’s life is completely upended by the sudden gift of wild and windy magical powers. With the help of her ride-or-die best friends, her motorcycle-riding mother, and a romantic blast from the past, Luella must find a way to make ends meet while unlocking the mysteries of her newfound magic… and the secrets hidden in the picturesque town of Sparkle Beach.

Spells and Sandwiches by Kate Moseman: Zelda Hawkins came to Manhattan to make sandwiches, not spells—but when a mysterious vampire offers free rent on her family’s old restaurant in exchange for repairing a magical mirror, Zelda’s plans are flipped like a hot grilled cheese. With the help of a ridiculous rescue poodle, a mind-reading fire witch, a smoldering ex-boyfriend, and a hot Brooklyn hipster helping with the renovation, Zelda must use the magic she inherited from her grandmother to enter a world of witches, vampires, and fae, where masks and mirrors are only the beginning… and the stakes are higher than New York prices.

The Blood-Born Dragon by J.C. Rycroft: Smart, sassy, and sanguine, Des Mildue is a traveling sellsword in Rescalin, a dry and dusty kingdom full of rogues, opportunists, and thieves. She keeps her nose clean, brazens it out with a blade when she can’t, and keeps others at arm’s length where they can’t mess up her plans. That is, until a sword fight gone wrong leaves her tied by blood to the first dragon hatched in centuries.

Dragon Prey by Hannah Steenbock: Sidren is a middle-aged woman, healer and reluctant clan leader. She faces an invasion by dreadful dragons and changes the fate of those of the clan who choose to follow her… she also has a club-foot, which does slow her down sometimes but never stops her.

Just Stab Me Now by Jill Bearup: Caroline Lindley is determined that her new romance novel will be her best one yet. Fantasy! Formal gowns! Fencing! And, of course, a twentysomething heroine to star in an enemies-to-lovers plot with all of Caroline’s favourite tropes. But Lady Rosamund Hawkhurst is a thirty-six-year-old widow with two children, her sole focus is facilitating a peace treaty between her adopted nation and her homeland, and she flatly refuses to take the correct approach to there being Only One Bed. What’s an author to do?

Ravenwood by Nathan Lowell: After twenty winters on the road, Tanyth Fairport makes one last pilgrimage in her quest to learn all she can about the herbs and medicinal plants of Korlay before settling down to write her magnum opus. Her journey is interrupted when she decides to help a small village and learns that much of what she knows of the world may not be quite as it seems.

The Hand of God by Yuval Kordov: The world ended—twice. Only Esther, the Eternal One, saw it all happen. As head of the powerful Revenant Sisterhood, she shepherds humanity from Cathedral, the Last City. Except Cathedral isn’t the last city, and her sisterhood’s power is far from holy.

I also have it on good authority you should check out almost anything by Octavia Butler or any books in the genre paranormal women’s fiction, which is a whole genre of contemporary fantasy with midlife protagonists.

And there you have it. I hope you found something fun to read!

If you adored any of these books or want to add another to the list (whether or not it’s yours), I’d love you to comment below. Feel free to include a link, because books can be slippery creatures.

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Author: A.S. Akkalon

By day, A.S. Akkalon works in an office where the computers outnumber the suits of armour more than two-to-one. By night, she puts dreams of medieval castles, swords, and dragons onto paper.

12 thoughts on “The definitive* list of fantasy novels with older female protagonists”

  1. Some of my favourite books are in this list! (I’m reading Pratchett’s “Witches Abroad” to my kids at the moment, though I think “Lords and Ladies” is an even better book he wrote about the Ladies from Lancre!)

    1. I found so many books I want to read on this list. For some reason it’s always more compelling when someone personally says to me “I loved this book! You should read it.” than when I see the same in an Amazon review.

  2. Oh, so, so, so, SO many books that I am now itching to read. As for those I have read — Octavia Butler and Ursula Le Guin are absolute MUSTS and N.K. Jemisin is brilliant. Mists of Avalon is the coolest feminist retelling of the Arthurian legends I’ve ever come across. But wow, I had no idea there were so many fabulous fantasy femmes who aren’t wet behind the ears! Must print this list.

    1. I know! I had too many books to read before, but now I’m salivating over dozens of new books. Good thing I’m on holiday right now, but bad thing that I have limited money to buy new books.

  3. What a list. I like books with older women as the protagonists, and fantasy is often lacking in that category. I’m favoriting this so I can take my time browsing for future reads. Thanks for the research.

  4. I tried and failed to comment on this before – but I just fiddled with my WordPress.com account settings so I’m hoping that fixed why it would never let me comment on your blog!

    This is such a great list, thanks for putting it together!

    My burning comment is about Discovery of Witches (All Souls) which I will just say that while she is on paper in her 30s, that character acts like a teenager in a YA vampire romance 100% of the time. (They are vampire romance books, with precious little witch action, I did not know this when I bought them so they are a real sore spot for me!).

    The NK Jemesin books are great though, she is a good example of a “older” female character!

    1. Oh, I’m sorry you couldn’t comment before! WordPress is a bit of a mystery at times.

      I’m glad you like the list. I have so many books from it I want to read. 🙂

      I haven’t read Discovery of Witches, but adult characters acting like teenagers sounds really annoying. It’s not like YA books don’t sell. If the author wants to write teenage characters they should write teenage characters.

      And yes, N.K. Jemisin’s books are so well written. (I actually have all three in hard copy, which is rare for me.)

  5. Thank you for including my novel, “Aunt Jenny and the Delayed Quest”. Aunt Jenny is, indeed, in her late 60s and the hero of this book. She is not, regretfully, a grandmother. Her husband took ill before they had children, and she is now widowed. However, the name “Aunt Jenny” was bestowed on her by the girls of the Winston Academy, where she was a much-loved librarian and coach before she retired. She, her dog, two cats, and one of the girls from the Academy, find themselves in The Halflands, a world between worlds whose denizens look to her to save the world.

    The book is high fantasy, portal fantasy, and with luck your readers will find it enjoyable.

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