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tigtog (aka Viv) is the founder of this blog. She lives in Sydney, Australia: husband, 2 kids, cat, house, garden, just enough wine-racks and (sigh) far too few bookshelves.

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  1. angharad
    angharad at |

    I recently read Sarah Micklem’s Firethorn, which is does a really excellent job of capturing the lives of mediaeval-style peasants and women in all their superstition and gore. It’s pretty minimal on the fantasy really. There’s not much more magic in there than a mediaeval person would have thought there really was in their world, but I would nevertheless highly recommend it.

    The sequel, Wildfire, I don’t think I liked quite so much, but then the protagonist was taken out of her place and culture and it didn’t resonate quite as much. It was probably still a good picture of how women make their lives in a man’ world.

  2. angharad
    angharad at |

    By the way, I think the point made at no. 16 in the comments to the OP on Tor is an important one for any medium. Men can easily say ‘well I just prefer to read/watch/hear about men, after all I am one’. But if women did that in that many arenas we would have very little to read/watch/hear.

  3. Beppie
    Beppie at | *

    But if women did that in that many arenas we would have very little to read/watch/hear.

    Or if we did have plenty to read/watch/hear, those texts would be relegated to “non-serious” genres, like romance. And if we avoided reading/watching/listening to texts centred on men entirely, then we’d lose out on huge amounts of cultural capital. On the contrary, a man avoiding women’s texts could still be culturally literate.

  4. Rebekka
    Rebekka at |

    Let’s use this thread to recommend fantasy novels which manage to treat women and girl characters as interesting people with goals of their own who make valued contributions to their communities, even when they’re not the primary protagonists of the novel.

    Anything by Diana Wynne Jones (mostly YA fantasy, but she did write some adult novels as well, and both are brilliant). Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn series (also YA, female protagonist).

  5. Mindy
    Mindy at |

    The Creature Court series by Tansy Rayner Roberts.

  6. Pen
    Pen at |

    I think the Smurfs are the worst example of a woman being seen as a woman before all. Horrors.

    The Invisible Road
    by Elizabeth Knox has two girls coming of age as the main characters, with other interesting girls and women as key characters. It specifically deals with gender politics in a kind of alternative early twentieth century world, and has women in traditional roles and non-traditional roles, and how that affects their ideas of themselves, their society and other people.

  7. Elizabeth Carroll
    Elizabeth Carroll at |

    There are so many good books in this category that I think you’d have to be actively avoiding them not to stumble upon them. :) I’d suggest anything by Margaret Mahy, but especially The Haunting, Catalogue of the Universe and The Changeover. The Haunting has one of the best step-mothers ever, C of M has a wonderful heroine who is considerably taller than the hero, and the Changeover is just awesome-fullstop. Nearly all of the characters with initiative in any Mahy story are female – some are villains, some are heroines, and some just keep holding things together. I also second the vote for Elizabeth Knox’s Dreamhunter books – they’re marvellous.

  8. lilacsigil
    lilacsigil at |

    Tansy Rayner Roberts’ own books do a good job foregrounding traditional women’s work without simply inverting a society to make traditionally male work *still* the only valuable and interesting stuff (which always annoys me!) She, like Lynn Flewelling, also does well in showing a range of women, not just “feisty awesome chick with a sword” vs “boring traditional chick with a spindle”.

  9. Faith
    Faith at |

    I’d add Cornelia Funke’s ‘Inkheart’ trilogy, Cassandra Clare’s ‘The Mortal Instruments’ series, and pretty much everything by Patricia A. McKillip to the list. Also Terry Pratchett’s witch books (starting with ‘Wyrd Sisters’) and Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’. In each book the women or girls are flawed, human characters and maybe stuck in a society that doesn’t appreciate them properly, but they’re doing things their own way and being their own people no matter what anyone says.

  10. Rebekka
    Rebekka at |

    Am now furiously searching for Elizabeth Knox’s Dreamhunter books from anywhere that can get them to me before Christmas!

  11. Aphie
    Aphie at |

    They’re good fun, Rebekkah. Kind of NeoVictorian Fantasy IMO.
    Tamora Pierce. Anything at all. The Witches of Eileanan by Kate Forsyth features women and children as main characters, mostly. The Monster Blood Tattoo is a steampunk-trad faerietale mishmash with some great characters, both traditionally feminine and not. Robin Hobb’s books tend to have traditional-esque women and girls, but who are interesting and contributing in their own rights (and also does some interesting examination of sexism in such societies, alongside racism, colonialism and xenophobia).

  12. Rebekka
    Rebekka at |

    Oh yes, definitely Robin Hobb – and not all the women are traditional – Anthea definitely isn’t.

    I’ve had no luck getting my hands on Elizabeth Knox :-(

  13. Be my
    Be my at |
  14. tigtog
    tigtog at |

    About to add a link to this post by Foz Meadows to the OP, seeing as it makes a neat companion piece:

    PSA: Your Default Narrative Settings Are Not Apolitical

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