Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are Affiliate Links. That means if you click on a link and purchase an item, we receive an affiliate commission at no cost to you. All opinions remain our own. We are affiliated with Bookshop.org to help support Indie Bookshops. Click here to learn more about our decision!
Sometimes you need a fantasy books series that inspires you to fix your problems… by kicking some boo-tay. Nothing gets me out of a funk like reading about incredibly strong female characters that take charge of their own destiny by training hard and fighting hard. Major Plus if they rise above the patriarchy and defeat all the boys around them.
Is anybody more kickass than Gina Torres? Total aside, I was introduced to her in the too short-lived fantastic Sci-Fi Series, Firefly, and THEN she starred as a high powered lawyer in Suits. Sigh… girl crush…
Luckily all of these books are just the start of a longer fantasy book series, because you won’t be able to stop reading about these fiery women. You may also consider taking up martial arts in the meantime.
Best Fantasy Books Series With Kickass Female Leads
My favorite book series of all time, and I don’t say that lightly.
This is the book series that I frequently re-read when I need a pick-me-up. A glass of wine and a little Kate Daniels is not necessarily the cure for most of my problems, but it makes a great bandaid.
Set in Atlanta after the Magic Apocalypse in which magic is slowly taking over the modern world as technology is declining. A mercenary, Kate Daniels, is hiding her magic in plain sight. Her normal way of solving problems is with her sword and she has to struggle to learn detective skills as she navigates through all the magical heavy-hitters of Atlanta to solve her guardian’s murder.
Insane fight scenes, a sarcastic group of characters, and maybe the budding of a romance? You will regret not starting this series.
Jennifer L. Armentrout
When Anne informed me that she found a book on par with the above mentioned Kate Daniels series, I was first offended. “NOTHING IS BETTER THAN KATE DANIELS!”… and then intrigued.
Poppy is the Maiden, chosen by the gods, for Ascension. She must remain apart from the rest of society. As Poppy moves towards her inevitable destiny, she begins to question the society she lives in and her part in it.
Poppy is a fierce heroine who has many hidden facets underneath her maidens veil. She is not one to need rescuing, has a fierce intellect, and thinks through really complex and difficult long held ideas of the world she lives in.
I first read this series at 13, and it has only gotten better each time I re-read it.
Alanna is a 10-year-old girl that dreams to be a knight, but she is forced to go to a convent to learn how to be a proper lady. She switches places with her twin brother who has never wanted to be a knight and starts training at the capital under the guise of a boy. Training, Adventure, even PG-13 rated Romance
Extra Credit: Trickster Choice Series by Tamora Pierce featuring the daughter of Alanna who may be even more kickass than her mom.
If you are born with different colored eyes in this kingdom, you are considered blessed with a “Grace”. A grace can be any skill from simple and mundane to terrifying.
Katsa is “blessed” with a killing grace and is used by her uncle, the king, to strike horror into the realm through murder and torture. A perfect standalone YA fantasy novel, but there are now several sequels if this book strikes your fancy.
Moon Called is the start to a long, fantastic urban fantasy series featuring a young Volkswagen mechanic named Mercedes who was born a coyote shifter and raised by a pack of werewolves.
The series starts with Mercedes in her mid 20s working in her own garage living in her doublewide trailer- unfortunately next to the alpha werewolf of the Columbia Basin Pack. The Fae “came out” to the world several decades ago, but the rest of the supernatural community, including coyote shifters and werewolves, remains hidden. Though, she is considered “weak” by the werewolf community, she is no pushover who can hold her own when the bad guys come calling.
Trigger Warning: There are depictions of rape in later books in the series.
I think the first two sentences of this novel tell it all:
“IT IS IMPORTANT, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy Convent Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men.”
A young girl, Nona, is saved from a death sentence and raised to be a red sister, a nun skilled in combat to defend the Convent of Sweet Mercy. From the first two sentences, you are drawn into this unique society and actively rooting for Nona in this brutal and bloodthirsty world.
I stumbled upon this series about a year ago on Goodreads, and HOW DID I EVER MISS IT!?
It is a fantastic series set in the Celtic world of Eileanan that has banned the use of magic and witchcraft under the threat of death as a new regime comes into power. A young witch, Isabeau, is raised in secret and must carry out a quest to save the remaining witches of Eileanan.
Trigger Warning: There are graphic depictions of rape and torture in the first book.
I started reading Mercerdes Lackey’s series, the Heralds of Valdamar, in my early teens, and Talia was always my favorite protagonist of the Heralds of Valdamar books.
Talia has grown up in a Hold village, a very strict and repressive patriarchal society. She dreams of being a Herald, and one day, a Herald’s Companion (an intelligent, magical horse- just go with it) shows up and helps her run away to the Collegium where she learns she is to be a Herald in training. If you loved other heroine-in-training novels, you will adore this series.
Trigger Warning: depictions of rape in the last book of the trilogy
Featuring my favorite book cover of the year, “Daughter of Smoke and Bone” is a unique retelling of an Angel and a Demon falling in love, but not in any way that you would recognize. The author, Laini Taylor, writes this story in the most unique and intriguing way that you are left racing through this book trying to get to the end.
In fact, I read the whole book in one night.
Karou is the 17-year-old art student in Prague with blue hair and a best friend named Zuzana. Oh, and she was raised by chimeras and runs errands, collecting teeth from all over the world on the side.
A SECOND Ilona Andrews series?!?
Guys, I’m obsessed with this talented husband and wife author duo, and my goal is to share that addiction with you :D. But seriously, the start to the Hidden Legacy series is fantastic if you can get past how ridiculous the book covers are. (In an interview with the authors, they indicated that they had no choice in the matter.)
Nevada Baylor is the head of her family’s PI firm after the death of her father. In a world where magical lineage determines your rank in society, her family sits apart from the rich and magically talented. A new case has her squaring up against a Prime, the most powerful magic user, to save her family’s firm… if she can survive it.
Sarah J. Mass
The Throne of Glass series is one of my guilty pleasures. Female Assassins, training, fight scenes… you can’t get much more kickass than that.
Celaena Sardothien is the world’s best female assassin at only 18 years old… but very few people know how young she is. She was imprisoned by the Notorious King of Adarlan at a horrible slave camp where her prospects of living out another year were dismal. The Prince of Adarlan offers her the chance for her freedom by entering a contest to become the King’s Champion (aka State-Sponsored Assassin). However, evil has entered the palace and the contestants are being found gruesomely murdered. Will she survive this contest?
Do you have any other fantasy books series that you love?
Go read and be kickass!
2 thoughts on “The Best Fantasy Books Series With Kickass Female Leads”
I didn’t see Diane Duane’s “Young Wizards” series in here, so… maybe you’ve just never heard of it? It’s got two main leads, a girl and a boy (Nita and Kit), and both are capable of at least *fighting* a seriously powerful, malevolent and intelligent villain. (Think, “makes Voldemort look like a fluffy pink baby bunny rabbit”, powerful. I’m not joking.) It’s ten books long so far, almost all improving from an excellent start with a HUGE leap upwards at #5, and there’s spin-off short stories and a Feline Wizards trilogy as well.
oooh, these look great! I think I’ve picked them up before at the store but haven’t read them myself. Great recommendation, thank you 🙂