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August 20th, 2014, 02:52 PM #1
Looking for Independent Fantasy Heroines
Friends, I want to try this genre for some time but am finding it difficult to get the books I want to read. I'm particularly looking for Urban Fantasy books with female main character but with NO romance whatsoever. I tried a few random books but from the first or second book onwards they start building on the romantic aspect of the books and sometimes start catering to the fantasies of their readers (based on my observations of the reviews from goodreads or amazon). I'm not interested in books where the main character starts developing feeling for men around her, no matter how subdued.
Edit: Not particularly interested in YA books.
Edit 2: The thread was created for contemporary fantasy heroines in particular but anything in any genre that fits the bill will do.
Last edited by sonuvuce; August 30th, 2014 at 07:55 PM.
August 21st, 2014, 12:55 AM #2
I would suggest, quite simply, that you just stick to contemporary fantasy works with male protagonists. There are plenty of them out there if you want to give contemporary fantasy a try. Since romantic sub-plots with male characters don't bother you, and female characters having a sex life does bother you, it really doesn't make sense for you to read stuff you are pre-disposed not to like in the first place and will judge mainly on its romantic sub-plots. Protagonists in most contemporary fantasy series are suspense protagonists -- detectives -- and detective characters traditionally run into a lot of potential love interests in mystery series, often having sex and pairing up with longer term partners. Romantic sub-plots are a main feature of suspense stories, and since you absolutely want to avoid the female protagonist ones, that leaves the males.
Jim Butcher: Harry Dresden series
Rob Thurman: Cal Leandros series
Richard Kadrey: Sandman Slim series
Mario Acevedo: Felix Gomez series
Charles de Lint: those of his novels where it's a male protagonist
China Mievielle: King Rat
Charlie Huston: Joe Pitt series
E.E. Knight: Vampire Earth series
Christopher Golden: The Veil trilogy
Dean Koontz: The Brother Odd series
Mike Carey: Felix Castor series
Simon Green: Nightside series
Charles Stross: The Laundry Files series
Tim Powers: Expiration Date, Earthquake Weather, Declare, Last Call, Three Days to Never
Eric Nylund: Dry Water
Terry Brooks: Running with the Demon and sequels
Robert Holdstock: Mythago Wood and sequels
Jonathan Lethem: Fortress of Solitude
Sean Stewart: Mockingbird and others
Michael de Larrambeiti: The Borribles
Keith Donohue: The Stolen Child
Esther Friesner: New York by Knight
Joe Schreiber: Chasing the Dead
Cameron Rogers: The Music of Razors
Ray Manzarek: Snake Moon
Mark West: In the Rain with the Dead
Lavie Tidhar: An Occupation of Angels
Jon F. Merz: Lawson the Vampire series
William Mark Simmons: One Foot in the Grave, Dead on my Feet
Dan Vining: The Quick
Will Eliot: The Pilo Family Circus
Sergei Lukyanenko: Night Watch
John Connolly: Charlie Parker series
Kevin Hearne: Iron Druid series
S.M. Reine: Preternatural Affairs series
Glenn Bullion: Damned and Cursed series
M.L. Brennan: American Vampire series
Lish McBride: Necromancer series
Nicholas Kaufmann: Dying is My Business
Devon Monk: Broken Magic duology
Steve McHugh: Hellequin series
Justin Gustainis: Occult Crimes Unit Investigation series
Ben Aaronovitch: Peter Grant series
Stephen Blackmoore: Eric Carter series
Trent Jamieson: Death Works series
Benedict Jacka: Alex Verus series
Mark Del Franco: Connor Grey series
Thomas E. Sniegoski: Remy Chandler series
Anton Strout: Simon Canderous series
Dan Wells: John Cleaver series
Joe Hill: Horns
Neil Gaiman: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
John Levitt: Dog Days series
Myke Cole: Shadow Ops series
August 21st, 2014, 02:08 AM #3
Kat, Thanks for the recommendations, i wonder whether you keep a custom made list for such purposes.
I never said that romantic sub plots with male characters don't bother me but perhaps that was the vibe coming from my post. I understand the conventions of the mystery/detective genres but then I was looking for the books that break this convention. I prefer lone wolf kind main characters and who are happy with their life, male or female. Though i must say that a male having a long term stable partner does not bother me as much as much as a female having the same. May be it's just a case of looking through cultural/social prism and things aren't always such, I understand but the romantic sub-plots often becomes too heavy in such books with readers also wanting their characters to settle down, a case of the genre overlapping with paranormal romance. An independent, sassy female settling down and perhaps giving a part of her independence is something I don't find appealing. I know I'm making it too simple yet this is the long and short of it.
August 21st, 2014, 05:17 AM #4
August 21st, 2014, 10:38 AM #5
- Join Date
- May 2011
MOST urban fantasy ends up with some sort of romance element -- and that includes series with male protagonists as well, like Dresden or Rivers of London or Monster Hunter or whatever. I'd be surprised if anyone could find any UF series that has no romance anywhere in the series.
eta -- great list, Kat. Now I've got to go through that list and see which ones I've missed. :-)
Last edited by Contrarius; August 21st, 2014 at 10:42 AM.
August 21st, 2014, 10:49 AM #6
- Join Date
- May 2011
It occurs to me that you might like the Jane Yellowrock books by Faith Hunter. I've only read the first two so far, but the MC is seriously kickass and takes no prisoners. Yes, there are sexual attractions -- but as of the second book they are very much of the wham-bam-thankyou-boy variety, in stark contrast to anything lovey-dovey or starry-eyed. Worth checking out, anyway.
August 21st, 2014, 11:06 AM #7
August 21st, 2014, 11:20 AM #8
August 21st, 2014, 05:15 PM #9
While we are at it and as it looks like, at one extreme there aren't characters existing in which I'm interested, may I ask about the other extreme of the spectrum?
I was going through the first review of Jane Yellowrock's fifth book and the reviewer on goodreads and made a point and even urged the author not to let go the series Anita way. Now I've read only one book of LKH's series and that was perhaps 4th or 5th book when the series was going 'good' apparently before it took a different route.
I have a query here- L.KH's both series feature characters who are promiscuous but are they romantically involved to all their suiters or with one or two of them like Richelle Mead's Succubus series (read the two books of her Dark Swan series years ago) or Keri Arthur's series. This is what I meant by the other end of the spectrum as it is possible to not have romance yet sex in your books. Are such books in existence in this genre or is it devoid of them too like the celibate heroine?
August 22nd, 2014, 07:09 PM #10
Contemporary suspense fantasy novels, which most contemporary fantasy stories are (also called sometimes urban fantasy,) use elements of suspense. And one of those elements is a loved one in danger, which makes the danger more intense. Consequently, a contemporary fantasy protagonist usually has love interests as well as friends and family members who become endangered and also dedicated parts of their army of useful people. A typical mystery thriller protagonist, male or female, in a series is likely to have four-five major love interests of varying lengths, sometimes on-off relationships with those, plus various flirtations. Even James Bond fell in love and got married.
There are protagonists who have very active sex lives and serial through a fair number of love interests. (They are still likely to have several serious love interests during the series.) Only a percentage of the series with female protagonists have them settled down with anybody for very long. Usually, after a few books, they break up and move on (again 4-5 major love interests.) Quite often the reason they break up is that the woman doesn't want to settle down, or doesn't feel she can because of life stuff (in fantasy, magic stuff.) It depends on the series. And frankly, partnering up doesn't necessarily mean that they can't be sassy. Marriage isn't death.
So basically, you have contemporary fantasy protagonists in series who have a mix of relationships, several of them serious, the amount of success of those depending on the series' chosen structure rather than the gender of the protagonist. These are not paranormal romance series. You also have team series in which the series is about a couple, usually a straight couple, in which their relationship is a major part of the plot and suspense and their investigation efforts. In the case of a team series with a straight couple, quite often it's the male character who is the protagonist by a hair, but not always. These are not paranormal romance series.
Paranormal romance series usually have a different couple in each book of the series. In each book, a couple meets or re-meets, falls in love or re-falls in love, and remains a couple at the end of the book. The main plot of the story, irrespective of suspense crises, is about whether they will have that relationship. It's not a sub-plot while the protagonist deals with other stuff. In the next book in the series, the first couple may make cameos, while a new couple takes center stage (say the brother of the first protagonist gets to be the guy in the second one, etc.) Paranormal series build a universe of characters operating in a particular setting that support whichever love story is central per book. It is largely unlikely that you will run into a paranormal romance series and not know what it is.
So that leaves again the contemporary suspense fantasy series that are not team series. In that case, if you can't stand to have a female protagonist in a serious relationship, even temporarily, but you're okay with a male protagonist in a serious relationship, stick to the guys. Because even if I've read say three books in a series and the female protagonist didn't have anything serious going on romantically, it's entirely possible she does in the fourth book. (Bear in mind, also, that when people talk about series written by female authors with female protagonists, they'll tend to emphasize the romance aspects of the books out of proportion to the main plots.)
Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series is a unique series. Except for her other series, there really isn't very much out there that is like it. It is a hard-boiled, noir crime thriller fantasy series with heavy erotic elements. The erotic elements, however, are not usually that often erotic, as they have magic battles during the sex scenes. The sex lasts for two paragraphs and then Anita is on an ethereal plane fighting the oldest vampire and trying to keep control of her spirit tigers before they rip her body apart, etc. Hamilton uses the old chestnut of sex magic as a tenant of her supernatural universe and then develops it further with essentially love magic (and fear magic, etc.) Anita builds a giant polyamory family, which increases her necromancy powers enormously, and she has to keep that family/army alive while they have to keep her alive in order for folks to survive. This is akin to a regular suspense set-up -- the protagonist builds a web of useful people that he or she cares about -- but a lot more complicated, as it involves alliances between large tribes of supernatural folk and the equivalent of political treaties, as well as multi-dimensional and mental battle stuff. Anita has to balance also alliances with police characters and mercenary/assassin characters, and those relationships change. Anita goes from the equivalent of an insurance investigator with some necromatic power to a demi-goddess. That works for some people and not for others.
So one of the things you might also look at is not simply serious romance but power development. A lot of series are structured with a protagonist who has some power and is found to have/develops a lot more power as the series progresses. And a lot of series take the Buffy approach (which is not original to Buffy,) in which the lone wolf who has to be separate in power use then finds that the pesky people who keep helping him or her actually make the protagonist stronger against opposition forces, that it is the web of relationships and caring that provides the strength. So this is why you are seeing a pattern of "settling down" or family gathering, and it isn't unique to female protagonists. If you don't like that with female protagonists, but are okay with the males doing it, then again, stick to the males. (Including F. Paul Wilson's Repairman Jack series to the list.)
I'm not sure we've had a lot of Clint Eastwood type protagonists in these things. And even in Clint Eastwood's movies, he would family gather, thawing a bit of his tortured soul and often have a love interest. An inhuman protagonist who cannot love might be what you are looking for. And spy-oriented series over detective series are more likely to have less romance overall -- look for series that involve an agency or organization with agents or a series in which the protagonist has to wander and travel a lot. But the majority of the regular mystery thriller series will again have a protagonist who has 4-5 serious relationships plus flirtations and stick mainly to one setting. A minority percentage will have a main serious romantic relationship that lasts. Another section will be the team novels. There are also some authors who rotate things. Myke Cole's Special Ops series, for instance, switches protagonists book to book, and Kelley Armstrong has a universe of characters and switches protagonists for different sub-trilogies.
I do not keep custom lists, but as it happened, we had a thread several years back in which the person asked for contemporary fantasy novels with male protagonists, in which I'd done a list, so half the list came from that and the other half from typing in search contemporary fantasy novels with male protagonists. There are thousands of them, so this is just a sample.
August 23rd, 2014, 05:00 AM #11
Kat, I've been waiting for your long post on the subject..
As for love interests, it is the notion that has been around there for past 50-60 years and before that it wasn't very popular. I was a reading a book by Orson Scott Card where he, while discussing about the various forms of storytelling tells about the stories that convey an "idea". Mystery and detective genre falls in this category and according to him the character development is not important in these genres and main character having few idiosyncrasies would be enough, he does mention that it has been more common in American writing to develop the character as the series progresses than that of British. What he does not mention that such were the conventions back in the times of Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie and they aren't anymore (as I see how difficult it is to get even a single series like that). So you could have a series of books where the main character keeps solving the cases without any significant development in his character and hence no love interests.
Personally these things in my books are obnoxious to me. Involved in a relationship for some time, breaking up and then moving on to someone else...shows how much they are blinded by their emotions. I want them to be rational beings and not act like the normal folks of our everyday lives. This is one of the pivotal points of me reading fantasy, otherwise why shouldn't I go and read a contemporary literature or watch a likewise movie if I'm interested in what happens in our everyday lives. It gets on my nerves when I see that my main characters are supposed to be smart and problem-solver (which often requires them to have a good understanding of human mind and behavior including human psychology) yet they cannot decide what is good for their own lives. More often than not, the first person they have dated would always come out to be a dork and it doesn't stop there. During the course of the series they will get involve with other similar person and in some further book they will find that he had always been a manipulative bad guy. And then there are some series where, one fine day, out of the blue, the authors will get their characters engaged and/or married only to sacrifice it later at the altar of the plot. Yes the authors like to write such plots because they are easy to construct and adds tension in the story and contributes to the development of the character but somewhere it also damages the characters and trivializes them. I have read first five books of Kim Harrison's witch and the relationships in it were shallow, I could have told right from the start that it won't be working for her but the main character wouldn't listen to me because you know 'love is blind'.
I know all the books out there are not like that but trying out ten series before finding one that works for me is not something I am going to do. Kat you are trying to tell me to read books with male main but they aren't a priority right now (for that matter let me tell you, I abhor James Bond) and I'm interested in this discussion.
Marriages and relationships in the present socio-economic milieu is something I'm not very fond of. The more they change with time the more they remain the same. Part of the joy of reading the fantasy is it being an escapist medium, I want it to take a different and radical take on the systems, beliefs and institutions and something that challenges my understanding of the world as I know in entertaining and non-academic way but I guess not many people are fond of that. They are more comfortable with what they see in their everyday lives as it is easy for them to relate.
One book that is coming to my mind where the majority secondary world was without any marriage is Heartreaders by Kristin Kathryn Rusch. There must be others (tell me if you know). Though a large number of fantasy books do not deviate much from the Tolkien's steps and end up being conservative rather than radical.
Aren't there heroines like Phryne Fisher in contemporary fantasy or otherwise (in traditional fantasy, sci-fi, contemporary or period piece)?
Perhaps a feminist contemporary fantasy will work for me, are there any such series? What about Jacqueline Carey's urban fantasy books? Though I'm not fond of her Kushiel's series (read first three books only-skimmed through the third one) not because of the sex in them but oddly, the romance aspect (mawkish kind of-Joscelin's jealousy). The world building and some characters (Hyacinthe, Melisande etc.) were great but her flowery language was hindrance.
shall come for more later
Edit: Few punctuation marks for easy read and some afterthoughts.
Last edited by sonuvuce; August 23rd, 2014 at 10:52 AM.
August 24th, 2014, 12:15 AM #12
Last edited by sonuvuce; August 24th, 2014 at 12:23 AM. Reason: double post
August 24th, 2014, 12:18 AM #13
I had read (if I remember correctly) somewhere that Laurell K. Hamilton changed her Anita Blake universe so much only when the audience had started grouping themselves as team Richard and team JC. That was a brave move indeed. Not many authors would do that, it has risk of alienating and eroding your fan base.
And Kat this emphasizing on the romance aspect does not always come from the detractors (so that they want it to remain as a mere sub category of women's fiction) but also from the lovers of the series.
More about Anita later.
I must add here that I always prefer sex to be from the point of view of women stemming from my belief that issues like sexuality and relationships should firmly rest with women but evolutionary psychology would suggest otherwise. This also brings the question of independence and sassiness. Yes partnering doesn't means a woman can't be spunky or loose her independence but these novels aren't taking place in a secondary world that is completely different from our own and since in our world the issues of sexuality and bodily integrity does not rest firmly with women, it would be fair to assume that the same is happening in the fantasy setting I'm reading about. I'm not interested in reading about a woman whose hormones are triggered by the presence of this alpha male in her vicinity, this does not give her an ownership over her sexuality-a detrimental factor to her independence. I've seen people in their reviews or discussions complaining about cheating if the character is dating two men simultaneously. If she or the men around her doesn't have problem nobody should have but if anywhere there is a doubt or if she feels guilty she shouldn't do it. Her mores are her own and the mores of the readers are theirs.
August 24th, 2014, 01:51 AM #14
I think I might be interested in such books where relationships with family members are explored. From what I've read or seen so far, I have found that in Western media, as opposed to the stuffs from let's say Japan, if there are people around a protagonist they are more likely to have a romantic interest in him/her and apart from close friends there isn't much focus on the family aspect of the protagonist like his/her mother, father or sisters/brothers or other siblings.
And there is also the family gathering in general, which is the building of a family out of people who become important to the protagonist, and not all of those relationships are romantic ones. They are work and personal related with some characters serving a parental-mentor role and others serving an apprentice child role, and still more a sidekick-comrade roll (lots of those if the protagonist is a cop or works with cops.) While this is definitely extremely common in western literature, I don't think it's that unusual in eastern literature either. The idea of a band of heroes and comrades is a universal and that band of people forms a family.
If you can find a wanderer character -- one who has to or chooses to keep moving -- then there may be family building in a book, but it will be temporary. Spy thriller and commando military contemporaries concentrate on dealing with the organization and tend to be more global -- romances may develop but not necessarily strong ones and the protagonist probably travels more. And these may be easier to find in eastern literature. But there is the tradition in detective suspense literature to establish a setting -- a city or town -- that operates as an additional character of sorts, and the protagonist only sometimes travels from it and protects those in it, and the writer populates the setting with a web of useful people and antagonists, some of whom may eventually become useful people instead. So Anita Blake stays mainly in St. Louis. Harry Dresden is in Chicago. John Levitt's Dog Days series is set in San Francisco, Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse novels occur mainly in the small town of Bon Temps, and so forth.
As for love interests, it is the notion that has been around there for past 50-60 years and before that it wasn't very popular.
I was a reading a book by Orson Scott Card where he, while discussing about the various forms of storytelling tells about the stories that convey an "idea". Mystery and detective genre falls in this category and according to him the character development is not important in these genres and main character having few idiosyncrasies would be enough, he does mention that it has been more common in American writing to develop the character as the series progresses than that of British.
The main character not having a 'serious love interest' is the very point of this thread.
And say, if they are clear from the start that they do not want marriage or settle down (as you have pointed out Kat) then they should be dating a likewise character who is also not looking for marriage, otherwise if there is a case of proposal from the other person and the heroine rejects then does it not going to break his heart? She shouldn't have kept him in delusion by being his 'serious love interest' and wasting his time when he could have invested it in some other person who wouldn't reject him.
It's also a matter of the fact that characters aren't emotionless, undamaged by their pasts or what occurs, and unaffected by interactions with other human beings. In fantasy stories particularly, the stakes are high, the events often violent and traumatic, whether it's a love interest involved or not, and magic often causes emotional and mental changes. Having main characters not react to that would seem strange and kind of robotic. But what might work is to look for a series where the protagonist is a nun, monk or Catholic priest. I know James D. Macdonald and his wife Debra Doyle had a Catholic priest character called Peter Crossman for some stories. James Blaylock did a Christian trilogy which are essentially three linked but standalone novels: The Last Coin, The Paper Grail and All the Bells on Earth. While they aren't without love interests necessarily, they might be of interest, but not really a series.
Another thing to look at are the thrillers that have fantasy elements in the general fiction market. James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell, for instance, have a series called The Order of the Sanguines, and one of the main characters is a Catholic priest. They are adventures dealing with divine magic, archaeology, etc. There are quite a few of those kinds of things on the bestseller list and globe-trotting adventure conspiracy stories tend to have fewer love interests, though again, you'll have to check.
In terms of radical social systems, a lot of that was 1960's, 1970's fiction, with the New Wave in SF, which had some spillover into fantasy. But contemporary fantasy series are mainly set in the current world or an alternate version extremely similar to the current world. You aren't going to have radical new social systems in those. You can find polyamory -- Hamilton as mentioned, Elizabeth Bear's Promethean Age books and some other works, but polyamory usually does involve serious and emotional relationships to one degree or another, not just sex. There is a lot of experimentation going on, but I don't know of any particular series that would specifically meet your needs.
Best bet, if they have the words "ladies man" on the cover copy, grab that one. You might also enjoy a contemporary fantasy series that started back when in the seventies and that's The Destroyer series, originally by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir. The series went on into the oughts and there's a possibly new movie version coming out. It's a spy series, involves some humor and martial arts, and mild fantasy elements in terms of the protagonist's training and abilities.
Have not read the Phyrne Fisher novels, but she has a romance interest with the police guy, so not sure what you mean there. Haven't read the Carey Agents of Hel series either, but from what I know of it, it will not fit your needs. It's set in a small town of magic, she gets a boyfriend, etc.
August 24th, 2014, 06:43 AM #15
I would take a gentleman detective any day than the troubled-dark-past-redemption-seeking American detective.
So Carey's series also wouldn't fit, perhaps instead of reading I should play video games and read some old comics where protagonists usually do not have love interest(s) because it hasn't been a convention there.
still some matters to write about