7 Prolific Women Fantasy Writers You Need to Read

Fantasy and women are great individually, but women writing fantasy? It’s magical.

Author's Corner Book Culture Fantasy Female Authors Female Voices Recommendations
Photos of Malinda Lo, Holly Black, and Nalo Hopkinson against a green and glowing background.

What’s better than a fantasy novel? A fantasy novel written by a woman! Sure, men can write good fantasy, but there’s something about a fantasy book written by a woman that just hits differently. There are so many, but here are seven great women writers that you should definitely read.

Holly Black

Black published her first book, a YA fantasy story called, Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale, in 2002. She has written dozens of fantasy books for teens and children, though she’s best known for her YA novels. Her books have won several awards, such as the Nebula and Mythopeic Awards, and she was a finalist for a Lodestar Award, and more.

Holly Black smiling.
IMAGE VIA BLACKHOLLY.COM

Reading a lot of fairy tales in her childhood influenced her writing, as many of her books feature fair folk and the supernatural. One common piece of writing advice is to write what you know, and Black is a wonderful model of that advice. She dives into the deeper, darker sides of fairy tales, ones that she grew up with, and has brought in millions of readers in the process.

Malinda Lo

Lo’s first novel, Ash, a sapphic story based on Cinderella, is a YA book that was published in 2009. She has released seven YA science fiction and fantasy books so far, as well as many short stories. Her books have won the Stonewall Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, and honors from the Walter Dean Myers Award, among many others.

Malinda Lo looking at camera with her hand on her neck.
IMAGE VIA MALINDALO.COM

Lo’s protagonists have — so far — all been queer women who fall in love with another woman. She has said that she is not interested in heterosexual romances, so she writes about queer romance instead. However, because of this, several of her books have been challenged — and some even banned — in over a dozen states across the country. She writes about true romantic queer love, and it’s so great to see such awesome representation, but some people have difficulty handling it simply because it’s between two women rather than a man and a woman.

Nalo Hopkinson

Hopkinson published her first book, a sci-fi and horror story called Brown Girl in the Ring, in 1998. She has written many novels, short story collections, anthologies, and comics over the years, mostly within science fiction and fantasy genres. She has won numerous awards such as the Inkpot Award for Science Fiction, British Fantasy Award, World Fantasy Award, and more.

Nalo Hopkinson staring at camera with her hands on her hips.
IMAGE VIA NALOHOPKINSON.COM

Hopkinson brings a lot of Afro-Carribean mythology and influences into her stories. Her science fiction and fantasy stories are also heavily based on Western culture, folklore, mythology, etc. Hopkinson wanted to draw on Caribbean culture and lore because she said it was equally as rich. And she’s right — with her imagination and Caribbean culture, lore, etc., she has written incredible best-selling books that bring so much more to science fiction and fantasy.

N.K. Jemisin

Jemisin published her first book, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, the first part of her Inheritance Trilogy, in 2010. She has written nearly a dozen sci-fi and fantasy novels and over 20 short stories, novellas, and novelettes. Her stories have won the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards, as well as others. She was also the first writer to win three Hugo awards for best novel in science fiction and fantasy.

N.K. Jemisin looking at camera.
IMAGE VIA HACHETTE BOOK GROUP

Fun fact about Jemisin’s writing: she says she gets a lot of her inspiration from her dreams and also from her trying to understand what her dreams mean. She also said that she uses writing as an outlet. Her stories are influenced by her emotions, and they help her process and understand what she is feeling.

Rebecca Roanhorse

Roanhorse is a relatively new author, having published her first book, Trail of Lightning, in 2018. She has written six books, with a seventh coming out later this year, as well as novellas, short fiction, comics, and TV and film scripts. She has won the Nebula, Hugo, and Locus Awards, among others.

Rebecca Roanhorse at an awards show with Marvel Studios' 'Echo' and Hulu logos behind her.
IMAGE VIA REBECCAROANHORSE.COM

She’s inspired to write science fiction and fantasy stories that aren’t set in European settings since that’s pretty much all there was for a long time. For example, her novel Black Sun is inspired by pre-Columbus indigenous cultures. She has built worlds using Native American culture and heritage, whether it’s a story set in a similar time and world to ours or not.

Robin Hobb

Hobb released her first book in 1995 called Assassin’s Apprentice, a fantasy novel about a royal bastard-turned-assassin. She has written around 20 fantasy books, as well as fiction collections and anthologies. She won the David Gemmell Award, the Geffen Award twice, the Inkpot Award, and more.

Robin Hobb signing a book at a book signing.
IMAGE VIA ROBINHOBB.COM

Robin Hobb is one of her pen names, and she has also written under the name Megan Lindholm since 1979. She has published contemporary fantasy short stories and novels under Megan Lindholm and continues to do so today. The main difference in her writing and pen names is that she publishes epic fantasy under Robin Hobb and contemporary fantasy under Megan Lindholm.

Ursula K. Le Guin

Le Guin published her first novel, Rocannon’s World, in 1966. She was one of the most prolific fantasy writers, with 23 novels, nearly two dozen volumes of short fiction and poetry, and about 13 children’s books, among other works. She won many awards, such as six Nebula awards, seven Hugo awards, and more.

A black and white photo of Ursula K. Le Guin looking down.
IMAGE VIA URSULAKLEGUIN.COM

Le Guin passed away six years ago after a sixty-year-long career, but her works continue to inspire others today. She said her fiction had been influenced by her father, which included curiosity about people different from her, including their cultures, languages, artifacts, and more. Le Guin’s goal was to tell stories that weren’t being told, often through fictional cultures and people.

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