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Five Female Authors that Have Changed My Relationship With Fantasy

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mass Amherst chapter.

Fantasy has been my favorite genre for as long as I can remember. I have always loved to be transported into new universes, and experience new adventures. As I’ve gotten older, however, it’s been harder and harder to find fantasy novels that draw me in the same way that The Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter, or Percy Jackson once did. There were a few years when I had a very hard time finding novels that enraptured me and made me want to read, yet I’ve recently found more and more authors who have revived my love for reading the fantasy genre. In honor of Women’s History Month, here are five female authors that have changed my relationship with fantasy:

Octavia E. Butler

It’s been almost two decades since Octavia E. Butler passed away, and yet she has recently become my new favorite author, and for good reason. Butler changed the game for sci-fi and fantasy during her time, especially for people of color, and paved a path for writers nowadays. What I love most about Butler’s writing, and what has allowed me to approach such books in a whole new light, is how her writing was filled with so much emotion. Before reading Octavia E. Butler’s books, it had been a while since I read something that I truly could imagine and feel — yet, she was able to do it, and it didn’t take complex writing to do so either.

Sarah J. Maas

Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series was the one that brought me out of my reading slump. I read through the first four books within a week, addicted to the world-building, characters, and rich fantastical ties that it had. A lot of her writing and the rich plot felt on par with that of Tolkien, and it was the first time I had read a female author like that.

R.F. Kuang

I had never read a lot of historical fantasy, specifically ones that were heavily based upon war and military until I read The Poppy War series by R.F. Kuang. And it transformed how I feel about the genre. What I love the most about her writing, and what I’ve now come to look for in other fantasy books, is that her novels are based on real-life events, especially ones deeply rooted in history beyond that of America. Books such as these have given me the opportunity to learn about the history and culture of other countries besides my own, and I adore reading them.

Fonda Lee

Fonda Lee is another author whose fantasy writing reflects Asian culture, yet hers is more urban-based. Her series The Green Bone Saga is a mafia-based series, and every single thing that Lee wrote within them feels so precise and well thought out. Her books truly allowed me to understand how intertwined and symbolic can writing can be, and I’m eager to see what new stories she creates.

Leigh Bardugo

As the new Shadow and Bone season was released this past week, it seems perfect that its creator is on this list. While I prefer the Six of Crows series over the other, I find that Bardugo’s writing is just addicting overall. The world that she has built is, to put it simply, enjoyable and fun to read. The characters are what amazed me overall — they were relatable, three-dimensional, and kept the story alive.

There are a lot of fantasy books written by female authors that I have yet to read — NK Jemisin, Samantha Shannon, and Toni Adeyemi are just a few. As I delve deeper and deeper into the fantasy genre, understanding all of the possibilities that it can provide me, I become more and more in love with it. I’m excited to see who will change how I view the genre next.

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Aili Byron

U Mass Amherst '26

Hi, everyone! My name is Aili. I am an English and Communication major at UMass Amherst, and a few of my favorite things include hiking, reading, and (as you can imagine) writing. If you are ever struggling to find me on campus, just listen for Taylor Swift, and I'm sure I'll be there ;)