Some of my earliest memories of reading are sitting down with my mum and reading Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Fantasy was the genre I was obsessed with as a young child and if I’m honest, I don’t know if I knew there were any other ones out there. Twig Verginix and Artemis Fowl were my heroes (The Edge Chronicles and Artemis Fowl series respectively) amongst others.
It didn’t occur to me until last year at how male heavy the books I read as a child were, how normal I found that. Sure, there were female characters, but they never had centre stage. Holly Short from Artemis Fowl is the only female character I remember reading about, but with good reason too. What Eoin Colfer did when he wrote about Holly Short was tear down everything though elves might be – Short is not cute, obedient or well-mannered. She is brave, bold and ballsy and I still remember thinking that she was the coolest.
But other than her? There’s not many and certainly none that stand out.
And perhaps that’s why I can appreciate some young adult novels of the fantasy genre so much more now, because they are exactly the kind of book I needed to read when I was younger. I wanted female lead, strong but complex characters. Characters I could look up to and admire. Characters I could play running around the playground!
Finding incredible books like these in my late twenties has been a revelation. I’m feeding that inner child the literature she didn’t know she needed. It also brings me such joy knowing that there are young girls growing up now who will have these books to read from and be inspired by. Who knows how different I would be if I read books that encouraged women and girls to be all they could be?
If you’re anything like me and want to connect back with books that your younger self would love, then have a look at some of my favourites below. Or maybe you’ve only recently found the genre and are looking for some recommendations, that’s fine too. Enjoy!
The Gilded Ones – Namina Forna. Set in a patriarchal world of humans and demons, young girls must be kept pure and not bleed until their coming-of-age ceremony in order to prove their purity. But what happens when protagonist Deka bleeds gold instead of red like her peers? Secrets are revealed and choices must be made. The first of a trilogy and easily one of my favourite books ever.
Cinderella Is Dead – Kalynn Bayron. A retelling of the classic Cinderella, but not as you might first think… Cinderella has been dead for over 200 years. She met her Prince Charming and lived happily ever after. Or so the story goes. Now all eligible women must be presented at the castle to find a male suitor, but Sophia doesn’t want a male suitor. She wants her best friend instead. A stunning tale of bravery, corruption and power.
The Poison Heart – Kalynn Bayron. Based around the secret garden but with even more surprises and mystery. Briseis has always had an incredible power over plants that she’s had to hide, but recently it’s been growing stronger. Inheriting an abandoned an old house form her birth mother certainly wasn’t on her agenda and doesn’t help in hiding those powers. This book was addictive, and I can’t wait for the second in the series to come out later this year!
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