These past two weeks, we’ve been discussing warrior heroines over at Romantic Fantasy Shelf, a type of female protagonist who relies on her martial prowess to kick butt and take names. Warrior heroines come in multiple flavors—assassins, knights, archers, mercenaries.
They’re skilled, they’re strong, and they’re hardy. These ladies can handle themselves (although they might want to handle the hero… *eyebrow waggle* Eh? EH??).
Do you love a heroine who can handle herself? Then let us present to you a list of ladies you would not want to cross:
1. Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep
Evie is seventeenth in line for the throne when a banquet turns into a bloodbath. Forced into hiding, she joins a troupe of gladiators and trains to become one herself. You want a relatable warrior heroine? You can’t beat Evie, going from nearly helpless—except for a secret magic immunity—to being thrust into warrior training to protect herself. She struggles to serve with honor, loyalty, and responsibility, which is admirable but not always easy, and her development is both natural and sympathetic to experience along with her. Described as Game of Thrones meets Gladiator, yes, you’ve got your epic fantasy bona fides in this series, but there’s also a hot (and tender) romance between Evie and fellow gladiator, Lucas, who’s a lightning magier. Bonus: the series is complete, so all us bingers—I mean, all you bingers, ahem—won’t have to wait, have patience, etc. and all those other impossible things non-bingers keep advising!
2. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Join us now as we scurry over to a world reminiscent of ancient Rome! Here, a slave known as Laia desperately searches for her brother. This place is brutal, vicious in every aspect. Despite all her best efforts, she finds herself tested again and again. Among the worst is the ache and pain of loneliness. Of course, matters only escalate when her affections are split between a dedicated member of the Resistance and a charming warrior. Among all these grueling challenges and numerous fights, Laia must find her own way amongst unforgiving laws, gripping tension, and rising passion in this young-adult romantic fantasy series.
3. Promise of a Storm by Catharine Glen
Now let’s head over to a Japanese-inspired mythical world where challenges abound and choices have more than one possible solution. Promise of a Storm is the prequel to the reverse harem Shadowed World series, and it makes an impressive splash through its cunning heroine Emamori Matsukara. An assassin and a warrior with a passionate heart, this powerful woman is intent upon protecting her clan. Of course she’s a bit more flexible than some of the other members of her order, and when she returns home to find that the Faction destroying it and the people she loves, she snaps into action. The storm is within as well as without. Of course, matters get even more intriguing because, well… There is a charming and handsome fellow, one of her enemies. But oh, he shines. There’s betrayal and sex appeal in this reverse harem, which puts Emamori’s distinct problem solving and thinking outside the box as she realizes she might have more options. What will happen in the shadows? Who knows? But it’s guaranteed to be steamy.
4. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
When it comes to talking about powerful female warriors, Yeine is an absolute must. A young warrior from a matriarchal society, Yeine is caught up in the middle of a complex set of intrigues that have brought her to the capital, Sky. It’s a world of enslaved gods and cunning mortals, and Yeine herself is tested in more ways than she can ever anticipate. Her love-as-she-pleases style brings her into even more fascinating situations (especially with Nahadoth the Nightlord, god of night), and her own vows and conscience bring her into tension as she must go up against her two cousins to determine who will rule. A rich story with great detail, compelling characters, and fascinating nuance, this is one you’ll want to plan for a good binge.
5. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
If you’ve been living under a rock, you might not have heard of Throne of Glass, but it’s okay, because we’ve brought you this edition of On Top of the Rock News. *laughs* Synonymous with badass, Celaena Sardothien is an assassin plucked from the salt mines to battle for the chance to protect royalty and earn her freedom. She’s put in the work of her profession (see The Assassin’s Blade), trains with the captain of the guard, and it’s by the sweat of her brow and the skill with her blade that she’s gotten to where she is. We get to navigate her world with her while she uses not only her skills but also her intelligence. It doesn’t hurt that there’s a romance and so much epicness packed into this bestselling romantic fantasy series. *wink*
6. The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K.S. Villoso
If you expected The Wolf of Oren-Yaro to star a gripping and nuanced heroine, then you would be correct! Talyien may be bloodthirsty and violent, but she is also a hopeless romantic. Given that she has an arranged marriage to the son of a rival clan, that does cause some problems. Even more problems arise with his mysterious disappearance. The story itself picks up years after this when he sends for her, and she sets out on an adventure that results in her being stranded, tested, and tried in every measure. Set in an Asian-inspiried world and drawing from many influences, Villoso weaves a tale with great intrigue and nuance, rich with worldbuilding and diverse characters with a complex past that unfolds across the pages. Absolutely worth a deep dive and a long stay.
7. The Bridge Kingdom by Danielle L. Jensen
Xena and Themyscira vibes underlie a fantasy politics-and-spy adventure here, and Lara is the cunning warrior princess you want to root for. She is raised and trained to hate King Aren of the Bridge Kingdom. When she’s sent under the guise of marriage, she is ready to spill his guts and save her homeland. But what she finds is a passionate man, and instead of a kingdom she’d fight to destroy, perhaps one she’d fight to defend. Lara isn’t just a badass warrior princess, but she also fights relatable battles we recognize—trusting someone you shouldn’t, discovering the truth behind lies, and finding your own beneath the wool others pull over your eyes. This is the grown-up, steamy romantic fantasy you’ve been hankering for.
8. Rebel’s Blade by Frost Kay
In a rebellion against the crown’s corruption and neglect, Sage is a blacksmith and fighter-turned-spy, willing to do whatever it takes for her country. On the opposite end is hot royal prince Tehl, whom you almost have to feel sorry for when faced with the decisive, fierce, and skilled Sage. While her mission has mortal and far-reaching stakes, Sage also fights as a driven woman in a man’s world. Despite her skills as both a blacksmith and swordswoman, she must sell her weapons under her father’s name. But the world underestimates a badass woman at its peril, doesn’t it? *wink* This is another completed series at six young-adult romantic fantasy books, so you’ll have all of Sage and Tehl’s story at hand.
9. The Shadow and the Sun by Monica Enderle Pierce
In this medieval fantasy, Halina is a highly capable militess swordswoman and the bastard daughter of a king in a country at war. Sent as an emissary to enlist the help of necromancer Gethen, she instead finds herself embroiled in his conflict with a rime witch and stuck with him in a magical blizzard. (Snowed in with a sexy man… Our kind of problem!) Confident, capable, and strong, Halina makes you want to cheer her on as she fights for what’s right, and if you love a sexy sorcerer romance, Gethen is it, sis. This romantic fantasy series features lush prose and great attention to detail sure to please medievalists. Get ready to highlight your favorite passages on your Kindle and enjoy a richly imagined world, along with your badass Halina and sexy Gethen. 🙂
10. Warrior of the Wild by Tricia Levenseller
You might recall Tricia Levenseller’s The Shadows Between Us on our Enemies-to-Lovers list—her heroine in this Viking fantasy, Rasmira, faces just as big of a task. When she fails her coming-of-age trial, her father (the village chief) gives her an impossible task, even considering she’s trained as a warrior all her life: to kill the god demanding tribute from the village every year. (Oh, just kill a god? No sweat, right?!) Rasmira is a woman you feel for; she’s determined, strong, and capable, but she’s been manipulated and cheated. Still, she faces the challenge ahead of her bravely and doesn’t let the circumstances, however seemingly impossible, defeat her. If you’re in the mood for a standalone fantasy with Vikings, romance, and a surprising twist, consider your evening booked.
11. Storm of Fury by Bec McMaster
How about a fantasy romance with fated mates and a powerful female warrior? Bryn, a former Valkyrie who has been exiled, finds herself in quite a troubling situation as she realizes that there is at long last an opportunity to clear her name. It will be difficult, naturally. But what’s that to her? She must find Marduk and turn him over for punishment. On the way, she encounters Tormund (whom you probably will recognize from previous books, and if you haven’t read the previous books, please do! You don’t have to in order to follow this story, but they are well worth the journey.) Tormund is also on a quest to capture this dreki, a path which puts the two in heated conflict that challenges them both to their core. But it also results in some deeply passionate revelations as they determine whether being vulnerable might have some benefits. This is a fast read with interconnected characters in stand-alone tales that is well worth the trip!
12. When We Were Kings by Auryn Hadley
Sheltered and in pink, Leyli looks like she should be dead pretty quickly once she’s thrown into the gladiatorial arena. But shocking the crowd, she succeeds in slaying sixteen men. With her brother dead and her father the king lost, she is imprisoned, but she is unstoppable when it comes to transforming herself into a deadly warrior and ferocious contender. Her cellmate, Tristan the Lion, is literally chained to her, and he shows her how to be a killer while also proving himself a good friend and someone she wants on her team. Due to the nature of their situation, they agree to just be friends and encourage one another to be better. Except… well, attraction is blooming. This story continues on in the Wolf of Oberhame Trilogy, and it is just the ticket for a wounded woman’s powerful transformation and journey through all the highs and lows. (Note that while the author is well known for her reverse harem books, this trilogy is an epic fantasy romance following one couple.)
13. Daughter of Shades by Sylvia Mercedes
Huntresses who are ever hungry for the hunt should never be underestimated, and after you read Daughter of Shades, you certainly won’t be underestimating Ayleth. Her life is challenging indeed, fraught with ordeals and danger and overshadowed with the fear that someone might be stealing her memories. But more threats arise, and she must now escape her mentor, win a prince’s favor, and beat down a handsome but arrogant warrior by the name of Terryn. Eager to forge her own path and determined to prove herself, she finds herself rivals with Terryn and learning more than she ever dreamed. Of course, there are some matters brewing with Prince Gerard as well. Time will tell, and it’s telling you that you’ll want this whole young-adult romantic fantasy series.
14. The Song of the Marked by S.M. Gaither
When it comes to mercenaries, Casia can hold her place with the best of them. Especially when it comes to finishing her tasks and getting that coin! She might be tough, but she has a heart of gold, doing all this so that she can keep her mentor alive with expensive medication. This is the reason she agrees to work with the most infuriating man alive, Captain Elander. The king has made her an offer she can’t refuse, so she has to make do with arrogant Elander. Naturally he’s handsome… which is a bit distracting when combined with the sexual tension… especially since there are gods to handle and monsters to slay! Casia has her hands full in more ways than one, and one of these challenges may prove to be too much. All the better for us readers, eh? And hopefully these two find a way to work together in more ways than one.
15. Deadly Courtship by Jaycee Jarvis
Tension abounds in this fantasy romance, with Han-Triguard Magdalena and her duty-first mindset. Duty first, that is, until Jasper (her former lover) gets himself framed for a string of brutal murders. He’s a sweetheart, you see, a gentle and handsome empathic musician who is good with kids and took in his brother’s orphans. His one request of her is to take in these children. Magdalena never wanted children, but as she sees this beautiful life that the handsome Jasper cherishes, she finds herself determined to protect it, make peace with her own past, and find a way forward that honors her heart. These challenges will demand everything of her both as a warrior and as a woman, and she is more than willing to give it all if it means stopping the real killer and setting Jasper free. Once you start, you won’t be able to stop, a sentiment Magdalena understands as much as we readers do.
16. Raven’s Flight by Marie Robinson
Did someone ask for an adventurous warrior who has quite a past, including a Seider magic wielder? Oh, wonderful! Then come on in. Here we have Kiera, an elite assassin, a deadly blade warrior who possesses great cunning. And she’s going to need every ounce of that intelligence if she’s going to navigate the dangerous alliances the queen keeps making. In fact, she’s going to have to reconcile with that handsome Seider magic wielder from her past, which is definitely complicating matters for her even more than before. It’s a swift journey into passion and intrigue, so buckle up and hang on tight!
17. The Flame and the Blade by Meredith Hart
How about a fire mage and a swordswoman mercenary? Why yes, we do have just the ticket for you! Here, the wily Vethe’s status as an unregulated mage help draw out Lyria’s warrior tendencies. And does she ever have those! This woman may have had her heart broken in the most crushing betrayal she could have imagined, but she is still here to fight. Of course, her fight to protect her heart may be lost before anything else, especially as this journey has both Lyria and Vethe questioning their stances and perceptions of the other amid a wealth of adventure and intrigue. A steamy tale in first person with intrigue upon intrigue, it won’t take you long to tear through this tale and search out its sequel!
18. The Rose Crown by Catharine Glen
Come one, come all to a fantastic questing adventure featuring the bold, brave, beautiful Marian. The Rose Crown is an easy story to slip into with an engaging storyline and an accessible world rich with intrigue and excitement. Despite her character, she winds up as the prime suspect after an assassination attempt she herself thwarted! A strange cult has its eyes set on her as well (one that wants to restore the rose crown), and she has to use all her wits to figure out a solution that takes all of her strength. Especially since an evil stone formed in her arm is trying to destroy her. The handsome Henryk is here to destroy the rose crown, and he agrees to help her, even when that means fighting against the mysterious assassins and the cult itself. This story is a standalone with numerous fight scenes and engaging action. It’s a fast read in a world that could easily be expanded, and which we all hope to see more of soon.
19. Reign of Night by Sara C. Roethle
Even just in our daily lives, we’re no strangers to being between a rock and a hard place, but Lyssandra’s position is particularly tight: she is both a vampire hunter belonging to an order intent on exterminating all vampires, and… she’s also a vampire’s human servant. As she cuts down vampires hunting for her master, Asher, she can only rely on her blade and her secrecy to stay alive and safe from the scrutiny of her order. With a taste of Buffy and Celaena badassitude in an epic fantasy world, get your vampire and epic fixes both here, along with a bite (haha, ‘cause vampires, get it?) of slow-building enemies-to-lovers romance.
20. Bloodlust by Nicole Zoltack
What better end to this day’s list than a barbarian princess named Ivy? Yes, Bloodlust features the adventures of a warrior princess whose father is set on driving the races to war. An unlikely alliance may be formed though with Lukor the Goliath, an unlikely choice given his determination to kill every barbarian to avenge the death of his sister. Despite her prowess with all manner of weaponry, Ivy has her doubts and concerns. She can slay a horde of men, but this one, with all of the challenges he brings, has caught her eye and perhaps even her heart after the bloodlust takes her. With strong characters in more ways than one, this is a story of unlikely friendship, less likely romance, great warmth, and more courage. A fitting conclusion to the first part of our list of warrior heroines indeed.
Looooooved Throne of Glass! (Love all her stuff actually!).
The heroine’s discovery of self throughout the books and the romances that came along with it were captivating and I could not put these books down!
I love Warrior of the Wild by Tricia Levenseller. Rasmira is strong physically and mentally. She is one of those people who is confident about her abilities and never backs down from a challenge. Despite everything that happens to her, she doesn’t quit and has a “this is how I am, deal with it!” kind of an attitude.
I’m adding all the rest to my TBR. They all look amazing.
THE BRIDGE KINGDOM BY DANIELLE L. JENSEN
I saw this book when it first came out and it caught my attention. I just read the description above, which says it better than I can. So, here is why it’s top on my list: Lara isn’t just a badass warrior princess, but she also fights relatable battles we recognize—trusting someone you shouldn’t, discovering the truth behind lies, and finding your own beneath the wool others pull over your eyes.
I’ve either read many of these or already have them on my TBR. I think I’m most excited to pick up THE WOLF OF OREN-YARO BY K.S. VILLOSO though!
I’d have to say my favorite that I’ve already read was Aermian Feuds. I love Sage! She is fierce and determined and loyal! She can take care of herself, and also stands for the ones she loves! I absolutely adore Tehl, in all his awkwardness and loyalty. And one can’t not love Celaena Sardothien! I mean, bada$$ at its finest! I’m super interested to read To Kill a Queen! It’s been on my TBR forever! I’m intrigued by a royal like a billionth in line from the Throne who managed to escape and then becomes fierce!