Books of friends saving the world
November 12, 2015 6:29 PM   Subscribe

I'm out of books to read. I realize I've been loving books (more so in the fantasy realm) of a group of people (including solid female characters) who become friends and adventure, travel, or go on a mission to save something from some danger. Recommendations?

I just finished Jim Butcher's new book, The Cinder Spires and loved it. Now I'm sad and can't seem to get into any books or series.

Other books I've enjoyed:

Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn and Stormlight series
Robert Jackson Bennett's City of Stairs
Jim Butcher's Codex Alera series
Sharon Shinn's Mystic and Rider
Marie Brennen's A Natural History of Dragons

Books I've recently abandoned:

Brent Week's The Way of Shadows
Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book
Trudi Canavan's The Magicians' Guild

Currently I'm trudging through Django Wexler's The Thousand Names.
posted by inevitability to Media & Arts (25 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
Seanan McGuire's Velveteen story cycle features lots of solid female characters, lots of becoming friends, lots of superheroic adventures, and some things that more or less count as saving the world. Although they're released as short stories, they do add up to something bigger, and it's a treat.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 6:53 PM on November 12, 2015 [4 favorites]

Emergence by David R. Palmer
posted by Confess, Fletch at 7:03 PM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

An old favorite that fits the bill is René Daumal's surrealist novella Mount Analogue.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:11 PM on November 12, 2015

Oh my glob read the Elemental Logic books by Laurie J. Marks now!!!
posted by wintersweet at 7:46 PM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

You might enjoy Scott Lynch's Gentleman Bastards novels.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:46 PM on November 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

The Steerswoman by Rosemary Kirstein!
posted by Xany at 10:06 PM on November 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

S. M. Stirling's Emberverse books have lots of solid female characters and two quests. The first stretches over four books, The Sunrise Lands, The Scourge of God, The Sword of the Lady, and The High King of Montival. The second comprises two books, The Golden Princess and The Desert and the Blade.
posted by Bruce H. at 10:20 PM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

You want to read Kate Elliott. Court of Fives is a YA novel which can be described as a mashup of Little Women and American Ninja Warrior.

Elliott's SpiritWalker Trilogy involves two cousins/sisters, Cat and Bea, who take on wizards and emperors and dragons and dinosaur-lawyers to protect one another. Starts with Cold Magic, and while it's also a romance, by far the strongest & most important relationship is between the two young women.

Elizabeth Wein's historicals aren't fantasy, but they do involve young women trying to save the world. Code Name Verity will enchant you and make you cry.

I really love Michelle Cooper's Montmaray novels, which are kind of like a modernized version of I Capture the Castle set during WWII. You want to start with A Short History of Montmaray, in which a group of cousins (mostly girls), alone on an island off the coast of Spain, attempt to fight off the Nazis. Sort of.

Ankharet Wells' Books of Requite (The Maker's Mask and The Hawkwood War) are less comforting, but they certainly have plenty of female characters, all doing a great deal of interesting things. They're sort of fantasy-of-manners/Lost Colony SF, mashed up with cyberpunk and bio-engineering. Fascinating, and so brilliantly creative.

Naomi Novik's Uprooted is about two young women, best friends, and their struggles to save their home and a danger they barely comprehend. (Yes, there's also a het romance, but the driving force of the novel is Agnieska's love for Kasia.)
posted by suelac at 10:52 PM on November 12, 2015 [5 favorites]

Have you ever read Dream Park by Niven and Barnes? The rest of that series is garbage but the first book is magnificent.

It's about the ultimate LARP.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:54 PM on November 12, 2015

Actually, you also really want Martha Wells' novels, especially The Wizard Hunters and its sequels. There isn't a female character stronger than Tremaine Valiard, seriously. She's awesome.
posted by suelac at 10:56 PM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Song of the Lioness, The Immortals and Protector of the Small by Tamora Pierce.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 11:22 PM on November 12, 2015

I'm currently reading Cinder Spires and I was impressed with City of Stairs. I agree with the upthread recommendations for Kate Elliott. Cold Magic has a really creative setting that's in a similar time period as steampunk. (It's a bit like Cinder Spires in flavor, but with more best-friendship and fewer fight scenes.)

Elliott's most recent book in a new series, Court of Fives, is high-stakes and fast paced and good. I also really liked Uprooted and Code Name Verity. (Verity is about two young women in a non-fantasy setting during WW2.)

I think you'd also like Curse of Chalion. It has strong world building (medieval Spain with a more fantastical religion), well-defined female characters and an urgent need to lift the curse that is dooming the country. The hero is the same archetype as Captain Grimm from Spires. I personally don't like anti-heroes, since I wouldn't want to be them, so a beaten down regular hero is more my cup of tea. Curse of Chalion also has a semi-sequel that takes one of the less developed female characters (the princess' mother) and lets her ride off and have her own adventures.

I liked McGuire's stories about Velveteen and when I was reading them they were free through a link on her blog / livejournal.
posted by puddledork at 6:13 AM on November 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

Basically everything by Tamora Pierce, but especially her Circle of Magic series (book one) and its follow-up, The Circle Opens.
posted by ashirys at 6:57 AM on November 13, 2015

What about Lev Grossman's "Magicians" books? Kind of dark, I should note.

Also, Michael Chabon's "Gentlemen of the Road" is very adventure-y, but the world-saving is kind of minor. Still a fun read!
posted by wenestvedt at 8:18 AM on November 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

check out Anne Bishop's Sebastian/Belladonna series
posted by supermedusa at 8:59 AM on November 13, 2015

The Stand fits your description. Not sure about the female characters. It's been a very long time since I read it.
posted by cnc at 11:55 AM on November 13, 2015

Patrick O'Brien's Jack and Stephen books are all about their friendship, plus their relationships with other characters. There are far more male characters than female ones, but the female ones are diverse and interesting. Don't be turned off by their covers or reputation: I started reading them as a woman in my twenties, and loved them. They're not just for old men who served in the navy.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:55 PM on November 13, 2015

If you like urban fantasy, The Rook has a delightful female lead who is much more of a paper-pusher than the typical ass-kicking character. If you prefer a steampunky type world and a heist setup, then Patrick Weekes's Rogues of the Republic series is a light, quick read, and has an ensemble cast that (if I remember right) is half female. If you're okay with YA, then The Assassin's Curse and Seraphina both have good female main characters, with the former being more on the travel/adventure side and the latter more saving the world.
posted by tautological at 2:44 PM on November 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

Someone above recommended The Curse of Chalion. Barrayar, by the same author, has quest. It doesn't save the world, but it does save a baby and end a war. It's MilSF rather than fantasy, though.
posted by Bruce H. at 2:54 PM on November 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett's Long Earth series is packed full of distinct, fascinating female characters who are trying to save parallel earths from the evils of this one. It is remarkably down to earth and funny for such a premise.
posted by landunderwave at 7:39 PM on November 13, 2015

Oh, I love this sort of theme. One that I read in the last couple of years and loved was The Passage by Justin Cronin. Not fantasy, but it's about an apocalypse and then (spoiler!) fast-forwards 100 years after the apocalypse and follows a small band of teenagers from a surviving community as they travel across the (now-deserted) US and try to save their community (and actually the world). They are led by a young girl and there are several other really great young women characters. There's a sequel as well, and there will be one more book in the trilogy coming out next spring.
posted by lunasol at 6:17 AM on November 14, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks all! So many wonderful books to buy. I just picked up Cold Magic and the Curse of Chalion.
posted by inevitability at 3:04 PM on November 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Came to suggest Lev Grossman and second the mention above!
posted by SassHat at 10:43 AM on November 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh oh oh, how could I not think of this? You want the Rivers of London series, by Ben Aaronovitch. More female characters as the series goes on, but start at the beginning.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:23 PM on November 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Antarctic Navigation by Elizabeth Arthur has a strong female heroine with a remarkable group of friends undertaking an epic quest. It's out of print but I see used copies on Amazon for 75 cents.
posted by acorncup at 2:54 PM on November 17, 2015

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