Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Women wielding swords - the ultimate reading list: Virtual WFC 2013

Is it a "new thing" that women write martial fantasy? Can you tell if something was written by a man or a woman? And how has martial fantasy shifted recently? Trudi Cavanan, Robin Hobb, Laura Ann Gilman (moderator), Gaie Sebold, and Juliet E McKenna discuss - and then collaborate with the audience to create a seriously kick-ass reading list of authors. (Scroll down for the treasure trove.)

31 October - 3 November was the World Fantasy Convention 2013 in Brighton, filled with very good writers saying interesting things to each other about writerly topics. For those who missed it, this series is your own virtual WFC 2013.
This event was called "Broads with Swords", which met with deserved uproar. The panel briskly dismiss that miserable title, then get down to the more interesting stuff.

One of the questions posed by the programme assumes that women writing martial fantasy is some new thing. McKenna says one can't be gender essentialist about contemporary knowledge of swords: neither men nor women routinely fight with them. In a recent panel she attended on apocalyptic fiction, they found the biggest differentiator of people's approaches was not whether they were men or women, but whether they were parents. Hobbs holds up a piece of paper on which she's drawn a stick figure man and a stick figure woman joined by an arc: gendering is a spectrum, she says, and one can shift one's position across that spectrum within a week, even within a day. (Gendering, note, is not the same as the nature of one's pink bits.) Gilman identifies a recent trend in fantasy: a move away from the simplistic "heroic" to greyer characters. As this shift takes hold, a lot of women have started to get noticed for writing in this way. The panel roundly dismiss the notion that women haven't been writing swordy fantasy - self-evidently, as most of them have been, for some time.

Gilman raises the question of whether you can tell an author's gender from their writing and asks whose gender they couldn't identify from their work. An audience member reports a recent study that showed people really can't tell gender from writing, anyway. (I'm not sure which study they were referring to, but here's one analysis that shows people "telling" is statistically equal to guessing and this study shows that Gender Genie is skewed to identify context rather than gender.)  Cavanan suggests Jo Spurrier, an Australian author, and McKenna offers Stella Gemmell's The City. Hobbs relates a heated argument with a friend who insisted that he could tell, but who could offer no criteria by which he judged. A few panellists reported the number of people who slate women's fantasy writing, saying women can't do it properly "like that Robin Hobb, he's amazing."
     Sebold says that the pressure women are put under to publish under initials or gender-neutral names is still strong. Hobb chose a gender-neutral name herself, not wishing to be judged by gender; Cavanan says that whenever she sees initials, she assumes the writer's a woman. Few men are trying to hide their gender. McKenna relates someone saying "Tiptree is the man to beat!" (James Tiptree Jr was the pen name of Alice Bradley Sheldon.) According to Gilman, booksellers say it doesn't matter too much. (The stats speak differently, if one looks at the counts run by Strange Horizons for 2011 and 2012, and Lady Business's analysis; links sourced from McKenna's blog post on Women in SFF.)

The panel discusses which women writers are really nailing martial fantasy at the moment (full list below) and then the moderator poses the official programme's question, "How are these books different from their literary predecessors?" with an abyss of sarcasm in her voice.
     McKenna returns to that shift away from the simplistic heroic to different kinds of heroism, including quiet heroism, in both women's and men's writing. Sebold talks about a greater awareness of victims, again in both women's and men's writing: a move away from the slaughtered hordes of minions to a world that's more greyscale. This becomes more interesting and complex. Gilman references the anthology, Fight Like a Girl, where the usual dissing phrase is used in a female-positive way: actually, women fight dirty and to win. (This is evidenced in real life by an unsuccessful attempt to reform the English self-defence laws for cases where women, perceiving a physical disadvantage, use "excessive force".) In that anthology, says Gilman, she's enjoyed seeing characters who fight as women.
     Hobbs raises another shift in martial fantasy: writers are allowed more pages now, so characters are fuller as authors get more space to develop them. That means you can deploy more complexity and get better-rounded characters, which in turn generates the same complexity we've just been discussing. Cavanan also comments that you don't have to be a "broad with a sword" to be a strong character, now.

Rather than taking questions, the panel asked the audience for more recommendations of women writing martial fantasy, preferably contemporary authors and newcomers. Here's the complete list of author suggestions, including the panel's earlier list, with a sample book for each - wherever possible, the first book in a series.
If you can think of other women authors of martial fantasy that aren't in this list, which you'd like to recommend, please add them in the comments.

Kate Elliot

Spiritwalker Series
The history of the world begins in ice, and it will end in ice. 

Read an Afro-Celtic post-Roman icepunk Regency fantasy adventure with airships, Phoenician spies, the intelligent descendents of troodons, and a dash of steampunk whose gas lamps can be easily doused by the touch of a powerful cold mage. 

View Series

NK Jemisin

Hundred Thousand Kingdoms - Book 1 in The Inheritance Trilogy

Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle with cousins she never knew she had. As she fights for her life, she draws ever closer to the secrets of her mother's death and her family's bloody history.

With the fate of the world hanging in the balance, Yeine will learn how perilous it can be when love and hate - and gods and mortals - are bound inseparably together.

Gaie Sebold 

Babylon Steel - Babylon Steel 1
Babylon Steel - Book 1 in the Babylon Steel series

Babylon Steel, ex-sword-for-hire, ex…other things, runs the best brothel in Scalentine; city of many portals, two moons, and a wide variety of races, were-creatures, and religions, not to mention the occasional insane warlock.

She’s not having a good week.  The Vessels of Purity are protesting against brothels, women in the trade are being attacked, it’s tax time, and there’s not enough money to pay the bill.  So when the mysterious Darask Fain offers her a job finding a missing girl, Babylon decides to take it.  But the missing girl is not what she seems, and neither is Darask Fain. In the meantime twomoon is approaching, and more than just a few night’s takings are at risk when Babylon’s hidden past reaches out to grab her by the throat.

Lilith Saintcrow

The Hedgewitch Queen (eBook): Romance of the Arquitaine Series, Book 1
The Hedgewitch Queen - Book 1 in Romances of Arquitaine

If not for a muddy skirt, I would be dead like all the rest. Dead…or worse, perhaps.
Vianne di Rocancheil has been largely content to play the gawky provincial. As lady in waiting at the Court of Arquitaine, she studies her books, watches for intrigue, and shepherds her foolhardy Princesse safely through the glittering whirl. Court is a sometimes-unpleasant waltz, especially for the unwary, but Vianne treads its measured steps well.
Unfortunately, the dance has changed. Treachery is afoot in gilded and velvet halls. A sorcerous conspiracy is unleashed, with blood, death, and warfare close behind. Her Princesse murdered and her own life in jeopardy, Vianne must flee, carrying the fate of her land with her— the Great Seal of Arquitaine, awake after its long sleep. Invasion threatens, civil war looms, and the conspiracy hunts for Vianne di Rocancheil, to kill or to use her against all she holds dear.
A life of dances, intrigues, and fashion has not prepared her for this. Nor has it prepared her for Tristan d’Arcenne, Captain of the King’s Guard and player in the most dangerous games conspiracy can devise. Yet to save her country and avenge her Princesse, Vianne will become what she must, say what she should, and do whatever is required.
A Queen can do no less.

Robin Hobb

Assassin's Apprentice - The Farseer Trilogy 1
Assassin's Apprentice - Book 1 in the Farseer Trilogy

Young Fitz is the bastard son of the noble Prince Chivalry, raised in the shadow of the royal court by his father’s gruff stableman. He is treated like an outcast by all the royalty except the devious King Shrewd, who has him sectetly tutored in the arts of the assassin. For in Fitz’s blood runs the magic Skill–and the darker knowledge of a child raised with the stable hounds and rejected by his family. As barbarous raiders ravage the coasts, Fitz is growing to manhood. Soon he will face his first dangerous, soul-shattering mission. And though some regard him as a threat to the throne, he may just be the key to the survival of the kingdom.

Helen Lowe

The Heir of Night - Wall of Night 1
The Heir of Night - Book 1 in The Wall of Night

Fortresses of shadow and decay
An ancient war
A world where everyone could be an enemy —
and no-one is quite what they seem
A society divided by prejudice, suspicion, and fear
Lost powers and undiscovered secrets
A young untried champion
and a promise that has endured down centuries
— that she should not have to stand alone

Freya Robertson

RobertsonF-1-Heartwood
Heartwood - Book 1 in Elemental Wars

The quest for the Arbor has begun
Chonrad, Lord of Barle, comes to the fortified temple of Heartwood for the Congressus peace talks, which Heartwood’s holy knights have called in an attempt to stave off war in Anguis. But the Arbor, Heartwood’s holy tree, is failing, and because the land and its people are one, it is imperative the nations try to make peace.
After the Veriditas, or annual Greening Ceremony, the Congressus takes place. The talks do not go well and tempers are rising when an army of warriors emerges from the river. After a fierce battle, the Heartwood knights discover that the water warriors have stolen the Arbor’s heart. For the first time in history, its leaves begin to fall…
The knights divide into seven groups and begin an epic quest to retrieve the Arbor, and save the land.

Martha Wells

The Wizard Hunters (MP3): The Fall of Ile-Rien Series, Book 1
The Wizard Hunters - Book 1 in The Fall of Ile-Rien

A mysterious army known only as the Gardier has surrounded Ile-Rien, attacking in ominous black airships. When a magical spell goes disastrously awry, young Tremaine Valiarde and a brave band are transported to another world. A world of rough magics, evil mages, honorable warriors -- and a secret Gardier base.

Mary Gentle

Black Opera
Black Opera

Conrad Scalese is a writer of librettos for operas in a world where music has immense power. In the Church, the sung mass can bring about actual miracles like healing the sick. Opera is musicodrama, the highest form of music combined with human emotion, and the results of the passion it engenders can be nothing short of magical. In this world of miracles, Conrad is an atheist - he sees the same phenomena, but sees no need to attribute them to a Deity...until his first really successful opera gets the opera-house struck by the lightning bolt of God's disapproval...And Conrad comes to the attention of the Prince's Men, a powerful secret society, who are trying to use the magic of music to their own ends - in this case, an apocalyptic blood sacrifice. Life is about to get interesting for Conrad.

Ellen Kushner

Swordspoint
Swordspoint - Book 1 of Riverside

On the treacherous streets of Riverside, a man lives and dies by the sword. Even the nobles on the Hill turn to duels to settle their disputes. Within this elite, dangerous world, Richard St. Vier is the undisputed master, as skilled as he is ruthless–until a death by the sword is met with outrage instead of awe, and the city discovers that the line between hero and villain can be altered in the blink of an eye.

Rowena Cory Daniells


The King's Bastard - Book 1 in The Chronicles of King Rolen's Kin

Cloaked in silent winter snow, the Kingdom of Rolencia sleeps as rumours spread of Affinity Seeps, places where power seeps up from the land’s heart.
Meanwhile, King Rolen plans his jubilee, unaware of the growing threat to those he loves.

CL Moore

Northwest of Earth: Complete Northwest Smith
Northwest of Earth

This is the 75th Anniversary edition. Among the best-written and most emotionally complex stories of the Pulp Era, the tales of intergalactic smuggler, Northwest Smith still resonate strongly 75 years after their first publication. From the crumbling temples of forgotten gods on Venus to the seedy pleasure halls of old Mars, Northwest Smith blazes a trail through the underbelly of the solar system in 13 action-packed stories you won't soon forget.

Tanya Huff

Valor's Choice: A Confederation Novel
Valour's Choice - Book 1 in Confederation

In the distant future, humans and several other races have been granted membership in the Confederationat a price. They must act as soldier/protectors of the far more civilized races who have long since turned away from war...

Laurie J Marks

Fire Logic: An Elemental Logic Novel - Elemental Logic 1
Fire Logic - Book 1 in Elemental Logic

Fire Logic recounts how Zanja na'Tarwein, a fire blood, a tribal woman who speaks for an extinct people, becomes a hinge of history, through intuition, prescience, and dawning desire. By fire logic . . .
a smoke addict is more than she seems
a seer is discovered in a very unlikely place
a Paladin falls in love through a dream
a hero of Shaftal is revealed to be a traitor
a Truthken learns how badly she can be deceived

Elizabeth Moon

Trading in Danger - Vatta's War 1
Trading in Danger - Book 1 in Vatta's War

Ky Vatta, daughter of the wealthy and powerful trading family, chose to leave the family business and attend Spaceforce Academy...but in her final semester, she makes an error of judgment and is expelled. Her family puts her aboard an old tub of a spaceship, and tells her to take it off to the scrapyards--Ky looks for something better to do, and ends up in what seems to be a pirate attack on the planet where she's buying farm equipment.

Elizabeth Bear

Product Details
Blood and Iron - Book 1 in Promethean Age

Spellbound by the Faerie Queen, the woman known as Seeker has abducted human children for her mistress's pleasure for nearly an eternity, unable to free herself from her servitude and reclaim her own humanity.
Seeker's latest prey is a Merlin. Named after the legendary wizard of Camelot, Merlins are not simply those who wield magic, they are magic. Now, with rival mages also vying for the favor of this being of limitless magic to tip the balance of power, Seeker must persuade the Merlin to join her cause-or else risk losing something even more precious to her than the fate of humankind.

Jo Walton

Farthing
Farthing - Book 1 in Small Change

Eight years after they overthrew Churchill and led Britain into a separate peace with Hitler, the upper-crust families of the "Farthing set" are gathered for a weekend retreat. Among them is estranged Farthing scion Lucy Kahn, who can't understand why her and her husband David's presence was so forcefully requested. Then the country-house idyll is interrupted when the eminent Sir James Thirkie is found murdered - with a yellow Star of David pinned to his chest. Lucy begins to realize that her Jewish husband is about to be framed for the crime - an outcome that would be convenient for altogether too many of the various political machinations underway in Parliament in the coming week. But whoever's behind the murder, and the frame-up, didn't reckon on the principal investigator from Scotland Yard being a man with very private reasons for sympathizing with outcasts and underdogs - and prone to look beyond the obvious as a result. As the trap slowly shuts on Lucy and David, they begin to see a way out - a way fraught with peril in a darkening world.

Tamora Pierce

Alanna, the First Adventure - Song of the Lioness S. No. 1
Alanna: The First Adventure - Book 1 in The Song of the Lionness

Denying her magical powers and disguised as a boy, Alanna strives to become a knight. She wins powerful friends in the palace, but court life holds unexpected dangers - there's something about the powerful magician that scares her. Soon Alanna will face a challenge to test all her skills. (YA, 12 up)

Michelle Sigara / Michelle West

Cast in Shadow (eBook)
Cast in Shadow - Book 1 in Chronicles of Elantra

Seven years ago Kaylin fled the crime-riddled streets of Nightshade, knowing that something was after her. Children were being murdered—and all had the same odd markings that mysteriously appeared on her own skin.... Since then, she's learned to read, she's learned to fight and she's become one of the vaunted Hawks who patrol and police the City of Elantra. Alongside the winged Aerians and the immortal Barrani, she's made a place for herself, far from the mean streets of her birth. But children are once again dying, and a dark and familiar pattern is emerging. Kaylin is ordered back into Nightshade with a partner she knows she can't trust, a Dragon lord for a companion and a device to contain her powers—powers that no other human has. Her task is simple—find the killer, stop the murders...and survive the attentions of those who claim to be her allies!

Jennifer Fallon

Wolfblade - Wolfblade Triology S. Bk. 1
Wolfblade - Book 1 in the Wolfblade Trilogy

Marla Wolfblade, princess of Hythria, is determined to restore her family to its former power and glory. But Hythria is a fiercely patriarchal society, and Marla knows power may only be gained through a man. Narrowly avoiding an arranged marriage to the King of Fardohnya, she instead marries Laren, Warlord of Krakandar Province, and gives birth to a son. Damin is named heir to the throne of Hythria by his uncle, the dissolute High Prince. Settling into life as the wife of a warlord, Marla believes the future of her familyis secured, but there are forces in the land that do not want the house of Wolfbalde restored. Can Marla protect her son and her family and stop the conspirators?

Fiona Mackintosh

Scrivener's Tale
The Scrivener's Tale - a return to the Quickening series

An action-packed standalone adventure moving from present-day Paris to medieval Morgravia, the world of Fiona McIntosh’s bestselling QUICKENING series. In the bookshops and cafes of present-day Paris, ex-psychologist Gabe Figaret is trying to put his shattered life back together. When another doctor, Reynard, asks him to help with a delusional female patient, Gabe is reluctant…until he meets her. At first Gabe thinks the woman, Angelina, is merely terrified of Reynard, but he quickly discovers she is not quite what she seems. As his relationship with Angelina deepens, Gabe’s life in Paris becomes increasingly unstable. He senses a presence watching and following every move he makes, and yet he finds Angelina increasingly irresistible. When Angelina tells Gabe he must kill her and flee to a place she calls Morgravia, he is horrified. But then Angelina shows him that the cathedral he has dreamt about since childhood is real and exists in Morgravia. Soon, Gabe’s world will be turned upside down, and he will learn shocking truths about who he is …and who he can – or cannot – trust.

Lois McMaster Bujold

The Warrior's Apprentice (MP3)
The Warrior's Apprentice - first of the Miles Vorkosigan adventures

Miles Vorkosigan makes his debut in this frenetic coming-of-age tale. At age seventeen, Miles is allowed to take the entrance exams to the elite military academy; he passes the written but manages, through miscalculation in a moment of anger, to break both his legs on the obstacle course, washing out before he begins. His aged grandfather dies in his sleep shortly after, for which Miles blames himself. Miles is sent to visit his grandmother Naismith on distant Beta Colony, accompanied by his bodyguard, Sergeant Bothari and Bothari's daughter, Elena. Miles passes himself off as a mercenary leader as he picks up a ragtag crew, and soon Miles's father Aral is under political attack back home as garbled rumors of Miles's mercenary operations trickle back. Miles must abandon his new fleet and dash back to Barrayar to stop the plot.

Ann Lyle

The Alchemist of Souls: v. 1: Night's Masque - Angry Robot
The Alchemist of Souls - Book 1 of Night's Masque

When Tudor explorers returned from the New World, they brought back a name out of half-forgotten Viking legend: skraylings. Red-sailed ships followed in the explorers' wake, bringing Native American goods--and a skrayling ambassador--to London. But what do these seemingly magical beings really want in Elizabeth I's capital? Mal Catlyn, a down-at-heel swordsman, is seconded to the ambassador's bodyguard, but assassination attempts are the least of his problems. What he learns about the skraylings and their unholy powers could cost England her new ally--and Mal his soul.

Esther M Friesner

Turn the Other Chick
Turn the Other Chick

One good turn deserves another and those unpredictable amazons are in action again, swords sharpened, chainmail polished, and makeup in place, ready to fight the good fight on the field of battle. And, if you think they're just male wish-fulfilment fantasies, you'd better say it under your breath and out of their earshot, because these barbarian babes were born to battle.

Alison Croggon

The Gift: The First Book of Pellinor
The Gift - Book 1 in The Books of Pellinor

This is the first book in the epic "Pellinor" series - four books telling an extraordinary tale of another world. Maerad is a slave in a desperate and unforgiving settlement, taken there as a child when her family is destroyed in war. She is unaware that she possesses a powerful gift, a gift that marks her as a member of the School of Pellinor. It is only when she is discovered by Cadvan, one of the great Bards of Lirigon, that her true heritage and extraordinary destiny unfolds. Now she and her teacher, Cadvan, must survive a punishing and uncertain journey through a time and place where the dark forces they battle with stem from the deepest recesses of other-worldly terror. In this title, "Lord of the Rings" meets "Ursula Le Guin", for a new generation.

Namoi Novik


In His Majesty's Service - the first three books of the Temeraire series

A gorgeous omnibus edition of the first three volumes in the Temeraire series,His Majesty’s DragonThrone of Jade, and Black Powder War. Also features a new Temeraire short story!
Capt. Will Laurence is serving with honor in the British Navy when his ship captures a French frigate harboring most a unusual cargo–an incalculably valuable dragon egg. When the egg hatches, Laurence unexpectedly becomes the master of the young dragon Temeraire and finds himself on an extraordinary journey that will shatter his orderly, respectable life and alter the course of his nation’s history.
Thrust into England’s Aerial Corps, Laurence and Temeraire undergo rigorous training while staving off French forces intent on breaching British soil. But the pair has more than France to contend with when China learns that an imperial dragon intended for Napoleon–Temeraire himself– has fallen into British hands. The emperor summons the new pilot and his dragon to the Far East, a long voyage fraught with peril and intrigue. From England’s shores to China’s palaces, from the Silk Road’s outer limits to the embattled borders of Prussia and Poland, Laurence and Temeraire must defend their partnership and their country from powerful adversaries around the globe. But can they succeed against the massed forces of Bonaparte’s implacable army?

Melina Marchetta

Finnikin of the Rock (eBook): Lumatere Chronicles, Book 1
Finnikin of the Rock - Book 1 of The Lumatere Chronicles

Finnikin was a child when the royal family of Lumatere was brutally murdered and an imposter seized the throne. Now a curse binds all who remain, and those who escaped roam surrounding lands persecuted, sick, and despairing. A boy on the cusp of manhood, Finnikin is compelled to join forces with a young novice named Evanjalin, who claims that her dreams will lead the exiles to a surviving royal child and a way to regain Lumatere. But her behavior suggests she is not what she seems—and the startling truth will test Finnikin's faith in everything he knows. In a narrative that crackles like a coming storm, Printz Award-winner Melina Marchetta crafts an epic fantasy that rivets from the first page.

Sara Douglas

Battleaxe - Axis Trilogy Bk. 1
Battleaxe - Book 1 of the Axis trilogy

Epic fantasy in the tradition of Trudi Canavan, Fiona McIntosh and Robert Jordan. A thousand years ago, the people of Achar drove the Forbidden from their lands. But now the northern tribes of the Ravensbund are fleeing south again, with nightmarish tales of creatures who feed upon the terror of their prey. Winter has come early, and with it the promise of war. Axis, bastard son of the dead Princess Rivkah, is sent north to the battlefront at Gorkenfort with his elite Axe-Wielders. Once there, he must hand over command to his hated half-brother, Borneheld, Duke of Ichar and heir to the throne. But during the long journey Axis falls in love with Faraday - Borneheld's betrothed - and finds himself reassessing the very essence of his beliefs. With the fate of the world hanging in the balance, Axis must unite the feuding lands under one banner before it is too late and the evil rising in the north engulfs them all for good.

Ursula Le Guin

The Earthsea Quartet: "A Wizard Of Earthsea"; "The Tombs of Atuan"; "The Farthest Shore"; "Tehanu"
The Earthsea Quartet

A superb four-part fantasy, comparable with the work of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, the "Earthsea" books follow the fortunes of the wizard Ged from his childhood to an age where magic is giving way to evil. As a young dragonlord, Ged, whose use-name is Sparrowhawk, is sent to the island of Roke to learn the true way of magic. A natural magician, Ged becomes an Archmage and helps the High Priestess Tenar escape from the labyrinth of darkness. But as the years pass, true magic and ancient ways are forced to submit to the powers of evil and death.

Justina Robson

Keeping it Real - Gollancz S.F.
Keeping it Real - Book 1 of the Quantum Gravity books

The Quantum Bomb of 2015 changed everything. The fabric that kept the universe's different dimensions apart was torn and now, six years later, the people of earth exist in uneasy company with the inhabitants of, amongst others, the elven, elemental and demonic realms. Magic is real and can be even more dangerous than technology. Elves are exotic, erotic, dangerous and really bored with the constant Lord of the Rings references. Elementals are a law unto themselves and demons are best left well to themselves. Special agent Lila Black used to be pretty but now she's not so sure. Her body is now more than half restless carbon and metal alloy machinery. A machine she's barely in control of. It goes into combat mode, enough weapons for a small army springing from within itself, at the merest provocation. As for her heart ...well ever since being drawn into a Game by the elven rockstar she's been assigned to protect, she's not even sure she can trust that any more either.

Anne Bishop

Daughter of the Blood
Daughter of the Blood - Book 1 of the Black Jewels trilogy

The Darkness has had a Prince for a long, long time. Now the Queen is coming. For years the realm of Terreille has been falling into corruption, as the powerful Queens who rule it have turned to cruelty. But there is hope - a prophetic vision has revealed the coming of a Queen more powerful than any other. And once the foundations of her power - father, brother, lover - are in place, she will emerge from the darkness, bringing freedom. For she is the living myth, dreams made flesh; not just any witch, but Witch.

Kari Sperring

Living with Ghosts cover
The Grass King's Concubine

A keenly intelligent young woman faces arranged marriage to a boorish oaf, and a pointless existence in a society where she is expected to be a mere ornament. A young soldier pursues a duty that can bring him no honour. Brought close together by a shared perception of injustice, they find themselves on a quest through disordered times, and devastated lands...

Lynn Flewelling

Luck in the Shadows (MP3): The Nightrunner Series, Book 1
Luck in the Shadows - Book 1 of Nightrunner

When young Alec of Kerry is taken prisoner for a crime he didn't commit, he is certain that his life is at an end. But the thing he hadn't counted on was his cellmate.
Spy, rogue, thief, and noble, Seregil of Rhiminee is many things—none of them predictable. And when he offers to take on Alec as his apprentice, things may never be the same for either of them. Soon Alec is traveling roads he never knew existed, toward a war he never suspected was brewing. Before long he and Seregil are embroiled in a sinister plot that runs deeper than either can imagine and that may cost them far more than their lives if they fail. But fortune is as unpredictable as Alec's new mentor.

JV Jones

A Cavern of Black Ice - Sword of Shadows 1
A Cavern of Black Ice - Book 1 in the Sword of Shadows series

When Raif and Drey Sevrance return home to their clan as the only survivors of a vicious attack in which both their father and the clan chief, were killed, everything changes for Raif. Uneasy with the new chief's reign of brutality and his brother's acceptance of it, Raif welcomes his uncle Angus Lok's invitation to accompany him to Spire Vanis. Asarhiah March, Ash for short, is the beautiful ward of Penthero Iss, Overlord of Spire Vanis. Suspicious of Penthero's increasing interest in her developing body, when Ash overhears him planning to imprison her she flees, only to be cornered at the city gate by a band of the Overlord's elite guards. But as they close in on her, a stranger comes to the rescue - observed by a bemused Raif, Angus Lok plunges into the midst of the guards and snatches her to safety. For Angus knows that as this girl grows to womanhood she will develop powers which could destroy herself and the world if she doesn't learn to control them ...and only Raif can protect her on her journey to understanding.

Kameron Hurley

God's War: Bel Dame Apocrypha
God's War

Nyx is a bel dame, a bounty hunter paid to collect the heads of deserters - by almost any means necessary. 'Almost' proved to be the problem. Cast out and imprisoned for breaking one rule too many, Nyx and her crew of mercenaries are all about the money. But when a dubious government deal with an alien emissary goes awry, her name is at the top of the list for a covert recovery. While the centuries-long war rages on only one thing is certain: the world's best chance for peace rests in the hands of its most ruthless killers..

If you can think of other women authors of martial fantasy that aren't in this list, which you'd like to recommend, please add them in the comments.

Next event in the Virtual WFC: The art show: where the worlds in your mind step in front of your eyes.

The virtual conference is created from my own rapid scribblings at the panels and talks and paraphrased - all as accurate as possible, but if you take exception to anything or I've got any details wrong, contact me. Direct quotations are my transcription of someone's exact words as best as I can. Comments in brackets are my own additions.

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