Tired of reading science fiction and fantasy set in patriarchal societies? Want to read some novels where women and women’s interests are valued above the men for a change? Then this is the list for you! We’ve compiled twenty adult and YA SFF books (in no particular order), where the females run the show.
Read on to discover some new reads and tell us in the comments below if you have read one or will be reading one!
The Mirror Empire (Worldbreaker Saga #1) by Kameron Hurley
On the eve of a recurring catastrophic event known to extinguish nations and reshape continents, a troubled orphan evades death and slavery to uncover her own bloody past… while a world goes to war with itself.
In the frozen kingdom of Saiduan, invaders from another realm are decimating whole cities, leaving behind nothing but ash and ruin. As the dark star of the cataclysm rises, an illegitimate ruler is tasked with holding together a country fractured by civil war, a precocious young fighter is asked to betray his family and a half-Dhai general must choose between the eradication of her father’s people or loyalty to her alien Empress.
The Ruins of Ambrai (Exiles #1) by Melanie Rawn
A thousand years ago, Mageborns fled prejudice and persecution to colonize the planet Lenfell – a perfect refuge for those whose powers were perceived as a threat by people not gifted with magic. But the greater the magic, the greater the peril. Lenfell was soon devastated by a war between rival Mageborn factions that polluted the land with Wild Magic and unleashed hideous specters called Wraithenbeasts. Now, generations later, someone is planning another war on the still crippled planet that will tear three Mageborn sisters apart.
Daughter of the Blood (The Black Jewels #1) by Anne Bishop
The Dark Kingdom is preparing itself for the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy – the arrival of a new Queen, a Witch who will wield more power than even the High Lord of Hell himself. But this new ruler is young, and very susceptible to influence and corruption; whoever controls her controls the Darkness. And now, three sworn enemies begin a ruthless game of politics and intrigue, magic and betrayal, and the destiny of an entire world is at stake.
The Gender Game (The Gender Game #1) by Bella Forrest
A toxic river divides nineteen-year-old Violet Bates’s world by gender. Women rule the East. Men rule the West. Welcome to the lands of Matrus and Patrus. Ever since the disappearance of her beloved younger brother, Violet’s life has been consumed by an anger she struggles to control. Already a prisoner to her own nation, now she has been sentenced to death for her crimes. But one decision could save her life. To enter the kingdom of Patrus, where men rule and women submit. Everything about the patriarchy is dangerous for a rebellious girl like Violet. She cannot break the rules if she wishes to stay alive.
Homeland (The Legend of Drizzt #1) by R.A. Salvatore
In exotic Menzoberranzan, the vast city of the drow is home to Icewind Dale prince Drizzt Do’Urden, who grows to maturity in the vile world of his dark elf kin. Possessing honor beyond the scope of his unprincipled society, can he live in world that rejects integrity?
The Cloud Roads (The Books of the Raksura #1) by Martha Wells
Moon has spent his life hiding what he is — a shape-shifter able to transform himself into a winged creature of flight. An orphan with only vague memories of his own kind, Moon tries to fit in among the tribes of his river valley, with mixed success. Just as Moon is once again cast out by his adopted tribe, he discovers a shape-shifter like himself… someone who seems to know exactly what he is, who promises that Moon will be welcomed into his community. What this stranger doesn’t tell Moon is that his presence will tip the balance of power… that his extraordinary lineage is crucial to the colony’s survival… and that his people face extinction at the hands of the dreaded Fell! Now Moon must overcome a lifetime of conditioning in order to save and himself… and his newfound kin.
The Demon King (Seven Realms #1) by Cinda Williams Chima
Times are hard in the mountain city of Fellsmarch. Reformed thief Han Alister will do almost anything to eke out a living for his family. The only thing of value he has is something he can’t sell – the thick silver cuffs he’s worn since birth. They’re clearly magicked – as he grows, they grow, and he’s never been able to get them off.
One day, Han and his clan friend, Dancer, confront three young wizards setting fire to the sacred mountain of Hanalea. Han takes an amulet from Micah Bayar, son of the High Wizard, to keep him from using it against them. Soon Han learns that the amulet has an evil history – it once belonged to the Demon King, the wizard who nearly destroyed the world a millennium ago. With a magical piece that powerful at stake, Han knows that the Bayars will stop at nothing to get it back.
Meanwhile, Raisa ana’Marianna, princess heir of the Fells, has her own battles to fight. She’s just returned to court after three years of freedom in the mountains – riding, hunting, and working the famous clan markets. Raisa wants to be more than an ornament in a glittering cage. She aspires to be like Hanalea – the legendary warrior queen who killed the Demon King and saved the world. But her mother has other plans for her… The Seven Realms tremble when the lives of Hans and Raisa collide, fanning the flames of the smoldering war between clans and wizards.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (Inheritance Trilogy #1) by N.K. Jemisin
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.
Note: This is not set in a matriarchal society, but the main character comes from one.
The Broken Crown (The Sun Sword #1) by Michelle West
The Dominion, once divided by savage clan wars, has kept an uneasy peace within its border since that long-ago time when the clan Leonne was gifted with the magic of the Sun Sword and was raised up to reign over the five noble clans. But now treachery strikes at the very heart of the Dominion as two never meant to rule – one a highly skilled General, the other a master of the magical arts – seek to seize the crown by slaughtering all of clan Leonne blood.
Note: This one contains multiple societies, one of which is matriarchal. It takes a couple of books before this society appears in full, being referred to in the early books but not fully explored until later.
Fall of Angels (The Saga of Recluce #6) by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
The 6th book in the “Saga of Recluce” chronicles Recluce’s past and the founding of the Empire of the Legend – the mythological domain ruled by women warriors on the highland plateau of Candar. A revolutionary new society will be born here – if Nylan can learn to control his growing powers.
Court of Fives (Court of Fives #1) by Kate Elliott
On the Fives court, everyone is equal. And everyone is dangerous. Jessamy’s life is a balance between acting like an upper-class Patron and dreaming of the freedom of the Commoners. But away from her family, she can be whomever she wants when she sneaks out to train for the Fives, an intricate, multilevel athletic competition that offers a chance for glory to the kingdom’s best competitors.
Then Jes meets Kalliarkos, and an improbable friendship between the two Fives competitors – one of mixed race and the other a Patron boy – causes heads to turn. When Kal’s powerful, scheming uncle tears Jes’s family apart, she’ll have to test her new friend’s loyalty and risk the vengeance of a royal clan to save her mother and sisters from certain death.
Behind the Throne (The Indranan War #1) by K.B. Wagers
Meet Hail: Captain. Gunrunner. Fugitive. Quick, sarcastic, and lethal, Hailimi Bristol doesn’t suffer fools gladly. She has made a name for herself in the galaxy for everything except what she was born to do: rule the Indranan Empire. That is, until two Trackers drag her back to her home planet to take her rightful place as the only remaining heir. But trading her ship for a palace has more dangers than Hail could have anticipated. Caught in a web of plots and assassination attempts, Hail can’t do the one thing she did twenty years ago: run away. She’ll have to figure out who murdered her sisters if she wants to survive.
The Gate to Women’s Country by Sheri S. Tepper
Tepper’s finest novel to date is set in a post-holocaust feminist dystopia that offers only two political alternatives: a repressive polygamist sect that is slowly self-destructing through inbreeding and the matriarchal dictatorship called Women’s Country. Here, in a desperate effort to prevent another world war, the women have segregated most men into closed military garrisons and have taken on themselves every other function of government, industry, agriculture, science and learning. The resulting manifold responsibilities are seen through the life of Stavia, from a dreaming 10-year-old to maturity as doctor, mother and member of the Marthatown Women’s Council.
Ammonite by Nicola Griffith
Change or die. These are the only options available on the planet Jeep. Centuries earlier, a deadly virus shattered the original colony, killing the men and forever altering the few surviving women. Now, generations after the colony has lost touch with the rest of humanity, a company arrives to exploit Jeep – and its forces find themselves fighting for their lives. Terrified of spreading the virus, the company abandons its employees, leaving them afraid and isolated from the natives. In the face of this crisis, anthropologist Marghe Taishan arrives to test a new vaccine. As she risks death to uncover the women’s biological secret, she finds that she, too, is changing – and realizes that not only has she found a home on Jeep, but that she alone carries the seeds of its destruction.
The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley
Somewhere on the outer rim of the universe, a mass of decaying world-ships known as the Legion is traveling in the seams between the stars. For generations, a war for control of the Legion has been waged, with no clear resolution. As worlds continue to die, a desperate plan is put into motion.
Zan wakes with no memory, prisoner of a people who say they are her family. She is told she is their salvation – the only person capable of boarding the Mokshi, a world-ship with the power to leave the Legion. But Zan’s new family is not the only one desperate to gain control of the prized ship. Zan finds that she must choose sides in a genocidal campaign that will take her from the edges of the Legion’s gravity well to the very belly of the world.
Zan will soon learn that she carries the seeds of the Legion’s destruction – and its possible salvation. But can she and her ragtag band of followers survive the horrors of the Legion and its people long enough to deliver it?
The Shore of Women by Pamela Sargent
This classic work of feminist science fiction finds the world reordered. Following a nuclear holocaust, women have used advanced technology to expel men from their cities, bringing them back only for purposes of loveless reproduction under the guise of powerful goddesses. When one young woman, Birana, questions her society’s deception, she finds herself exiled amongst the very men she has been taught to scorn. As Birana and her reluctant male protector Arvil grow closer, their feelings for each other just might mend their fractured world – if they somehow manage to survive.
The Moon and the Other by John Kessel
In the middle of the twenty-second century, over three million people live in underground cities below the moon’s surface. One city-state, the Society of Cousins, is a matriarchy, where men are supported in any career choice, but no right to vote – and tensions are beginning to flare as outside political intrigues increase.
After participating in a rebellion that caused his mother’s death, Erno has been exiled from the Society of Cousins. Now, he is living in the Society’s rival colony, Persepolis, when he meets Amestris, the defiant daughter of the richest man on the moon.
Mira, a rebellious loner in the Society, creates graffiti videos that challenge the Society’s political domination. She is hopelessly in love with Carey, the exemplar of male privilege. An Olympic champion in low-gravity martial arts and known as the most popular bedmate in the Society, Carey’s more suited to being a boyfriend than a parent, even as he tries to gain custody of his teenage son.
When the Organization of Lunar States sends a team to investigate the condition of men in the Society, Erno sees an opportunity to get rich, Amestris senses an opportunity to escape from her family, Mira has a chance for social change, and Carey can finally become independent of the matriarchy that considers him a perpetual adolescent. But when Society secrets are revealed, the first moon war erupts, and everyone must decide what is truly worth fighting for.
Jaran (Jaran #1) by Kate Elliott
In the future, Earth is just one of the planets ruled by the vast Chapalii empire. The volatility of these alien overlords is something with which Tess Soerensen is all too familiar. Her brother, Charles, rebelled against them at one time and was rewarded by being elevated into their interstellar system – yet there is reason to believe they murdered his and Tess’s parents.
Struggling to find her place in the world and still mending a broken heart, Tess sneaks aboard a shuttle bound for Rhui, one of her brother’s planets. On the ground, she joins up with the native jaran people, becoming immersed in their nomadic society and customs while also attempting to get to the bottom of a smuggling scheme she encountered on her journey there. As she grows ever closer to the charismatic jaran ruler, Ilya – who is inflamed by an urgent mission of his own – Tess must choose between her feelings for him and her loyalty to her brother.
The Glorious Angels by Justina Robson
The groundbreaking new novel from one of the genre’s most respected authors: a thrilling mix of science, magic and sexual politics. On a world where science and magic are hard to tell apart, a stranger arrives in a remote town with news of political turmoil to come. And a young woman learns that she must free herself from the role she has accepted.
The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson
The lush city of Palmares Tres shimmers with tech and tradition, with screaming gossip casters and practiced politicians. In the midst of this vibrant metropolis, June Costa creates art that’s sure to make her legendary. But her dreams of fame become something more when she meets Enki, the bold new Summer King. The whole city falls in love with him including June’s best friend, Gil. But June sees more to Enki than amber eyes and a lethal samba. She sees a fellow artist.
BONUS: The Power by Naomi Alderman
In The Power the world is a recognisable place: there’s a rich Nigerian kid who lounges around the family pool; a foster girl whose religious parents hide their true nature; a local American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But something vital has changed, causing their lives to converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls now have immense physical power – they can cause agonising pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world changes utterly.
Note: This novel details HOW a matriarchal society might evolve as women are suddenly the physically stronger sex.