Books with Medieval SwordswomenI grew up in the 1970s, adoring Lord of the Rings. I always had to write my own imaginary stories in my head where I was a "human female ranger", hanging out with Aragorn, because there weren't any women in the book for me to look up to. The book was entirely about men (and I suppose an elvish queen). It always bothered me. As I grew up, there were certainly stories with female heroines - the Dragonriders of Pern, the Nancy Drew mysteries, where women were strong and brave. But they always seemed to have guys around to protect them.
Romance novels pretty much always had the helpless woman - maybe sassy, maybe spunky - but she always needed a man to sweep in and rescue her. Some went quite over the top in how weak the woman was, how she couldn't even take two steps without having a man there to back her up. It was very discouraging.
I clearly remember the first book I read which I *adored*. It was Lady Danger by Sarah McKerrigan. The female heroine had a clear reason for wielding a sword - she was raised in a remote Scottish location by a very military father. When he begains to fail, she, as the eldest child with two younger daughters, must take command and keep the place safe. It is made clear in the story that she is NOT as powerful as a well trained, active knight - they aren't claiming she is a super-woman. However, she is at least good with her sword, perhaps as competent as a squire of her height and build would be.
What is funny is that, when you read the reviews of this book, some women feel she is "too manly" because she can use a sword!! Even in 2008, there are women who feel that fencing and archery and other such activities are ONLY for men. This disturbs me greatly! Sure, the reviewers may not want to be race car drivers. But would the reviewers really say that NO woman should ever drive a race car because it's too manly? I thought we were past that girlie nonsense!! Should no woman ever enjoy fencing or archery?
Sarah McKerrigan wrote an entire trilogy about these Rivenloch sisters. I connected most strongly with this first one, because the woman was very honorable, did what she felt was right and was straightforward about it. The other two sisters were either impetuous or very deceitful. I appreciated greatly that they had different personalities, but like I say, it is that first, eldest sister who connected very strongly with me.
So where are the other series about women with swords? I remember when Wheel of Time came out, and I had great hopes. Here was a modern Lord of the Rings! But noooo, the main character - Nineve - drove me COMPLETELY insane with her whining and complaining. I literally had to put the second book down halfway through because I couldn't take any more of her. And even there you have the ultimate "weak woman" situation - a tiny helpless woman protected by her large, hulking knight guardian.
I finally started writing down the stories I had spun in my head since childhood, so at least I could read my own works. But if any of you know of any other stories involving females who stand up for themeselves, please let me know!
Here are a list of reviews I've made with women and swords:
Medieval Sworsdwomen Book Reviews
Medieval Romance Basics
Medieval Romance for Villagers
Medieval Romance for Nobles
Medieval Romance for Men
Medieval Romance for Women
Life in Medieval Days
Lisa's Medieval Romances
Seeking the Truth
A Sense of Duty
Online Literary Magazines
Lisa Shea's Homepage