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Tamora Pierce Talks Writing and Reading About Female Warriors

"I wrote what I wanted to read, which was sensible, intelligent girl swordfighters."

I am lucky to have grown up during a time in which there were some incredible fantasy books centering on women available in my school library. That was thanks, in no small part, to Tamora Pierce. 

Pierce's four-book series The Song of the Lioness, the story of aspiring knight Alanna of Trebond, has become a classic since Alanna: The First Adventure came out in 1983. For 35 years, The Song of the Lioness and Pierce's subsequent fantasy series have shown readers that women can be more than just love interests and window dressing in fantasy. 

RELATED: 12 Fantasy Books With Female Warriors 

The Lioness Quartet

By Tamora Pierce

Pierce grew up in the '60s, and as a young reader realized there were very few female heroes in the stories she was given to read in school — particularly fantasy stories.

In the Signature Views video below, she discusses the female warriors she first discovered in fantasy fiction —specifically Éowyn in Lord of the Rings, Jirel of Joiry from the stories of C.L. Moore, and Bêlit from the Conan the Barbarian tales — and the ways in which she, as a young reader, was disappointed by those representations. 

RELATED: 8 Fantasy Books With Heroic Women 

As Pierce reveals in the video interview, over time the fantasy and sci-fi landscape began to include a greater breadth of stories about women warriors, thanks in large part to authors like Elizabeth Moon, Anne McCaffrey, and Barbara Hambly. 

Until they came along, though, Pierce wrote what she wanted to read — stories about "sensible, intelligent girl swordfighters." As an author today, it's her hope teenage readers will be reminded by her books that women are people in their own right, not just background for narratives centered around men. 

Pierce says that throughout her career, she has expanded her definition of what makes a hero. She hopes to show through her stories that "all kinds of women have all kinds of courage, and all kinds of sense."

RELATED: 14 Impactful Female Sci-Fi and Fantasy Writers 

Personally speaking, Pierce's books were one of the reasons I felt the fantasy genre was accessible to me when I was a young reader. Alanna of Tortall will forever be my definitive knight, and with the release of her latest book Tempests and Slaughter, Pierce continues to humanize women in fantasy fiction. 

Check out more great books featuring female warriors!

Tempests and Slaughter

By Tamora Pierce

The Deed of Paksenarrion

By Elizabeth Moon

The Sun Wolf and Starhawk Series Books 1–3

By Barbara Hambly

The Dragonriders of Pern

By Anne McCaffrey

Featured photo via Signature Views / Photoshop



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