Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Female friendships in SFF

So, the obvious companion to my earlier post about male friendships. I’m sure you all expected this, and now you undoubtedly all have titles to contribute in the comments, right?

For me, friendship and relationships other than romantic are often key to lifting a particular title out of the herd. Speaking of those male cousins in Laura Florand’s Rose series — which Elaine mentioned in the comments of the earlier post — it is indeed that set of cousins who make the romance series particularly appealing. Without them, the romance itself would fall flat, at least for me. The same is true of female friendships in other titles that feature a central romance.

So, for example, the very first female friendship that comes to mind for me is:

1. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. Of course I just read this trilogy, so it is still in the forefront of my mind, but the relationship between Karou and Zazuna was absolutely the high point of the story, far more so than the intense, obsessive romantic relationship between Karou and Akiva. Of course partly this is because Zazuna was my favorite character.

Um, not to nag, but have you all read Night of Cake and Puppets yet? Well, what are you waiting for? Seriously, go read that!

But moving on, moving on … other female friendships that particularly come to mind:

2. In the Spiritwalker trilogy by Kate Elliot, which I’m in the middle of right now, the relationship between Cat and Bee . . . I didn’t notice till this minute that those are both animal names; it’s Catherine and, I think, Beatrice, really . . . is of central importance. Love this relationship. Again, for me it’s more important than the central romance, though I do like that, too. You know, the romances tend to be so angsty compared to the friendships; probably that’s one reason I generally prefer the latter.

This series got great covers, an added perk:

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3. Sarah, Abalone,and Professor Isabella in Jane Lindskold’s Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls. Listen, if you click on this link, you should be aware that this book has a TERRIBLE COVER that should not in any way put you off the book, which is great. This is SF rather than F, you may remember I reviewed this older title a little while ago.

4. Kate and Andrea in the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews. This is one of my very favorite UF/Paranormal series, which I think really hit its stride with the third book. Although I love Kate, I am one of the readers who really liked Gunmetal Magic, the book in the series that focuses on Andrea. This is partly because I like Rafael quite a bit, but also because I like Andrea herself.

5. Stepping out of SFF, but I have to mention Melina Marchetta here, for all kinds of important friendships in her contemporary titles, such as Saving Francesca, which I definitely recommend if you like mixing the odd contemporary in with your SFF. Marchetta is unique for me because I prefer her contemporary fiction to her fantasy titles, so far anyway.

6. In that same context, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell is another contemporary title with particularly good friendships . . . I am thinking here of Cath and Reagan, but the relationships between father and daughters, between sisters, between Cath and her boyfriend . . . all very well done; a real pleasure to read.

7. Okay, I’m listing this last because it contains a spoiler for The Thousand Names, so look away if you haven’t read that yet and want to avoid being spoiled, but:

Winter and “Bobby” in Django Wexler’s The Thousand Names. Also Winter and Jane, but I found “Bobby” particularly appealing for some reason.

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11 Comments Female friendships in SFF

  1. Ben Thapa

    In Pratchett’s Discworld books – particularly between the witches – the ladies frequently have lifelong friends who do rad things with them because the world needs fixing.

    In Who Fears Death, Onyesonwu brings a group of friends – not quite close friends, but friends – on her travels and they grow very close over time.

    Xena and Gabrielle are forever famous for being buddies.

  2. Maureen E

    Oh boy, do I ever! *cracks knuckles*

    Actual SFF:
    Connie Willis’s Blackout/All Clear (Polly & Eileen)

    Megan Whalen Turner’s later books (Queen of Attolia and Conspiracy of Kings in particular) have a subtle-but-awesome friendship between Eddis & Attolia.

    Kate and Gwenhyfar in The Perilous Gard

    There’s a three-way friendship in Erin Bow’s Sorrow’s Knot, and to a certain extent in her upcoming Scorpion Rules too.

    Angieszka and Kasia in Uprooted

    LUMBERJANES

    Kami, Angela, and Holly in Sarah Rees Brennan’s Unspoken trilogy

    Not SFF but I can’t resist:
    Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity & Rose Under Fire.

    Can’t go wrong with old-school Betsy, Tacy, and Tib.

  3. Kootch

    Cat and Bee in Kate Elliot’s Spiritwalker trilogy; agree on Winter and Bobby but also Raesinia and Sothe in Django Wexler’s books. Iselle and Betriz in Lois McMaster Bujold’s “Curse of Chalion” are also great examples as well as Cawti and Norathar, the team supreme of assassins in Steven Brust’s Jhereg series.

  4. Elaine T

    Besides what’s already mentioned –
    Alma Alexander’s Secrets of Jin-Shei is built around female friendships amongst a set of (IIRC) 9 girls. Then there’s the sequel, which features someone looking for those sorts of friendships that her g-g-g-grandmother’s diaries describe.

    Edith Patou’s EAST (East of the Sun retelling) has a strong friendship between two girls each rescuing someone taken by the bear & the trolls.

    and… drat, it just escaped me. Oh, of course! Raederle, and the Morgul’s heir (name still escapes) and Morgon’s sister.

    I read the sample of NIGHT OF CAKES and well, haven’t gone on with it.

  5. Rachel

    Kootch, I should have thought of Iselle and Betriz; perfect examples. As are Cawti and Norathar.

    Maureen, of course you do! I think Eddis and Attolia are . . . a little too subtle, maybe, although I do like this facet of the story.

    Agnieszka and Kasia, absolutely. I should have thought of Uprooted, along with Code Name Verity. I would REALLY like to read Sarah Rees Brennan’s UNSPOKEN trilogy because I loved her Demon’s Lexicon trilogy, but I just haven’t gotten to it yet.

    Ben, I have to admit, I haven’t yet quiiite gotten around to reading the Witches books by Pratchett. Eventually, I’m sure.

  6. Louise

    I was coming here to mention Raederle and Lyra, but I see someone beat me to it!

    I also love Kate and Cecy (does it count if they’re cousins?) from Wrede and Stevermer’s Enchanted Chocolate Pot series. And speaking of Wrede, the friendship between Cimorene, Kazul, and Morwen is pretty great, too.

  7. Maureen E

    But there is that great moment in Conspiracy of Kings when Irene holds Helen’s hand because she knows she needs support! That’s my best textual evidence; everything else is just me flailing.

    (Also everyone else has great suggestions!)

  8. Elaine T

    Coming back to add Shannon Hale’s Isi and Enna in GOOSEGIRL and ENNA BURNING.

    I do enjoy Enna’s letters to Isi’s husband in the second one – to the effect of: coming home at last, Isi *very* pregnant. Better meet us on the road.

  9. Rachel

    One other I want to add from a comment on Goodreads: Siavahda suggests Xhia and Shai from the Towers Trilogy by Karina Sumner-Smith — if you like stories that emphasize friendship over romance, I gather this is one you might want to look up.

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