Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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SFF women on the high seas

From tor.com: 6 SFF Books Featuring Women on the High Seas

I don’t specifically seek out pirate stories or whatever, but sure, let’s see what this list features … I’ve read only one: The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke. It’s a bit unbelievable at times, but I liked it. A couple of the others have been on my radar for a while, but I haven’t read them. Has anybody read A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab? That’s one I keep meaning to try.

Others on this list: Seafire by Natalie C. Parker, Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller, Lady Smoke by Laura Sebastian, and The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig.

So, that’s six. It seems to me that it should be pretty easy to get to ten, especially if you drop the requirement for piracy and just go with high seas. For example, here’s an obvious choice:

Althea Vestrit is kind of an immature idiot, and that was a problem for me, but the world is neat and Robin Hobb is a great writer in a lot of ways. The Liveship Traders series certainly features plenty of high seas adventure, no question about that.

Here’s another:

One minute, twenty-four-year-old Sophie Hansa is in a San Francisco alley trying to save the life of the aunt she has never known. The next, she finds herself flung into the warm and salty waters of an unfamiliar world. 

I haven’t tried this one yet, but it’s been on my radar enough that I remembered it at once when I thought about fantasy adventure on the high seas.

Okay, stepping back from the woman-pirate theme a little farther:

This is the second book of the INDA series, by Sherwood Smith. Inda may be the main character, but there are a lot of great female characters and a lot of high seas adventure and besides that this is just a fantastic epic fantasy series, probably one of the best I’ve ever read.

It’s annoying to me how many people use “SFF” when they mean “fantasy,” and I know there are different way to define “SFF” to make it okay to exclude science fiction. But still. Space opera is a lot like high seas adventure, with the most obvious contender obviously being:

Honor Harrington is the opposite of a pirate, but since the space battles are specifically designed to call to mind battles on the high seas, this is a series that clearly ought to be included in this list.

But if you insist on space opera piracy, then there’s plenty of that out there too, like this one:

The galaxy has seen great empires rise and fall. Planets have shattered and been remade. Amongst the ruins of alien civilizations, building our own from the rubble, humanity still thrives. And there are vast fortunes to be made, if you know where to find them.

Captain Rackamore and his crew do. It’s their business to find the tiny, enigmatic worlds which have been hidden away, booby-trapped, surrounded by layers of protection–and to crack them open for the ancient relics and barely-remembered technologies inside. But while they ply their risky trade with integrity, not everyone is so scrupulous.

Adrana and Fura Ness are the newest members of Rackamore’s crew, signed on to save their family from bankruptcy. Only Rackamore has enemies, and there might be more waiting for them in space than adventure and fortune…

So there you go, a science fiction piracy novel featuring women, this one definitely fits the original theme.

My pick of all these is certainly the INDA series. I think it would be really hard to beat. But I’m sure there are a hundred other excellent pirate / high seas types of stories out there, both SF and fantasy. If you’ve got a favorite high seas adventure tale, drop it in the comments!

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3 Comments SFF women on the high seas

  1. Jeanine

    Well if space opera can count, and Honor Harrington, there are a lot.

    Elizabeth Bear just did a space chase that seems to qualify – Ancestral Night.

    James Schmitz – at least one of the Witches of Karres books qualifies. Also, at least one of the Telzey Amberdon stories?

    Elizabeth Moon – the Heris Serrano, Esmay Suiza, Ky Vatta novels?

    Tanya Huff – the Valor novels.

    Mike Shepherd – at least one of the Kris Longknife books?

    Kristin Kathryn Rusch – the Diving the Wreck series?

    Harder to think of a straight up fantasy. I too thought of Inda.

    What about Catherynne M. Valente – The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making?

  2. Rachel

    I know, great heaping gobs. I thought of Honor Harrington first because Weber very specifically designed his spaceships so they could have battles highly reminiscent of Napoleonic-era sea battles. Of course that world then supports stories that are very much high-seas types of adventures. But then, thinking about it, so much space opera feels a lot like that.

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