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As the weather begins to cool and leaves start to turn, our attention shifts toward Halloween and all its mystery and magic. I enjoy fantasy stories year-round (big Harry Potter fan over here), but there’s something about the fall that really gets me in the mood for witches, goddesses, and all manner of magical creatures. Thus, I’ve been inspired to put together a list of some of my favorite tales, all with strong ladies at the helm, because why not?
Embrace the supernatural feeling of the season with these books featuring magical female leads.
The All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness
The All Souls Trilogy is a series by Deborah Harkness about powerful witch Diana Bishop. The series includes A Discovery of Witches (2011), Shadow of Night (2012), and The Book of Life (2014). Plus, there’s a spinoff book, Time’s Convert (2018), as well as a new TV series, A Discovery of Witches. And Harkness says more books are coming. It’s a whole universe, y’all, and if you haven’t experienced it yet, it’s time.
When we meet Diana Bishop, she’s a Yale professor and historian currently at Oxford. She’s an American witch who was raised by her aunts in New York state. Despite her heritage and upbringing, Diana doesn’t use magic — at least not intentionally.
One day while conducting research at the Bodleian Library, Diana requests a manuscript called Ashmole 782. She examines the book, noting its unique features, and returns it to the stacks. However, this is far from the last she’ll hear of Ashmole 782. After examining the manuscript, vampires, daemons, and fellow witches come out of the woodwork, wanting information about the book from Diana. It turns out Ashmole 782 holds great importance for all these creatures, and it was missing for centuries until Diana unknowingly summoned it. The attention on Diana and her connection to the manuscript quickly become overwhelming. She meets a vampire named Matthew de Clermont, who seeks to help her navigate this predicament.
From there, the saga takes off. This epic tale features witches, vampires, daemons, and historical figures, taking place in the present day and the past. It’s a magical journey for fans of fantasy and history and the perfect fall read.
Circe by Madeline Miller
Circe (2018) was one of the most acclaimed books of last summer, and with good reason. The novel is the latest by Madeline Miller, author of The Song of Achilles (2011). Miller’s new book tells the story of Circe, the goddess known for her role in the epic tale The Odyssey.
Circe tells us her story, beginning with her birth. She is the daughter of Helios, powerful god of the sun, and Perse, a naiad or nymph of water. From the beginning, Circe was different. She describes an upbringing where she didn’t fit in among the gods and goddesses. They weren’t sure what to make of her and her powers — or lack thereof.
As she grows, Circe discovers her own powers. She befriends mortals and tests her abilities, and her actions do not please Zeus. Circe is exiled to an island, where she practices her skills, learns to protect herself from unwanted visitors, and makes some friends. Throughout her story she encounters famous mythological figures, including the famous Odysseus.
Circe is a tale covering thousands of years and full of magical creatures, led by the powerful and endearing Circe. It’s an awesome story for lovers of magic and mythology.
The Queen of the Tearling Trilogy by Erika Johansen
The Queen of the Tearling books tell the story of Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, soon-to-be ruler of a land called The Tearling. The series includes The Queen of the Tearling (2014), The Invasion of the Tearling (2015), and The Fate of the Tearling (2016) by Erika Johansen.
At the start of the saga we meet Princess Kelsea just as she’s turned 19. Kelsea has been living out in the country, away from any sort of royal life, where she was raised by foster parents. As the story begins, we don’t know much about Kelsea’s parents or the circumstances of her upbringing. Nonetheless, the royal court has come to collect her, and she must return to the capital and take the throne.
The new queen faces many obstacles. She has many enemies — including the evil Red Queen — and corruption and injustice abound. Thankfully, Kelsea isn’t up against all this adversity as a mere lone mortal. With the help of the magical Tear sapphire and trustworthy advisors, she grows into her power. Throughout the story, Queen Kelsea uses her magic to fight for what’s right for her people and her land.
The Queen of the Tearling trilogy takes you on a journey to a futuristic land that was once a vision of utopia. This story of royalty, sorcerers, and warriors is a great magical companion for the fall season.
With these tales of witches and goddesses, you’ll be feeling magical all autumn long.
What are some of your favorite books led by magical women? Let me know in the comments!