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Women of Fantasy Fiction – Part Three: J.K. Rowling, Nora Roberts, and Laurell K. Hamilton

by on May 13, 2013

So far in our discussion of women writers of fantasy fiction, we’ve met Marion Zimmer Bradley, as well as Ursula LeGuin and C.J. Cherryh.  This week, we are visiting an old favorite, a new favorite and one that some hard-core fantasy readers might question my sanity over. J.K. Rowling and Laurell K. Hamilton are definitely expected in any discussion of current fantasy fiction. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is a standard in the genre, and best-selling author Laurell K. Hamilton is burning up the book charts with her now twenty-three-strong Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series. You won’t find Nora Roberts’ works in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section of your library though, because Roberts is first and foremost a romance novelist. Trust me when I say that it is worth straying a few aisles over to find her works in a section you might not normally visit.

J.K. Rowling has, in a few short years, become a standard in the genre. You’d have to live under a rock to not know that the Harry Potter Series has spawned eight movies, a theme park, a website, and a franchise that has made the author very rich. Rowling has come a very long way from writing the origins of Harry Potter on a train, or living out of her car with her children and having to accept welfare. She is the ultimate success story of rags to riches all because of one stoic, lightning bolt scarred teenager who, with the help of his friends, fights off evil in the form of a Dark Lord named Voldemort. While some might argue that her works are geared toward children, I would argue that they haven’t read the last three books in the series, where the story takes a dark turn that clearly diverges from typical children-oriented fantasy one might find elsewhere in the genre.

Nora Roberts brings to mind many things, but rarely that of fantasy fiction. I have always been a fan of crossovers; that is, authors that transcend and blend genres in their writing. Roberts does this with style and effectiveness in two fantasy-themed trilogies The Circle and Three Sisters Island. In The Circle trilogy (Morrigan’s Cross, Dance of the Gods, Valley of Silence), sorcerer Hoyt Mac Cionaoith battles a centuries-old vampire named Lilith and his now-vampire twin brother Cian. After a bitter defeat, Hoyt is visited by the Goddess of Battles, Morrigan, and charged with the task of leading a battle against the vampire Lilith with the help of a witch, a scholar, a warrior, one of many forms and one he has lost. Hoyt then travels to present-day New York City where the quest truly begins.  In Three Sisters Island trilogy (Dance Upon the Air, Heaven and Earth, Face the Fire) a trio of witches must come to terms with themselves, their gifts, and an ages-old curse that threatens the very existence of their home. Readers should be aware: since Nora Roberts is a romance writer, some scenes can get racy. I wouldn’t describe this as a must-read for die-hard epic fantasy fans, but for those who enjoy light fantasy with a blending of romance, then this is a great place to start.

Our final author, Laurell K. Hamilton, is a very well-known name in contemporary fantasy. Her Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series has spawned numerous landings on the best-seller lists. The series follows the exploits of Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter, professional zombie raiser, and supernatural consultant for the police, as Anita gains in power and learns to deal with the unseen creatures of the supernatural world.  There are currently 23 novels in the Anita Blake series, beginning with Guilty Pleasures (1993) with a new release forthcoming in July 2013, entitled Affliction.

Stay tuned for the final installment in my four part series on women writers of fantasy fiction in my next post. As always: Keep reading, and may all your stories be epic.