Good fantasy novels in which the heroine rescues the hero?
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So I thought I might see if my friends here can suggest some good ones. I can think of a few that might qualify.
Any retelling of "Tam Lin," for instance, would belong on this list, including Patricia McKillip's gorgeous Winter Rose.
The heroine of a book I've just begun, Erin Lindsey's The Bloodbound, rescues the hero (or whom I think will be the hero) within the first twenty pages.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is contemporary fantasy, so it wouldn't normally be my thing, but
The heroine of Marissa Meyer's Cinder
Cecelia, of Sorcery and Cecelia, is another rescuing heroine.
Some more like this?
Enchanted features Sunday Woodcutter, who befriends a frog prince. The second book features Saturday Woodcutter who defies all of the fairytale tropes that try to ensnarl her.
Another one I'm thinking about is By the sword by Mercedes Lackey, about the female mercenary Kerowyn who rescues a Herald. Then there's Scriber by Ben S. Dobson. Saints astray by Jacqueline Carey (with a profusion of lesbian bed scenes, so skip if that is not your thing. It has cool female bodyguards though, so plenty of saving. Or, as they call it in the book, sitting the babies.). The Mistborn books by Brandon Sanderson; Vin does a lot of saving... The hidden city by Michelle West, girl seer saves bunch of orphans.
I'm focusing mostly on the saving here... I'm not sure if all the men are damsel equivalents really. Isn't the damsel usually a love interest as well?
Bradamant: The Iron Tempest by Ron Miller
Quest of the Warrior Maid (Bradamante & Ruggiero) by Linda C McCabe
Bradamant's Quest by Ruth Berman
And the arch-heroine of pulp sword & sorcery
Jirel of Joiry by C L Moore
Its male protagonist is complex and capable in his way, but he couldn't fight his way out of wet tissue paper. He's saved and protected by not just one, but a whole band of warrior women, all of whom are intriguing characters in their own right. In no way is he presented as "not being worth it." He does make mistakes, but he acknowledges them and learns from them. And I absolutely adore the female lead (who is NOT the love interest)!
But I was just thinking...
Wouldn't every Beauty and the Beast retelling out there qualify? Also, Tam Lin.
"The City of Mandrigyn was conquered and its men enslaved in the foul mines of the evil Wizard King Altiokis.
Now the women of the city, led by Sheera Galernas, had come to hire the mercenary army of Captain Sun Wolf. But Sun Wolf was too wise to become involved in fighting against wizardry..."
I'm curious about those stories you mention, though, can you give an example?
edit: just found the perfect example: The black dagger brotherhood by J.R. Ward. Ok, that's a certain subgenre, I realize, but in those books, the women rescue by the emotions they evoke, not by their actions. Partly it is by their own emotions, loving or needing one of the guys.
In my mind a damsel is the motivation behind the plot and reward for the hero, in a way where the damsel could be replaced by a treasured object with little change. A very clear damsel would be the reward at the end of a quest plot.
However, I see other people defining it as any female character under duress who is rescued by the hero.
The Beast in Beauty and the Beast doesn't need emotional grounding to break his curse, he needs to find a girl who is willing to marry him in spite of the fact that he looks like a monster.
Some retellings may have her changing a mean beast into a nice beast through her amazing goodness, but in most of them he's actually a reasonably nice guy, or at least has become so by the time she arrives on the scene. She's the one who needs to learn to see past his appearance.
Reversing that basic set up, there's a Arthurian tale about a knight who is challenged with a riddle "What do woman want most?" Some promise to marry a hag comes into it somewhere (he doesn't want to, of course, his honor demands it). Anyway he finally figures out that the answer is "Her own way", marries the hag and discovers that she's only a hag half the time, the other half a time she's a beautiful maiden. She tells him he can choose which half of the day she's beautiful, day or night. He'd rather go to bed with the beauty, but proves that he truly learned the earlier lesson by telling her it can be whichever she prefers. Whereupon the spell on her is broken and she stops turning into a hag.
There a Celtic tale that I remember even less well, so maybe it doesn't apply, but it's about a guy going courting and being asked to choose between the beautiful sister and the "monstrous" sister. Only they're both actually the same girl, and he has to choose her in the not-beautiful persona in order to actually end up winning the girl of his dreams.
And my brain is niggling at me that I've run into at least a couple more variants on this theme, but it refuses to produce any details. I think one was arabian, but when I try come up with it, I instead end up with Ali Baba, who was apparently an idiot, and got rescued several times by the cleverness of a "damsel". And from there it hops over to the Russian tradition of "simpleton" stories, many of which are about intellectually challenged men who become rich powerful and etc by faithfully following the instructions of one or more women. In other words, I've switched back the the starting question somehow.
My brain is often recalcitrant like that. :(
>16 LShelby: I think that my problem with including many Beauty and the Beast type stories- for example the numerous paranormal dangerous magic guy/naive mundane girl romances out there currently- is that the heroine's love often feels like a reward for the hero's suffering as much as a passive damsel would be for the hero's bravery.
This isn't always the case, of course, but it often is in retellings that more loosely interpret the theme rather than strictly retelling- not even getting in to the cases where the heroine has to overlook not an off-putting appearance, but rude or outright controlling, abusive behavior.
The book that typifies the "Beauty as reward" best for me- and I know this may be a controversial choice- is Lois McMaster Bujold's Shards of Honor, where Cordelia comes to love Aral despite his surface- his reputation as the ruthless Butcher of Komarr- and comes to him in his time of emotional need; he loves her because she helps him emotionally, for the way she loves him despite the awful choices he has to make- if she believes what he did was honorable, he can come to some sense of it himself. I didn't see him engaging with or making an attempt to understand her in the same way at all, or even acknowledge everything she went through and try to provide her the same comfort that she did what she had to do- the Beast never had to make an effort to understand Beauty, or court her really since they fell in love so quickly (in other cases a "soulmate bond" type contraption serves to bring them together- Beauty given to the Beast not by her father's folly but the inescapable metaphysical laws of the universe) it felt quite one-sided to me.
A Wrinkle in Time is an example of a heroine rescuing damselled men (Charles Wallace and her father) that I think is a more direct reversal of the damsel trope, with the heroine's power being emotional in nature, the strength of her love- their rescue is proof that Meg's bravery and that she has come into her own (though her romantic reward is of course not either of them, but Calvin, so it doesn't quite fit this thread I don't think).
Things made me cringe and not go further than the first book, as far as I remember.
The empty heroine who's suddenly Something Very Special upon ending up in the secondary world (but that may be my extreme reluctance with most portal/time travel uses). The dynamics with the creepy (but still depicted as seductive) mage.
However, if I am totally and completely wrong, I will accept correction with humility.
Regarding The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant - there is so much controversy flying, it is difficult to sort. I read the series long ago, and despite the controversial aspects, I would still rate it a landmark work in fantasy literature.
Here is why:
At the start, the hero is not a hero at all: he is a depressed individual who has lost everything due to leprosy: physical health, job, wife, sexual function - gone - in short his whole life is in the 'hopper' - his misery has overtaken everything, and the last thing he has left (so he believes) is his sanity.
When the portal shift hits him, the last bastion that he has is 'threatened' - he believes he is losing his mind....and his struggle becomes trying to hold on to that last shred of identity when he believes his only reality - is everything lost BUT his mind....he subscribes to the fantasy belief he is 'dreaming' and in his despair, does the unthinkable.
The entire rest of story is about an individual who pays for that reprehensible act - who demonstrates what it is to be hopeless, depressed, dispicable - and how to go on in the face of that. The series from the protag's view is a miserable, wretched journey through the pits, set against a world of hope and beauty and forgiveness.
I will not go into the final ending of the second trilogy where it all comes together - I'd say that this series does explore arenas that few authors have dared. To slap dash label it 'enabling of rape culture' is careless dismissal, in my opinion. The painful moments in these books are seriously handled, and the catharisis from the stand of everything lost, everything bleak, everything hopeless, and now, living out the consequences of that one despicable act - are not done casually or without very deep thought.
By all means, everyone who wants to steer clear of these books is quite right to do so. I finished them out of sheer RAGE for what was depicted in Volume I. And while I would not take that journey again, Donaldson did not let me down - everything that stemmed from that act was NOT glorified - and the finish was the result of deep thought and perceptive handling.
These are not light reads, not kids stuff, not simplistic fantasy, but an adult look at human nature and the depths to which the human spirit can find itself. It is about redemption, not glorification or heroics. It is about beliefs and the shifting backdrops upon which beliefs can cause choice to fail. And about backdrops in which beliefs also can become pitfalls, if not create the downfall of everything held dear.
There are plenty of literary works with such edges, and such deep examination of the bleak side of human nature. Few dare to show the perspective of a character's shortfalls with the gloves off. Nothing in that first volume is done without purpose or for gratuitous shock - it is all part of the fabric of a very seriously handled story that, IMO, does not deserve to be casually dismissed, often by people who have not read the work in its entirety. Your mileage may vary, of course, and naturally, not everyone would choose to read this work, and that is quite a fine choice.
It's the knee jerk rap that (sometimes) bothers me, is all - and you asked if there was anything to admire from this writer....I feel there is. But start with Mordant's Need, the significant trigger is not in that work.
>30 Jarandel: "The dynamics with the creepy (but still depicted as seductive) mage." Is kind of the point. You can't tell bad from good just because one is "creepy". Donaldson writes complex characters. People are attracted to all sorts of personalities even if it isn't in a healthy way.
I do accept that none of his work (even the short stories) is going to be pleasant or the right choice for everybody.
I'm still a bit wary of the first trilogy, but the second series actually intrigues me, since it
But back to the topic -- I thought of another good example: Cat Barahal of the Spiritwalker Trilogy spends most of the last volume, Cold Steel,
Might look at Julie Czerneda's A Turn of Light also.
All that said, I am not sure that either The Gap Cycle or the The Mirror of Her Dreams are stories that are simple enough to classify as the woman rescuing the man.
This is a somewhat divisive debate amongst the many WoT super-fans out there. Some people think he was a creepy old man obsessed with breasts who wrote cartoon characters of women. I (a male) tend to think of him more favorably in this regard. What did it for me was Egwene. Her character received a lot of criticism for being stubborn and egotistical who made several bad decisions (and one amazing one) as the story unfolded, and, in my mind, the criticism validated what Jordan intended, because the criticism sounded a lot like how readers would complain about a male character! She was judged as a LEADER, not as a FEMALE.