Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl. Each week you compile a list of ten books which coincide with that week’s theme. You can find everything you need to know about joining in here!
This week’s theme is ‘Favourite Tropes (a trope is a commonly used theme or plot device) (submitted by Andrea @ Books for Muse)’. This week I’ve decided to share some books that subvert tropes in ways I really like, because while there are tropes I enjoy, I love books that turn common tropes on their head even more!
The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta: Those of us who enjoy fantasy and historical fiction, and especially those of us who grew up watching films like Mulan, tend to enjoy the ‘woman disguised as man’ trope – it’s definitely one of my favourites. In this Italian-inspired YA fantasy, though, Capetta plays around with this trope to explore gender fluidity when her protagonist, Teo, not only dresses as a man, but uses her magic to turn herself into a man.
King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo: When it comes to romance one of my favourite tropes (and a favourite among many other readers, I believe!) is ‘the princess and the bodyguard’. With the chemistry between Nikolai and Zoya throughout this novel, Bardugo gives us a gender-reversed version of this trope and I devoured it.
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik: So often in fantasy, especially fantasy that includes royal characters, there are women who find themselves married off to princes and kings they don’t really know. Both Irina and Miryem find themselves in that situation in this novel, which has become one of my all-time favourites, but rather than be used as bargaining chips by the men around them, it’s they themselves who negotiate their marriages and make sure they’re treated with respect.
Red Sister by Mark Lawrence: The characters are the best thing about this book, and Arabella Jotsis is one of my favourites. When we first meet her she’s that typical horrible but beautiful rich girl, but Lawrence turns that trope on its head completely and Ara ends up becoming one of his protagonist’s closest friends.
Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: Rather than writing yet another vampire novel in which a man who’s hundreds of years old creeps on high school girls, the roles are reversed in this dark, vampire noir novel about vampire drug lords in Mexico City. This time it’s a woman who’s the vampire and a man the mortal, and it’s so refreshing.
The Raven and the Reindeer by T. Kingfisher: If, like me, you’re over heroines claiming they’re ‘not like other girls’ and never having that opinion questioned, you need to read The Raven and the Reindeer. This f/f retelling of The Snow Queen stomps all over internalised misogyny and it’s brilliant.
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse: In a lot of traditional fantasy, and even historical fiction, men are warriors and women are soft-spoken healers who think talking will resolve any conflict. Not in this urban fantasy novel. As well as having some of the most original world-building and mythology I’ve come across in SFF, it also offers us a heroine who punches before she thinks and a male sidekick who’d much rather talk it over.
The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee: Another novel that celebrates friendships between women and forces the heroine, Felicity, to examine her own internalised misogyny and overcome it.
The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin: Throughout this series Jemisin allows her heroine Essun to be a bad mother and a good mother, a bad person and a good person. She’s complex. She doesn’t always make good choices, but all of her choices are understandable. Rarely are women given the opportunity to be bad mothers and still be sympathetic, but Essun is a triumph.
Uprooted by Naomi Novik: I didn’t love Uprooted (and Spinning Silver is by far the superior novel in my opinion) but I did like it, and one of the boxes it ticked for me was the apprentice/teacher romance which I’m always a fan of in high fantasy when both characters are consenting adults. What I loved about the relationship in Uprooted, though, is that it didn’t take over the plot, and when The Dragon’s being a grumpy git Agnieszka doesn’t mope. She gets on with her life until he realises what he’s missing.