My Favorite Girls Dressed as Boys – Fantasy Edition

Fantasy novels are rife with girls dressed up as boys. I’m not sure if it’s because there are so many female fantasy readers versus so many male fantasy heroes, or if it’s a result of a common romance-adventure trope sliding into its modern subgenre, or a combination of both, or neither.

Anyway, here are some of my favorites in the fantasy genre.

Ellen Kushner, The Privilege of the Sword: notable in that the heroine doesn’t really want to be dressed as a boy, and learn to fight with swords. This changes. I think this is one of the best examples of integrating cross-dressing into the novel as a whole, so it’s integral to characterization, plot, and theme. An excellent review by Yoon Ha Lee. Here’s another at Green Man Review.

Lynn Flewelling, The Bone Doll’s Twin: takes cross-dressing to an extreme. The heroine is magically disguised as a boy (to be the image of her dead twin) from the time she’s a baby; if it’s discovered she’s female, and might fulfill a prophecy, she’ll be killed. Until she’s a teenager, she doesn’t know what’s been done to her. It’s a dark novel with some horror elements, and I think the best of Flewelling’s work. The sequels, when the heroine has been returned to her own female form, are lighter in tone with a more epic fantasy feel.

Marion Zimmer Bradley, Hawkmistress!: I enjoyed this book a great deal in high school, but I suspect it might not hold up for me today. The heroine disguises herself as a boy and takes to the road, earning her keep using her telepathic gift with birds. I remember being very disappointed when her sex was discovered, and thought the novel suffered after that.

Tamora Pierce, Alanna: the First Adventure: a middle grade/young adult novel in which the title character takes her brother’s place in learning to be a royal page. A classic example of the form.

And let’s not forget Eowyn in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Return of the King. It’s a small part of the whole, but a most satisfying part.

What about you?

Related Post: My Favorite Girls Dressed as Boys, Romance Edition.

Published by Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen’s writing showcases her voracious lifelong love of books. She reads over 120 new books each year, especially historical romance, fantasy, and space opera, and incorporates these genres into her erotic fiction. Her first erotic novel, The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom and Their Lover (Harlequin Spice, December 2008), was translated into French and German. Her second Spice novel, The Moonlight Mistress (December 2009), was translated into Italian and nominated for a RT Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Award. Her third novel is The Duke & The Pirate Queen (December 2010). She has also published erotic short stories as Elspeth Potter. When not writing, Victoria conducts research in libraries and graveyards, lectures about writing and selling erotica, and speaks at literary conventions on topics such as paranormal romance, urban fantasy, erotic science fiction/fantasy, and the empowerment of women through unconventional means. Her daily writing blog features professional writing and marketing tips, genre discussion, book reviews, and author interviews. She also guest blogs for Heroes & Heartbreakers and The Criminal Element. She lives in Philadelphia.