In my extensive research over the years, I’ve found several books and films that have almost enough elements to make them Girls Underground stories, but not quite. I’ve always referred to these as my “honorable mentions.” Often the overall arc of the storyline fits, but there aren’t enough pertinent details. Or some of the details click, but the story goes in a different direction. Anyway, I thought I’d mention a few of these here…
The Compass Rose by Gail Dayton
Kallista is an adult protagonist who already lives in an otherworld, but she does have special powers, a host of companions (some reluctant), and an adversary. On a separate note, I happen to love the interesting web of relationships the author creates for her world, where people have group marriages with both sexes and a wide range of potential connections within these; it’s handled very well.
The Valley of the Wolves by Laura Gallego Garcia
Dana, 10 at the beginning of the story, has one male companion, Kai, that only she can see. She is sent away to learn sorcery from a strange man. She faces a few trials, and is revealed as something greater. But she doesn’t choose her own fate, the story drags out too long, and the adversary only comes in at the end, and isn’t defeated by her directly.
Forests of the Heart by Charles de Lint
Again, an older protagonist, Bettina, and there’s so much going on in this story, especially with other characters, that I’m not sure it’s “pure” enough to be seen as solely her journey, nor are there enough of the other marks of a GU plot. However, the overall feeling of the book somehow clicks regardless… and, it’s just a fantastic novel by one of my favorite authors ever.
War for the Oaks by Emma Bull
Another urban fantasy novel like de Lint’s work, but with its own unique flavor, this again has an older protagonist, Eddi – but she does have a few solid companions, and must journey into the faerie realm and get involved in a war between rival courts.
The Hob’s Bargain by Patricia Briggs
Funny, I just looked at the Amazon page for this one and there’s a note by the author mentioning that she was reading de Lint and Bull when writing this…In any case, it’s more of a classic otherworld-fantasy than those authors write, but with a strong relationship between the main character, Aren, and her companion, Caefawn the hob, who teaches her how to control her magic in preparation for a fight with the adversary.
The Folk Keeper by Franny Billingsley
15-year-old Corinna, an orphan, is charged with living in the cellar and constantly appeasing the “folk,” which are like goblins, so that they won’t harm her village. Then she is taken away to a new estate and learns more about who and what she really is. Promising premise, but just lacks most of the salient plot points to be fully a Girls Underground story… however, she is literally underground for much of it.
I will probably make more “honorable mentions” posts in the future, as there are a lot of wonderful books that have the spirit of the archetype if not quite the full story.