Could do better.
Juliet E. McKenna expands on this by claiming to have seen lots of "If you like George R.R. Martin, why not try..."-style lists in bookshops, almost invariably consisting solely of male authors. Apparently, when she challenged one bookshop on why this was so, she was told "Women don't write epic fantasy." This is blatantly untrue, and it was rather idiotic of them to say so to an author with no less than fifteen epic fantasy novels under her belt. Indeed, when people have asked me what authors they should be reading after getting hooked on the likes of Martin or Abercrombie or Lynch, I often surprise myself with how many of the recommendations that come to mind are women.
So, without further ado, here is a brief list of female epic fantasy authors you should check out if you've gotten hooked on the genre via Martin or Game of Thrones:
Robin Hobb, aka Megan Lindholm (both pen-names of Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden), writes trilogies featuring epic battles and magical creatures (including dragons), but is resolutely focused on her characters. She enjoys writing characters who have their own motivations which make sense to them, no matter how they are painted as heroes or villains by others. Martin is a huge fan, as is Steven Erikson, and she has enjoyed a lengthy and prolific career. In fact, Martin has cited Hobb's use of animal magic as one of several influences on the warging in A Song of Ice and Fire.
Her best-known works are the five sub-series set in the Realm of the Elderlings, comprising the Farseer, Liveship Traders and Tawny Man trilogies and the Rain Wild Chronicles quartet, plus a forthcoming series currently planned to be a trilogy, The Fitz and the Fool. Hobb broke away from this series to write an unrelated work, The Soldier Son Trilogy, which was not as well-received. Writing under the pen name Megan Lindholm, she also wrote ten earlier books, mostly aimed at younger readers.
The Farseer Trilogy: Assassin's Apprentice (1995), Royal Assassin (1996), Assassin's Quest (1997)
The Liveship Traders Trilogy: Ship of Magic (1998), The Mad Ship (1999), Ship of Destiny (2000)
The Tawny Man Trilogy: Fool's Errand (2001), The Golden Fool (2002), Fool's Fate (2003)
The Soldier Son Trilogy: Shaman's Crossing (2005), Forest Mage (2006), Renegade's Magic (2008)
The Rain Wild Chronicles: Dragon Keeper (2009), Dragon Haven (2010), City of Dragons (2011), Blood of Dragons (2011)
The Fitz and the Fool: The Fool's Assassin (2014)
Kate Elliott is the pen-name of Alis A. Ramussen, under which name she published a fantasy, The Labyrinth Gate and an SF series, The Highroad Trilogy. After apparently disappointing early sales, she changed her writing name and returned with the SF Jaran series in the early 1990s. This was more successful and she has followed it up with a series of epic fantasies, including her more recent work, the Crossroads and Spiritwalker series.
However, Elliott's largest and best-known series is Crown of Stars, a seven-volume epic published between 1997 and 2006. If Martin's Song of Ice and Fire depicts a world set at the tail end of the medieval period, with armies in the tens of thousands, shining knights and full plate armour, Crown of Stars is set at the opposite end, when any army larger than a thousand is huge and kings tour their countries on endless processions rather than being tied to single capitals. Heavily influenced by real medieval European history (to the point where Crown of Stars can also be called an alternate history based on 9th and 10th Century Germany and Eastern Europe), Elliott weaves a large number of storylines focusing on themes such as war, chivalry religion and gender issues without dialling back (though also not over-emphasising) on the brutality of the period. Perhaps slightly overlong, but also genuinely thought-provoking.
Crossroads, which will eventually encompass at least seven novels set across three generations, is also interesting. Set in a world not based explicitly on any period of real history, it features a number of carefully-created original cultures clashing for control of a land called the Hundred. The original Crossroads trilogy will be followed by a new book later this year, The Black Wolves, set some years later.
The Golden Key (1996, with Melanie Rawn and Jennifer Roberson)
The Jaran Series: Jaran (1992), An Earthly Crown (1993), His Conquering Sword (1993), The Law of Becoming (1994)
Crown of Stars: King's Dragon (1997), Prince of Dogs (1998), The Burning Stone (1999), Child of Flame (2000), The Gathering Storm (2003), In the Ruins (2005), Crown of Stars (2006)
Crossroads: Spirit Gate (2007), Shadow Gate (2008), Traitors' Gate (2009), The Black Wolves (2014)
Spiritwalker: Cold Magic (2010), Cold Fire (2011), Cold Steel (2013)
Elizabeth Bear is an author I'm only recently acquainted with, thanks to her superb Eternal Sky Trilogy. However, she has published many novels in several different subgenres (including SF and urban fantasy), including her acclaimed Iskryne series, co-written with Sarah Monette.
The Eternal Sky trilogy is an epic fantasy set on an alternate version of the central Asian steppes, with a race of nomadic tribesmen who recall George R.R. Martin's Dothraki. However, whilst the Dothraki are (partly) based on the Asian nomads at the very start of their expansion and rise to power, Bear's series deals with a far more sophisticated and subtle people, depicted as intelligent warriors and capable engineers rather than just hordes of plunderers and rapists. It also features some intriguingly weird magic (the skies over each nation and culture are somehow different) and deliciously rich characterisation.
The Eternal Sky Trilogy: Range of Ghosts (2012), Shattered Pillars (2013), Steles of the Sky (2014)
Julie Victoria Jones hit the ground running with The Baker's Boy in 1995. Boosted by a Robert Jordan cover quote, it rapidly became one of the biggest-selling fantasy novels of the year and propelled her onto the bestseller lists. It was a rough novel, not unexpectedly for a debut, and she improved in leaps and bounds over the remainder of the Book of Words trilogy and a further stand-alone novel, The Barbed Coil. However, Jones found a different and far more sophisticated level of writing ability with her Sword of Shadows series, a decade and a half in the making and still incomplete.
Sword of Shadows is a (very loose) sequel to The Book of Words and picks up the story of the daughter of the previous trilogy's hero, as well as a whole host of new characters. It is set beyond the northern mountains in a bleak subarctic wilderness, heavily influenced by Scandinavia and the Inuit tribes. If you enjoyed those parts of A Song of Ice and Fire set beyond the Wall, this series is for you, with descriptions of snow and ice so vivid you may want to wrap up warm before reading. Unfortunately, Jones also seems to be emulating Martin's five-year gaps between volumes, but this is one of those series where the books are worth the long waits.
The Barbed Coil (1998)
The Book of Words: The Baker's Boy (1995), A Man Betrayed (1996), Master and Fool (1997)
The Sword of Shadows: A Cavern of Black Ice (1999), A Fortress of Grey Ice (2002), A Sword from Red Ice (2007), Watcher of the Dead (2010), Endlords (forthcoming)
N.K. Jemisin is a relative newcomer, but made her mark on the genre with The Inheritance Trilogy (no, not that one) and the Dreamblood duology. The latter - which regrettably is so far all I've read - is set in a fantasised take on Egypt that completely avoids cliche: no cat-headed people fighting sphinxes, thankfully. Instead, it's a well-thought-out, intelligent take on the fantasy genre and its conventions about religion, power and gender roles, whilst also being a kick-arse adventure story set in a fantasy world refreshingly not based on Medieval Europe. Her next book, The Fifth Season, is out later this year.
The Fifth Season (2014)
The Inheritance Trilogy: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (2010), The Broken Kingdoms (2010), The Kingdom of Gods (2011)
The Dreamblood: The Killing Moon (2012), The Shadowed Sun (2012)
Okay, a slightly controversial one given that K.J. Parker's true identity and therefore gender is not known ('K.J. Parker' is a pseudonym for another, known author). I've certainly been told by one of Parker's publishers that she is a she, whilst someone else I know has been told by a different one of Parker's publishers that he is a he. Proceeding on the balance of proof (what the publisher told me plus old interviews with Parker), I'm assuming that Parker is in fact female.
Parker's first novel was Colours in the Steel, published in 1997. It depicted the siege and assault on an advanced city by a collection of plains-dwelling nomads fed up with the city impugning on their existence. The novel was notable for featuring an epic fantasy take on legal systems (with sword-wielding lawyers defending their clients in single combat) as well as a tremendously detailed account of engineering matters, such as how to build siege engines. The novel's two sequels, however, opened up this story into a more ambitious story about families, revenge and insanity. The Fencer Trilogy is a good read, and is notable for plot twists and unexpected deaths that even Martin might think are a bit on the bloody side.
After two further trilogies, Parker switched gears in 2007 to write a series of stand-alone novels instead (although there are some hints that all thirteen of her novels to date are set on the same world). These new books featured a mercenary company (The Company), a setting influenced by Ancient Rome (The Folding Knife) and a new take on sword-fighting and fencing (in Sharps). A new novel, Savages, will arrive next year.
Parker is bloody, brutal and cynical, but her books are also well-written, impressively-characterised and surprisingly subtle, not to mention often laugh-out-loud hilarious, in a very dark kind of way.
The Company (2008)
The Folding Knife (2010)
The Hammer (2011)
The Fencer Trilogy: Colours in the Steel (1998), The Belly of the Bow (1999), The Proof House (2000)
The Scavenger Trilogy: Shadow (2001), Pattern (2002), Memory (2003)
The Engineer Trilogy: Devices and Desires (2005), Evil for Evil (2006), The Escapement (2007)
Juliet E. McKenna
Juliet E. McKenna is a prominent member of the UK SFF community, noted for her role in the writing collective The Write Fantastic. She has penned (as mentioned above) fifteen fantasy novels in four series, though all set on the same world.
I read her debut novel, The Thief's Gamble (featuring a female thief and rogue), when it was first released and found it highly enjoyable. Unfortunately, I haven't read the rest of her books but look forward to doing so.
The Tales of Einarinn: The Thief's Gamble (1999), The Swordsman's Oath (1999), The Gambler's Fortune (2000), The Warrior's Bond (2001), The Assassin's Edge (2002)
The Aldabreshin Compass: Southern Fire (2003), Northern Storm (2004), Western Shore (2005), Eastern Tide (2006)
The Chronicles of the Lescari Revolution: Irons in the Fire (2009), Blood in the Water (2010), Banners in the Wind (2010)
The Hadrumal Crisis: Dangerous Waters (2011), Darkening Skies (2012), Defiant Peaks (2012)
You may have heard of her. And yes, I count her books as epic fantasy.
This is only scratching the surface here, so hit me with some more epic fantasies (or, sod it, fantasy in general) written by women in the comments.