NameAuthorSeriesYearGradeBechdel Test?
Darkwalker on MoonshaeDouglas NilesMoonshae trilogy1987D+Meh
The Crystal ShardR.A. SalvatoreIcewind Dale trilogy1988C+No
Black WizardsDouglas NilesMoonshae trilogy1988C-Yes
SpellfireEd GreenwoodShandril's Saga1988C+Yes
Azure BondsKate Novak and Jeff GrubbFinder's Stone trilogy1988AYes
Streams of SilverR.A. SalvatoreIcewind Dale trilogy1989C-No
DarkwellDouglas NilesMoonshae trilogy1989DYes
ShadowdaleScott Ciencin (as Richard Awlinson)Avatar series1989CMeh
TantrasScott Ciencin (as Richard Awlinson)Avatar series1989C+No
WaterdeepTroy Denning (as Richard Awlinson)Avatar series1989BNo
Pool of RadianceJames Ward and Jane Cooper HongHeroes of Phlan trilogy1989D+No
The Halfling's GemR.A. SalvatoreIcewind Dale trilogy1990C-No
The Wyvern's SpurKate Novak and Jeff GrubbFinder's Stone trilogy1990AYes
IronhelmDouglas NilesMaztica trilogy1990D+Yes
HorselordsDavid CookEmpires trilogy1990A-No
DragonwallTroy DenningEmpires trilogy1990B-Yes
ViperhandDouglas NilesMaztica trilogy1990D+Meh
HomelandR.A. SalvatoreDark Elf trilogy1990A-Yes
ExileR.A. SalvatoreDark Elf trilogy1990B+Yes
CrusadeJames LowderEmpires trilogy1991AMeh
Song of the SaurialsKate Novak and Jeff GrubbFinder's Stone trilogy1991CYes
Feathered DragonDouglas NilesMaztica trilogy1991FNo
SojournR.A. SalvatoreDark Elf trilogy1991C-No
The Parched SeaTroy DenningThe Harpers1991BNo
ElfshadowElaine CunninghamThe Harpers1991A-Yes
CanticleR.A. SalvatoreCleric Quintet1991DNo
Red MagicJean RabeThe Harpers1991D+Meh

The grading system is entirely subjective, of course, but these are the rough guidelines I’m trying to stick to:

  • A: A solid, engaging, readable novel with good characters, a good plot, and writing that doesn’t get in the way too much. Something I wouldn’t be embarrassed to recommend to someone. (I’m not expecting any masterpieces here.)
  • B: A decent novel which doesn’t feel like a slog to get through, but which has distracting flaws that keep me from wholeheartedly recommending it.
  • C: A deeply flawed book that, while it may have had a few good characters or good moments, was still no better than a stereotypical trashy fantasy novel.
  • D: A novel where, after I finished it, I found myself wishing I could somehow get back the time I spent reading it.
  • F: A novel so bad that I couldn’t actually bring myself to finish reading it.

The Bechdel Test is a simple gauge for the degree of gender equality in a story. It’s not a perfect metric — you can tell good stories that fail it and bad stories that pass it — but if a particular author has a tendency to repeatedly fail it, it probably means that they treat the female characters in their stories like living furniture. Fantasy novels from the 1980s and 1990s weren’t exactly a hotbed of representation for anyone who wasn’t a white male, so it seems like a useful metric to collect here.

Keep in mind that I will attempt to avoid spoilers for books that I think have some merit, but I’ll spoil the bad ones without mercy or spoiler warnings. On the remote chance that you actually care, read at your own peril.