Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. This week was a “choose your own topic” week so, me being me, I chose Top Ten Girl Power Fantasies.
Katsa’s grace is killing and in many ways she personifies the “Strong Female Character” trope. But the presence of romance is nearly always a must in my fantasy books and I love Katsa’s journey because she learns that having love and having independence are not mutually exclusive. You can be a traditional bad ass and also be invested in the traditionally feminine. Plus, I sure would love to have her with me in a zombie apocalypse.
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
The first fantasy novel I read and I adored it! This also remains one of my favorite works of feminist fiction to this day (and what a great intro f0r the young ones). While Ella is cursed with literal, actual obedience, girls in the real world are faced with the strictures of (non magical) obedience and the ever important goal of being a “good girl.” I love this book for its heroine who journeys from her restrictive boundaries and finds adventure, magic, and love along the way.
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Alina’s journey and growth throughout this trilogy is a joy to behold. I loved watching her go from isolated orphan to empowered Grisha. Alina often gets flak for not always being in control of her power or be the ever capable hero. But I think she’s all the more human for it and I love her. There are many ways to be “strong” and that includes having the courage to admit our weaknesses and to lean on our friends. I don’t manage to find the time to re-read a lot of books but I want to binge this entire series again soon. That is high praise indeed.
The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima
This is a somewhat lesser known series but it is such a gem. The Seven Realms are ruled by a matriarchy (yaaaaaaaasssss) and Raisa ana’Marianna is the queen-in-training. This is a traditional fantasy with magic and evil wizards, a queendom that could rise or fall, political machinations, and epic quests (and yes, there is a captain of the guard). I adore Raisa. One of my very all time favorite characters, she is ambitious and unafraid to relentlessly fight for her queendom. She is thoughtful and compassionate and committed to always doing what is right even when weighted down by pressures both magical and internal. You really need to read these books if you haven’t already!
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Oh boy. This is a 2015 addition to my all time favorite books. Agnieszka is the naive village girl chosen and forced by a wizard to ten years of seclusion in his tower (What?! Why?! Read it and you’ll see!). I don’t want to spoil things but I can tell you that Agnieszka is smart, witty, and capable and that she does not simply give in to her fate. Also, there’s a really wonderful girl power friendship in this book. Also, also there is a bloodthirsty sentient forest. It is just 500 different levels of wonderful. Be sure to come back on Tuesday for my joint review discussion with Layla!
Taming the Forest King by Claudia J. Edwards
This one can be tough to find as it’s out of print, but my dear Wendy gifted it to me for my birthday last year. It’s absolutely worth the trouble to acquire a copy, though. Tevra is an army general nearing middle age who has been sent to the boonies in an attempt to expedite her irrelevancy. There she finds more trouble and magic than anyone bargained for. This is very much old school fantasy (pub’ed in 1986) but it is old school fantasy with a bad ass yet secretly tender lady warrior. And what could be better than that? Oh yes, I know. A romantic plot line with Tevra’s loyal second in command. :D It’s just a lovely story.
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Oh, Phina Madamina. I do love me a good guile hero. You don’t need to be quick with a sword to qualify as a girl power fantasy! Seraphina’s smarts and commitment to doing what’s right make a compelling heroine of a “normal” girl in this fantasy setting. It’s refreshing, actually, to have a non-warrior MC in a fantasy. The Seraphina duology also has the added benefit of being the most satisfying queer friendly YA fantasy I’ve encountered in years.
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Dear, sweet Lyra and her precocious wit. I can’t imagine any character other than this spirited girl being able to carry the seriousness and complexity of this series. These books are modern classics for a reason and Lyra’s courage, inquisitiveness, and bravery are the main reason for that.
The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Ah, and here is another wonderful guile hero. Kestrel’s smarts and mind for strategy are the talents she is known for. It’s heartbreaking to see what she’s gone through as this series has gone on (please, Marie, don’t completely destroy me in the final installment). But it has been such a treat watching Kestrel maneuver and outmaneuver both friend and foe. I adore that this is a female fantasy MC whose main weapon is her brain.
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Here’s a woman in fantasy who has been through hell and back. Like Katsa, Celaena is very much the archetype of the “strong female” fantasy warrior lady. But she is so much more. The depth and exploration of emotion the books have gone through, and the tragedies and triumphs of this character have already been epic in scale and we are only on Book 4. She’s one of the strongest characters I’ve encountered in all of fantasy and I love her times a million.
Now, you may be asking yourself, “Kim, where’s the Tamora Pierce? The Juliet Marillier? The Robin McKinley??” I actually have never read anything by those authors. know, I know. I really do know. It’s happening and soon, I promise. Are there any others I’ve missed? Please let me know! I’m always looking for new fantasy novels with kick ass ladies of all stripes!