There’s a running joke in my house that I can’t not write strong female characters. And, well, it’s kind of true. I don’t sit down at my computer and tell myself, “Ryan, today you will write a strong female character.” However, I find that, in my pursuit to create compelling, well-rounded characters, the results — girls wielding magic and knives, girls who used their fear as fuel for survival — are often tagged with that label.
Can I be honest with you all? The term “strong female character” has always bothered me a bit. Here’s why: Yael, the main character of my newest book Wolf By Wolf , is certainly strong in the traditional sense. (You have to be if you want to win a 20,000 kilometer cross-continental motorcycle race in order to assassinate Adolf Hitler.) She’s an excellent shot with her Walther P38. She races motorcycles. But her physical ability is only a fraction of her character. Yes, Yael, like many of my other favorite literary females, is strong, but she’s also so much more: smart, determined, conflicted, dimensional, human.
Is there a single word that encompasses all these things? Maybe not. For now, let’s just settle with badass. Today I’m here to share with you seven smart, determined, conflicted, dimensional, (mostly) human heroines. Some of the most badass girls in literature.
Sabriel, Sabriel by Garth Nix
One of my favorite childhood heroines is Sabriel, who, when she finds out her father, the Abhorsen, is trapped inside Death, goes solo into a country riddled with restless spirits to find him. Armed with a white cat and a bandolier of necromancy bells, Sabriel is literally the boss lady of the dead.
Éowyn, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Although it’s true that J.R.R. Tolkien wasn’t the most diversely minded while casting his books (Male? Check. White? Check.), he did create one of my favorite literary heroines: Éowyn, shieldmaiden of Rohan. Though she can wield a sword as well as any man, social mores prevent her from riding to battle to defend her country. Does Éowyn care? No. It’s a good thing too, since her badass female self ends up slaying the Witch-king of Angmar, whom no man could kill.
Lila Bard, A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Hey there, Delilah (Bard)! Here is a girl who not only thirsts for adventure, but seizes it by the throat. This tenacious, cross-dressing wannabe pirate is one of my favorite heroines of 2015 and I can’t wait to see what adventures she throttles in next year’s sequel.
Karou, Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor
I am unabashedly envious of Karou. She collects languages with simple wishes. Her hair is a gorgeous peacock blue color that doesn’t splatter all over the shower walls when she washes it. She can fight, she can fly, she travels through this world (and others) through magical portal doors. She battles angels and hangs out with monsters. Can I be her best friend? Please?
Zuzana Nováková, Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor
Zuzana Nováková — who is actually Karou’s best friend — could’ve easily faded out of the limelight in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, but she’s far from your typical supporting character. The thing I love most about Zuzana is that she’s badass in the most non-lethal way: wit is her most effective weapons. Nor does she sacrifice fashion. Her platform shoes travel with her wherever she goes — even the sunbaked sands of the Sahara!
Puck Connolly, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
First female to ever enter the Scorpio Races, where men race (terrifying) man-eating horses down a beach. Need I say more?
Hermione, Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
I’ve always felt a strange kinship to Hermione due to the fact that we both share unmanageable frizz for hair. This talented witch is literary proof that brains can be even more badass than brawn. Not only does she battle Death Eaters, but she’s also an amazing social justice warrior. Plus, she loves cats (well, half-cats/half-Kneazles).
Images: New Line Cinema; Giphy (2)