Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Lessons Learned From Strong Heroines

With all the recent controversy surrouding Marvel and their unwillingness to support female superheroes, I've been thinking more and more about genre fiction as a platform where strong female characters have long ago become the norm, and not an exception. I say this with no small amount of smugness - it's pretty clear that we bookish people are always more openminded and ready to accept change. 

We are all aware that there are different types of strenght: strenght of character, strenght of spirit, physical strenght and many other manifestations of that sheer determination that drives us forward when a sane person would run and hide. There are so many heroines I've admired over the years, so many that have stayed with me long enough to teach me a valuable lesson. They've all been protagonists of their own stories and not just props or secondary characters who never get the recognition they deserve. It would be impossible for me to honor them all in this short post, but  I'd like to mention at least the most important ones, including what they taught me.

Let the countdown begin:

7. Temple (The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell) was left all alone in a zombie-infested world as no more than a little girl. She suffered unimaginable losses and pain, but she somehow fought through it all, hunger, death and constant danger, and built herself into a 15-year-old wise well beyond her years. She taught me that we can survive everything, live a good life against all odds and somehow mantain integrity and honor even when the world has very different priorities.
“Beyond the pursuit of meaning and beyond good and evil too, she says. See, it’s a daily chore tryin to do the right thing. Not because the right thing is hard to do—it ain’t. It’s just cause the right thing—well, the right thing’s got a way of eluding you. You give me a compass that tells good from bad, and boy I’ll be a soldier of the righteous truth. But them two things are a slippery business, and tellin them apart might as well be a blind man’s guess.” 

6. Imogen (Bruised by Sarah Skilton) The story about Imogen’s struggle with guilt, depression, and the need to prove to everyone that she is capable of defending herself, is one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve ever read. In Bruised, she battled anger, depression, helpnessness and PTSD and she somehow found her way back from it all, showing us that human spirit is far more resillient than it seems. She taught me that I can survive anything, do anything, and that I should always be ready to look my demons in the eyes, even when those eyes can only be seen in mirrors.
"...the heart is a muscle like any other. Tearing it down is the only way to make it stronger."

5. For Josie Moraine (Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys), being someone different from who she was born to be was always a matter of survival. All she ever wanted was to be normal, to be able to live and learn like everyone else, without her mother’s constant malicious meddling. Josie’s voice was clear as bell, and she spoke to me until her problems became my problems and her heartache my heartache as well. She taught me that you can overcome your upbringing and that there's nothing wrong with being just like everybody else.
“What do you do with all this bank, Josie? Be a lot easier if you just lifted your skirt.” 
“The only reason I’d lift my skirt is to pull out my pistol and plug you in the head.” 

4. Kate Daniels (Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews) is hard-headed, funny and loyal to a fault, but she also has that indescribable quality that makes her one of my favorite heroines in the world. Raised to be a cold-blooded killer, she defies her upbringing every day by being the kindest, most softhearted and self-sacrificing woman, hidden beneath steel muscles and mountains of attitude. She taught me that I'm always my own person, capable of building myself into anything I want to be, and that the only moral compass that matters is my own. 
“I think you’re confused as to the nature of our relationship. You and I, we don’t get along. You’re a psychopathic control freak. You order me around and I want to kill you. I’m a pigheaded insubordinate ass. I drive you mad and you want to strangle me.”  - Kate Daniels

3. Quintana of Charyn (The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta). We meet Quintana in the worst possible light. She is dirty and half crazed, constantly abused and treated no better than an animal. But the ugliness on the outside hides the spirit of a warrior, a true queen ready to fight for her legacy and her people. The savage girl stole my heart with her childish joy when life gave her nothing to be joyful about. She taught me that heroes hide in strangest of places and that I always have more strenght deep inside, despite all evidence to the contrary.
“Then she was laughing. They both were, and the savage teeth were the most joyous sight Phaedra had seen for a long time. It was as if they were dancing. There it was. Suddenly the strangeness of Quintana of Charyn's face made sense. Because it was a face meant for laughing, but it had never been given a chance.”

2. Puck Connolly (The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater). A small island girl with big dreams, Puck Connolly showed us that societal norms aren't even guidelines, let alone rules. The second she decided on her goal, she stopped paying attention to the opinions of others. Puck's quiet strenght and determination taught me that society doesn't determine who we are and what we can do. That's something only we can, and the limits we live with are those we imposed on ourselves.
“My mother always said that I was born out of a bottle of vinegar instead of born from a womb and that she and my father bathed me in sugar for three days to wash it off. I try to behave, but I always go back to the vinegar.” - Puck Connolly

1. Georgia Carolyn Mason (Newsflesh Trilogy by Mira Grantcompletely changed the way I view genre fiction. George's first and only priority is the truth. Everything else can suffer, anything can be sacrificed, but truth and integrity are not negotiable and they are never for sale. Above all, George taught me that truth really will set me free, even when it doesn't seem that way, and especially when admitting it is the hardest thing I've ever done. 
“Alive or dead, the truth won't rest. Rise up while you can.”  - Georgia Mason

There are, of course, many more heroines worth mentioning, like Sirantha Jax, Katsa, Seraphina or Scarlett O'Hara, but these are the ladies I carry in my heart and mind always.

Which heroine do you admire the most? Is there a specific lesson you learned from her?


  1. Great post Maja! I love a strong heroine, in fact all of my favorite UF series have a strong lead female character. I'm so glad we have them in UF even if we don't quite have them yet in tv and movies. ;)

  2. I love this post! I totally agree about The Reapers are the Angels, Out of the Easy and Quintana of Charyn. All three of those are some of my favorites. I read then all awhile ago but they really stuck with me very strongly!

  3. I've always wanted to read The Angels, but I can't seem to find my copy. Boo. I'll be on the hunt for that asap. I'm more than excited to read it now since you gave me a glimpse of her character.

    Quintana. Yes, my crazy, wild Quintana. Oh the things she suffered through. Georgia. Le sigh. My heart. Great post, Maja!

  4. I appreciate that for the most part our heroines in books are strong in one way or another. I think it inspires us, the reader, to reach for courage and be strong in the face of whatever comes at us. You have so many heroines listed here, but I do have a special place in my heart for Quintana, Kate Daniels, Puck Connolly, and Georgia Mason! Brilliant post, Maya! :)

  5. Oh yes I agree some awesome heroines there! Great choice!

  6. To be honest, I still do not get female Thor. Thor is Thor. Make her another goddess, there are others, that still kick ass.

  7. If I'm honest it doesn't really bother me about Marvel and female characters. We have Black Widow after all. But I can see what you mean also. I'm all for strong female characters I haven't read any from your books suggested. Though from the top of my head I would say Charley Davidson from the Grim Reaper series. Great post, Maja! :)

  8. What a wonderful post, Maja. I so agree with your comment about how strength comes in various forms. I'm so ashamed that I haven't read any of these books. But the Kate Daniels series is on my summer to-read list and I'm looking forward to it. You definitely make me want to read more of these books.

  9. Awesome post, Maja, fist bump. Girl power! Hmm... favorite female heroines. I always love Scarlet O'Hara, and I adore the ladies in The Help. Kate Daniels is another one, and most recently Scarlet from the Lion Heart.

  10. Great list, Maja. I need to read some of them - I'm sticking with George for now :) Puck was an inspiration, but then ... Maggie. Need I say more? Blue from The Raven Boys is pretty amazing too. By the by, have you seen Mad Max yet? Holy cow - talk about strong heroines and making a feminist stand through a movie! All I can say is: "Heck, yeah!"

  11. Absolutely amazing list. I can't agree with you more. I love that you mentioned Scarlett O'hara. She's so misunderstood. I think she's one hell of a lady.

  12. There are so many awesome heroines in books. While I haven't read any of the books on your list yet, I'm sure every reader could make a huge list of the awesome ladies in our books.

  13. I LOVE this post, Maja! Thank you for sharing some of your favorite reads with strong heroines who can come in many forms and manifestations. Of course Kate would be on my list, and I love the fact you mentioned Scarlet. Did you every read The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel? She comes to my mind. I read all her books the summer before High School and admired her inner strength. Now you got me thinking - love that!!
    Fantastic post :)

  14. What I do love is that there is this conversation about strong female protags. We didn't really hear about it in the mainstream much before now. So if you agree with Marvel or not, I'm loving the conversations!

    I love this post too! LOVE the quotes you chose and what I haven't read the book is on my wishlist. So good to know! One heroine that often gets overlooked is Kitty from the Kitty Norville series by Carrie Vaughn. It isn't the book but the series she really grows from a terrified victim to a true leader of the wolf pack. I have so many others and you have nailed a few in my list.

  15. Love this! Yeah, I also think us bookish people are usually way more open-minded. Open to new experiences.

    I have Puck Connolly as a top strong willed heroine too! Other than that, Mira Chambers from Diamond Eyes by A.A. Bell. And Blue from The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. Not many since while I enjoy books I don't exactly find them all that inspirational.

  16. Love this :) I appreciate strength in all its various forms and I'm glad there's no shortage of strong heroines in the books I read. I really like that you've chosen to feature some non-traditional, lesser-known heroines in this post!


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