Girl Power

Six Kick-Ass Female Characters in YA Fantasy Novels

These six literary ladies showcase just some of the true heroines in YA fantasy books. - By Emily Vierke. Find Emily on Instagram @emilyrosevee

Everybody knows Katniss Everdeen and Hermione Granger but there are a hundred and one other inspiring female characters that make the realm of fantasy literature delightfully relatable and wonderfully inspirational.

It isn’t enough to just be smart or strong, those tough girls need to show that sometimes they’re weak and the book-smart ladies might be clueless when it comes to knowing themselves. It’s important to create the warrior who cried when she lost a loved one or the princess who can’t bring herself to shed a tear. The assassin who adores clothes and shoes as much as books and learning or the witch who hasn’t decided whether she loves the male soldier or the female fighter.

Writing a kick-ass female character isn’t just about fighting the battle and winning the war, it’s about evoking an emotion that makes the reader turn the page of the book and think “I know exactly how she feels.”

Lila Bard from Shade of Magic Series

“I’d rather die on an adventure, then live standing still.”

Smart, scheming and sarcastic Lila Bard is a cross-dressing pirate and an icon for everybody; whatever your gender. In creating Lila, Schwab has offered a compelling character that straddles between female and male never quite deciding which she prefers and never needing to. Lila’s hopes and dreams ring true with adventure and wanderlust taking precedence over romance and marriage.

Nina Zenik from Grishaverse

“Do you have a different name for killing when you wear a uniform to do it?”

Is there a more loveable character than one you can bribe with cake and waffles? Nina Zenik is confident and curvy with a sparkling sense of humour and a love of food. As a ‘heartrender’ Nina has the ability to damage and alter human organs, she is also fluent in several languages and a soldier for her country. Not without her faults, Nina can be brash and ostentatious but what she lacks in subtlety she makes up for with loyalty.

Linh Cinder from the Lunar Chronicles

“You said yourself that the people of Luna need a revolutionary…So I’m going to Luna, and I’m going to start a revolution.”

All of the female characters in Marissa Meyer’s sci-fi series are a joy to read about but there was something about the cyborg Cinderella that invited intrigue. A slave-driven mechanic in the fictional world of Luna, Cinder is both self-deprecating and sagacious, unassuming, and awkward. With Cinder, Meyer has conjured a protagonist that resonates because, despite being half-machine, she makes every other character in the novel appear less human.

Manon Blackbeak, Throne of Glass Series

“There is a better world out there,” she said again. “And I will fight for it, will you?”

When it comes to Sarah J Maas there is no denying she has created countless heroines worthy of a crown. The journey of witchling Manon Blackbeack; from a ruthless killer to a promising queen is truly heart-warming. Proving that even the coldest of people can become a beacon of hope and warmth, it takes Manon three books and many questionable decisions to break that icy demeanor and relinquish her heart.

Zélie Adebola from Legacy of Orïsha

“You crushed us to build your monarchy on the backs of our blood and bone. Your mistake wasn’t keeping us alive. it was thinking we’d never fight back.”

Potentially the most relevant for today’s society is Zélie Adebola, with a heartbreaking backstory Zélie has become a stubborn, proud young woman with quite a battle ahead of her. Not allowing her past to define who she is to become, Zélie uses her headstrong attitude and street-smarts to defy the rules of a contrived society. Extra points for the pet lion.

Donatella Dragna from Caravel

“It’s my story, so clearly I’m the hero.”

Donatella and her sister Scarlett are both heroines within in their own right but Tella manages to bestride her love of romance with her need for escapade and enchantment. A little reckless and a great deal rebellious, Tella lives by her own rules and doesn’t let her sister’s lack of belief ruin her own dreams.

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