Meet a Few KICK ASS Ladies in Fantasy

Posted September 26, 2017 by Amber in Bookish Things, Memes / 7 Comments


Many moons ago, I wrote a post about my Top Three Strong Female Characters.  This list featured Holly Short, Hermione Granger, and Max.  While all three of them are excellent characters, I’ve been really wanting to create an updated list, because a strong, sassy female character is my weakness.  Do you have a heroine that kicks ass?  I need to know all about her.  Like, now.

I have a great big list of Strong Female Characters on Goodreads, and I also have a tag on the blog for it.  Needless to repeat, these girls are the peanut butter to my jelly and fiction feels bigger, braver, and more wonderful with them.

For the purposes of today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic, I’m going to focus on ladies in the fantasy realm.  I know that contemporary and historical fiction girls kick some serious butt, too, so please know that this list is in NO WAY exhaustive.  I’m excluding the series I did in my 2011 post (these girls still qualify!) and I know there are some REALLY POPULAR BOOKS (*cough*ThroneofGlass*cough*) that are missing as well.  … These are the ladies I’m really feeling at the moment, and PLEASE, comment and let me know which ones you love and why!


Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody

“When the fairy tales spoke of butterflies, I didn’t anticipate it feeling more like hornets.”


Sorina comes into the story already with troubles.  For starters, we know she’s an orphan.  Second, she has no eyes.  Third, she is an Illusionist, which is an incredibly rare form of Jynxworker.  While we add other complications to the list later, I think these three are enough to say that Sorina’s life is sort of rough?  At least emotionally.


And she grieves.  But she also suits up and becomes determined to protect her family and find the villain behind this madness.  I don’t know about you guys, but if the people I loved started dropping dead, I would 100% be a puddle of uselessness on the floor.  She gets mad points for trusting herself and being brave enough to move forward KNOWING that a wrong step could mean another death.

Celia Bowen

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

“Most maidens are perfectly capable of rescuing themselves in my experience, at least the ones worth something, in any case.”


Celia’s dad is a terrible person.  Not only does he enter her in a magical duel, but he also drove her mother to kill herself and the only thing he got out of it was: Hmm.  Maybe my daughter can do magic.  So her upbringing was great.  And yet SOMEHOW Celia turns out to be this really sweet, talented young woman with an HUGE burden to bear.

To get into exactly why Celia’s strong, you really need to read the book, but in short… her magic requires CONSTANT focus and energy.  Physically, she is keeping half the circus alive with the burden literally on her shoulders.  On top of that, she’s trapped, in love, and responsible for dozens of lives within the circus itself.  And she bears it all with excellent poise.

Kelsea Glynn

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johnasen

“Stories moved Kelsea most, stories of things that never were, stories that transported her beyond the changeless world of the cottage.”


Okay, first of all, you have to love Kelsea because she’s a serious bookworm.  A lot of her spare time is spent trying to rescue books and get reading back into the popular eye.  Some queens like gemstones, Kelsea is building a library. So there’s that.

This girl was born into a life that she hasn’t been adequately prepared for.  She knows things in principle, but the reality of it shocks her.  Horrible things are happening that she never knew – and she immediately outlaws it.  She’s queen, she can do that.  But when she learns the consequences, learns that their neighboring kingdom will go to war, she doesn’t back down.  If nothing else through this trilogy, the ONE thing Kelsea does is stand by her morals.

Even though people are trying to usurp her.  Kill her.  EVEN WHEN SHE GETS KIDNAPPED.  She never backs down and relies largely on her intellect to get out of bad situations.

Gwen Shepard

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

“Chin up! You’re a Montrose, and we stay calm and composed everywhere, always.”


I will be the first to admit that Gwen is a bit silly.  She is an easy character to read because she’s light-hearted and curious.  But being a happy person shouldn’t take away from one’s inner strength.

Gwen is unapologetically herself at all times, and as a teenage girl, that’s not easy.  Add to that the unexpected time traveling, which she manages very well, and we have a formidable young woman.  In the first book, Gwen is still learning things, and sometimes being patient and learning is more difficult than acting rashly.  The way she dives right in to rescue Gideon is commendable.

This book is actually littered with great female characters, who we know very little about thus far.  I haven’t read the other two yet, but I feel like Lucy and Grace are both characters that bear watching.  And I like Lesley.


Matilda by Roald Dahl

“So Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.”


Matilda is everyone’s favorite little bookworm, and perhaps seems like a strange choice for this list.  However, this is a fantasy book, and little miss Matilda should not be overlooked.  Her parents are terrible.  Her headmistress is terrible.  Nothing Matilda ever does is petty or selfish, although she certainly has the ability to cause mischief.

Instead, Matilda uses her power for good.  She teaches her father a lesson – not because he is horrible to her, but because he’s cheating nice people.  She teaches her headmistress a lesson – again, not for personal grievances, but because of the way she treats the other children and Miss Honey.  It would take a strong moral compass to have such great power and never use it to defend herself.  Matilda is strong enough to suffer the injustices to herself, and to know that revenge would be wrong.

Princess Raisa ana’Marianna

The Demon King by Cinda Chima Williams

“What’s the nature of royalty, she wondered. Is it like a gown you put on that disappears when you take it off? Does anyone look beyond the finery? Could anyone in the queendom take her place, given the right accessories? If so, it was contrary to everything she’d ever been taught about bloodlines.”


In many ways, Raisa is a traditional Fantasy Princess, but she sees the wrong in the way the world is going, and removes herself from it.  As the crowned princess, she is learning the traditions of her country and she knows her place in politics.  She also knows that by running away, she will bring everything to a sharp halt.  It’s not easy to stand up and leave everything you know behind, especially without many friends.

Arya Stark

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

“What do we say to the Lord of Death?’

‘Not today.”


There are a lot of incredible women in this series, but Arya Stark has my heart.

She watches her father and brothers get butchered.

She paves her own path, pretending to be someone she isn’t.  She learn to fight, to roll with the roughest.  She learns to become somebody else.  To listen, to learn, to plot.  Arya is absolutely FORMIDABLE.

I don’t think she requires further explanation.


Terrier by Tamora PierceBeka Cooper

Terrier by Tamora Pierce

“I will be known forever as the Puppy who chased a cutpurse and caught fish garbage instead. My descendants will pretend I’m not in their bloodline. No – no one will want to make descendants with me.”


Beka is a character in a world where most girls don’t last very long.  She’s dreamed of being one of the Provost’s Dogs for as long as she can remember, and she knows it’s going to be a hard battle to fight.  Not only does she need to prove she can do anything the boys can do, she has to prove she can do it better.  She has to trust her instincts and keep herself well at all times.  If not for her wealthy benefactor, she wouldn’t even have the opportunity.  And one mistake too many, she’ll be cut loose.

Or killed.

Lyra Belacqua

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

“So Lyra and her daemon turned away from the world they were born in, and looked toward the sun, and walked into the sky.”


In the first few pages of this book, Lyra thwarts a plot to poison her uncle.

By the time we are halfway through the book, she’s run away from a murderous woman, set off on a hunt to find stolen children, started to read a magical alethiometer, and befriended an armored bear?  Not exactly an average Tuesday for the rest of us.

Not to mention, Lyra’s personality is awesome.  She’s defiant, clever, and brave.  She cares about people, but won’t let anyone take advantage of her.

Alianne of Pirate’s Swoop

Trickster’s Choice by Tamora Pierce

“Why, I’m just as true and honest as dirt. And I’m even more charming than dirt.”


I could really put all of Pierce’s heroines on this list, but I rather like Aly.  She’s defiant and smart.  She’s willing to do whatever it takes.  There’s a scene, early on in the book, where she gets into a fight in the slave pens so she will get punched and bruised and a black eye and split lip.  She does this to make sure when she’s sold, it’s not as a bedwarmer.

Like I said, she’ll do whatever it takes.



Well my darling phoenixes, these are my picks of the moment for a handful or really wonderful, brave, strong women in the fantasy genre.  If you want to see a few more, make sure to check out this post… and don’t forget to tell me your favorites in the comments!


Which stories would you like to see continued?  Sometimes, it’s so hard to say goodbye!  Let me know in the comments!

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7 responses to “Meet a Few KICK ASS Ladies in Fantasy

  1. Ohh lovely list! I was so, so happy to see Lyra on here. His Dark Materials is one of my favorite series of all times – I can’t wait for The Book of Dust to be released! – and Lyra is such a fantastic main character, I loved her so, so much <3 I haven't read any of these books otherwise…. but Daughter of Smoke and Bone and The Night Circus are both on my TBR, so happy to hear there are kickass ladies in these ones 😉

    • Amber

      I am SO excited for La Belle Sauvage and all the rest of the Book of Dust!!! I have it preorder and I’m thrilled it’s out next month (finally!!!).

      I was definitely going with some books out of the norm. I know that Celaena Sardothian (sp?) and various Bardugo characters would make this list for others, but honestly? I love the ladies I grew. up with. 🙂

  2. Copying your list onto my wish list. 🙂 I love this! And I love strong female characters in fantasy. The Night Circus was such an amazing book for me. I listened to the audio version and keep meaning to go back and read the print version. I’ve also read Game of Thrones–love Arya so much! I need to read the rest of the series. The rest I haven’t read, but I want to. Thanks for sharing!

  3. YES YES YES. These are all such amazing females, but I especially love Raisa Ana-Marianna from The Demon King. It seems like no one talks about that series but it was so good??? She made some really tough decisions because she had really limited challenges.

    Emma recently posted: September Wrap Up and October TBR
    • Amber

      I’VE NOTICED THAT TOO?! I really enjoy the series (although I’m making my way through it very slowly?). The only possible thought I have on why it doesn’t really get brought up much is because it’s a little older now, and it’s got epic fantasy elements. Epic fantasy seems to be really *out* in book blog community… which I get because they’re long with slower pacing, but TBH I love them! Raisa is one of the few princesses I’ve seen in YA that I don’t want to smack for selfishness and stupidity.