Who Run the (Literary) World? Girls!
March is Women’s History month, and in the spirit of celebrating women and empowering role models I keep close to my heart, I’ve made a list of all my favorite female protagonists. Even though they’re all fictional, I still find inspiration and strength in reading about these characters.
My favorite kick-ass female protagonists
- Celaena Sardothien in the Throne
of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas. What I love
about Celaena is that she manages not to sacrifice any of her femininity or
personality even after she’s earned the title of greatest assassin ever to have
terrorized the Kingdom of Adarlan. She could probably single-handedly take down
the entire Royal Guard but also, she loves shopping. And going to balls in pretty
dresses. And she’s terrific at banter and flirting. That kind of
behavior sometimes irritates me, but I also don’t think strength should be a
character’s only personality. Or that in order to be perceived as strong, a
female character must act in traditionally masculine ways. I like that Celaena
can do her nails and kick bad-guy butt at the same time.
- Lyra Belacqua from The
Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. Lyra
Belacqua is unstoppable. There is a quote that comes to mind
which I think suits her character perfectly and it is “Well-behaved women
seldom make history.” It doesn’t matter how many times someone tells her to
stay out of trouble or how many different authority figures tell her the
journey is too dangerous, Lyra’s unquenchable curiosity leads her inexorably
onwards, even if that means hurtling toward an uncertain territory. But she’s
no fool and she’s so sure of herself that even the adults can’t outwit her or
hold her back in The Golden Compass. I admit I haven’t read the rest of the
series yet but I can’t wait to finish these books.
- Kestrel from The
Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski. In a lot of
fantasy novels, the protagonist is strong because she is powerful and she’s got
more magic than everybody else. Though I adore magic and superpowers in fantasy, a small part of me has
always felt that in those stories, magic is something you’re born with and not
something you earn. Though the setting of The Winner’s Curse is fantastical, there is no magic, and
Kestrel is powerful because she is clever. Not only is she clever, she’s also compassionate, and
capable of looking beyond her own interests to see how every advantage she was born with came at
the cost of another people’s freedom. My favorite part of cheering on for
Kestrel is that each one of her victories and close calls feel so earned.
- Inej from Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. Kaz is a hard man to love, and Inej
does not put up with it. I have watched so many female characters fall in love
with men who were just so distant and withdrawn as to be downright mean. But in Six of Crows, *spoiler alert*, Inej questions Kaz,
questions her own loyalty to him and how far she is willing to go for him, and
then draws the line. I’ll never forget when she says to him “I will have you
without armor, Kaz Brekker, or I will not have you at all.” It’s so fierce and
self-assured. Inej knows what she deserves and will not take any less. I can’t
wait to see how she’ll make Kaz prove himself to her.
- BONUS (since it's not technically from a book, haha!) Rey from Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Is there anything
this girl can’t do?! She’s a pilot, scavenger, starship engineer, and kick-butt,
Jedi Force-wielder all at once! I’ve heard people criticize the movie for
making Rey too powerful, and for how
it was unrealistic that she so quickly mastered the Force. But my response to
that is that movie and book culture has seen its fair share of men-who-can-do-it-all,
and I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to see finally see a woman just
utterly kill it at everything she does. Besides, this is fiction and I don’t think we always need to cut back on our heroes.
I love Rey precisely because she can do it all, and that’s a role model I can
Well, Swooners, who have I missed? Who are some of your
favorite female protagonists—and no spoilers, please! I look forward to reading