I loveee fantasy. It’s my favorite genre and gives me so much escape from reality especially in these very, very strange times we live in. This is a very male dominated genre and the types of characters I enjoy in fantasy don’t help matters. I adore ruthless characters in fantasy. I want them to be single minded about their goals and to cut their way through their enemies.
The problem is that I read a lot of male heroes because there isn’t that many female characters written that way. I do not enjoy romance in my fantasy. I can stomach a little bit of it, but I do not want it to be the main plot. I just want a lot of world building and violence (Yikes!). Yes, there may be something wrong with me.
I decided to make a list of 4 fantasy books that I think have my version of a kick arse female character in fantasy.
The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang:
“Nothing is written. You humans always think you’re destined for things, for tragedy or for greatness. Destiny is a myth. Destiny is the only myth. The gods choose nothing. You chose. At every critical juncture you were given an option; you were given a way out. Yet you picked precisely the roads that led you here. You are at this temple, kneeling before me, only because you wanted to be.”
Rin aces the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—and finds herself at Sineguard, the most prestigious military school in Nikan. Being a dark-skinned peasant girl, she is targeted immediately by her classmates and bullied by teachers who don’t believe she should be there. Rin with the help of a seemingly insane teacher realises that she possesses a lethal power everyone else at Sineguard believes is a myth. War breaks out in Nikan and her set graduates into a political mayhem and an all out war.
Why I love this character – Rin is absolutely ruthless and very focused on her goals. She is very single minded when she decides on a destination. She doesn’t get into any romantic entanglement even though I feel like there were some makings of one. She is a complex and complicated character who absolutely smashes all expectations. She is involved in some absolutely terrible deeds, but you rarely ever see women written like that so I was absolutely pulled in from beginning to end. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.
Red Sister by Mark Lawrence:
“Your death has not been waiting for your arrival at the appointed hour: it has, for all the years of your life, been racing towards you with the fierce velocity of time’s arrow. It cannot be evaded, it cannot be bargained with, deflected or placated. All that is given to you is the choice: meet it with open eyes and peace in your heart, go gentle to your reward. Or burn bright, take up arms, and fight the bitch.”
At the Convent of Sweet Mercy, young girls are raised to be killers. Nona Grey is rescued from being hanged by one of the convent’s sisters after being accused of murder (and being guilty of much worse). She is just 8 but has made powerful enemies by the time she enters the convent. We see the young girls get trained in every art of killing imaginable. It takes about 10 years to be considered a sister.
Why I love this character – This is a convent so there are basically no men around. You get to have a book that is based solely on female characters interacting with each other for the most part. I love training schools a la Harry Potter, but this time for assassins. I love seeing how our characters develop from this absolute clueless person, to the end of the book where they are powerful and strong. This is a trilogy and I’ve read the first two books.
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden:
“I am told how I will live, and I am told how I must die. I must be a man’s servant and a mare for his pleasure, or I must hide myself behind walls and surrender my flesh to a cold, silent god. I would walk into the jaws of hell itself, if it were a path of my own choosing. I would rather die tomorrow in the forest than live a hundred years of the life appointed me”
Vasilisa is growing up in the Russian wilderness totally inhibited. She spends her days exploring her environment, listening to her old nanny tell her stories of the various gods and spirits with her older siblings and honoring the spirits. After an incident, Vasilisa’s father decides that she needs a mother figure and marries a new wife who is a deeply devout christian and bans them from honoring the Russian gods and spirits with devastating consequences.
Why I love this character – Vasilisa is independent and strong and everything you hope your girl child will be but she is severely punished for it and called a witch. She never lets anything stop her from her goal of liberating her village even if it meant honoring the spirits with her own blood. She rejects the fear and holds on to bravery. She was just a kick arse character and you will enjoy rooting for her.
Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie:
“You were a hero round these parts. That’s what they call you when you kill so many people the word murderer falls short.”
Monza Murcatto, the Snake of Talins, is the most feared and famous mercenary in Duke Orso’s employ. Her victories have made her popular but too popular for her employer’s taste so he betrays her, throws her off a mountain and leaves her for dead. This is a simple revenge story. After she is nursed back to health and is now half the woman she was, she vows to kill the 7 men present when she was betrayed at whatever cost. Even though this is the 4th book in an already established world, this is still a standalone that I think you can read whether you read the first three or not. So, yes, you can just jump into this book and it’ll still be an amazing read.
Why I like this character – I think my description says it all for me. She’s a woman with a one track mind bent on revenge – think Kill Bill on acid. There’s a bit of a romantic partner here but it’s barely there and doesn’t really affect the plot too much.
Let me know if any of these titles catch your fancy. I hope you enjoy this post, 4 for the price of one. Have a great week!