10 Kickass Women In Books
by Maria Lewis
There’s a common misconception that to be a ‘Strong Female Character’ you have to have masculine traits, like physical strength. Now while I’m all for having the ability to punch a brother in the face when the moment calls for it, there are other values I’d argue are just as kickass – and powerful. Courage of conviction, kindness and compassion wrapped in a floral sundress are just as strong (if not stronger).
Like the list of literary heroines below, it’s their diversity in character traits that make then unforgettable. Whether it’s Rose Hathaway’s skill at delivering roundhouse kicks or Lisbeth Salander’s unrivalled intelligence, it’s their differences that mark them as extraordinary.
From: The Tomorrow Series by John Marsden
Proof that you don’t need superpowers to be a superhero, Ellie Linton is (arguably) the most memorable woman in Australian fiction. A freedom fighter, revolutionary and faithful friend, her greatest gift is her resourcefulness. Able to adapt to increasingly grave situations throughout John Marsden’s two series’, Ellie sacrifices her personal and emotional well-being again and again and again for the greater good. As someone who can make a bomb as easily as she can take down an ENTIRE AIRFIELD BASE, she’s definitely someone you want on your fictional zombie apocalypse team.
From: Matilda by Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl, you amazing, twisted genius. We see what you did there, introducing a proto-feminist character into the minds of wee girls in their formative years. Kudos. So sure, Matilda’s telekinetic abilities are about as incredible as her potential to go full Carrie at a moment’s notice, yet it’s her kindness and compassion that define her. It takes some adults their whole life to care and understand people the way Matilda does – and she hasn’t even hit high school yet.
From: The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
There’s always so much talk of bad boys, but how about a shout out for the bad girls eh?
J.K. Rowling’s universe was rich with great ladies – from Hermione and Mrs Weasley, to Tonks and Angelina Johnson – yet there’s something oh-so-captivating about Bellatrix Lestrange. Whether it’s her commitment to the cause or maniacal ambitions, she survives in a largely male dominated field purely by being better than everyone else. So here’s a toast to the bat-shit crazy broads of bookdom *raises glass*.
From: The Millennium Series by Steig Larsson
Perhaps excluding Katniss Everdeen, no other heroine has risen to the fore of the pop culture lexicon like Lisbeth Salander has in recent years. And for good reason. Deeply complex, skilled and fascinating, the girl with the dragon tattoo is the very epitome of fierce. A survivor to the very end, few characters have been written as beautifully as Stieg Larsson’s reboot of the femme fatale archetype.
From: Marvel Comics
Getting her start as the Hulk/Bruce Banner’s cousin in Marvel Comics in the eighties, She-Hulk – or Shulkie, as she’s affectionately known – got to smash into long form with Marta Acosta’s most excellent novelisation The She-Hulk Diaries. As righteous lawyer Jennifer Walters defending truth, justice and the occasional superhero by day, she frequently turns green to fight crime as She-Hulk. Physically almost undefeatable in Shulkie form, it’s not the green woman that’s remarkable: battling sexism in the courtroom and the misogynistic politics of the superhero universe, Jennifer is not afraid to stand up for the little people and call out bullshit where she sees it. In her own words: “Male is not default gender for hero.”
From: Hannibal Lecter Series by Thomas Harris
Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter series is packed full of kickass female characters: from Clarice Starling to Margot Verger. Yet it’s Starling’s long-suffering best friend Ardelia Mapp who never gets the appreciation she deserves.
One of the most loyal literary ladies, she’s whip-smart and compassionate in a world full of villains.
From: The Vampire Diaries Series by Richelle Mead
While her series’ aimed at adults have produced some memorable femmes (Eugenie Markham, Mae Koskinen, Georgina Kincaid), it’s her uber successful YA hit Vampire Academy that gave us Rose Hathaway. A sassy, sexy, slayer, the brilliance in the character of Rose is her shortcomings: it’s her many flaws that make her interesting and it’s her quest into maturity as she masters them that makes her lovable. Bonus points for having fighting skills as deadly as her barbed tongue.
From: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
She. Is. No. Man. The only woman in the history of the Lord Of The Rings universe to slay a Nazgul, meeting the Witch King of Angmar in combat during the Battle of the Pelennor Fields in The Return of the King. The shield maiden of Rohan is a kickass woman with emotional depth and a clear moral compass (although she can’t make soup for shit). The inspiration for the next one hundred years of bad-ass lady knights in literary fiction (everyone from Brienne Of Tarth to Alanna of Trebond), one of Eowyn’s most redeemable qualities is her heart.
From: When She Woke by Hillary Jordan
Herself a modern version of a famous literary femme – Hester Prynne – Hillary Jordan’s reworking of The Scarlet Letter gave us more than just a terrifying dystopian vision of the US where there is zero separation between church and state. It gave us Hannah Payne, a woman whose skin is dyed red to publically mark her for murder. Facing adversity and public shaming on a national scale would be enough to twist anyone’s soul into something dark and pointy, yet Hannah remains a rational and resilient woman set on making it to a land where the laws aren’t as barbaric.
From: Ballad of Mulan
Women don’t get much more epic than Mulan: girlfriend would lead an army and defend a kingdom all before brunch. One of the first warrior women to appear in text, she has been immortalised in everything from Disney animated movies to live-action blockbusters. First introduced into the pop culture lexicon in the Ballad Of Mulan, she has appeared in countless novels since then which all expand her basic storyline of a young woman who takes her father’s place in the army and leads the Chinese to victory, before becoming one of the most renowned warriors in the nation’s history. All significant, but the most kickass thing about Mulan? She’s based on an actual historical figure.
by Maria Lewis
Tommi Grayson’s never exactly been a normal girl. Bright blue hair, a mysterious past and barely controlled rage issues have a way of making a woman stand out. Yet she’s never come close to guessing who she really is.
When her mother dies, a shattered Tommi decides to track down her estranged father. Leaving Scotland for a remote corner of New Zealand, she discovers the truth of her heritage – and it’s a whole lot more than merely human. Barely escaping with her life, now Tommi must return to her her friends, pretending everything is normal, while all too aware of the dangers lurking outside – and within. Worse still, something has followed her home…
About Maria Lewis
Maria Lewis got her start covering police rounds in a newsroom as a teenager and has been working as a professional journalist for the past 10 years. Making the switch from writing about murders to movie stars was not a difficult decision. A former reporter at The Daily Telegraph, she also wrote about all things film and entertainment related as the Showbusiness Reporter for The Daily Mail. Her work has appeared in the New York Post, Empire magazine, Huffington Post, The Sunday Mail, Junkee and BuzzFeed, to name but a few.
About the Contributor
Anastasia Hadjidemetri is the former editor of The Booktopian and star of Booktopia's weekly YouTube show, Booked with Anastasia. A big reader and lover of books, Anastasia relishes the opportunity to bring you all the latest news from the world of books.