The Strong Female character has gone from a beautiful novelty to a trope so over worked that every Tom, Dick and Stacy has written one. Far from the Mary-Sue stock character our Strong Female kicks ass! Filled with rage, envy or vengeance she will tear down her government, build herself a new world, find a cute boyfriend and have great hair whilst doing it… But is that really much better than the damsel in distress? The Strong Female has become such a common occurrence in literature and popular fiction that it’s almost a surprise not to find her lurking in the pages, but that doesn’t mean she can’t still be awesome. So here are my top ten books with brilliant women.
- Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Mass
Throne of Glass is the kind of novel that gives you chills, and I’ll let you in on a secret… It’s not even the best book in the series! Mass has crafted a female character so uniquely real and angry and loveable that she becomes an integral part of your own writing and reading for the rest of your life, or at least for the next few years. Celaena Sardothien is a beaten broken woman, from a beaten broken country forced into serving the man who butchered her people. Celaena’s adventures are achingly real and wonderfully written, her emotion is true and the bonds she builds with those around her feel almost too touching to be fictional. If you don’t like female characters then you’ll like Celena, and if you don’t then you need only pick own of her fabulously feisty friends.
- The Raven Boys by Maggie Steifvater
Filled with magic, sarcasm and heart-wrenching friendships The Raven Boys does not sound like the kind of novel that would fill you with feminine pride, but unsurprisingly the striking Steifvater writes equally striking women. Blue Sergeant is an unyielding feminist raised by a single mother in a house full of psychics. Surrounded by aunts, cousins, cats and the occasional crazed treasure hunter, Blue navigates first love, best friends, magical forests and the very real issue of working class finances. This novel is one to read when you’re properly awake; it demands to be read. Similarly it is not one to try and emulate. Steifvater creates something totally unique and charmingly written that is so unlike anything else that it is an achievement within itself.
- Blood Red Road by Moira Young
Blood Red Road brings dystopia to a whole new level. Focusing around the warrior hearted Saba this novel fills a reader with pride, sadness and joy in equal measures. Saba is forced from her home when her beloved twin Lugh is kidnapped, faced with a life without him she embarks on a quest that will ultimately change her life. Thrown into fighting pits, recruited by revolutionaries racked with pain and guilt in equal measures Saba is human in ways that most strong females aren’t. This is a truly touching and thrilling read for anyone who likes their female characters, and even for those that don’t.
- Blood Ties by Sophie McKenzie
Blood Ties is thriller with the kind of real life basis that makes it brilliantly clever. Focusing around the idea of cloning this novel starts with the unassuming Rachel and her handsome new friend Theo. Whilst Rachel begins the novel as a self- deprecating victim of bullying the dire situation soon evolves her into a strong, beautiful and fearless woman with an inescapable human side in which the reader can rejoice. This is not your typical Female-centric novel, and whilst some may find Rachel irritating or meritless I can’t help but love my fellow unassuming British girl, even if she does have more fun than I do.
- 1984 by George Orwell
Once again not what you’d typically choose for a girl-power book but Orwell’s Julia remains, for me, a true female icon. She’s manipulative, promiscuous and just a little bit hypocritical but in my mind she still kick ass. Trapped in a dystopian society where thinking for yourself is a punishable offence and censorship has taken on a whole new meaning, Julia is a rebel on a mission; if Winston can talk her into it that is. Orwell’s writing is immersive and presents an unsettling social commentary for today’s readers.
- City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare
It’s rare not to mention the first book when discussing a series of novel, however I think it is the last book in this series which best portrays my 6th brilliant woman: Isabelle Lightwood. She isn’t the novels main character, and her and her boyfriend are not the main couple, however I feel she is the most human and most loveable woman in the series. Isabelle is a woman in a male dominated world, but she isn’t ashamed of her femininity, killer heels, glossy hair and eyeliner sharper than a knife Izzy makes sure the boys know she could take them down. But much like the Grease’s well-loved Rizzo, Izzy has a softer side; forced to carry the weight of family secrets, and constantly faced with the stringent rules of her society, she finds it difficult to trust people and is fiercely protective of those she loves. Isabelle Lightwood is a brilliantly written character and the personal dilemmas she faces are equally realistic, she is a true tribute to Clare’s writing and a joy to read about.
- Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger
The only Steampunk novel on this list- and the only one I’ve ever read- this is the first in a series of novels focusing around the adventurous Sorophina. Set in a finishing school aboard an airship this is a spy school novel with a twist. Evaluating racism, the class system and traditional views of lady- dom this is a novel filled with twists, romance and air-pirates. Sorophina and her friends are wonderfully written women and truly diverse. They make you proud to be girl if only because of their unwavering bravery and unflappable kindness.
- Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey
A modern novel with Victorian flare Haunting Violet focuses around a murder, a teenage medium and her sassy Irish friend turned boyfriend. Violet is mildly irritating in that she lets others walk all over her, but that soon changes. Developing friendships everywhere she goes Violet is determined to get to the bottom of a local death when she starts seeing ghosts. Not necessarily one for adults but this is definitely a book for the teenagers amongst us. A really good read.
- Four Sister by Helen Rapport
This is the only non-fiction book on the list. Evaluating the lives of the four Romanov sisters- Olga, Tatiana, Marie and Anastasia- and their mother this book is brilliantly personal, an intimate in the most heart wrenching way. Although it’s factual and filled with quotes and citations this is definitely one for the list. The girls are written in such a way that you feel almost as if you truly know them.
- Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Set in a world where dragons walk amongst us Seraphina brings a gut wrenching twist to the classic common girl meets prince story. Strong, secretive and brilliantly sad Seraphina is well written and highlights the pains of racism and class systems. A truly stunning novel about a truly stunning girl.