Everyone knows there are some incredible fantasy heroines out there in books spanning authors, settings and even decades. In celebration of International Women’s Day, I’m highlighting just a few of my many favorites. It’s time to shout their praise for all the internet to hear! See if your favorite heroine made the cut!
Alanna of Trebond
For so many people that love fantasy, adventure and female knights, Alanna was the one that started it all. Tamora Pierce’s Alanna: The First Adventure introduced readers to the world of Tortall and everyone’s favorite child-knight, Alanna. We get to see her mature from a stubborn girl of 10 to a fully grown protector of the realm while remaining true to herself. Even at a young age, she knows who she is and what she wants. Alanna continually possesses an uncompromising sense of self. While she disguises herself as a man early on, once people learn her secret she never softens her blows to cushion male egos.
Alanna inspired countless young women to chase their wildest dreams, no matter what anyone else said.
Zélie Adebola of Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone has a warrior spirit. She’s protective of her family and will do anything to keep them safe. She’s in a constant balancing act between embodying her culture’s legacy and mythology while still a child dealing with trauma. No matter what the world throws at her, she gets back up every time and even opens herself up to care for the people around her. Her magic is also incredibly cool and powerful and grows immensely throughout the first two books in the trilogy.
L.L. McKinney’s A Blade So Black is the most recent work on this list. Her protagonist Alice Kingston is a black teenager living in Atlanta and grieving the loss of her father. She’s also a warrior known as a Dreamwalker, fighting creatures called Nightmares that embody human fear. When her mentor is poisoned, Alice must journey into Wonderland to search for a cure and face the darkness threatening multiple worlds.
Alice’s grief after losing her father, her nervousness and excitement about going to Wonderland and her youthful but tough voice all combine into a powerful and relatable fantasy heroine.
After a cryptic message from her father, Sabriel must return to her home and take up the mantle of Abhorsen: the necromancer responsible for putting spirits to rest and defending the ordinary people from the world beyond. She’s extremely competent and duty-driven, and behind her gruff exterior, she’s a kind and empathetic person. Sabriel confronts death as part of her everyday responsibilities with an inspiring calm and courage.
Sabriel isn’t the main character in the rest of Garth Nix’s The Old Kingdom series, but the other stories also feature well-developed and capable women across several generations of Abhorsens.
Not all heroines need to wield swords or magic or weapons. Some possess a quiet power, like Sophie Hatter of Howl’s Moving Castle. (In this case, I’m talking about the book by Diana Wynne Jones and not the also excellent movie.) Although she starts out reserved and lacking self-confidence, she grows unafraid and confident while retaining her kind and considerate nature. She’s organized and diligent, and someone you definitely want on your side even before she discovers her own magic. By the end of her story, Sophie is a force to be reckoned with, coming into her own and growing sure of herself.
With the Netflix adaptation of Shadow and Bone inspired by Leigh Bardugo‘s Grisha books rapidly approaching, more and more people are growing familiar with its heroine Alina Starkov. She begins the story as an orphan and a mapmaker in the king’s army. As with so many heroines, everything changes when she discovers her powers. Alina becomes a capable magic user, wielding the power of light to unite her country and facing unspeakable darkness — sometimes literally.
Alina grows into a powerful woman, giving everything she has to protect the people and places she cares about.
How many of these amazing fantasy heroines do you know and how many books are you about to add to your TBR? Let us know who your favorites are below!
This article was originally published on 3/7/21.