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Top ten kickass heroines

  • June 15, 2015
  • Blog

There’s been a fair amount in the press lately about female characters and female writers. A recent study conducted into major literary prizes shows that you’re more likely to win if your protagonist is male. The publishing house, Small Press and Other Stories, has reacted to this by stating that in 2018 they will only publish books written by women. Whether I necessarily agree with this move or not, there’s no doubt that there’s an imbalance. After all, recent news headlines have included stories such as, shock horror, Zoe Saldana’s husband is taking her surname, a top tier scientist stating that girls in laboratories ‘cry’ and ‘fall in love’, and a New York Post columnist writing that ‘women are not capable of understanding Goodfellas’. Not all is lost, however. Ficshelf have discovered that self-publishing is bucking the male-dominated trends.

With this in mind, it seems only fair to dedicate a post to the kickass heroines of the fiction world. It’s not easy for them: they need to be strong, both emotionally and physically, without losing their femininity in the process. They need to remain desirable to the opposite sex. It helps a great deal if they also stand up against social norms and work to make the world a better place. For anyone, regardless of gender, that’s a tall order. So here are my top ten kickass heroines and kudos to the lot of them. Who do you think deserves a mention?

10. Frankie Landau Banks


Frankie starts her story as a girl doing anything to please her popular boyfriend. When she belatedly realises she’s being both lied to and side-lined, she sets into motion a fabulous series of tricks and pranks to establish her autonomy. She’s ambitious and driven and won’t take anything lying down. I wish Frankie had been around to read when I was a teenager.

9. Melanie


The main character of The Girl With All The Gifts is a winner. She’s only ten years old but she’s no ordinary child. I can’t say too much without giving away the story but she’s a braver, more intelligent and distinctly human heroine than many. It’s impossible not to root for her.

8. Mariam and Laila

Although these two characters are very different, and I’m cheating slightly by including both, they definitely deserve it for their roles in Khaleed Hosseini’s astound book A Thousand Splendid Suns. Married to the same man, these two women prove that you don’t need physical strength to be a warrior. True strength comes from within.

7. Lara Croft


Lara’s enduring popularity in the gaming world should have spawned a greater collection of virtual heroines. Yes, her boobs change dramatically in size to appeal to teenage boys but there’s no denying that she’s capable of feats which no-one else (superheroes notwithstanding) could even dream of. I’ve even named my daredevil cat after her.

6. Samantha Martin

Not all heroines have to be good. Debra Dubar’s cheeky imp, who is far more concerned with herself than with anyone else on the planet, is a protagonist to be truly enjoyed. She might be totally amoral and self-serving but she’s also capable of growing as a sympathetic character while her wit takes the sting out of her more reprehensible actions. Devilish fun.

5. Lisbeth Salander


It’s beyond a tragedy that Stieg Larrson died before ever truly seeing how his eponymous girl with the dragon tattoo created such a storm. Apparently a vision of what Pippi Longstocking would have been like as an adult, Lisbeth is not without her demons. As a fiercely genius computer hacker, Lisbeth inspires not only admiration but also pity. Whilst I’m nervous for her re-boot in the soon to be released The Girl In The Spider’s Web, I’m definitely going to be reading it.

4. Katniss Everdeen

What’s not to love about Katniss? Not only is she the underdog in the Hunger Games, but she manages to beat them through a combination of wiles and cunning while retaining her own humanity. There’s a reason why people in Thailand began using the finger symbol from the series as a gesture of rebellion against their own government. All Katniss wanted to do was save her sister – and she ended up saving the world regardless of the personal cost.

3. Mara of the Acoma

Raymond Feist is celebrated across the fantasy world for his Riftwar saga. Indeed, Magician is a tour de force. He truly came into his own, however, when he collaborated with the fabulous Janny Wurts to write the Empire trilogy: three books following the seventeen year old Tsurani Mara, as she’s ripped from her chosen life as a temple devotee to becoming the most powerful woman in the land. Everything she does is through cunning, guile and downright intelligence, despite moments of astounding trauma. These books might be almost a quarter of a century old but they’re still fresh, exciting and will have you cheering along all the way. There are even distinct foreshadows of Game of Thrones threaded in throughout.

2. Elizabeth Bennett

She doesn’t join werewolves or navigate through vampire politics or even beat up nasty villains. But Lizzy is still kickass. She flouts social rules by tramping through the countryside and getting muddy, not to mention turning down Darcy’s initial offer of marriage despite his wealth. She’s intelligent and forthright and gets exactly what she wants. It’s no wonder her popularity endures to this day.

1. Buffy The Vampire Slayer


Buffy always wins. To each generation, a slayer is born – and Buffy beats the lot. From defeating goddesses and sacrificing her own life to berating Spike for participating in kitten poker, she’s the most kickass of all kickass heroines. The Big Bad better watch out when the slayer is in town.

Photo by JD Hancock

  • Drjenn • 16th June 2015 at 9:47 am

    Rachel Morgan

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