Friday, 2 August 2013

Top Ten Female Fantasy Characters (Part One)

Fantasy females who aren't helpless love interests have been hard to come by these days (perhaps with the exception of Hunger Games), but there are still some great characters with the double X chromosome out there. So, in this two-part blog post, I want to share my favourite ten female fantasy characters.

Of course, this list is highly subjective, so you might not find some of the very popular characters. I've also tried to pick out what makes these characters unique, and how they fit into their respective worlds. Feel free to check them out in their respective stories- you won't regret it!

Here are numbers 1-5 of my top ten fantasy heroines:

1. Sabriel (Sabriel)



Perhaps an obvious choice (especially if you read my previous blog post on my favourite novels) but Sabriel really does deserve the top spot. Cast into the Old Kingdom on a quest to save her father using powers she hardly knows about, Sabriel's pretty much thrown in the deep end and left to sink or swim. Along with the help from some unlikely allies, Sabriel must face an ancient enemy, and accept her mantle as the Abhorsen.

I like Sabriel because she's strong willed without being impulsive, she isn't crippled by her doubts yet has an awareness of her limits, she's willing to accept help without being helpless herself, and is caring and kind without being soft. She is definitely the epitome of my ideal heroine.

Of course some argue that Sabriel is a bit bland in this respect, as her flaws aren't that deep, and while it's true she doesn't really develop massively as a character, she doesn't really need to. She comes to accept her new position as Abhorsen, despite barely knowing the depths of her power, faces her own grief at personal loss, and shows great courage when she needs to, learning to believe in herself. Pretty staple YA fare, but it's rare to find such a balanced lead character who's female, especially these days.

And Lirael can't hold a candle to her :P

Favourite quote: "She knew it like she knew her times tables, but the Charter marks just wouldn't come, and why was twelve times twelve sticking in her head when she wanted Charter Marks..." -Garth Nix, Sabriel

2. Connie Lionheart (Companions Quartet)



The Companions series is more middle-grade than YA, but it has some wonderful ideas and concepts, along with a great cast of characters. Connie Lionheart is (unknown to her at first) a Universal Companion- someone who can communicate and bond with all mythical creatures, rather than just one like most members of the secret Society for Protection of Mythical Creatures. This makes her special, but also feared, as there hasn't been such a companion in years and the previous ones have had a historically poor reputation.

Connie's a great protagonist, stumbling through as she learns about her powers and her responsibility as Universal Companion. It's a hard slog for her, as unlike most books, she has no real mentor, and faces a lot of criticism from her allies more than her enemies. She's certainly not got it easy!

Throughout the series we see Connie grow into the leader she's meant to become. She always rises to the challenge, and has a fresh perspective that often riles the older, more established Companions. She makes mistakes, too, but she learns from them, so she's not stupid like some heroines. I also never hated her for her choices, as even if they weren't the correct ones, her reasoning and motives were always solid. This made her very real to me. Her powers, too, were pretty novel, and her relationship with the other characters was believable. In fact she influenced me so much I wanted her story to continue, and have done so on a fan fiction basis. She's a likeable character with very real flaws that she learns to overcome, and is a firm favourite for me.

Favourite quote: "I will not do your work for you. I will not become the monster you want me to be." -Julia Golding, The Gorgon's Gaze

3. Eona (Eon)



Okay well I suppose this is a *spoiler* but you do learn very early in the first book that Eon's a woman, who has had to conceal her gender as she trains to be a Dragoneye, a mystical sorceror who can tame the power of one the twelve Zodiac Dragons. Rooted in ancient Chinese mythology, this book is a brilliant fantasy tale, again with memorable characters and plenty of gender-challenging issues, which is hard to do when you're in a set historical era where women have no rights.

Eon stood out for me in a lot of ways. She's a product of her time, knowing that revealing her gender could cost her life, and doing all she can to conceal it. Throughout the story she's a very careful planner and thinker, and yet it all comes undone when she learns of a plot to overthrow the Emperor. Watching her coming to terms with her past, her destiny, and her friendships was very moving, yet at the same time she's no helpless heroine, either.

The second book really shows her coming into her own. Initially she's crippled by the fear of her uncontrollable powers, and causes some horrible disasters, but she confronts her weaknesses and carries out her duty, no matter how heart-breaking or unfair it seems. Despite a life filled with treachery, deceit and lies, she still makes the right choices, showing that light can still flourish in the deepest shadows.

Favourite quote: “I found power in accepting the truth of who I am. It may not be a truth that others can accept, but I cannot live any other way. How would it be to live a lie every minute of your life.” -Alison Goodman, Eon: Dragoneye Reborn

4. Maerad (Pellinor Series)



Maerad stunned me in a pleasant way. A FEMALE protagonist in an epic fantasy that ISN'T reduced to convenient love interest? Kudos to Alison Croggon! Granted, the books are pretty staple high fantasy and have a lore as encompassing as Tolkein's works, just having a female main character made so many new elements possible. Maerad has learnt to be careful and cautious, having lived as a slave after her homeland was sacked, and having recently lost her mother. Her world changes though when she's inadvertently rescued by a man named Cadvan, and he introduces her to her heritage as a Bard.

Maerad was interesting because she truly underwent a transformation, both in terms of her magic and her personality. She doesn't get her powers for a good chunk of the first book, which was a wise choice as you can see her frustration at her helplessness. Yet she has her own way of surviving, showing she's not reliant on her magic, either.

The second and fourth book impressed me as she was shown to push her limits in a dangerous way, almost enjoying abusing her power, along with the anxiety this caused those close to her. This made her a very realistic character with blurred morals, which you don't tend to find in epic fantasy which favours a very black and white 'heroes vs. the Dark Lord' mentality. Her relationship with Cadvan was well-done, too. Although Croggon says she was inspired by Tolkein, the books give off much more of a Greek epic vibe for me, another reason why I found the series so enjoyable.

Favourite quote: "For those moments she had felt invulnerable and immeasurably dangerous; the power which surged through her seemed infinite, as if she had to merely crook her finger and entire cities would crumble at her whim." -Alison Croggon, The Gift

5. Princess Holly Blue (Faerie Wars)



A kickass Faerie Princess? Yes please! Faerie Wars is full of memorable characters, and while Prince Pyrgus is my favourite, his sister Blue is a very high-ranking second. The books chronicle the ongoing political struggle between the Faeries of the Light and Faeries of the Night, the adventures of animal-loving rebellious Prince Pyrgus, and how a human boy Henry is dragged into the conflict. Blue is the second eldest in line for the Peacock Throne, and only daughter of the current Purple Emperor.

Blue is everything her brother Pyrgus isn't; she can play the political games, has her own spy network, amongst other things, but her curiosity can get the better of her and land her into trouble. Yet at the same time she has a somewhat more innocent side, particularly when it comes to relationships. As such this made her vulnerable when she needed to be. This is played to good effect in the ending of Faerie Lord (I won't spoil it for you).

However, there are moments where she's really weakened for the sake of the hero, which annoyed me a little. Sometimes her potential is downplayed, but the scenes where she does shine are pretty decent. So, while Blue might not be a main character, she's certainly got plenty going for her as a major support character, so check her out.

Favourite quote: "Fortunately I sometimes find it possible to think for myself." -Herbie Brennan, Faerie Wars

Next week, part two will cover numbers 6-10 in my top ten list...

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