My Four Favorite UF/PNR Heroines
One of the best things about urban fantasy and paranormal romance is that there is no shortage of amazing female lead characters. You can't throw a rock in the UF/PNR section of the bookstore without hitting a female who is not only strong, but faceted, smart, romantic, cynical, optimistic, vulnerable, honorable, damaged, and generally real. And one would think that with so many wonderful female characters, both leads and supporting cast, it would be challenging to narrow down which ones are the best to just a few. However, I have absolutely no qualms about pointing out exactly which heroines are the best, the feistiest, the smartest, the snarkiest, and just plain the best.
Zee told us about her favorite heroines in this post, although that has changed a bit. And you may notice that my favorite heroines list bears a striking resemblance to my favorite series list. What can I say? I'm a sucker for a great female protagonist, and it's not coincidence that the very best series have one.
So follow me after the jump, and I'll introduce you to four kick-ass women who you should know. I'll do my best to keep the spoilers to a minimum.
Sydney Sage: Bloodlines by Richelle MeadI've only know Sydney for a few months, having come rather late to the Vampire Academy/Bloodlines party (as I talked about here and here), but she has rocketed up my list of incredible heroines. It took me a while to warm up to Sydney due to her standoffishness and rigidity seen through Rose's eyes in VA. But in the Bloodlines books we get to see Sydney through her own eyes where she shares vulnerabilities that the outside world isn't privy to. We learn her greatest fears, watch her overcome deeply ingrained, rigidly taught, prejudices, witness her charming cluelessness regarding social cues, see her frightening fierceness, and best of all, watch her fall in love. Sydney Sage is unlike most UF/PNR heroines in that her kick-assery is not in physical strength or the skills of a warrior. Sydney's strength is her intelligence, her beautiful mind. She is brilliant and strategic, besting foes in ways that they never see coming, researching solutions when she doesn't have all the answers, and solving problems using her cleverness and wits.
Beyond her fierceness and bravery, Sydney Sage falling in love is a rare delight, indeed. Having been very sheltered and groomed with a laser-like focus on her role as an Alchemist, social interaction wasn't a priority in Sydney's upbringing. So watching her try to analyze her way through her first "relationship" then convince herself that she's not in love, then fall head-over-heels in love is absolutely glorious. At this point in the series, Sydney's outcome is uncertain, but I am steadfast in my confidence that Sydney's intelligence and heart will get her through the travails to come, and she will be stronger, better for it.
MacKayla "Mac" Lane: Fever Series by Karen Marie MoningIt's no secret that we are huge Fever fans around these parts, and that is in large part due to the growth of one MacKayla Lane. I did not like Mac when I first started the Fever series. At all. She was flighty, shallow, obsessed with her looks, with a complete disregard for anything that didn't make her life happy and easy. Basically the complete opposite of what I look for in a heroine. But Mac's journey, her transformation, is stunning and by the end of the first book I was completely in love with her.
Initially driven by a need for revenge, Mac quickly learns that the world isn't what she thought it was, but given the opportunity to run home and return to her simple, sunny life, she chooses the hard path. She chooses to learn who she is and embrace that role, fighting not only for revenge, not only for herself, but for all of her fellow humans. She faces her adversaries boldly, learning all she can about how to win her battles and never shies away from doing the dirty work that only she can do. Over the course of Mac's journey she learns so many lessons that change her into a completely different person, but her falls never break her. She keeps getting up, fighting back, turning herself into someone who survives. No matter what.
Chess is a remarkable woman who has no idea how special she is. She truly, deeply believes that she is not worthy of love or anything positive in her life, which causes her to make questionable choices. There's no getting around the fact that Chess is a drug addict, which is difficult to witness, forcing her to go to great lengths to appear normal, while at the same time working to dull her pain. But she is also a brilliant and gifted witch whose job is to protect people from ghosts, a job that she does incredibly well and is one of the few sources of pride in her life. It's easy to be frustrated with Chess, seeing her sabotage her own happiness, hurting those who care about her.
Cesaria "Chess" Putnam: Downside Ghosts by Stacia Kane
As frustrating as she is, I have much more sympathy for Chess than most other heroines, because she has actually been through hell and back. She has genuine, deeply rooted reasons for her idiotic, self-preserving actions, which we discover more and more with each book. But eventually we get a glimpse of the roots of Chess's pain that she's dulling with drugs, and we understand why she does what she does. Her life isn't pretty, but Chess has a heart of gold and a fierce loyalty to her small circle of friends. But what is amazing about Chess is that, in spite of her inconceivable hardships and issues, she is brave and smart, resourceful and talented. When given an opportunity to improve her lot in life, she grabbed that chance with both hands, and became one of the best Churchwitches around. She faces terror every time she goes to do her job, but she does it with skill and aplomb, protecting others in the process.
Wench Note: You're reading Downside Ghosts, right? I told you all about why you should be here. While we don't have details yet about more books, Stacia Kane assures us that there's more Downside to come. So let her know if you love them, and buy the books if you can!
Merit, Sentinel of Cadogan House: Chicagoland Vampires by Chloe NeillMerit is, far and away, my very favorite heroine in anything ever. We have gushed about these books (in every CLV review we've written!), about Merit and Ethan's journey, about the author, and we've fangirled about Ethan and about Merit. I don't think there's much more I can say about how much I love Merit. Her character growth, her ever-increasing kick-ass skills, her compassion for the citizens of her beloved Chicago, her love of gastronome, her snarky, sarcastic sense of humor, her completely relatable self-preservation tactics when falling in love...she is a character I feel like I know, I actually want to be BFFs with in spite of the fact that I'm fully aware that she's fictional.
I loved Merit from the very first chapter, which is not usually the case with me. But her sarcastic banter just sounded like me, her love of literature speaks to me, and her training as a ballerina made me equal parts jealous and awed, since I dreamed of dancing when I was a little girl. Merit is a woman I love reading about because I relate to her on one level, yet live vicariously through her fantastic adventures. Ethan says it best when he tells Merit:
You like the things you like. You take great joy in those things, and you should never be ashamed of that. The pleasure that you take in simple things--food, clothing, architecture--is a very attractive quality.Merit is my perfect heroine. There is nothing about her that I don't like, and I eagerly await each release, knowing that she will be funny and loyal and sexy and fierce--everything I want in a heroine.