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Today’s guest is Sara from The Fantasy Inn! She reviews fantasy and science fiction books and also writes some book-related discussions as Sharade. I enjoy reading her blog posts (and Twitter) immensely due to her enthusiasm for the books she loves, her conversational style, and the fact that she makes them just plain fun to read—plus she has fantastic taste in books!

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The Many Strengths of Female Characters in Fantasy

How can you not love a badass heroine in fantasy? Spine of steel, weapon in hand, destroying her enemies and the glass ceiling in one swift, effortless move.

But I must admit that I have a weakness for a different kind of female strength depiction in SFF stories.

Reading T. Kingfisher’s The Seventh Bride reminded me how much I love compassionate heroines. In this Bluebeard-like story, our main character, Rhea, is forced to marry a strange nobleman. Along with the nobleman’s other wives, she has to face challenges that are bigger than her. Rhea is not a warrior, but she certainly is a badass. Her resilience and loyalty are inspiring and uplifting.

Heroines who rely on inner strength to shine and save the day are my catnip. Another example would be Kalina from Sam Hawke’s City of Lies. Her city is under siege, the Chancellor her family has sworn to protect is threatened. In the middle of all this, Kalina’s heroism is a subtle sort—no fanfare, no fireworks; rather, a single-minded purpose, a keen mind, and a big heart.

Quiet courage echoes loudly; and who better to embody it than Patience, in Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy. As the wife of the King-in-Waiting Chivalry, having her husband’s illegitimate son around must not have been the easiest thing to handle. But she went above and beyond, by being Fitz’ eccentric yet fiercely loving mother figure.

The Seventh Bride Cover City of Lies Cover Assassins Apprentice, Farseer Trilogy Book One Cover

It is not, of course, a strict dichotomy: physically powerful heroines on one side and compassionate ones on the other. One of the highlights of the Netflix hit animated show The Dragon Prince is how nuanced and multi-facetted its characters are. General Amaya, the maternal aunt of the young protagonists, is the epitome of a badass warrior in full armour, slaying enemies left and right. But she’s also caring and warm, protective of her family and friends. And, with the return of Game of Thrones, I would be remiss not to mention Brienne of Tarth, another warrior with a heart of gold. She can fight, yes, but she can also pledge herself completely to a cause, however ill-advised it might be…She’s loyal to a fault, a perfect embodiment of the knighthood fantasy.

There are so many ways a woman can be strong, and so many ways it can be represented in fantasy. This diversity is compelling: different heroines have different stories, different ways to achieve their goals, be it defeating a Big Evil or keeping their families safe, or both.

There’s a joy in reading about powerful female characters, because they provide catharsis and escapism, or even inspiration. In their faraway worlds, full of strangeness and magic, those who rely on a softer, quieter kind of power are, to me, the most relatable. And the most compelling to read about.

Sara's Profile Picture Sara reviews SFF books at the Fantasy Inn, along with 6 lovely, only occasionally crazy co-bloggers. She’s Moroccan but now lives in France, where a love of pastries will be her doom. When she’s not trying to shove fantasy books into people’s faces, she’s…well, doing the same but with historical romance books.

You can follow her rambling on Twitter, @SharadeeReads