I frequently run across blogs and reviews from highly respected review sites that describe characters like Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackouse, Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson, and Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan as butt-kicking, decidedly badass heroines.
Please, people. Seriously?
If you’re looking for the baddest of the badass female leads in paranormal fantasy, look no further. I have compiled a list of some of the most butt-kicking and downright intimidating heroines you will ever run across in the pages of a paranormal fantasy.
Included below are necromancers, monster hunters, warrioresses, assassins, bounty hunters, and shapeshifters – ten fictional women that I would be thrilled to have on my side in a fight, or a verbal altercation, or while waiting in line at the DMV…
And as a father with two young daughters, I love the feeling of empowerment that these characters instill – and I love the authors for having the courage to create such strong, self-confident, and competent female leads.
Bottom line: a woman can do anything a man can – and that includes decapitating a vampire, killing a crazed werewolf, and defeating a horde of zombies without help.
While the butt-kicking heroine has unarguably become a cliché in paranormal fantasy, the ten characters listed below are anything but formulaic. Paranormal fantasy naysayers (and I’ve met hundreds of them) assume the female leads are oversexed Amazons in leather pants and stiletto heels. While some of the heroines below may very well have a pair of leather pants and fashionable heels in their closet, I wouldn’t judge them if I were you – because if you do, chances are good you’ll experience defenestration firsthand…
In Blood Oranges, Kiernan turns the badassery up to 11. I have never read a paranormal fantasy with a female lead that is so acerbic, so ill tempered, so foul-mouthed, so nasty, and irrevocably flawed. And that’s the genius of this novel. Kiernan has written what is essentially a paranormal fantasy parody in which she takes some of the genre’s tropes and exaggerates them tenfold. Take the novel’s antihero, Siobhan Quinn, for example. Here is a hardcore heroin junkie who gets bitten by a werewolf and a vampire in the same night and has her already dismal existence turned upside down when she realizes she has become a supernatural weapon in a grudge match between “nasties.”
A satirical look at the tropes of paranormal fantasy, the black-hearted humor in this novel is just relentless. Nothing is safe from Quinn’s ire. The commentary is brutal. Here she rips into Stephenie Meyer:
“And take it from me, vampires sure as hell don’t sparkle… or glitter… or twinkle, no matter what that silly Mormon twit may have written, no matter how many books she’s sold, and no matter how many celibate high school girls have signed themselves up for Team Edward.”
I loved this novel; Kiernan’s wit is razor sharp and there are so many brilliantly sardonic sequences throughout. It’s a treasure trove of great one-liners and it's filled with literary references, from Lovecraft to King to Blake. Blood Oranges is darkly comedic but it’s also incredibly smart and more than a little disturbing.
And Siobhan Quinn… I challenge anyone to find a female paranormal fantasy lead that has an attitude as bad that Kiernan’s monstrous ex-junkie with piranha teeth!
That said: here are my top ten butt-kicking heroines of paranormal fantasy!
Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for the last two decades and has written thousands of reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, Kirkus Reviews, and BarnesandNoble.com. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. You can follow him on Twitter at @paulgoatallen and get all the latest Barnes & Noble book news from @BNBuzz.