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.

by on ‎02-10-2013 11:08 PM
I wish BN channels was 1/2 as effective as you are at identifying new reading prospects for me.
by Moderator dhaupt on ‎02-11-2013 09:03 AM

Great list Paul and I ditto patgolfneb :smileyhappy:


by on ‎02-11-2013 12:01 PM

Looking for a new read.


I think I'll give Blood Oranges a try and blame it on you if I don't like it.


Of course that is unlikely since I've liked every book I've bought on your recommendation.


by Moderator paulgoatallen on ‎02-11-2013 02:16 PM

Pat, Deb, and Larry:

It's comments like those that keep me going. Thank you!  :smileyhappy:

by on ‎02-11-2013 04:19 PM

So glad to see Sabina on the list!  That is one heck of a list of ladies.  Don't know if I'd want to see them all in the same room on a bad day.....maybe not even a good day. ;D


I do think I need to get my hands on Blood Oranges though. Sounds like a book I'd love!  


Thank you Paul!

by rcsallyg on ‎02-11-2013 05:45 PM

Anytime someone speaks negatively about another author,  it automatically makes me want to not read their books. I don't care if that person is a fan, it shows a lack of professional courtesy.  I don't cafe for horror but I certainly don't knock the writers in that genre or type people that read it. So as much as one author may not like or appreciate Stephanie Meyer's novels and style and character representation,  to degrade her and her readers is rude. 

Avid reader,


by bearsekr on ‎02-11-2013 06:51 PM

Harper Blaine from Kat Richardson's "Graywalker" series is my favorite...  great writing!

by P_in_SolomonsMD on ‎02-11-2013 07:41 PM

I've read four of the books on the list and loved them so maybe I'll branch out with one of the other six.  I have to warn you though, I'm a Faith Hunter/Jane Yellowrock die-hard fan!

by Gail_S on ‎02-11-2013 10:20 PM

You listed the best of the best for butt kicking, take no sh*t heroines. Love Paige, Anita, Jane, Cat, & Sabina. Your review of Blood Oranges sounds like a great read and maybe the female James Stark? LOL


I have to get acquainted with Siobhan. Thanks for the great article and the recommendation.





by MADIS ‎02-12-2013 04:23 PM - edited ‎02-12-2013 04:24 PM

Thanks Paul!  You have really helped me get inspired to read some of these out of my TBR pile.  They get buried after awhile.  Still, Blood Oranges sounds like a good next book to me!  Anything to get to make a bookstore run :smileywink:


Keep the inspiration coming!


I also need to say something to the comment left by rcsallyg.  THE CHARACTER lives in a world where there are vampires that brutalize and use her.  Yet, THE CHARACTER also live in a world where there are books that has make vampires seem like good sparkling guys.  This means THE CHARACTER gets to make a comment about that dichotomy.  It really has nothing to do with THE AUTHOR'S opinion, nor is it knocking another author.  It is making a point on how popular opinion of vampires does not meet up with the world this CHARACTER lives in.  Since Stephenie Meyers has made such a dent on popular opinion of vampires, this is one way that an author set up a contrasting expectation for their story.  This is often done with Dracula too.  And, this is by no means the only book that comments on Stephenie Meyers vampires.  I just finished the Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning.  She too comments on Twilight.


by Moderator paulgoatallen on ‎02-12-2013 06:13 PM

Rock on, MADIS. Rock on.

by BrandieC on ‎02-14-2013 05:00 PM

I am not familiar with all of the heroines on your list, Paul, but I would include Lilith Saintcrow's Jill Kismet and maybe Maria Ricardi from Keith Melton's Nighfall Syndicate series.

by on ‎02-14-2013 05:23 PM

OK, so I finished Blood Oranges and loved it.


You're still batting 1000 as far as I'm concerned Paul.


by Moderator paulgoatallen on ‎02-14-2013 05:25 PM

Glad you liked it, Larry! :smileyhappy:

by dreyslibrary on ‎07-03-2013 10:52 AM

Ack! Thanks for adding to my TBR pile, Paul! Just picked up Blood Oranges... It's perplexing to me, though, that Jane's all the way down in #10... o.O

by Spyderdiva on ‎09-20-2013 07:10 AM

I also adore Granuaile from the Iron Druid Chronicles. She has developed over the series so far into an amazing kick-ass heroine, and a good foil to Atticus, the hero. Great series by Kevin Hearne.


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