The past few years have seen an uprising of strong, female characters, but what about the pre-existing ladies that have been kicking butt for years? Someone needs to shine some light on some of the lesser-known badass babes, and that is where I come in. I’ve selected five of my favourite warrior women from various fantasy-based genres — from graphic novels to contemporary urban fantasy. Is this a comprehensive list? Nope, but this year I am making it my mission to read books about or featuring at least five more ladies to add to this list. OK, enough chit-chat, let’s just dive right in!
Dante Valentine from the Dante Valentine series by Lilith Saintcrow
About ten years ago, I was working a crummy retail job that I hated and I needed something to read on my breaks, something that would help me escape the monotony of daily life. That’s where Dante Valentine came in.
There used to be a small, locally owned bookstore (many years later, I would actually wind up managing that very same bookstore) where I lived, and while cruising through the sci-fi/fantasy section, I discovered a hidden gem: he first book in the Dante Valentine series.
I am always craving stories with sarcastic and emotionally distant female leads (not that I relate to them at all, in any way), and Dante “Danny” Valentine is all that and more. The whole series follows the life of a necromancer/mercenary that takes no shit but gives plenty. After taking a job working for the Devil, Dante’s life gets flip-turned upside down, but instead of moving to Bel-Air, she cuts a bloody swath through various cities, takes a demon lover, and becomes part-demon herself. You know, normal girl stuff. Danny, as her very few friends call her, makes foolish decisions from time to time, but ultimately she uses her extensive training and quick reflexes to protect her loved ones and maintain relative peace in a dark world.
Eleret from The Raven Ring by Patricia C. Wrede
This book has my heart, but only upon seeing Wonder Woman did I regain my full appreciation for this character.
Much like the highly lauded Diana Prince, Eleret comes from a long line of strong, proud warrior women. In her culture, the men stay home and run things while the women go to war — in most instances anyway, and certainly for Eleret’s family.
In the book, our heroine must travel from her mountain home to a big city to collect her dead mother’s possessions. The ensuing trip is an absolute whirlwind for Eleret, as she must use all her skills and training to keep herself and her mother’s mysterious raven ring safe from sinister forces. This story is a classic fish-out-of-water tale, but Eleret and all the other characters take this story to the next level. While she untangles the mystery of the Raven Ring, this badass asserts herself but still allows others to help when the time comes. Eleret also gets tangled in one of my favourite literary love triangles of all time, but she makes an excellent choice in the end and sticks with the man that celebrates her independent spirit. I cannot recommend this book enough.
Andrea from The Walking Dead graphic novels by Robert Kirkman
We can all agree that Andrea from the AMC series based on the graphic novels is kind of the worst. She makes impulsive and rash decisions with increasing regularity right up until (SPOILER ALERT) her long-overdue death. However, 2D Andrea is a kickass lady of endless prowess.
On the page, Andrea is the best shot amongst the bunch, and she’s able to make tough choices. She’s more like Rick, really. Speaking of Rick, he and Andrea become a power couple at one point and it’s low-key hot as heck. Previous to that, Andrea was romantically tangled up with Dale, the older gentleman with the RV and the bucket hat.
Unlike her television counterpart, this Andrea generally makes even, measured decisions and kicks more ass than any other female character (until Michonne, of course). And as much as I hated Andrea in The Walking Dead show, the Andrea in Kirkman’s novels is amazing. I also really admire Laurie Holden, the actress that played Andrea; if you don’t know about her human rights crusade I highly recommend diving into her Wikipedia.
Karrin Murphy from the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher
I relate to Karrin Murphy more than almost anyone else on this list, and I’ve only read one Dresden File book. I was given the first book as a gift. (See, my ex-boyfriend is a huge fan and from time to time I’d say or do something and he’d laugh and say, “Dammit, you need to read The Dresden Files. You are basically real life Murph.”)
After getting to know the badass Chicago Special Investigations detective, I was so incredibly flattered. Author Jim Butcher has managed to build a strong and pragmatic female character that isn’t only there to provide motivation or sexual tension. Which isn’t to say that eventually she and Harry Dresden don’t have some serious chemistry, but that’s not her sole purpose in the series either.
Murphy is tough and sharp, and she calls people on their bullshit, but she isn’t without her own flaws. As interesting as the titular Harry is, I genuinely want to keep reading this series because of Karrin Murphy, and that speaks volumes about her character.
Catti-Brie from the Legend of Drizzt series by R. A. Salvatore
I haven’t actually read any Drizzt books, but the story of Cattie-Brie is the fascinating driving force behind my desire to read these books. After a goblin raid left her an orphan, Cattie-Brie was adopted by Bruenor Battlehammer, a powerful dwarven King. She proved herself to be a formidable warrior after training under both her adoptive father and Drizzt himself. Cattie-Brie and Drizzt spent their honeymoon hunting pirates, and like my main homegirl Buffy Summers, she was reincarnated. She is kindhearted and pragmatic and is the moral compass for her entire party. After an injury leaves her unable to fight, Cattie-Brie trains in magic before her untimely death and subsequent reincarnation. She is described as having spellscars, and though I don’t know exactly what that is, it sounds like a badass tattoo and I am into it. Drizzt is legendary, but he would be nowhere without the fierce Cattie-Brie.
Who are your favourite badass ladies from books? Let us know in the comments below!