Today we want to give a huge bookpusher welcome to blogger and reviewer, Kmont. Kenda owns and runs the most awesome Lurve la Mode review site, and when we started planning this celebration, I automatically thought of Kenda because of her love for Fantasy.
First of all, thank you to the Book Pushers for being so patient with me ever since asking if I’d like to contribute a guest post. I took my sweet time getting it to them. No, like, a seriously sweet, long time. Partly because of work and home stress – if anyone’s clicked over to my own book blog lately, you’ll see a dearth of inactivity – but I also kept stumbling on what the heck to even talk about.
Then I started thinking about how my reading habits and likes and dislikes have changed over the years. I started out reading as a primarily fantasy reader. I thought about how largely the Heralds of Valdemar series by Mercedes Lackey influenced me as a young reader, how its main character, a young girl named Talia and her adventures in becoming a herald of Valdemar completely swept me away. I realized that the reason I love that series so much – and I plan to reread it again this year for the upteen millionth time – is because the main character is female and she is…profound. So profound to me. She faces unspeakable horrors and comes out of it all a strong woman. And she does all of this as someone who is actively involved in influencing the plot, not simply as a character that everything happens to.
Now, I realize I’m remembering Talia through the haze of a long ago childhood love of the books she’s in, but this also made me realize how, as I’ve grown older, I truly have come to appreciate a female character with agency in fantasy novels. Agency is a term I’ve just recently come to know in regards to reading, thanks to its use on various other book blogs. That’s the term I was missing from my vocabulary soup to show why female characters had become so important to me. I want them to be strong and lead the book, not just sit back, wait for things to happen and for other characters to bring the book’s opportunities to them.
Let’s not confuse this with the dreaded TSTL syndrome, though – Too Stupid To Live, an acronym I learned thanks to romance reading, but it no less present in any other genre. I don’t care to read about any character that can’t either make a smart decision from the get-go, or at the very least can’t make a dumb error but then fix it. But often the TSTL moment is a contrived device anyway and that’s why it’s so frustrating – it’s rarely acknowledged in the characterization or plot as a dumb move.
I think female characters hauling a bag full of agency can make mistakes. They can be full of faults and imperfections and things that make a reader wince. Bad things can and will happen to them. But they have traits that balance those as well. They have the ability to think past and beyond their faults, or to find a way to turn those bad traits and situations into something useful. Those are the kinds of female characters I like. The ones that figure things out and, yes, somehow end up saving the day.
It’s amazing to me that, in our day and age, that women are treated so completely poorly in many ways still – it’s no wonder I look for instances of strong, positive and heroic fictional women to entertain me. Ones that fight hard and aren’t afraid to love. Ones who believe in something and gain respect while striving for that belief. I love it when I find them in a fantasy novel.
I was hoping maybe we could all discuss fantasy books that feature some amazing female characters. And not that the guys can’t be wonderful as well (I hold a special place in my reading heart for Harry Dresden, for example), but I felt a particular need to highlight the ladies this go around. I’ve included a small list of books I’ve read in recent years that I feel featured particularly noteworthy female characters. What are some of yours?
My list is in no particular order..well, unless What Pops Into My Mind First counts.
The Spiritwalker books by Kate Elliott – Cold Magic and Cold Fire
The October Daye books by Seanan McGuire – every single one!
The Dragoneye series by Alison Goodman – Eon and Eona
The Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews – but of course, right?
The Rachel Morgan/Hollows series by Kim Harrison
The Allie Beckstrom series by Devon Monk
OK, so those are just a jumping off point – let’s hear what books you’d rec for some great, woman-empowering reading.
(And thanks, Book Pushers, for the invite and space to talk on your great blog!)