The best books with badass heroines that inspired my main character

Who am I?

I love a smart, capable, skilled, determined heroine who’ll risk it all for the people she loves and the things she believes in. History and popular culture have long overlooked, minimized, or outright ignored the contributions of women and girls, especially in times of strife or hardship. Writing the Devil’s Revolver series, I wanted women from all walks of life proactively working to change the world and their own circumstances, wherever their paths lead them. Throughout, my protagonist, Hettie Alabama, develops allyship and understanding with women who have their own ideas, opinions, dreams, and desires, and together, they shape their own destinies and the fate of the world.


I wrote...

The Devil's Revolver

By V.S. McGrath,

Book cover of The Devil's Revolver

What is my book about?

The first book in an epic, magic-clad series featuring a reimagined Wild West, The Devil’s Revolver takes off across the landscape after a brutal double murder and kidnapping — to which revenge is the only answer. Hettie Alabama, only seventeen, leads her crew of underdogs with her father’s cursed revolver, magicked to take a year off her life each time she fires it. It’s no way for a ranch girl to grow up, but grow up she does, her scars and determination to rescue her vulnerable sister deepening with every year of life she loses.

A sweeping and high-stakes saga that gilds familiar Western adventure with powerful magic and panoramic fantasy, The Devil’s Revolver is the last word and the blackest hat in the Weird West.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of True Grit

V.S. McGrath Why did I love this book?

I watched the 2010 remake of this movie starring Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld and just had to read the book. Farmgirl Mattie Ross teams up with a hired gun, seeking someone with “true grit” to help her avenge her father’s murder. At turns comedic and somber, Mattie was everything I wanted my main character to be—gutsy, stubborn, and pragmatic, but also vulnerable and prone to be led astray by her own naivete.

By Charles Portis,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked True Grit as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

There is no knowing what lies in a man's heart. On a trip to buy ponies, Frank Ross is killed by one of his own workers. Tom Chaney shoots him down in the street for a horse, $150 cash, and two Californian gold pieces. Ross's unusually mature and single-minded fourteen-year-old daughter Mattie travels to claim his body, and finds that the authorities are doing nothing to find Chaney. Then she hears of Rooster - a man, she's told, who has grit - and convinces him to join her in a quest into dark, dangerous Indian territory to hunt Chaney down…


Book cover of The Shrike

V.S. McGrath Why did I love this book?

The first time I saw Pretty Deadly on the shelves at my local comic book store, I was fascinated and chilled by the cover art, and the story within did not disappoint. This Eisner-Award-nominated graphic novel by Captain Marvel writer Kelly Sue DeConnick melds Western and horror genres for a macabre tale about Death’s daughter, Deathface Ginny, riding a horse made of smoke and wind across the harsh and unrelenting landscapes of a brutal Wild West, doling out retribution. I love me some grim reaping, and the same dark, evocative imager. I love me some grim reaping, and I wanted the same dark, evocative imagery to come through on my pages and through Hettie’s own journey with the cursed gun Diablo at her side.   

By Kelly Sue DeConnick, Emma Rios (artist),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Shrike as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

Kelly Sue DeConnick (Avengers Assemble, Captain Marvel) and Emma Rios (Dr. Strange, Osborn) present the collected opening arc of their surprise-hit series that marries the magical realism of Sandman with the western brutality of Preacher. Death's daughter rides the wind on a horse made of smoke and her face bears the skull marks of her father. Her origin story is a tale of retribution as beautifully lush as it is unflinchingly savage.

"It's a perfect match for the gorgeous, dizzying artwork in a sumptuous palette-overlaid panels add intricate choreography to fight scenes, and detailed, whirling splash pages beg for long-lingering…


Book cover of The Golden Compass

V.S. McGrath Why did I love this book?

Pullman’s His Dark Materials series is one of my all-time favorite reads, period. Lyra is a stubborn, precocious girl on the cusp of adolescence, trying to rescue her kidnapped friend from a corrupt authority bent on remaking the world. This series is set in an alternate universe in which magic, religion, and science are intertwined, and takes Lyra on an interdimensional journey that puts everything on the line.

By Philip Pullman,

Why should I read it?

26 authors picked The Golden Compass as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

The first volume in Philip Pullman's groundbreaking
HIS DARK MATERIALS trilogy, now a thrilling, critically
acclaimed BBC/HBO television series. First published
in 1995, and acclaimed as a modern masterpiece, this first
book in the series won the UK's top awards for children's literature.

"Without this child, we shall all
die."

Lyra Belacqua and her animal daemon live
half-wild and carefree among scholars of Jordan College, Oxford.

The destiny that awaits her will take her to the frozen lands
of the Arctic, where witch-clans reign and ice-bears fight.

Her extraordinary journey will have immeasurable consequences
far beyond her own world...



This…


Book cover of Alanna

V.S. McGrath Why did I love this book?

This first book in the Song of the Lioness series was one of my entrees into fantasy. It follows a girl who dresses up as a boy and takes her brother’s place studying to be a knight in a magical feudal world. Alanna perseveres despite many challenges, all while maintaining her secret, and over the series, she becomes the first Lady Knight.

By Tamora Pierce,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Alanna as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 11, 12, 13, and 14.

What is this book about?

From Tamora Pierce, the first book in the Song of the Lioness Quartet, honored with the Margaret A. Edwards Award.

“From now on I’m Alan of Trebond, the younger twin. I’ll be a knight.”

In a time when girls are forbidden to be warriors, Alanna of Trebond wants nothing more than to be a knight of the realm of Tortall. So she finds a way to switch places with her twin brother, Thom. Disguised as a boy, Alanna begins her training as a page at the palace of King Roald. But the road to knighthood, as she discovers, is not…


Book cover of Poison Study

V.S. McGrath Why did I love this book?

It’d been quite a few years since I’d found a heroine and a world that really spoke to me, and the opening chapter of Poison Study hooked me right away. Yelena is slated to be executed when she’s offered a choice: become the new royal poison tester or death. No fool, she chooses a chance at life in court and all the intrigue and conspiracy it offers. I loved her complicated romance and the myriad challenges she faced, all set against the looming threat of death with every day and every meal that passes. That tension was something I loved.

By Maria V. Snyder,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Poison Study as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How much is your life worth?

In the territory of Ixia the government maintains control through the Code of Behaviour, forbidding the practice of magic, but danger lurks in mysterious places...

Imprisoned for murder Yelena Zaltana's punishment is death, until she is reprieved - for a price.

As the Commander of Ixia's food taster she will risk assassination from poison daily, a position she would be a fool to refuse... In a world where magic equals death and freedom is for the lucky few, survival is all Yelena has and the battle for her life has just begun.

A CHRONICLES…


You might also like...

The Blighted Mission

By E. Chris Ambrose,

Book cover of The Blighted Mission

E. Chris Ambrose Author Of The Mongol's Coffin

New book alert!

Who am I?

As an art school drop-out who'd been majoring in sculpture, I'm fascinated by material culture—artifacts created by early peoples that reveal their cultural values. Often, the relics and sites that engage both archaeologists and readers suggest unexpected depths of knowledge that show human ingenuity through the ages. I strive to incorporate the details of an artifact or monument's creation into the clues and descriptions in my work, hopefully illuminating a little-known historical realm, if only by torchlight as the adventure unfolds. The fact that I get to explore so many exotic locations, in research if not in person, is a definite plus!

E. Chris' book list on weaving adventure and history

What is my book about?

Disgraced British anthropologist Nigel Rowe hopes his YouTube adventure channel will be just the treat to redeem him, but vengeful treasure hunters have other plans! Seeking a legendary Jesuit mission in Baja, Nigel saves his producer’s life when the man takes a bullet meant for him. 

When an ex-Marine strolls up for a bodyguard interview, and dresses him down for his lax security, she might be precisely what he needs, or the last face he'll ever see. They plunge into the desert in search of fame, fortune and viral footage. Will he survive long enough to work out who's after him or meet a sticky end in the mountains of Mexico? All he can hope is that his new partner's doesn’t pull the trigger herself.

The Blighted Mission

By E. Chris Ambrose,

What is this book about?

A disgraced British anthropologist hopes his YouTube adventure channel will redeem him, but vengeful treasure hunters have other plans.

From the author of the internationally best-selling Bone Guard archaeological adventures!

On the trail of a legendary Jesuit mission in Baja—and the treasure it may contain—Nigel Rowe leaps into action to save the life of his producer when the man takes a bullet meant for Nigel. Alas, the list of those who might wish him dead spans the globe and ranges from American treasure hunters to Russian mobsters to his own dear brother, with their mother's consent if not her explicit…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in knights, good and evil, and revenge?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about knights, good and evil, and revenge.

Knights Explore 63 books about knights
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