The Best Books That Feature Heroic Female Leads

April Genevieve Tucholke Author Of The Boneless Mercies
By April Genevieve Tucholke

The Books I Picked & Why

A Game of Thrones

By George RR Martin

A Game of Thrones

Why this book?

Unlike certain popular fantasy series, the female characters in Martin’s books are not unfathomable objects, but fully fleshed human beings capable of great heroism (and great violence). Arya Stark is one of the most vengeful, fearless, complex female protagonists to be found in fantasy, and Brienne of Tarth’s warrior-with-a-heart-of-gold would melt the most seasoned fantasy reader’s heart.


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Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy

By L.A. Meyer

Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy

Why this book?

An orphan on the streets of London, Jacky soon finds herself playing the role of ship’s boy on the HMS Dolphin. Jacky is, in turn, cunning, wild, bossy, loving, brave, flirtatious, and arrogant. She loves a crowd, especially when that crowd is staring right at her. Unforgettable. The audiobook, in particular, is exceptional.


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Circe

By Madeline Miller

Circe

Why this book?

This is a captivating read, even for those readers who aren’t into Greek mythology. Circe transforms from a lonely, despised lesser goddess to a powerful outcast-witch, easily embodying the fascinating role of the morally-gray hero.


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True Grit

By Charles Portis

True Grit

Why this book?

The fourteen-year-old protagonist of True Grit, Mattie Ross, is the sort of pert, hyper-clever, steely female character that is hard to find outside a Larry McMurtry novel. Worth reading for her alone.


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Sabriel

By Garth Nix

Sabriel

Why this book?

Published long before young adult literature hit bestseller lists, let alone had its own section in most bookstores, Sabriel is unexpectedly dark—the protagonist is a teenage necromancer who travels into death—and Sabriel herself is just the sort of fierce, resourceful hero that can easily carry a fantasy on her muscled shoulders.


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