“…when I see anyone big pick on someone small, well, there’s going to be a fight.” – Keladry of Mindelan from First Test by Tamora Pierce.
Keladry is a 10-year-old girl who has gone to the palace for training to become a female knight in her quest to protect those who cannot protect themselves. The character type of a strong female lead character became a trend over the past 8-10 years in YA fiction. Tamora Pierce is one of the few authors that were writing this type of character before they became so popular and a staple of YA fiction, especially in the fantasy genre.
This character type is strong, courageous, independent and willful, trying to do the right thing and defeat wrongs in their world. The trials and challenges these female characters struggle to overcome create the emotional drama that makes the books intriguing. So many of these women are relatable as they stumble and fall on the road to reach their goal. They feel all the anger, frustration, doubt, pain, sadness, desire, love, friendship, and happiness that comes with that journey. The way the emotions play out during the book and how the character handles everything makes her so human and such a fascinating character to read about.
We’ve made a list of books we think best demonstrate why a strong female lead character makes such a compelling read. Don’t miss our featured review. Check out these books today!
DB 75760 Daughter of smoke and bone, book 1 by Laini Taylor
Annotation: Annotation: Karou, an enigmatic art student in Prague, carries a sketchbook of hideous monsters--the chimaera who form her family. When a supernatural war separates them from Karou, she must investigate the mystery of her own identity. Some strong language and some descriptions of sex. For senior high and older readers. 2011.
DB 78549 Days of blood and starlight, book 2 by Laini Taylor
Annotation: Karou finally knows who--and what--she is. But Karou also finds herself at war with the boy she loves. Sequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone (DB 75760). Unrated. Commercial audiobook. For senior high and older readers. 2012.
DB 78550 Dreams of gods and monsters, book 3 by Laini Taylor
Annotation: When a brutal angel army trespasses into the human world, Karou and Akiva must ally their enemy armies against the threat while larger dangers loom on the horizon. Sequel to Days of Blood and Starlight (DB 78549). Unrated. Commercial audiobook. For senior high and older readers. 2014.
This trilogy features beautiful, blue haired Karou with black eyes and Hamsas on her palms. Raised by Brimstone, a chimaera (a creature made by piecing together different animals), she spends her days attending art classes in Prague and collecting teeth for Brimstone. Through her sketches she shares her human life with her chimaera family, and her chimaera family with her human friend Zuzana, even if Zuzana thinks Karou makes it all up.
One day, Karou's entire life is upended by Akiva, a seraphim (creature that looks like an angel) whom she can’t help but feel connected to. Just as she begins to feel confident in herself and her love for Akiva, she realizes that she doesn’t know who she is at all. Karou is forced to choose between her people and what Akiva did when he thought he had lost her. Although war between chimaera and seraphim seems endless, there is a bigger danger that threatens to destroy all life, everywhere.
Throughout the trilogy Karou experiences a series of circumstances that force her to reevaluate her view of herself and her priorities throughout her trials and with every new discovery. She learns to trust herself and to rely in her friends and in doing so, she realizes that she is strong enough not only to hope, but to fight to protect her hope. With each new and more powerful foe she discovers the strength and endurance to help her people and her love survive even when everything seems lost.
By Nataly Renfro, Circulation Clerk
DB 86706 Three dark crowns by Kendare Blake
Annotation: Triplets Mirabella, Katharine, and Arsinoe, equal heirs to the crown, possess unique magical abilities, but only one has a chance of becoming the crowned queen. Once they turn sixteen, the sisters must battle each other for the throne. For senior high and older readers. 2016.
DB 67938 Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Annotation: In a world where some people are born with an extreme and often-feared skill, Katsa struggles with hers--the "grace" of killing. When she first encounters Prince Po, whose grace is incompatible with hers, she doesn't foresee the bond that will form between them. Some violence. For senior high readers. 2008.
DB 91090 Furyborn by Claire Legrand
Annotation: Rielle, a prophesied queen, and Eliana, a bounty hunter, fight in a cosmic war that spans centuries. Their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world and of each other. Unrated. Commercial audiobook. For senior high and older readers. 2018.
DB 44682 Sabriel by Garth Nix
Annotation: Sabriel was sent to school outside the Old Kingdom for her safety. Now in her last year of study, she receives her father's necromancy tools, indicating that he is dead. Determined to find his body, Sabriel reenters the Old Kingdom and confronts the evil forces of life and death. Some violence. For junior and senior high readers.
DB 96412 Shatter the sky by Rebecca Kim Wells
Annotation: Maren, desperate to save her kidnapped girlfriend, plans to steal one of the emperor's dragons and storm the Aurati stronghold. But her success depends on becoming an apprentice dragon trainer--which proves to be a dangerous venture. Unrated. Commercial audiobook. For senior high and older readers. 2019.
DB 90713 Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian
Theodosia, called Ash Princess, has been held captive by the brutal Kaiser since she witnessed her mother's murder. Theodosia is now sixteen and prepared to reclaim the throne by any means necessary. Unrated. Commercial audiobook. For senior high and older readers. 2018.
DB101561 Woven in moonlight by Isabel Ibañez
Annotation: Ximena is the decoy Condesa, a stand-in for the last remaining royal. Motivated by her insatiable thirst for revenge against the usurper, Atos, Ximena plans to deceive him and uses her rare ability to spin thread from moonlight to her advantage. Commercial audiobook. For senior high and older readers. 2020.
DB 52767 First test by Tamora Pierce
Annotation: Ten-year-old Keladry is dismayed that she must pass a year's probation to be the first female page in Tortall. But her desire to become a knight and protect people is so strong that Kel accepts the condition. Followed by Page (DB 52768). For grades 5-8. 1999.
DB 79916 The young elites by Marie Lu
Annotation: Adelina Amouteru survived the blood fever, a deadly illness that killed many, but left others with strange markings and supernatural powers. Cast out by her family, Adelina joins the secret society of the Young Elites and discovers her own dangerous abilities. Some violence. Commercial audiobook. For senior high and older readers. 2014.
DB 84702 The star-touched queen by Roshani Chokshi
Annotation: Princess Maya's arranged marriage turns out much better than she expected, but her husband's magic and her curiosity may threaten more than her life. Contains some strong language and some violence. Commercial audiobook. For senior high and older readers. 2016.
DB 90928 Children of blood and bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Annotation: Seventeen-year-old Zélie, her older brother Tzain, and rogue princess Amari fight to restore magic and maji to the land, but they are ruthlessly pursued by the crown prince, who believes the return of magic will mean the end of the monarchy. Commercial audiobook. Contains some violence and some strong language. For senior high and older readers. 2018.
DB 76152 Throne of glass by Sarah J. Maas
Annotation: Dragged to a treacherous magical land, nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin, a High Lord of the faeries. Her feelings for him become complicated. Some violence, some strong language, and some explicit descriptions of sex. For senior high and older readers. 2015.