Alright, here’s the deal. Karou from Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy is forever just sitting inside of my heart, longing for me to shout about her (KAROUUUUUUUU) like the good old days (what, earlier this year?), and I miss her fiercely. I’ve never quite loved a character like I loved Karou, and much like I started looking for the next Ava Lavender book, I’m always on the lookout for another Karou. It’s been a lot lately, though, missing Karou, so I’ve decided to compile a totally random, non-comprehensive list of my favorite female characters. They’re in no particular order, though Karou is first, and there’s sure to be a lot of rambling and capslock involved in this post, so proceed with caution!
MotherFREAKING KAROU. I’m going to try to keep it in check, but I make no promises. Karou comes to us from Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and not only does she have blue hair that she wishes out of her head, hamsa tattoos on her hands, and is a kickass artist, she’s also friend to angels & demons. Why do I love Karou? Let’s bullet point it.
- Her blue hair is literally wished out of her head. She was a child when she wished for blue hair, and it just started happening.
- She’s one of the few tattooed MCs I know about, and it makes me feel seen.
- She ain’t got time for anyone’s bullshit. Seriously, she’s going to do what she wants and flip you off if you try to stop her.
- Despite being thrown into a chaotic war of angels vs demons and different dimensions, she still makes time for her best friend, Zuzana, and if there’s one thing I love more than anything, it’s female friendships.
- She lives in Prague!
I’ve talked before (and repeatedly) about why Clary Fray is one of my faves, so this shouldn’t come as even a little of a shock. We first meet Clary in Cassandra Clare’s wildly popular Shadowhunters universe. The first published series, The Mortal Instruments, stars Clary as its MC in City of Bones, and though there are several other series outside of TMI, we’re only here to talk about my main girl.
- When she’s upended into a crazy ass world of literally every mythical creature ever, she takes a moment to breathe, look around, and then say, “Alright, I’m in. How can I help?”
- People give her shit constantly for being little and a mundane, and Clary just whoops their ass to prove them wrong.
- She saves everyone’s lives! All! the! damn! time! She’s constantly throwing herself in the line of fire to make sure her friends and family are okay, and she’s usually the reason they get out of a sticky situation.
- FEMALE FRIENDSHIPS! Her friendship with Isabelle is easily one of my favorites, but she also gets along really well with Maia and Emma, and I just love her, okay.
- Her relationship with Simon has to be noted, too, because not only are they best friends turned lovers turned best friends again, but they constantly have open lines of communication with each other and they’re able to navigate their changing relationship not exactly with ease, but with understanding. Clary proves that women and men can be friends with no trouble.
There are no works of art yet from this series, and I am permanently upset about it, so instead, here’s my picture and I’ll do my best to shout about Esta Filosik so someone can realize how badly she needs to be loved. Esta comes to us from Lisa Maxwell’s The Last Magician, and the finale is slated for next year, so get reading now!
- Time travel! Esta can easily fit into any time she travels to because she’s studying laboriously to make sure she’s the most efficient at her job.
- She hasn’t got time for any man to think she needs to rely on him. In fact, when several men in early 1900s Manhattan try to let her lean on them, Esta straight up rolls her eyes and goes off on her own, and it’s great.
- When being a woman is not conducive to getting shit done in the time period, Esta gives a big ole shrug and cuts off her hair. I mean, girl, I definitely would not have been able to do that willy nilly.
- She is soft and hard all at once, and it’s beautiful.
I recognize Dara is not a woman, but finding fanart of just Nahri is impossible, so this is what we’ve got, and anyway, it’s my favorite ever. SA Chakraborty’s The City of Brass is not only probably my favorite book of 2019, but Nahri was the first time I finally felt like I’d truly found another Karou. I would die for her, guys.
- You know how MCs sometimes act all Chosen One because they have magical powers? Nah, Nahri’s just like “I’m here to fix some people’s lives and then be on my way, no thanks necessary because gratitude makes me nauseous” like some kind of gremlin.
- Also, I love that she knows about her gifts, doesn’t just discover them and decide she’s gotta change the world with them. She’s content to quietly hang out in Cairo and heal people.
- Y’ALL. Oh my god. When she’s basically given the choice to marry against her will or die, Nahri tosses her hair and says, “Okay, but make it worth my while” TO THE KING.
- Treason? Yeah, of course, she’s down.
- She’s just literally Karou-level badass, and I’m game for whatever she wants.
Again, we haven’t got art yet for Pamela Dawes, so I’m here to scream about her on my own! If I only had time to shout about one character on this list, it would definitely be Dawes, who is a side character in Leigh Bardugo’s recent release, Ninth House. Did Dawes make me cry? You betcha.
- “Instead of hearing her out, you’ve chosen to question her credibility. You may not have meant to imply anything, but the intent and the effect were to silence her, so it’s hard not to think this stinks of victim blaming. It’s the semantic equivalent of saying her skirt was too short.”
- Dawes just wants to write her dissertation, guys, but look, she can also heal you with the occult arts if you ask nicely.
- Her sweatpants/headphones/hood up combo is basically me every weekend.
- She starts out not really giving Alex the time of the day, but slowly starts to build a friendship with her throughout the novel, until they’re both at a WOULD DIE FOR THIS WOMAN phase, and it’s great.
- Dawes will fight anyone who comes at her fellow females.
A list of my fave ladies would not be complete without Ceony Twill from Charlie N Holmberg’s The Paper Magician series. This series seriously took me by surprise in big ways, and I was totally not prepared for how in love with it I was going to be.
- Ceony’s mad about being a paper magician, but she still gets to work and makes sure she’s going to be the best damn paper magician out there.
- SHE COOKS! I have a secret love for characters who cook/bake/just eat in general since literally no one ever does, and Ceony’s recipes sound amazing.
- When she’s saddled with a mostly distracted tutor, Ceony makes sure he both a) stays alive and b) gives her the instruction necessary to become a badass.
- Seriously, how cool could folding paper airplanes actually be? Well, when they explode and give you a thousand paper cuts, you can thank Ceony Twill.
- PAPER HEART!
How did we make it THIS FAR into this list without talking about my number one, BLUE GODDAMN SARGENT. She’s pictured here with Chainsaw, the other best female character in the series, and we’re first introduced to her in Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys when she’s literally watching a procession of the dead.
- starts @ “I hate these raven boys ON PRINCIPLE.” and morphs into “okay wait maybe I should reevaluate hating someone on principle and decide to hate them on their personality because that’s being a more aware human being” before ending @ “these boys suck I love them” and if that’s not the most relatable thing in the series, I don’t know what to tell you.
- Makes badass outfits like the goddamn badass that she is. I can just barely sew up a hole, and here’s Blue putting together an entire dress.
- She’s mostly gotten over being the only one without magic, but when she learns she can amplify magic and basically save everyone, she’s like HELL YEAH HERE WE GO.
- Literally needs no one to save her. Possibly not even herself.
If we’re not stopping in with Amani Al’Hiza on this list, then I’m doing something wrong. Alwyn Hamilton’s Rebel of the Sands is like a YA City of Brass in that it’s overflowing with Arabian mythology and an incredible cast, and I just imagined Amani and Nahri destroying the patriarchy together, and I am malfunctioning?
- Literal sharpshooter, like give her a gun and she is game.
- Casually stops in with a rebellion and becomes one of their leaders.
- SAVES THE ENTIRE WORLD!
- Wait, wait, wait, I just remembered she once drugged Jinn because he tried to kidnap her, and then she peaced the heck out, and I’m still laughing about it.
- Once sailed a ship across a sea of sand because someone told her she couldn’t.
Another desert queen is Laia of Serra from Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes, and honestly, I could write a small essay on why she’s one of my fave ladies, which I’ve kind of already done, so I’ll keep this mostly short.
- One of my absolute favorite things about Laia is how vulnerable she is. So often, women are expected to be badasses only, and Laia is such a perfect example of a fully realized woman as a character. She is all sorts of emotions at different times, and I respect the hell out of Tahir for letting us see that.
- She both stands on her own and relies on other people, which takes an equal amount of strength and resolve.
- She actively learns from her mistakes and takes steps forward to change!
Did you really think you’d escape without one LOTR character? There are a lot of great women that I wanted to feature (Lúthien & Eowyn, namely), but Arwen is my first love. First introduced in The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien, Arwen Evenstar is just everything I wanted to be growing up.
- Shows up speaking Elvish, in flowing clothes, totally impractical, and then is like psyyyyyche I’m actually wielding a sword and here to save your butt.
- “If you want him, come and claim him.”
- Gives up her immortal life so that she can live with the love of her damn life.
- Fights constantly for what she wants, even when everyone is saying she can’t or shouldn’t.
And those are my favorite female characters in literature! They span genres and age ranges, but they’re all women that I’ve looked up to at one point or another in my life, and I am grateful to every single one of them.