I always find the run-up to Christmas a bit hard. On the one hand, CHRISTMAS! Good food, presents, sparkles and pyjamas!
On the other hand, it's cold, dark, windy and wet outside and I don't do well with those things. So, for me, winter is the perfect time to curl up with all those books I haven't got round to reading yet.
I love a book with a kickass female protagonist.
Although I'll read most genres, I'm a really big fantasy and sci fi fan. I love dystopian fiction, too, anything where there's another world I can explore. But really strong, active female protagonists with a point to prove, a vendetta to realise or a family to protect will always draw me into a story. They're also the kind of characters I write.
So, if, like me, you love a good fantasy or sci fi story with a kickass female protagonist, here are five characters I've read this year that I'd love for you to get to know, too.
1. The One with No Heart
Book: Sweet and Bitter Magic by Adrienne Tooley
This is definitely one of my books of the year. I love the concept of it and I thought Tamsin's character, in particular, was brilliant.
Cursed for a terrible crime she committed five years ago, Tamsin is incapable of love. Banished from the Witchlands, she scrapes a living in the small town of Ladaugh, trading magic for scraps of other people's love so that she might experience a shadow of the feelings she's lost. It's a miserable, lonely existence. But all that's about to change. A dark magic plague is sweeping the land, and a sweet, naive girl made of magic is about to turn up at Tamsin's door and turn her world upside-down.
You'd think it would be really hard to relate to a character who can't love, but actually, Tooley does a brilliant job of making Tamsin feel really relatable, a character you can root for and someone you can sympathise with. Her past is woven brilliantly through the story and the relationship that growns between her and Wren as the story goes on is so heartwarming.
If you love a story with magic duels, characters who need redemption and a properly sweet love story, this is definitely the book for you!
2. The One Who Wields the Weapon
Character: Aurora Ji-Lin O'Malley
Book: Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Ok, so I read this whole series this year and I devoured each of the books in a matter of days. The only reason it took me that long is because I had to keep stopping to do other things. Like work. This series is brilliant on so many levels, but I want to focus mainly on Aurora. She's one of several kickass female characters in this series, though, so it's definitely worth a read. Aurora Rising is the first book.
Aurora Ji-Lin O'Malley studied hard to get her place on the ship that will take her to her family on the planet Octavia. She boards the ship, falls asleep in cryo ... and wakes up two hundred years later. Rescued from the ship, which is collapsing in a fold in space, Aurora becomes part of a rag-tag crew of misfits and outcasts. But something is wrong. Strange soldiers chase her across space. Her crew are accused of a terrible crime they didn't commit and now, a strange power is waking in Aurora, drawing her towards a terrible truth. Can she and her new crew figure out what in the galaxy is going on and, more importantly, can they fix it?
Like I said, I loved the entire cast of characters in these books. But Aurora has a pretty tough time at the start. Waking up two hundred years after she went to sleep, coming to terms with the existence of alien species and the fact her family have been gone a long time is tough enough, but to then discover she's got some mysterious power makes life pretty challenging for Aurora. But she grows so brilliantly during the series. Her voice is so well realised and I love the relationships that grow between her and the rest of the crew, especially the one between her and Kal!
If you want a character who feels super out of her depth but rises to the challenge despite her misgivings, and becomes a genuinely kickass human setting out to save the galaxy, this is TOTALLY your book!
3. The One with Endless Grit
Book: The Call by Paedar O'Guilain
I read this book a while ago, but it's another one I devoured. The worldbuilding and concept is brilliant, and Nessa's character is so brilliant. She just won't give up! It's pretty dark in places and doesn't shy away from some gruesome ideas so if you're a bit sensitive to that sort of thing, approach this book with caution. However, Nessa's character is so briliant and I loved the whole concept of this book!
It's been like this for twenty-five years. Every teenager in Ireland knows to expect The Call. For three minutes and four seconds, they'll disappear from the world they know and enter the world of the Sidhe, the nightmarish realm of the faerie where time is warped and everything wants to unmake them. Of every ten teenagers called, nine won't make it back alive, and those that do often have horrific scars. The Sidhe don't just want to kill you, they want to destroy you. For Nessa, this is probably a death sentence. With a disability that prevents her walking, let alone running, it's unlikely she'll be able to escape the Sidhe. But Nessa is determined to live. Training at survival college, she awaits her Call as, one by one, the friends around her disappear. And most never make it home.
This concept is so dark and gritty, it gripped me right from the start. More than that, though, I just loved Nessa. She's so determined, despite the things that hold her back. She refuses to see the Call as certain death, and just works to make sure she gets out alive. As the story builds and Nessa's Call gets ever closer, she really digs deep. The extremity of the world meant the characters were pushed right to the limit, but Nessa had my admiration right from the start.
If you want a dark, gritty world with a female character who refuses to give in despite the odds, pick up The Call.
4. The One Who Adopts Them All
Character: Kyra Green
Book: Dragons Don't Eat Meat by Kim McDougall
Kyra's voice got me straight away. The worldbuilding in this book is super cool and the amalgamation of loads of mythical creatures, magics and magical tech was really interesting. I love Kyra's character because she's got so much heart, but is also fighting an inner turmoil that was really interesting and unique. I basically want Kyra's life, adopting all the mythical creatures she can find, rescuing dragons and dervishes and being a kickass awesome hero with a magic sword. I just live vicariously through her.
In a future reclaimed by the magic of the Earth, Kyra Green is a pest controller of magical animals. But with so much compassion, there was no way she was ever going to exterminate those pests. Instead, she mostly adopts them and her home and office are often in chaos as a result. Investigating a disturbance one day, Kyra Green witnesses the brutality of a group of dragon rustlers clearly using the poor creatures to find some treasure. She frees the dragons (obviously) but things quickly take a stranger turn. It becomes clear the dragon rustlers are after something far scarier than gold, and involved in something far more dangerous than dragon rustling.
I really love Kyra as a character. Part Valkyrie, she has a pretty rough past and has a magic sword that thirsts for blood. She's constantly fighting the war-mongering Valkyrie part of her, but she's got so much love and compassion, especially for magical creatures, that you totally understand her dilemma. There's a great relationship between her and Mason, a cursed gargoyle, several hundred years old. I love the banter between them, and I also love Kyra's relationship with her little fire dervish. The magic system is pretty cool, too.
If you like big-hearted characters, magical creatures and world-shaking adventures that culminate in epic battles, this is definitely your book!
It's also the first of a series well worth geting hooked on.
5. The One Made of Fire
Book: Seraphina's Lament by Sarah Chorn
This is another dark one, in a world torn apart by drought, famine and twisted magic and with a range of brilliant characters. Be prepared for death, though, and plenty of heart-rending moments. Like The Call, there's some brutality in this book so it isn't for the faint-hearted, but it's an exceptionally well-written book with a well-crafted world and kickass characters.
Seraphina is a slave. Bound to the brutal man in charge of a dying world, Seraphina holds on to the memory of her brother, whom she helped escape years ago. They are both powerful. His power was water, hers is fire. And despite the disability she now carries, having been tortured by her oppressor, Seraphina's power is growing. Because the Sunset Lands is dying. Famine stretches the region, refugees flee hunger and death. And now, a strange power moved through the desert towards the city of Lord's Reach. Something is happening, and Seraphina is part of it. But first she must break, before she can become.
The thing I loved most about Seraphina was her rage. She was angry and, to be honest, I'd be, too, if I'd been oppressed and brutalised by someone just for fun. I love how she faces her oppressor, I love the growth of her power and I love her inner strength. This book is so beautifully written, but the characters are really compelling and the events really reflect the brutality of the world of the Sunset Lands. I feel like we don't see enough female characters who really own their anger, so I properly rooted for Seraphina. We need more angry female characters!
If you like books with characters who fight back, worlds full of darkness and uncertainty and an incredible showdown at the end, dive into Seraphina's Lament!
I hope you fall as in love with these books as I did, and enjoy the journeys of these brilliant, kickass female protagonists. I learned a lot from all of them and apart from having been on a bunch of uproarious adventures with them, I definitely feel I'm a better person for having spent time with them. Happy reading!
Peace and Love,
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