Friday, July 20, 2018

Quiet Heroines

   Among the ranks of kick-ass heroines armed with martial arts, swords, and revolvers are the women and girls who are descendants of Jane Austen's female protagonists and Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. Like Nancy Drew, they use smarts, and, like Alice in Wonderland, they use curiosity to negotiate their stories.
   Here are some of my favorite bookish heroines:

Ariane in Moonwise by Greer Ilene Gilman 
Set in the contemporary British Isles, this lyrical tale is about Ariane, a gawky girl who must navigate a faery-haunted woods nearby to rescue her best friend. Language is the primary weapon here, and it is used beautifully.

Kate in The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope
In this Elizabethan fantasy, Kate, a handmaiden to the the exiled Princess Elizabeth, must use her wits to solve the mystery of a child's disappearance and rescue an arrogant boy she's reluctantly grown fond of from the faeries.

Eddi in War for the Oaks by Emma Bull
In contemporary Minneapolis, Eddi, a young musician, can see what she shouldn't. Like Kate, she must outwit the queen of an ancient race to save those she cares about.

Jenny Waynest in Dragonbane by Barbara Hambly
This woman and mother is a half-taught mage and a female version of those wizards in fantasy novels. She is the center of the story, not her be-spectacled dragonslaying husband. Jenny finds another way to defeat a dragon.

Jane in The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee
In the future, sheltered Jane falls in love with a beautiful boy who happens to be an automaton. She must wage a futile battle against the establishment with a little help from her friends.

Wendy in Winterlong by Elizabeth Hand
In yet another future, Wendy, struggling with mental illness, makes her way across a broken chemical-damaged landscape, seeking her possessed twin brother. Her only weapon is her intellect and the poison within her.

Blue in The Raven Boys series by Maggie Stiefvater
Young Blue is a thoughtful, introverted girl raised by witchy women. Her friends are a group of unique boys. It is Blue who holds them together so none of them face some truly nasty characters alone.

While the quiet heroine might sometimes use magic or other special abilities, she rarely takes up arms. She uses her wits. Despite having a touch of the introvert, she establishes loyal friendships due to her curiosity and compassion for others. And, although it sometimes seems as if she'd rather curl up with a good book and a cup of tea, she will forge onward, against dragons, faery queens, and corrupt governments, fearless.