Rise of the Kickass Heroines (and Heroes)

I read somewhere recently that there’s a small backlash among urban fantasy readers against the kickass heroine (and, less often, hero) who seems to populate most of the popular series these days.

Kitty Norville is one exception. Recently, I picked up the first few books of Carrie Vaughn’s series. The werewolf named Kitty (and how great is that) starts out, well, weak. Not even so likeable. I ended up liking the series a lot, but the first book almost lost me. I’m glad I kept reading so I could watch Kitty grow as the books progress, but it struck me how hard it is making your character strong enough to be likeable (or, if weak, at least sympathetic) and yet still give them room to grow.

I look at some of my favorite series, and see different tactics.

*In Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series, Mercy embraces her coyote self but also recognizes she’s out of her league around the werewolves and their politics, so she separates herself and uses her skills more often as mediator than aggressor as the series progresses. Her growth is more in terms of her emotional availability than her skills in her shifter guise.

* Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden offers an interesting “growth pattern.” He doesn’t so much develop greater powers (though there is some of that) but he matures a lot.

*In the Sookie Stackhouse series, Charlaine Harris’ Sookie mostly fights/denies/controls her powers. She uses them a bit when she’s forced to, but wants to retain as much normalcy as possible in her life. I like this series a lot. Does Sookie grow as it progresses? I’m not so sure (but you’d better believe I’m waiting for my copy of the new book to arrive today.)

* Of course the great-grandma of UF series heroines is Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake. Anita has grown both emotionally and in terms of power (and, ahem, sexual skills, I guess one would have to say) as this series has moved through–what 17 or 18 books now? She started out kick-ass, but like Dresden has matured in how she uses her powers.

So, who’s your favorite UF heroine or hero? Are you tired of the kickass heroine? And what do you like about how your favorites have grown through their series?

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About Suzanne Johnson

Author of urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and suspense. As Suzanne Johnson, she is the author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series (Royal Street; River Road: Elysian Fields, Pirate's Alley, Belle Chasse, Frenchmen Street (March 2018). Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she is the author of the Penton Legacy series (Redemption; Absolution; Omega; Storm Force; Allegiance; ILLUMINATION); The Collectors series (Lovely, Dark, and Deep; Deadly, Calm, and Cold); and the Wilds of the Bayou series (Wild Man's Curse; Black Diamond).

5 thoughts on “Rise of the Kickass Heroines (and Heroes)

  1. I really like the Mercy series. She might not be the most powerful but there are a lot of times when it’s her skills that ultimately save the day. My favorite UF heroine at the moment is Ilona Andrews, Kate Daniels series. In the first book, Kate’s smart mouth constantly led to trouble, which annoyed the heck out of me but she has grown into a nice heroine. She is a good friend and always trys to do the right thing no matter how much trouble it causes.

  2. My all time favorite is Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels.

    I also started with Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld.
    I still love Elena the best. She’s the only who can still make Clay cringe.

  3. Man, you guys are giving me more to read! I haven’t read the Kate Daniels series but have the first one in my TBR pile. Looks like I need to move it higher 🙂

  4. First of all, thanks for stopping by my blog!

    My favorite heroine (in UF) is probably Cat from the Night Huntress series. However, I love Sookie and have yet to read the Mercy Thompson series or any of the Women of the Underworld.

    Great post! I am torn sometimes between liking kick-ass females and finding them too annoying…