For International Women's Day, we wanted to pay homage to a few of our favorite leading ladies in fiction. These book women portray the myriad of ways the "strong female character" archetype can be represented.
CINDER, CRESS, & WINTER - The Lunar Chronicles
Set in a futuristic world where Earth is plagued by Letumosis, a disease wiping out the population, and the Lunars (people who live on the moon and have powers) are threatening a war unless their demands are met, The Lunar Chronicles has become a favorite of ours—but it wouldn't be if not for the phenomenal ensemble cast that makes up the series.
Cinder is a tough, no-nonsense mechanic cyborg who gets sucked into leading a rebellion. Though she's positive she's the last person anyone should look to, she's the best person for the job—and not because she has a secret connection to the Lunars. Intelligent, resourceful, loyal, and willing to pull crazy stunts, Cinder gets her friends out of more than one scrape and proves time and again that they wouldn't have gotten that far without her.
Cress is the polar opposite of Cinder, but no less strong for it. Where Cinder is calculating, blunt, go-get-'em, Cress is soft, considerate, and full of joy for the world. Though she's naïve in many regards thanks to being locked up all her life, it's amazing that she never loses hope or her love of people. She's also fiercely loyal and willing to set aside all fear and doubts when it comes to saving her friends.
Winter is the Lunar princess but is definitely not treated as such. Under the ever-present eye of her evil stepmother who despises her, Winter is lucky to be alive. She already carries a nasty scar from her stepmother and an insanity resulting from her refusal to use her powers. It's that very refusal and ability to survive in the cutthroat court that makes her so internally strong. Despite struggling with horrific visions for years, Winter will not access her powers, because she's seen how harmful they can be—she's seen how other Lunars use it to manipulate innocents, and she refuses to become them.
INEJ & NINA - Six of Crows
Inej "I'll-fuck-you-up" Ghafa is not at all the cold-blooded killer you'd expect an assassin for a criminal gang would be. She's hardened, merciless when need be, and great at what she does, but she's also the wisest and most pacifistic of The Dregs. She's always the first to suggest alternate paths to direct violence, or to guide one of her friends with her wisdom. Even so, she never questions or flinches from what needs doing. Considering she clawed her way up from servitude, where she was trafficked to a brothel as a child, it's no wonder she doesn't mind getting her hands dirty. What is a wonder is how she's so calm and respectful of life after all those years.
Nina hasn't had the tragic life that Inej has, so she's more open to conversation and bonding. In fact, that's what she's best at. Our favorite thing about Nina is her respect for her body and femininity. She's voluptuous, sensual, and she goes after who and what she wants. She's also full of life and laughter, but she will put herself through hell for her friends or the safety of innocents.
AELIN, LYSANDRA, YRENE, & NESRYN - Throne of Glass
The protagonist of the Throne of Glass series, Aelin, has become quite the icon in bookish circles: she's confident in her skills and body, humbled by her responsibility to her people, a badass on the field and in negotiations, and a schemer who ensures no one's life has to be on the line except hers. She adores her friends, her land, her people, and has sacrificed for them time and again, no matter how many insults or judgements she suffers from them. She's not a perfect person, and she's painfully aware of that. The self-criticism and doubt that she's good enough is what keeps her so heartbreakingly human, even when she pulls off things no one else would dare to.
Aelin's best friend Lysandra is just as strong. Having spent years as a courtesan against her will, she's all too familiar with inner strength and turning the other cheek. When she gains her freedom, she does everything in her power to ensure neither she nor anyone else is forced into a similar situation. She believes in the better world Aelin wants to create and defends her friend unquestioningly, even when others doubt. She's also not afraid to tell people what she thinks of them or put them in their place if they disrespect anyone.
Yrene and Nesryn get their spotlight in the sixth book of the series, where they take on the leading female roles. Yrene is a healer, but she's only sweetness and light when she needs to be. She has an intensely strong backbone that doesn't let anything past her. Considering she's helping a stubborn, cranky former captain of the guard heal from a complex magic back injury, she needs every bit of her stubbornness to push past his.
Despite her tough-love act, she has a bleeding heart for anyone who struggles and gives wholly of herself (to the point of exhaustion and self-neglect) because she feels her job is never done.
Meanwhile, our gal Nesryn, the current captain of the guard, is tough in that stoic "I'll-mess-you-up-if-I-have-to" way. She's not much of a talker, but it's because she's always calculating; always assessing people and their motives, the situation and its outcomes, and her own moves to ensure she never slips up.
As an "outsider" who's had to fight most of her life and with her family's lives riding on the fate of her land, she's always careful to make the best decisions. This means she's given up her own happiness and dreams to put everyone else before her, so it's thrilling when a certain prince from another land finally convinces her to take a chance for herself.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list of our favorite women in fiction, these ladies showcase a wide range of personalities and backgrounds. We're always thrilled to come across characters that prove how many ways there are to be strong, whether that's physically, mentally, emotionally, or all of the above.
Are any of these women your bookish faves? What about some we didn't mention? Tag us on Twitter @bookish_witches or hit us up in the comments to let us know!