Thursday, October 25

Damsel in Distress!? Nah, She Isn't - Badass Female Characters I Adore

I've made some new friends at uni this semester, and as I was talking to one of them, she said something that pissed me off, namely that she dislikes books with female characters. Now that confused me - I mean, female characters are amazing, and they are hardly the same, or even similar to each other, right? Obviously, there are some I dislike or even can't stand - but to write off all female characters because she disliked one or even a couple? What. The. Fuck.

Thankfully, further discussion clarified her issue, which wasn't with female characters, but that generally speaking the romantic subplot is heavier in female-led novels than male-led ones, and she really dislikes romance. Which is valid!! But still, our chat had me thinking a lot about female characters, which is how this idea came to me and the fact that it's perfect for Spooky October only solidified my desire to write it. {See our Spooky October opening post with a giveaway here.)

Now, I'm obviously not saying the female character type who is far from being a damsel in distress is the best type. It is one type that I love - but I also love some soft characters, some that could be considered a 'damsel' because they might need a push to save themselves, or they might require help etc. as most of us do. So yes, enjoy this list of ladies who will save themselves but do expect different female character centered lists in the future!!

Elizabeth from The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein

I believe my one sentence review for this was something like: "apparently, 2018 is the year when we are collectively DONE with abusive, controlling love interests, and I'm so here for that." We shall take a break here because those words are so apt that I'm congratulating myself for them right now. (...)

Okay, I'm done. If you've read the original Frankenstein, you know that Elizabeth has been brought up by the Frankensteins and is accepted by everyone as a vital part of the family. She is beautiful, kind and patient, a sort of angelic woman that everyone is in awe of. That's nice and all, but it's not exactly realistic, is it? Now Kristen White gives us a lot more nuanced portrayal of Elizabeth - she is nice alright, but it's not as easy as original Elizabeth made it out to be. Instead, she struggles to be this perfect lady, knowing full well that even one mistake could result in the Frankensteins getting rid of her. 

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein is a bloody brilliant portrayal of the struggles of a young woman who has no one to protect her but the Frankensteins. Due to the constant constraint of being "perfect" she becomes calculating, manipulative and someone who will use the Frankensteins any way she is able to, because, to be honest, she really has no other choice.

"I supposed that in some tawdry novel I would not be permitted to read but would steal from Madame Frankenstein's hidden store anyhow, I would have been torn between my two lovers and wasting away because of it.
In reality, I wanted to tear both of them apart."

~ The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein ~

Jane from Jane Steele

The way I like to describe this title is a Jane Eyre retelling with murder, which, yes, makes it 1000% better. Our heroine, Jane Steele, goes through some of the same things Jane Eyre does in her book, but she has a rather... different reaction than the original character: she kills. And oh boy, it's fun to see a female character protecting herself and others this way, especially in a historical novel.

Jane is also smart as hell, someone who would not get caught for a murder ever. And if all that makes you think she is a bad person? Well, you're wrong - she is kind, caring and thus will do absolutely anything to keep those she loves safe.


Nita from Not Even Bones

Not Even Bones is one of those books that is so fucking underrated and under-promoted that I want to scream. This book, y'all, this book deserves love and hype and all the support, because it's unique, well-written and has a cast made up of 99% morally gray and/or villainous characters. 

Nita's parents have an... interesting family business going on. The mom hunts down supernatural beings, brings them home where Nita dissects them, so they can sell the different parts on the black market afterwards. Nita is able to rationalize doing this, as these people are already dead and she couldn't have helped, but during the novel, she is faced with tons of scenarios where she is forced to make brutal decisions and fast.

I adored Nita and loved to see the development she went through by the end. All the horrific things that she experienced - some she saw, some were done to her, others she herself committed - left her different than she used to be, but she was nonetheless a character I was rooting for. Smart, cunning and fast-thinking, but with a strong heart underneath that made it easy for me to sympathize with her at any given moment. Hands down one of my favorite characters of 2018. 

"If someone had put a body in front of her and asked her to dissect it, she would still have enjoyed it. It was too integral to who she was. She liked cutting people up."
~ Not Even Bones ~

Elena from Bitten

Elena is another character I discovered this year, and I'm obsessed with her personality. Being the only female werewolf in the world {I know that sounds weird and unrealistic, but it's well done, ok} is stressful as fuck for this woman, especially when it wasn't her choice to become a werewolf. But she handles it so well - she is confident and strong, someone you want on your side. 

She will also protect those she loves at all times, and she loves so fiercely! My favorite part is how she and Paige will get so close to each other during the series - seeing their friendship blossom was AMAZING, I tell you.


Zélie from Children of Blood and Bone

Zélie is such a tough, headstrong girl and a huge part of why I loved Children of Blood and Bone. I adored how she never gave up and would fight until the very end. Sure, sure, she made some bad decisions, but who wouldn't!? Anyone who shits on Zélie because she changes her mind about certain things fast or because she is stubborn and isn't always right should fuck all the way off. Sorry, I don't make the rules. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

That said, my favorite thing about the novel was the strong female friendship that formed between Zélie and Amari. They came from rather different circumstances, and while Amari had it better in some ways than Zélie, the latter had to understand that didn't mean Amari had it easy. Who cares about enemies to lovers, enemies to besties is the new trend.

“You crushed us to build your monarchy on the backs of our blood and bone. Your mistake wasn't keeping us alive. It was thinking we'd never fight back”
~ Children of Blood and Bone ~ 

Sarai from In the Company of Killers

In the Company of Killers is so far out of my comfort zone it is a surprise I even picked it up; the fact that I loved it so much is positively shocking. The reason why it works for me is that even though it is pretty action-packed at parts, it is a character-driven novel at its core. 

In the first two books (which is all I've read so far) there is so much of Sarai trying to find out who she is after years of being a captive. She works so hard on rediscovering what she wants to do with her life, finding her strength and building her confidence in herself. Oh, about the murders? Yes, she also kills people, BUT only those who either hurt her or who hurt others. 


Jude from The Cruel Prince

I highly doubt I have to introduce Jude to y'all, because The Cruel Prince has been everywhere in 2018. But just in case - she is a ruthless, cunning girl who will do anything to prove that she not only belongs in the fae world, but is also better than them. She is hardworking and someone who, quite frankly, doesn't know the word "give up." 

To soften this rough - but so badass - impression you probably have of Jude right now, you must know that she is just smitten with her sisters and little step-brother. She is desperate about protecting them and so darn loyal to them that it'll make your heart burst. Also, the best thing!? She might be attracted to someone or even like someone, but she will NOT let that change her plans in any way whatsoever. I LOVE JUDE, OKAY.

“If I cannot be better than them, I will become so much worse.”
~ The Cruel Prince ~

Nemesis from The Diabolic

Generally, I like to consider The Diabolic a standalone title, because a) it has a closed ending, b) it was originally a standalone, c) it is best to ignore the clusterfuck that was the second book. So, bear this in mind when reading my words on Nemesis, a character I absolutely adore.

Being not-exactly-human, Nemesis has always considered herself to be more or less emotionless, and she is fine with that, thank you very much. She is clever, cut-throat and vicious when a situation requires it, and she is not at all sorry for that - not even when she starts to accept that she does in fact have feelings. 


Od & Tru from Odd & True

Y'all, this book is so underrated when it should be legit everywhere. It is about sisters who are hella different working together, supporting and loving each other and just being badass. Oh, and they are hunting a monster, which is fun.

I loved to see a disabled character being confident in herself without having to be cured in any way whatsoever. (Od uses a leg-brace and crutches or a wheel-chair.) This shit is rare, especially in historical fiction, not to mentaion in a novel that could be described as adventure. When it came to Tru it was so lovely to see her deal with her demons and choose her sister over a fuckboy and oh my god, I'm not going to say any more because I want you to read it and hype it up, ok?

"No matter what happens, I'll stay by your side. I promise you, Od. I'll be here."
~ Odd & True ~

Yeva from Hunted

While Hunted isn't my favorite Beauty and the Beast retelling - that's Uprooted and Cruel Beauty - it is definitely high up on my list, and the reason for that is how incredible Yeva is. When the monster takes her father, Yeva decides to go and HUNT! HIM! THE! FUCK! DOWN! I mean, how cool is that?? 

She is strong - mentally and physically both - and a freaking boss bitch who loves her family fiercely. 

Who are YOUR favorite female characters? (damsel or no idc, just give me the names! haha) Have you read any of these books? Can you recommend my friend & me some female-led novels with little or no romance?


  1. I really want to read The Cruel Prince! I have it on hold at the library, and I cannot wait to dive in as the characters look incredible! In terms of badass female characters, I love ones who are not necessarily strong physically, but smart, witty and overall with very good hearts. Luna Lovegood immediately comes to mind for me!

    1. Hope you'll love The Cruel Prince!! Oh same!! You might want to check out Jane Steele, Odd & True and The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein for that type of character.

  2. Sarai was such an interesting character. After being in captivity for so long it’s almost like she was robbed of her own self and had to learn who she was and what she actually wanted. I so need to continue that series! Jude is hardcore! :) I loved that she was willing to do what it took to reach her goal. Whatever the cost. The girl is a boss.

    1. Yes, Sarai felt so fleshed out to me because of how well the author portrayed her journey into becoming HERSELF again. I loved that, and I need to get to the third book soon! I'm so darn excited for The Wicked King, Jude better be kickass as hell there too!

  3. I really love that this list has so many not-super-popular books. I didn't know Jane Steele; I already love Jane Eyre, so the murder aspect makes me both curious and a bit aprehensive, although your review eased that latter one a lot.
    Juuuude! I love Jude. She gets to be a bit (a lot) nasty, and that's awesome.

    1. Jane Steele is AMAZING!! If you like historical fiction and re-imaginings of classics I'd highly recommend it. I want more of Jude!! I can hardly wait for the sequel.

  4. Ok, I have moved The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein to the top of the TBR pile. I have purchased Not Even Bones. Thank you!

    1. This made me so happy!! Thanks for telling me - love when people find my recommendations convincing. :)

  5. I just finished Not Even Bones and Nita was pretty amazing. One of the things I loved about that one was that the protagonist doesn't start off as good and doesn't even end up as good, but strives to find that right balance in such a awful world. Nice list!

    1. Yes, that was definitely something I loved about Nita. I also loved that Kovit was essentially a villain but as we learnt more about him I couldn't help but sympathize with him to an extent. Can't wait for the sequel! Thank you!

  6. The only book I've read from the ones in here is THE CRUEL PRINCE, and yes, yes, yes, Jude would me on my list of badass female characters I LOVE too! And I'd add Audrey Rose, from the Stalking Jack The Ripper series ♥

    1. I can't wait for the sequel to The Cruel Prince!! I want to know what Jude's going to do now! I *love* Audrey and can't believe I didn't add her - maybe I forgot because, well, the last book was disappointing for me. :(

  7. I am so glad that she doesn't actually hate books with female characters but when you looked at specfics you could see where she actually had issues with books that just happened to mostly be led by female characters! I have only read Children of Blood and Bone from this list and I actually liked Amari more than Zelie! I also have The Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein on my wishlist, as well as Not Even Bones and The Diabolic.

    1. I definitely loved Amari A LOT, maybe more than Zélie, but the latter seemed better for this post somehow. Ooh, those three are SO GOOD and so dark, I hope you'll love them!


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