The third book in a loosely connected trilogy (all of which are great), Bitterblue focuses on the eponymous daughter of a twisted sociopath king who has left his entire kingdom traumatized after a magically abusive reign. So, that’s cheery! But what I love about this book is, in a world where some people have extra abilities, Bitterblue is just a girl trying to do the best with the terrible situation she’s inherited. She’s young and inexperienced, but doesn’t shirk the duty she has to rebuild and overcome her father’s legacy. While Graceling and Fire have protagonists with amazing abilities, it is Bitterblue’s compassion and intelligence that makes her my favorite of the three.
When I first read Anne of Green Gables, it felt like I had found my own kindred spirit. What I love about Anne — dreamy, ridiculous, funny, smart, and determined Anne — is that she gave me permission to be the same. I could go off on flights of fancy and be the smartest student in my class. I could be kind and loyal to my family and friends, and have ambitions outside of domesticity. For such a quiet book with relatively little plot, Anne of Green Gables feels revolutionary to me every time I read it.
This one is a bit of a cheat, but each of the three books in Marchetta’s brilliant fantasy series is worthy of a spot. The books take place in a fantasy world with subtle magic, but all the women featured — dealing with PTSD from wars, refugee status, and abuse — show resilience and strength in their own ways. Marchetta explores the healing in love and forgiveness, but also the power in demanding justice and seeing it through. This isn’t the easiest trilogy to read, as it doesn’t shy away from very difficult topics, but it’s definitely rewarding.
I could have chosen any of Hale’s books for this list — she’s a master at writing inspiring girls — but my first Hale book is still my favorite. In this fantasy set in a vaguely Mongolia-like country, Hale’s hero starts as an illiterate maidservant to a doomed princess. But she’s smart and loyal and determined, and eventually saves not only herself and her princess, but an entire kingdom. The power of stories is also explored, which is a nice touch since so much of women’s history has been passed down by storytelling traditions. There is tremendous strength in our bond from generation to generation. I loved seeing that here.
If you’ve read the first book in the series—and if not, what are you waiting for?? — you’ll know that Adelina, the main character, is not a hero. She’s definitely an anti-hero, and that makes me so happy. I think such an important part of creating female characters is allowing them to be human. In doing so, we give girls permission to be more than what they are told they should be. Rather than making girl characters fill stereotypes or archetypes, we can be inspired by real life. Sometimes that means our characters won’t be paragons of virtue and kindness. Sometimes that means they’ll turn out downright evil on their path to power. To which I say: Yes, please!
Kiersten White’s lastest book – And I Darken – is available to order today.
No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwyla likes it that way. Ever since she and her brother were abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman sultan’s courts, Lada has known that ruthlessness is the key to survival. For the lineage that makes her and her brother special also makes them targets. Lada hones her skills as a warrior as she nurtures plans to wreak revenge on the empire that holds her captive. Then she and Radu meet the sultan’s son, Mehmed, and everything changes. Now Mehmed unwittingly stands between Lada and Radu as they transform from siblings to rivals, and the ties of love and loyalty that bind them together are stretched to breaking point. The first of an epic new trilogy starring the ultimate anti-princess who does not have a gentle heart. Lada knows how to wield a sword, and she’ll stop at nothing to keep herself and her brother alive.