Topic: Independent Ladies – favorite leading ladies who aren’t distracted from getting shit done by their love interest (they can still have a romance subplot – this is going to be subjective based on what you think would be ~too much~)
Enne Salta from Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody
Ace of Shades was one of my favorite YA books from 2018 and a large part of that was because of how well written the main female lead was. Enne starts off naive to this world of fantasy Las Vegas in a search to find her missing mother. What I loved was seeing her development as she learns to navigate land manipulate this new world she’s been thrust in a feminine manner that I find somewhat rare in YA these days. She has her love interest Levi, but I really liked that she always put her own quests and goals before “getting the guy”.
Isabelle des Zephyrs from An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors by Curtis Craddock
Isabelle was hands down the best part of An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors. I loved her determined attitude towards learning and scholarship, despite living in a world that bans women from entering lecture halls. I remember one scene where she goes “painting” by the open window of a lecture hall to listen to a lecture and hides her notes by literally painting into the details of her artwork. I also loved her uncompromising push towards a peaceful outcome, no matter who tried to stand in her way. All in all, a great character that really helped sell a brilliant book.
Giannine from Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde
I remember reading this book back in middle school and it was one I checked out from the library multiple times because it was just so damn fun to read. I recall very little from the book itself other than it’s like Groundhog’s Day except in a video game and if she doesn’t get out in a certain amount of time, she dies. However, I have this very strong impression of a really kickass female main lead killing it in this fantasy RPG she’s stuck in.
Mahit Dzmare from A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
Mahit! A Memory Called Empire isn’t out til March 26th, but this book will probably be one of my favorite debuts of the year. Mahit is the new Ambassador from her small space station to the sprawling space empire of the Teixcalaanli Empire and we follow her throughout the Empire’s capital searching for clues on the disappearance of her station’s previous ambassador. Mahit, like many of the other characters on this list, has this amazingly determined mindset, despite living in a city that will never see her on the same level as themselves. This book also does a fantastic job developing a VERY slow burn romance that never overshadows the main plot line.
Kel Cheris from Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
I debated whether to put Cheris on this list given that she spends the majority of the book sharing a headspace with murderous-dead-general-turned-body-possessing-spirit Shuos Jedao for the majority of the book, but after some deliberation I decided she deserved a spot. Cheris doesn’t have a strong a personality as the other characters on this list, but since she’s spent the majority of her life serving in the one branch of military that brainwashes their soldiers to serve a hivemind, that’s kind of expected. Instead, with Cheris, it’s the details of her personality that her the spot, most importantly her interaction with the robotic servitors that others ignore, as well as her fascinating interactions with Jedao over the course of the first book.