As the literary world continues to grow in abundance, there are many female protagonists to fawn over. That number doesn’t seem to be slowing down, which is awesome. I love badass female protagonists like I love puppies. That’s a lot.
Right now, the market is pretty saturated with Hermione Grangers and Katniss Everdeens. Praise for these characters seems never-ending, which is amazing, because they certainly deserve it. These two heroines, and countless others, have rightfully earned their spot on the Female Protagonist Throne of Honor.
Be that as it may, though, I can’t help but turn my eye to a few other heroines that I love and wonder where their cheering crowds are. After all, they have proven themselves just as much and, yet, their fan corner seems relatively silent. I’d like to do my part to bring them the attention and love they deserve.
So, here are 5 female protagonists (plus a few honorable mentions!) that I think are a little underrated.
5. Rhine Ellery–The Chemical Garden Trilogy by Lauren DeStefano
In a world where dystopian heroines are pretty much made up of Katniss and Tris, there is definitely room for Rhine to stand out if given the chance. The Chemical Garden trilogy features your typical post-apocalyptic anarchist world that is heading more and more towards disarray. Rhine, like so many other women, is sold off as a bride into a loveless marriage. There, she has to navigate through her new life, and how to escape, while also learning as much as she can about her fracturing world. Unlike the other dystopian novels, this one is more of a slow burn, unfolding piece by piece until it reveals, slowly, just how messed it up it is. While it doesn’t quite move at the breakneck speed of the others, Rhine is still a capable heroine who is worthy of her book. She undergoes many trials throughout this series, many of them heinous, and still manages to fight her way to the other side in one piece.
4. Risa Ward–The Unwind Dystology by Neal Shusterman
Honestly, while I did hear some blurb about these novels, I was very surprised that I didn’t hear more about this character. Unwind, and its subsequent sequels, features another dystopian world where parents have the option to “unwind” (read: legally kill) their children if they want to. Risa, an orphan, is the main female lead of the entire series. At the beginning, she is due to be “unwound” due to budget cuts and being deemed “not talented enough” to be kept alive (despite her piano abilities). This leads her to run away and into the two other protagonists (Connor and Lev) who are also due to be unwound. The next four novels follow these three, as well as countless others, as they run for their lives and try to rectify and save a horribly broken and twisted society. During the course of the story, Risa undergoes unspeakable hardships and pain. She is, literally and figuratively, broken by the system and by the cruelty of others. And yet, despite such pain, she never waivers in her strength and hope for the future. She does not falter, nor have a weak, pitiful moment, not even once. Her quiet, un-ending strength is a beacon of hope for other characters, and for the reader as well.
3. Katsa–Graceling by Kristin Cashore
This is yet another series that I heard a few murmurs about, before it dying down. Personally, I think it needs a good bit more murmuring. Graceling is high fantasy novel where some people are born “graced” (i.e. gifted) with a certain ability, anything at all. Katsa, the heroine of this novel, is graced with death. She can hand it out as she wishes, which makes her a pretty hot commodity in a land with warring kingdoms. Throughout the novel, Katsa, surprisingly, finds a friend in a foreign prince and begins to learn even more about her own abilities and the rising powers that threaten her home. Katsa is basically the epitome of walking death and, yet, she is not evil or wicked. She is strong and capable, yes, but also kind. She desires to, somehow, use her abilities for good, and she is determined to find a way.
2. Fire–Fire by Kristin Cashore
Ahh, yes, another heroine from the Graceling world. They are both simply too awesome to leave out! This companion novel to Graceling follows the character of Fire, an inhuman girl with the ability to control minds. Mind control, yes! Kristin Cashore seriously just takes the coolest abilities you could possibly think of and hands them, no strings attached, to her heroines to play with. However, like Katsa, Fire is a girl with kindness in her heart and the will to do good, despite her abilities. This book follows Fire as she struggles to overcome the memories and remnants of her brutal father, finding herself in the process. Her story is poignant and original, and her character is one that deserves much more chatter from you Bookions!
Valentine Wiggin–Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
While this beloved sci-fi series, about child geniuses who are bred to help fight off an oncoming alien invasion, is filled to the brim with unique characters, I feel like Valentine gets a little overlooked sometimes, simply because she is a sweet girl. For some people, “sweet” equals “weak.” Not so! Valentine has all the makings of a great female protagonist, and a good, gentle heart to boot.
Alanna–The Song of the Lioness Series by Tamora Pierce
In this classic, swords-and-sorcery style fantasy series from Tamora Pierce, Alanna dreams of being a knight. Except, girls are not allowed to become knights. So, Alanna simply disguises herself as a boy and does it anyway. The first novel of the series, Alanna: The First Adventure, follows Alanna through her initial training and her attempts at keeping her gender a secret. As this series is on the younger side of YA, close to middle-grade but not quite, I think Alanna is one of the best examples for young girls that there is. Always follow your dreams, and never let someone tell you that you can’t because of your gender.
Primrose Everdeen–The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
This series is definitely one that gets a fair share of praise, along with its primary heroine, Katniss. While Katniss is deserving of her crown, I feel like Prim could stand to get a little more love. She is a kind and talented healer, proving herself capable of surviving time and time again. While Katniss is all anger and revenge, Prim is grace and hope.
1. Eowyn–The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Wow, really? Yep. You may be wondering why I’ve chosen a character from one of the most popular series of all time as “underrated”, and your wondering would be fair. However, personally, I feel like Eowyn, despite her pure awesomeness, gets badly overshadowed by the other women in this story, mainly Arwen and Galadriel. While they both deserve praise in their own right, it is definitely Eowyn who wins my vote as the most badass woman of Middle-Earth. Slaying a non-killable, evil witch-king has got to earn you some credit, right? Well, that is pretty cool. However, Eowyn gets the vote largely because she is yet another woman who refuses to remain in the box that her gender has laid out for her. She wants to fight for her people, and protect her home, alongside the male soldiers, and so she does. Seriously, where would we be with that damn witch-king if Eowyn had meekly accepted her given role and went back to counting her dresses? Somewhere shitty. That’s where.
I really hope you enjoyed my list of some underrated female protagonists that I have notice. Don’t forget to comment and tell me which women in fiction you think deserve more love and attention!