Girl Heroes in Fantasy Novels: A Lament

Back to my first complaint.  I was making a case that women characters are cheated in sci-fi / fantasy stories.  A reader countered my assertions that several writers present the young lead hero as a girl.  So I decided to look into this trend that is a common trope for the 2001 -2011 decade.

I read The Bone Doll’s Twin (the trilogy) by Lynn Flewelling where a boy/girl named Tobin starts out as a boy due to magic, because the girl heir would have been killed.  She fights the last battle, though, in full armor on horseback wielding a sword AS A GIRL.  The ambiguity of gender confusion was interesting, but the forest witch was a more fascinating character.  This book, at least, presents the troubles of other women who want to join the fight, or who serve fighters.

I read the Poison Study series by Maria V. Snyder where a girl named Yelena is trained by a mean minister named Valek who later admits to sexual interest and becomes her savior when her foolhardy trust in his lessons get her in trouble.  They succeed together, but he has all the real power.  There’s another female character in this story named Star, but she serves only as counterpoint.

I read The Book of Deacon, which is the first in a series by Joseph R. Lallo.  This female lead character, a too-naïve girl named Myranda, is always alone and persecuted until she reaches hidden island where everybody has magic; a cloying feast of description and little plot.  She also bonds with a mean, mysterious character older than her and with sexual interest.  She sheds all the security and friends in this paradise to follow him into trouble.  Do you see a pattern yet?

I read The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold and enjoyed every paragraph.  This female character has a brother who should be heir, and a teacher who is more than he seems.  However, she has a mother and grandmother, a BFF and ladies-in-waiting.  Within the feudal society where the bad guys have no redeeming qualities, she makes decisions to side-steps the fate that only a woman would face – marriage to the wrong man as a pawn in court politics. The solutions were too easy, but the character of Cazaril was a delight in his fatalism.  A fun romp into formula writing.

I also read  Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson because of the buzz on GoodReads about the next upcoming book in the series – and something about a video game based on the series.  Here the primary character is a guy named Kelsier with specific powers based on real physics. I can see the appeal to sci-fi readers who are mostly guys.  The female lead, since his wife is long-dead, is a street waif named Vin who…  wait for it…  has special powers she knows nothing about because she was orphaned from her noble family.

Another big surprise…  in Mistborn there are NO OTHER WOMEN.  Oh, yeah, there’s a cook who cuts Vin’s hair so she looks more like a girl. Where are her sisters, aunts, cousins, BFFs, younger girls she persecutes?

Guys…  Women live in a world of women.  Women solve problems differently than how men solve problems.  Women don’t act on inflamed anger or rush into danger like Keifer Sutherland in 24 – so not believable (even for a guy).

Where are the stories where women solve the kinds of problems that women have using the kinds of resources that women can gather?  Unwanted births, little access to wealth, no voice in the public square, the demand to follow custom, submission in a confrontational situation, secret revenge, and more.  Stop putting a sword in their hands and look around.

How do women succeed in adversity?  Here’s a hint…  They work WITH other women.

Aaahhh, I feel better now.  Got that off my chest.


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