I would have said “heroines” but not all kick-ass female characters are necessarily the lead (though there are many strong-willed, I-am-so-not-a-damsel-in-distress protagonists too).
1. Hermione Granger from The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
This isn’t in chronological order but Hermione is the first on the list for a reason. That reason being I have a big girl crush on Emma Watson (who played Hermione in the movie adaptation of the HP Series, though you probably already knew that.)
What I like about Hermione is that she’s independent from the start. Granted, when she was first introduced in the novel she was an insufferable know-it-all but that’s part of Hermione’s charm. The sorting hat knew that she wasn’t just an intelligent girl but also a brave one; why do you think she was sorted into Gryffindor and not Ravenclaw where all the smart people were? She is bookish and borderline nerdy-intelligent but she’s also fearless and in control of her life. Harry would not have survived his years in Hogwarts without Hermione. In book one, she helped him solve that weird potions riddle to get to where The Mirror of Erised was; in the second, she was there when Harry battled the Basilisk; in the third book, she was the one with the Time Turner so they could go back in time to save Buckbeak and Sirius; in the fourth, she taught Harry the Accio spell which helped him escape Voldemort in the end; and so on.
That’s why I think Hermione deserves to be on this list.
2. Beatrice “Tris” Prior from The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth
It would be the ultimate crime not to put Tris on this list. She’s simply the personification of kick-ass: Brave. Selfless. Intelligent. (Notice that those adjectives are the three factions she got on her aptitude test – Dauntless, Abnegation and Erudite – cool, right?)
She’s one of my favorite dystopian heroines and one I remember the most because she had the most unique ending. Her most notable kick-ass act is her sacrifice at the end of Allegiant (which I really didn’t expect but loved a lot – see my Divergent review here.) Overall, she’s very “martyr“, so whoever said chivalry was dead didn’t know that it all just went to Tris. Saving the boys (and the girls) is instinctive to Beatrice Prior.
Tris is one of the kick-ass heroines who figuratively and literally kicks ass.
3. Meghan Chase from The Iron Fey Series by Julie Kagawa
For me, Meghan is a mix between kick-ass and damsel-in-distress. She has two incredibly handsome dudes in love with her (namely Puck and Ash) and a father that a lot of people in the book fear, so she’s pretty much insured.
But, she’s not weak. She’s a fighter. She’s not afraid to go into another world to save her half brother from an evil entity nobody knows about. She’d barter her life for the sake of people she cares about. And she’s stubborn, impulsive and pretty much a vagabond princess.
Well, she’s isn’t just a princess of the Summer Fey. She’s also the Iron Queen, which is pretty badass. She’s half-human half-summer fey so she has both powers of iron and summer. Pretty cool as far as faeries go.
So, despite her tendencies to be a damsel-in-distress, I think Meghan still has the chops to be a kick-ass heroine therefore she’s in this list! And I wish they’d make this into a movie, I’d love to see some faery action on the big screen.
4. Lucinda “Luce” Price from The Fallen Series by Lauren Kate
Luce and Daniel’s love story is tragic. Falling in love over and over again only to lose each other in the end. Although it has been established that Daniel has it far worse than Luce (I mean, it’s also pretty painful to die in fierce heavenly (?) light) because he remembers everything and lives as an immortal while Luce is reincarnated every time. Ignorance is bliss right?
But I think Luce (her last incarnation) is a pretty strong-willed character. She wanted to understand her past with Daniel so she travels to the past using the shadows (which I forgot the name thereof.) Compared to her past selves, the last Luce was very independent and stubborn and ultimately kick-ass. She makes her own decisions and is not afraid to die. I love that she chose to lose her immortality for a lifetime with Daniel. It’s a brave choice, something I think fits Luce’s character like a glove.
5. Clare Abshire Detamble from The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Clare is very bright and very brave. She meets her future husband (naked) in a field behind her house. And she believes him when he says this and doesn’t run away. (I know I would have when an underdressed forty-year-old man appears out of thin air and tells me he’s my husband from the future.) Did I mention that Clare was only six-years-old when they first met?
And the stuff she has to deal with just by loving Henry? A time traveler who doesn’t know when he’ll go and where, who disappears suddenly and may or may not come back in time for their wedding. Luckily, a future Henry arrives to take his own place at the altar with Clare. I can’t go into too much detail because it’s been too long since I read the book but I know she was the strongest when she was trying to have a baby with Henry. After all those miscarriages (time traveler babies already know how to time travel even in the womb, scary right?), even Henry gives up on them ever having children, she refuses and when she’s finally blessed with a little girl (her name is Alba), I was so happy for her.
6. Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Who could forget the girl on fire? I haven’t read the complete series (it’s long overdue, I know) but I’ve watched both films and I’d be watching the last one for sure, so I know how much Katniss kicks ass. She volunteers in her sister’s stead in Hunger Games to join a sick and twisted reality show that the government makes people watch because they’re sick and twisted people. Crazy, I know. Most dystopian fiction are crazy – that’s part of its appeal.
She was willing to do anything (even kill people who wanted to kill her) in order to keep her promise to her sister, which was come out of the games alive. She even rebelled against the government inciting revolution and sparking hope in the hearts of the oppressed people. She’s 75 years too late but better late than never right? That’s what I call girl power.
7. Isabelle Lightwood from The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare
Izzy is a character that takes some warming up to. Especially in the first few chapters of the Mortal Instruments series because she acts like a bitch. Sometimes you’d love to hate her but you can’t because somehow her sass is appealing and refreshing. She doesn’t get along with Clary (main heroine) in the beginning. In fact, she tells Jace off for bringing her into the Institute. She warms up to her eventually, though, for plot reasons. And you’d think she’s obviously just playing Simon (not that he complained, of course) but as the series goes on, the readers get to know her better.
Isabelle Lightwood’s character was brilliantly developed. By the end of the series, you would not question why she acts a certain way or where she gets her strength from. She is strong-willed and a brave soul. Besides her awesome shadowhunter skills, I say she’s pretty and kick-ass. It also helps that she’s related to Will Herondale (one of my ultimate fictional guy crushes of all time).
8. Annabeth Chase from Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan
I’ve recently been reading Rick Riordan’s works and I am truly amazed by Annabeth. Annabeth Chase is the daughter of the Goddess of Wisdom herself, Athena. But she’s not just smart, she’s also kickass. She was able to save Percy from a lot of things during their quests and she was the only one who still believed in Luke even after everything. I was kinda scared about that part of the last book because I was shipping Annabeth and Percy. I’m glad to be right about them. They make a cute couple.
But anyway, she’s the daughter of a goddess, she can fight, she is smart — therefore she’s awesome!
Well, so far this is my list. I can add more in the future should I encounter a new female character that fits the bill or if I remember one that I forgot to add here. Onto the next book!