Top Ten Tuesday: Fearsome Females

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

TTT-NEW

Today’s topic is character freebie, and this post is long overdue.  The truth is, all my all time favorite characters are male, and most of my favorite authors are men.  I can’t answer why because I honestly don’t know. So today I’m going to give a shout out to the strong female protagonist (or sidekick), which I probably don’t talk about enough.

The characters below, listed in no particular order, are not only not damsels in distress, but they are probably bailing their male counterparts out of a sticky situation.

Mackayla (Mac) Lane of the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning – Admittedly, we know we can count on Barrons to show up when Mac gets in over her head, but let’s not forget the Mac does a pretty good job of holding her own most days.  I mean- I wouldn’t survive a rhinoboy… especially not while keeping my fingernails painted.  I love that she manages to still be very feminine while also being tough.

SoC_LB

Inej Ghafa of Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – Inej has had a really traumatic life.  Honestly I think she should be far more broken inside than Kaz considering what she’s been through, but mentally and physically, she’s a warrior.  I adored her for it.

Kinsey Locke of Locke & Key by Joe Hill – This is one book (graphic novel) where the girl really was my favorite character.  She might be tough due to in-book magic, but she also experiences a lot of growth over the course of all six books.  Far and away my favorite character from that series.

The Mere Wife Maria Dahvana Headley

Willa Herot of The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley – Have you ever heard the song “Two Black Cadillacs” by Carrie Underwood?  I feel like Willa Herot is the wife in that song.  Like if you cheat on her- she’s not coming for the mistress, she’s coming for you.  And she’s probably going to laugh about it later over tea.

Ferius Parfax of the Spellslinger series by Sebastien de Castell – She’s a fast talking, card slinging, Argosi wanderer with a thousand tricks up her sleeve and a soft spot for a kid named Kellen.  If you’re in a sticky situation- Ferius is the person you ask to clean it up.

Hild of The Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell – Sorry Nona Grey, Hild is the original warrior nun.  She don’t take no shit from nobody, and I love that she’s one of the few character’s that’s ever allowed to put Uhtred in his place.

TD_SJK

Nemesis of The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid – Here’s one I don’t mention.  Nemesis is actually a bioengineered weapon.  Only death will stop her.  Seriously.  It’s the way she’s programmed.

TLW_MC

Sarah Harding of The Lost World by Michael Crichton – Here’s something you might not know: Michael Crichton was writing strong female protagonists before it was the cool thing to do.  Sure they probably all resemble Lara Croft, but I remember reading the scene where she literally carries Dr. Ian Malcolm out of the trailer hanging over the cliff on her back and I think I might have actually cried.  A) Because he was taken from us too soon, and B) because fuck you Steven Spielberg for changing that scene.  Harding spent this whole novel rescuing the boys and I just loved her for it.

Circe_MM

Circe of Circe by Madeline Miller – Circe spends a lot of the early pages being a doormat, but those later chapters when she figures out she doesn’t have to remain a doormat?  Ugh- loved every minute.

Yennefer of The Witcher by Andrzej Sapkowski – In the debate between Triss Merigold and Yenn, I’m always going to be team Yenn.  I love that between her and the supposedly emotionless Geralt, she manages to be the least emotional.  I don’t see this dynamic often in literature or anywhere but it never gets old for me.

The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton

Gaela of The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton – I had a lot of complaints about this book, and even some about Gaela, but damn it, it didn’t stop me from admiring her.  I can’t really explain why I loved her so much without spoilers – but I was cheering her on the whole time.  If the tragedy in this book had been that the antagonists won, I wouldn’t have shed a tear.

Thisbe Saneer of Terra Ignota by Ada Palmer – Something happens to Thisbe early on in these novels and we don’t actually get to spend a lot of time with her, but we do know that Mycroft is terrified of her.  Which says a lot considering Mycroft’s history.  Also- I really, really want a pair of her killer boots.

Madame D’Arouet of Terra Ignota by Ada Palmer – If Thisbe is the lady putting the knife in your enemy’s back – Madame is the woman framing you for it.  She just gets ickier as the books go on, but she’s never boring.

Gone Girl Gillian Flynn

Amy Dunne of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (major spoilers ahead) – So Amy is the one most readers love to hate, and while I sort of hated the ending too, I have to admit, I’m not sure Amy would be the same character if the book didn’t end that way.  I mean- she’s cunning enough to frame a man for a murder that, never mind he didn’t commit, but didn’t even happen.

That’s actually more than 10, and I feel like I could keep naming names, so we’ll stop here.  I do want to say that while my list has an excess of women you wouldn’t want to double-cross, I don’t think that’s the only way to portray a strong female protagonist, it’s just those types of characters I gravitate to most, regardless of gender.

What about you? Did you do a Top Ten Tuesday too?  Leave me a link below so I can check it out!

Book Review: The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton

I actually finished this last week, and I’ve dreaded writing the review.  I’m having a hard time reconciling the beauty of Gratton’s writing with the fact that this book is painfully bloated and over descriptive.  It also happens to be a retelling of one of my favorite Shakespeare stories: King Lear.

The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton

Rating:  ★★

Blurb (from GoodReads): The erratic decisions of a prophecy-obsessed king have drained Innis Lear of its wild magic, leaving behind a trail of barren crops and despondent subjects. Enemy nations circle the once-bountiful isle, sensing its growing vulnerability, hungry to control the ideal port for all trade routes.

The king’s three daughters—battle-hungry Gaela, master manipulator Reagan, and restrained, starblessed Elia—know the realm’s only chance of resurrection is to crown a new sovereign, proving a strong hand can resurrect magic and defend itself. But their father will not choose an heir until the longest night of the year, when prophecies align and a poison ritual can be enacted.

Refusing to leave their future in the hands of blind faith, the daughters of Innis Lear prepare for war—but regardless of who wins the crown, the shores of Innis will weep the blood of a house divided.

This is a pretty exact retelling of King Lear in terms of the events that happen.  Where it is not exact is: A) the inclusion of magic and B) the lack of humor.  King Lear is really a rather dark play, that’s broken up by bits of humor from the Fool and Lear’s madness.

And that was one of the places where this book failed, hard.  It’s all dark, and not even remotely funny.  Combine that darkness with some very overly descriptive passages of setting and endless prattling about the magic of Lear, and the book really needed that injection of humor to pick up the momentum.

The magic felt a little pointless.  Some of the individual characters harness that magic to their own benefit by talking to trees and drinking root water, but no one ever really articulates what will happen if the magic dies.  Will the island sink into the sea?  Will the vegetation and wildlife die off thereby making the island uninhabitable?

Without knowing that- there weren’t any stakes and little suspense.  I wasn’t given a reason to care whether the magic on Innis Lear dies.  So what?  So Elia can’t talk to the trees anymore?  So the witch of Hartfare can’t foretell the future?  So those that use magic have to live a more mundane life?  To talk about the magic in the setting that much and never once give the reader a reason why it mattered was a big source of frustration for me.

I enjoyed some of the characters.  Elia didn’t make me feel any type of way.  She felt like a very typical, fresh out of the box heroine, embodying many virtuous qualities without having a lot of depth.  She’s the character we spend the most time with, and it was frustrating because she was the least interesting of the three sisters for me.

Gaela was my favorite- but even she has her issues.  I enjoyed her because she’s a female warrior, and refuses to let herself be silenced by the men in her life, be they her husband or her father.  My issue was that I’m not sure if she was supposed to be a transgender character.  She often genders herself as male, but then none of the other characters gender her that way, and she seemed uncommitted to being male when speaking to others.

I think it was great to see gender portrayed as fluid, but I also wish this had been explored a little more or made clearer.  It came off as wishy washy and because of that the message seemed to be that Gaela wanted to be a man because she wanted to be strong and powerful, and not because she really felt like a man (if that was even what she wanted).  I wish it had been recognized somewhere that kings aren’t inherently stronger than queens simply because they’re male.

Aside from the above problems, the structure was a huge issue for me.  We’d sometimes get some forward momentum in the story, and it would be immediately broken by a needless flashback to something that happened years ago that was already easily inferred from the previous text.  They didn’t enhance the story at all and detracted a lot from the pacing.  A good example is Regan and Connley.  Three quarters of the way in we get a flashback to the time when they first met.  By that time in the book, the reader already knows these characters are crazy in love with each other.  That flashback did nothing to move the story forward and didn’t help the reader understand their relationship in any more meaningful a way than we already did.  I was constantly frustrated and put off from reading whenever I’d read the header: TEN YEARS AGO.

Compounding the problem, there were way too many viewpoints.  I think everyone except the Fool and Brona gets their own POV chapter at some point.  It made the book feel like it lacked focus and also created a lot of distance between the reader and the characters, making it hard to connect with any one of them.  I think the story would have been infinitely stronger if we’d only seen the story told from the sisters POVs and maybe Ban’s.  At one point, about a hundred pages in I came to a POV chapter from Aefa.  I put the book down, and every time I went to pick it up again, opened it and saw her name I immediately put it back down again.  She didn’t have anything to add that couldn’t have been told from Elia’s perspective.

There were a few moments of brilliance.  The later scenes between Gaela and her husband for example, where she asserts her dominance over him, were wonderful and a definite highlight of the book for me.  If this had been a retelling solely from Gaela’s point of view with her remade as a sort of antihero rather than the villain I think I would have enjoyed it much more.

Finally, the writing really is beautiful, definitely worthy of Shakespeare.  I just wish those words had been spent more on the storytelling than the descriptions of scenery and magic, which became immensely redundant a third of the way in.

Gratton is releasing another book next year, Lady Hotspur, that I was very excited for. However, given my experience with this I’m undecided if I’ll pick it up.  I just don’t have the patience for books told this way lately.

The Queens of Innis Lear can be found on GoodReads and Amazon.

Library Book Haul

How do you bust a reading slump?

Read ALL the books.

So I went to the library and got ALL the books.

Okay not really.  Here’s what’s up next:

Witchmark C.L. Polk

Witchmark by C. L. Polk

Initial impressions: The writing is excellent.  I only read the first chapter but it was super atmospheric.  It was very easy to picture the setting: people riding bikes and horse drawn carriages in the streets.  A bustling city with soldiers coming and going.  The shadow of war hanging over them all.  The intrigue level is super high.  Nothing is really explained.  It starts out normal enough with a doctor leaving work for the day, and an emergency patient coming through.  And then the magic and witchery starts.  I was expecting more magical realism than straight up magic (which honestly is not really my thing) but I like it so far.  It seems to be hinting at an underground mage society so I’m excited to see where that leads to.  A promising start!

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Initial impressions: First of all- GoodReads told me this was 182 pages long.  It’s not.  I’m willing to forgive it in lieu of the fabulous introduction from Stephen King.  When he found this book, he said he was looking for a book about “how boys really are.”  Golding’s influence on King is obvious.  As I read through the first chapters I kept thinking it felt familiar. Finally I realized it was because it feels like King.  The characters feel real, the prose isn’t overly flowery (though more flowery than King’s).  I’m a little confused about how these boys got to this island, but so far that first chapter is the one that resonated with me the most, so I’ll be continuing with this one before the others.

Initial Impressions: This is confusing as hell.

Seriously- why do authors think writing without quotation marks is a good thing?  Not cool man. I had to re-read a paragraph like eight times, move on, and then double back when I realized there weren’t any quotation marks (and honestly I’m still not sure I understood the conversation).  Otherwise, the prose is spot on.  I’ve highlighted a couple quotes I love already, and if it wasn’t for Lord of the Flies, this would have been my second pick to continue reading.  I’m not sure what the judge’s deal is. I know he’s the big bad in this novel though, so I’m excited to see what it’s leading up to.

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

Initial impressions: I just read a book where a man gets shot in the chest, kills another man dead for taking his shoes, but pulling the wings off a fat little bumblebee bothered me more.  There’s something wrong with me right?  Anyway- I was immediately sucked in by the premise.  A little girl meets a strange man.  There’s something sinister happening with the strange man (Harper Curtis).  That much is obvious from the start.  He seems to hint that he’s acting under orders from some other organization, but that doesn’t make you like him any more.  The writing is great and I’m curious to see where it goes.

Queen of Kings by Maria Dahvana Headley

Queen of Kings by Maria Dahvana Headley

Initial impressions: I think I’ve only really read the introduction and the prologue so far, but I’m a little disappointed.  I’m still coming down from the high that was The Mere Wife, so I had high expectations.  My favorite type of writing, my favorite type of book, is one that I like to describe as unapologetic.  The author writes in a way that’s bound to make the reader uncomfortable, exposing all the ugly truths within a person or a society or practice, but so far this isn’t that.  It doesn’t carry the same level of force that The Mere Wife does. Still, I haven’t read much so I’ll remain hopeful.

The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton

The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton

Initial impressions: I wasn’t really interested in The Queens of Innis Lear when it first released.  The title, the name… it seemed like a pretty generic fantasy to me.  It looked and sounded similar to Four Dead Queens and Three Dark Crowns, which all released at about the same time. But I recently stumbled across the title Lady Hotspur which I added strictly because of the title.  When I checked out the blurb of that, it referenced this.  So I doubled back to TQOIL and read the blurb, and thought what the hell.  I liked King Lear, who not give it a go?  I hope it maintains the humor and wit of King Lear throughout.

So that’s ALL the books.

Have you read any of them?  Are they on your TBR?

Also- please send help.