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Old 05-10-2013, 08:36 AM
Sario Sario is offline
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Scifi/Fantasy books with strong female characters

There's was a comment in the Pit about how most scifi/fantasy books seem to treat their female characters as a bit window dressing. I'm looking for some books that actually have women with personality. For example, I'm currently reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson. Also the Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher has several great female characters.
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Old 05-10-2013, 08:47 AM
Aspidistra Aspidistra is offline
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For books with good female characters, choosing a book written by a woman is a pretty good rule of thumb. Doesn't always work (Ursula LeGuin, despite being a very fine writer, comes to mind) but if I consider all the books with female characters I really dig, most of them are written by women. CJ Cherryh, Lois McMaster Bujold, Katherine Kerr, Robin Hobb, Connie Willis, Julian May. I'm sure a few more will come to mind as soon as I've hit reply.

As far as male writers go - a lot of good male writers write strong female characters, but often they're kinda masculine strong female characters. IMO the test is to look at stretches of dialogue between two women - if a male writer can do that, he's really got it made. Dave Duncan is good at this. There are some other of my faves like Vernor Vinge or Iain Banks who have good female characters, but as soon as they start talking to another woman you notice the cracks. At least, I notice them.
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Old 05-10-2013, 08:55 AM
Prof. Pepperwinkle Prof. Pepperwinkle is offline
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Just a couple off the top of my head:

Cirocco "Rocky" Jones from Varley's Titan Series (and other ladies from Varley's books)
Friday from Friday by Robert Heinlein
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Old 05-10-2013, 09:01 AM
Cinnamon Imp Cinnamon Imp is offline
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Everything by Sheri Tepper!
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Old 05-10-2013, 09:03 AM
Czarcasm Czarcasm is offline
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Pretty much everything from Mercedes Lackey.
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Old 05-10-2013, 09:07 AM
Lynn Bodoni Lynn Bodoni is offline
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Barbara Hambly has some great female characters. I'm not fond of her Benjamin January series or the Dragonsbane sequels (Dragonsbane itself was great), but otherwise, I'm very fond of her work.

Elizabeth Moon's fantasies are wonderful. She's put out at least one and possibly two more books in the Paksennarion series recently. I'm not into her science fiction as much.

John Scalzi can write believable female characters that aren't stereotypes or tokens.

James H. Schmitz was using female characters half a century ago, such as Telzey Amberdon and Trigger Argee.
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Old 05-10-2013, 09:09 AM
MrDibble MrDibble is offline
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Terry Pratchett
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Old 05-10-2013, 09:14 AM
StJoan StJoan is offline
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Terry Pratchett, seconded. His Granny Weatherwax is one of the most inspiring female characters I have ever come across, as far as the fantasy genre goes. Nanny Ogg is not too bad either...
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Old 05-10-2013, 09:19 AM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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David Weber's Honor Harrington books come obviously to mind.
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Old 05-10-2013, 09:19 AM
Prof. Pepperwinkle Prof. Pepperwinkle is offline
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Originally Posted by StJoan View Post
Terry Pratchett, seconded. His Granny Weatherwax is one of the most inspiring female characters I have ever come across, as far as the fantasy genre goes. Nanny Ogg is not too bad either...
And Death's granddaughter, Susan Sto Helit, is also a force to be reckoned with.
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Old 05-10-2013, 09:24 AM
JohnT JohnT is online now
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Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion has a couple of "strong" female characters in Brawne Lamia and Meina Gladstone.
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Old 05-10-2013, 09:35 AM
phouka phouka is offline
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Seconding Barbara Hambly and Terry Pratchett. Also, Robin McKinley has very strong, very feminine characters, and she tends to do retakes on standard fairy tale fare.

Anne MacAffrey has some strong female characters, but they're written through a lens of 60s and 70s culture, so things like domestic abuse and spousal rape are taken as normal and not particularly objectionable.
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Old 05-10-2013, 09:44 AM
silenus silenus is offline
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Weber, Pratchett, Heinlein on a good day.

Nanny Ogg rocks!
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Old 05-10-2013, 09:47 AM
muldoonthief muldoonthief is offline
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David Drake's RCN series has several strong female characters, the top two of which are Adele Mundy, and her servant Tovera. They aren't what you'd call normal though - Tovera is a flat out sociopath who enjoys killing people, and Adele is an anti-social genius. Each has killed more people than they can count. Given that they're flat-out action novels, the sex of the participants isn't too relevant.
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Old 05-10-2013, 10:02 AM
GuanoLad GuanoLad is offline
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Originally Posted by StJoan View Post
Terry Pratchett, seconded. His Granny Weatherwax is one of the most inspiring female characters I have ever come across, as far as the fantasy genre goes. Nanny Ogg is not too bad either...
The Tiffany Aching books have barely any male characters in them at all.
  #16  
Old 05-10-2013, 11:46 AM
Isamu Isamu is offline
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It's probably harder to find a recent sci-fi/fantasy story without a strong female character.
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Old 05-10-2013, 11:59 AM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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The Tiffany Aching books have barely any male characters in them at all.
Well, aside from the Baron's son, and the other love interest in the last one, and 99% of the Nac Mac Feegles, and her kid brother, and her father, and the Wintersmith, and...

Yeah, I'm not seeing that one.
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Old 05-10-2013, 12:16 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is online now
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Several Charles Stross novels have strong female protagonists: the Merchant Prince series; Singularity Sky and Iron Sunrise; and Saturn's Children (arguably).
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Old 05-10-2013, 12:17 PM
Aizle Aizle is offline
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Tanya Huff - The Confederation Novels
- Valor's Choice
- The Better Part of Valor
- The Heart of Valor
- Valor's Trial
- The Truth of Valor
  #20  
Old 05-10-2013, 04:35 PM
Airk Airk is offline
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Lois McMaster Bujold with both the Sharing Knife series (Fantasy), and Cordelia's Honor (Sci-fi.). Cordelia may be my favorite heroine ever.

Also, Garth Nix with Sabriel. Not so much Lyrael from the following books though, IMHO.
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Old 05-10-2013, 05:28 PM
MrDibble MrDibble is offline
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Oh, and China Miéville has some strong female characters: Bellis from The Scar, Marge in Kraken, Avice in Embassytown.
  #22  
Old 05-10-2013, 05:41 PM
Ranger Jeff Ranger Jeff is offline
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never mind.

Last edited by Ranger Jeff; 05-10-2013 at 05:41 PM.
  #23  
Old 05-10-2013, 05:42 PM
Reepicheep Reepicheep is offline
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Ilona Andrews - a husband and wife team - have both the Kate Daniels books - where Kate is an extremely strong character, as well a the 4 book Edge which are a little more romancey than science fiction but still have nice strong female leads.

P. M. Griffin did a series called Star Commandos. She had a multi-year hiatus between the first 9 books, which are good, and the last 3 books which are excellent. Commando-Colonel Connor is a very strong woman.
  #24  
Old 05-10-2013, 07:32 PM
Infovore Infovore is online now
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There are some good strong female characters in Jacqueline Lichtenberg and Jean Lorrah's Sime Gen series. Ambrov Keon and Mahogany Trinrose both have strong female protagonists. You pretty much need to read some other books in the series that don't have as many strong women to make sense of these, though, as the series is highly interconnected.
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Old 05-10-2013, 07:39 PM
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S.M. Stirling's Nantucket trilogy has Marian Alston, a Coast Guard captain. Without her the people of Nantucket would most likely have gone down the tubes, or at least not done as well as they did.

She's a go to character for three reasons, as she herself knew.

She's female, in a traditionally male job.

She's female, and black.

she's female, black, and lesbian.
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Old 05-10-2013, 08:21 PM
Lsura Lsura is offline
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Seanan McGuire's October Daye series (I assume her other work, but I've not read them(well, I read the Newsflesh series that she wrote as Mira Grant).

C.E. Murphy's Walker Papers series (again, I've read that series but none other).

Anything by Octavia Butler.

On the YA side, all of Tamora Pierce's work.
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Old 05-12-2013, 03:34 AM
Anduinel Anduinel is offline
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The Wolf series by Jane Lindskold. In addition to having a strong female protagonist (who gets to have flaws that are an actual hindrance), the series also boots a lot of the tropes I dislike in fantasy about animal characters and feral children. Links go to sample chapter on author's website.

- Through Wolf's Eyes
- Wolf's Head, Wolf's Heart
- The Dragon of Despair
- Wolf Captured
- Wolf Hunting
- Wolf's Blood
  #28  
Old 05-14-2013, 10:55 AM
Ann Hedonia Ann Hedonia is online now
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I think Peter F Hamilton writes the BEST female characters, especially in his Confederation novels. In addition to hating the "traditional" female stereotype I also hate the "strong woman who overcomes odds to become a starship captain" stereotype...........boring boring boring.

Hamilton's characters tend to be ordinary women thrust into extraordinary circumstances. Take. Araminta, the main character in the Void Trilogy. She's a young divorced woman trying to start a real estate development business....and rather scornful of the religious cult that is inundating her planet.....when she accidently becomes the star player in the cult's quest.

I often say his great female characters are what makes him my favorite author.
  #29  
Old 05-14-2013, 11:08 AM
Tethered Kite Tethered Kite is offline
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The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.
  #30  
Old 05-14-2013, 11:25 AM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
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Susan Calvin was the central figure of Asimov's I Robot stories.

Sister Light, Sister Dark and White Jenna by Jane Yolen

The Female Man and most everything else by Joanna Russ.

James Morrow's Only Begotten Daughter

Staroamer's Fate and its sequel Syron's Fate (both soon to be republished by Fantastic Books).
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  #31  
Old 05-14-2013, 12:15 PM
Left Hand of Dorkness Left Hand of Dorkness is offline
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James SA Corey's two books--Leviathan Wakes and Caliban's War--have some good female characters. The latter especially has some great scenes between two women in traditional male roles: the female marine and the female political bureaucrat. They're great fun.
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Old 05-14-2013, 12:29 PM
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Philip Reeve has some real winners.

Hester Shaw from the Mortal Engines books is brutal and amoral, and she's the protagonist; it's the male love interest, Tom Natsworthy who is the sunshiney, optimistic, has-to-be-rescued half of the couple. And Fever Crumb from the prequels is pretty tough too.

I'd also mention Gwyna from Here Lies Arthur, the young girl telling the story - she and "Myrddin" are playing a dangerous game of politics in Arthurian Britain.

And for laughs there's the steampunk Larklight trilogy; one of the main characters, Myrtle, tries to be a prim and girly Victorian lady but to her dismay persists in being competent in dangerous situations.
  #33  
Old 05-14-2013, 12:31 PM
robardin robardin is offline
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Brandon Sanderson's awesome "Mistborn" trilogy has a female main (Vin) who is strong in every sense of the word :-) Interestingly, he has a blog that diaries the writing process and keeps earlier drafts of work for public view, and this character had originally been male - making Vin a young woman somehow is just the right touch.

For a while you could download a novella of his for free called "The Emperor's Soul"' an excellent quick read that also has a strong female central POV.
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Old 05-14-2013, 12:40 PM
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Tanya Huff - The Confederation Novels
- Valor's Choice
- The Better Part of Valor
- The Heart of Valor
- Valor's Trial
- The Truth of Valor
Don't forget her Vicki Nelson from the Blood books
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Old 05-14-2013, 12:48 PM
BlinkingDuck BlinkingDuck is offline
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I have a soft spot for Warrior's Wings series

http://www.amazon.com/Silver-Wings-W...rior%27s+wings

Independent author and military SF but has a strong female lead that is still female, not a male character with a female name.
  #36  
Old 05-14-2013, 12:52 PM
BlinkingDuck BlinkingDuck is offline
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Originally Posted by Isamu View Post
It's probably harder to find a recent sci-fi/fantasy story without a strong female character.
http://www.amazon.com/Swarm-Star-For...arforce+series

This is like a blast from the past...strong male character who outsmarts and outfights against vast odds - is always right - never makes a mistake and has several 'strong' female characters who seem to exist soley to throw themselves at the lead male character.

Very cliche, very juvenile...but WELL DONE IMO .

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Old 05-14-2013, 01:44 PM
Amara_ Amara_ is offline
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I concur with

-C. J Cherryh (be warned that she writes broken characters)
-Lois McMaster Bujold. I didn't get into the Sharing Knife but her Chalion and Barrayar series have realistic women
-Terry Pratchett
-Tanya Huff - Confederation.
-Ilona Andrews - Kate Daniels. Her other series also has strong women but I didn't like it as much.
-The Jane Lindskold referenced above but it's more a feral, female character.
-Garth Nix. Sabriel is a beautiful book.

I disagree with Susan Calvin. She's nominally female but (IMO) is a cardboard cutout. I've read a couple of Heinlein and his women, again IMO, tend to be male fantasies of women.

I'm adding several authors to my list based on this thread.
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Old 05-14-2013, 02:00 PM
Morbo Morbo is offline
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Oh, and China Miéville has some strong female characters: Bellis from The Scar, Marge in Kraken, Avice in Embassytown.
What I came in to mention. Also Deeba from Un Lun Dun and Natasha from King Rat.

Also Teela Brown from Ringworld, and Podkayne of Mars of course.
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Old 05-14-2013, 04:24 PM
araminty araminty is offline
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Also, Garth Nix with Sabriel. Not so much Lyrael from the following books though, IMHO.
I disagree completely! Yeah, Lirael starts out kind of whiny and helpless, but that's the whole point of her coming of age story - she comes into her inheritance and accepts her role. I think the adult Lirael of the third book is a great role model.
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Old 05-14-2013, 05:41 PM
Trinopus Trinopus is offline
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It's worth noting that Jack Vance, toward the end of his career, finally did manage to write a book with a strong, believable, likeable, competent female protagonist. For MOST of his career, his female characters were space princesses and other nonentities. But in Ecce and Old Earth, second book in The Cadwal Chronicles Trilogy, the character Wayness Tamm marks a breakthrough success in Vance's writing.
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Old 05-14-2013, 08:09 PM
John DiFool John DiFool is offline
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C. J. Cherryh's Morgaine series.
  #42  
Old 05-15-2013, 01:34 AM
Lynn Bodoni Lynn Bodoni is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Amara_ View Post
I concur with

-C. J Cherryh (be warned that she writes broken characters)
-Lois McMaster Bujold. I didn't get into the Sharing Knife but her Chalion and Barrayar series have realistic women
-Terry Pratchett
-Tanya Huff - Confederation.
-Ilona Andrews - Kate Daniels. Her other series also has strong women but I didn't like it as much.
-The Jane Lindskold referenced above but it's more a feral, female character.
-Garth Nix. Sabriel is a beautiful book.

I disagree with Susan Calvin. She's nominally female but (IMO) is a cardboard cutout. I've read a couple of Heinlein and his women, again IMO, tend to be male fantasies of women.

I'm adding several authors to my list based on this thread.
The thing about Calvin and Heinlein's women is that they were actually more believable than the female characters in most SF/fantasy at the time. Yes, as bad as they were, at least they had more than a couple of brain cells in their heads, and they weren't simply love interests. It's like reading Kipling...when we read his work through today's eyes, we see how racist and sexist they are, you have to read the stories through yesterday's eyes if you're reading for enjoyment. I think that you have to give Asimov and Heinlein credit for trying to write female characters that were actually people, even if they didn't manage to do so.
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Old 05-15-2013, 01:44 AM
The Second Stone The Second Stone is offline
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CJ Cherryh. I'm not so sure her characters are strong as they are among the best characterizations I have read. Both male and female, but primarily I remember her female characters, as it's been a few decades since I read SF. Her characters are as complete as first rate literature. Loved them.
  #44  
Old 05-15-2013, 03:30 AM
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William Gibson has several.

Molly from Neuromancer

My fav was Cayce Pollard from Pattern Recognition. (I love that book)
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Old 05-15-2013, 04:14 AM
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How could this thread have gone five minutes without mention of Game of Thrones, and the rest of the Ice and Fire series?
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Old 05-15-2013, 09:20 AM
Molesworth 2 Molesworth 2 is offline
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Julian May had some pretty strong female characters in her writings. Although she possibly undermined that by making several male members of the Remillard family the most memorable characters I've ever read about in Sci-Fi.

And by that I mean Marc and Jon Remillard in particular.

I mean... Holy fuck. Those scenes she writes about when those two phenomenal brothers took walks along the river... Jon "Jack the Bodiless" and Marc "The Angel of the Abyss" before Jon's infant body became riddled with cancer and the brothers became sworn enemies...

Gonna have to read those books again soon.
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Old 05-15-2013, 09:54 AM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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It occurs to me that nobody has yet mentioned the Harry Potter books. Sure, the protagonist is male, but nobody would ever accuse Hermione of being a helpless damsel in distress. Nor Luna Lovegood, and while Ginny did need rescuing once, she's gotten herself out of more trouble than she's gotten herself into. All of the adult women seem to hold their own pretty well, too.
  #48  
Old 05-15-2013, 08:11 PM
Maeglin Maeglin is offline
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I really like C.S. Friedman and some of her female characters are magnificent. Jamsia Shido in This Alien Shore is particularly memorable. In Conquest Born is a badass novel and its female protagonist does not disappoint.
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Old 05-15-2013, 10:17 PM
urban1a urban1a is offline
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Priscilla "Hutch" Hutchins in the Academy Series by Jack McDevitt was an excellent strong female character (heroine).

Bob
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