Fierce, Willful, and Defiant: Our Readers' Favorite Fictional Heroines

Posted by Marie on March 29, 2018
On the subject of women, Jane Austen once wrote, “None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.” And so it goes for the heroines we meet in books. Not only are they admired for their spirit and independence, but also for their fears and flaws.

In honor of Women's History Month, we asked our fans on Twitter and Facebook which fictional heroines have captured their hearts. We limited our roundup to the most popular answers and added an inspiring quote from each character.

If you don’t see your fictional heroine on this list, be sure to add their names in comments. Don’t forget to add new favorites to your Want-to-Read shelf!

Jane Eyre
from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Quote: “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”

Elizabeth Bennet
from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Quote: “There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.”

Hermione Granger
from the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
Quote: “Books! And cleverness! There are more important things: friendship and bravery!”

Starr Carter
from The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Quote: “What's the point of having a voice if you're gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn't be?”

Make sure to check out our interview with Angie Thomas.

Katniss Everdeen
from The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
Quote: “No one will forget me. Not my look, not my name. Katniss. The girl who was on fire.”

Quote: “Every time I caught a glimpse of myself in the glass of a shop, I felt I was someone to be taken seriously; not a girl anymore, but a young woman.”

Quote: “All my life men like you've sneered at me, and all my life I've been knocking men like you into the dust.”

Quote: “My name isn't Offred, I have another name, which nobody uses now because it's forbidden. I tell myself it doesn't matter...but what I tell myself is wrong, it does matter.”

Jo March
from the Little Women series by Louisa May Alcott
Quote: “I want to do something splendid before I go into my castle, something heroic or wonderful that won't be forgotten after I'm dead. I don't know what, but I'm on the watch for it, and mean to astonish you all someday.”

from Sula by Toni Morrison
Quote: “I don't want to make somebody else. I want to make myself.”

Lisbeth Salander
from the Millennium series by Stieg Larsson
Quote: “I hate this society where we're watched over all the time. I've had enough of Big Brother and the authorities in my life.”

Claire Fraser
from the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon
Quote: “One dictum I had learned on the battlefields of France in a far distant war: You cannot save the world, but you might save the man in front of you, if you work fast enough.”

Comments Showing 1-50 of 127 (127 new)

message 1: by MJ (last edited Mar 29, 2018 10:15PM) (new)

message 2: by Reader (new)

Reader Miss Julia from Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind and the rest of that long series.

message 3: by Benjamin (new)

Benjamin Appleby-Dean Arha / Tenar from The Tombs of Atuan and Tehanu.

message 4: by Kalin (last edited Mar 30, 2018 06:13AM) (new)

Kalin Meguet from Patricia McKillip's Cygnet duology, Aenea from Dan Simmons's Endymion, and Marta from the eponymous books by Velichka Nastradinova.

message 5: by Marilyn (new)

Marilyn D Any of the heroines from Tamora Pierce's Books!

message 6: by Lo9man88 (new)

Lo9man88 Karrin Murphy "dresden files" , Kate Daniels , Rachel Morgan
"the hollows"

message 7: by Alejandra (new)

Alejandra Nice! I've either read or plan to read all of these books ! =)

message 8: by Jazzy (last edited Mar 30, 2018 03:17AM) (new)

Jazzy Lemon Oh, definitely Margarita Nikolaevna from The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov!

While depressed and sullen when we first meet her, Margarita quickly proves herself to be ready for anything—far removed from the timidity of many other love-story heroines. She also displays generosity towards her maid, Natasha, reinforcing the notion that she truly does not care for money or beauty but only for the Master and love.

Most Bulgakov scholars believe that the main prototype for Margarita was Elena Bulgakova, the third and last wife of the writer, whom he called "my Margarita. The love between the two main characters is described in the novel as follows: "Love leaped out in front of us like a murderer in an alley leaping out of nowhere, and struck us both at once. As lightning strikes, as a Finnish knife strikes! She, by the way, insisted afterwards that it wasn't so, that we had, of course, loved each other for a long, long time, without knowing each other...".

message 9: by Cendaquenta (new)

Cendaquenta Tiffany Aching from The Wee Free Men (and sequels) is my Favourite Above Favourites. She is my Hermione.

Eowyn and Galadriel from The Lord of the Rings (really, most of Middle-Earth's women), Vasya from The Bear and the Nightingale, Jack from the Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire, Merricat from We Have Always Lived in the Castle (an antiheroine). And I'm only halfway through Fly by Night but I feel like Mosca Mye should be in there.

For the Game of Thrones entry, I think Sansa and Arya should get a place alongside Brienne. My three best girls.

message 10: by Katsuro (new)

Katsuro Ah, Lisbeth Salander... So many people have read "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," and so few know how many changes it makes from the original Swedish text...

For instance, you know the big dragon tattoo that she has all over her back? That tattoo doesn't exist in the original Swedish. It's an invention by the English translation. In the original Swedish, she has a dragon on her shoulder blade; that's all.

She deserved a better translation; she definitely did.

message 11: by Katsuro (new)

Katsuro Also, I know she's not really a heroine as such, but... Legs Sadovsky from "Foxfire" by Joyce Carol Oates.

message 12: by Kalin (new)

Kalin Cendaquenta wrote: "..."

Yikes! I forgot Tiffany and Eowyn. :)

message 13: by Jazzy (last edited Mar 30, 2018 04:21AM) (new)

Jazzy Lemon Violet Baudelaire from Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events.

Like her siblings, Violet is intelligent, charming, polite, and resourceful. Lamentably, Violet is extremely unfortunate, a phrase which here means "having a continuous streak of bad luck."

Violet is an intelligent inventor whose wits and skills have saved her and her siblings countless times from death. Anyone who knew Violet well could tell she was thinking hard, because her long hair was tied up in a ribbon to keep it out of her eyes. Violet had a real knack for inventing and building strange devices, so her brain was often filled with images of pulleys, levers, and gears, and she never wanted to be distracted by something as trivial as her hair, allowing her to keep focus.

Violet is possibly the greatest inventor of her time. When Violet was five years old, she won her first invention contest with an automatic rolling pin, which she made using a window shade and six pairs of roller skates. The judge praised Violet, saying she could invent anything with both her hands tied behind her back. Prior to the demise of her parents, she liked to visit the Verne Invention Museum and its many exhibits, including one of the mechanical demonstrations that inspired her to be an inventor when she was just two years old. Violet once invented a device to soothe her sister's teething pains. Her favourite inventor is Nikola Tesla.

message 14: by Jazzy (new)

Jazzy Lemon Also, some great heroines who are children include Matilda, Eloise, and Madeline

message 15: by Jazzy (last edited Mar 30, 2018 04:32AM) (new)

Jazzy Lemon And from Swallows and Amazons who could forget Susan Walker – Second eldest of the Walkers and mate of the Swallow and Titty Walker – Able Seaman of the Swallow. Titty was especially known for her fierce intelligence and lively imagination.

message 16: by Cat (new)

Cat Cat 6/12 books read on this list. 5 unread and 1/2 of the six. 😊

message 17: by bjneary (new)

bjneary Just finished This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada, a must read scifi! Catarina is fighting to save the world through hacking and releasing a vaccine, could not put it down- she has courage, hope and kick ass determination!

message 19: by Cendaquenta (new)

Cendaquenta Of course Lucy!!! (And Susan, too!)

message 20: by Adi (last edited Mar 30, 2018 05:56AM) (new)

Adi Cordelia Vorkosigan from Barrayar and Vorkosigan saga.

message 21: by Justin's 52 Books (last edited Mar 30, 2018 06:00AM) (new)

Justin's 52 Books Mattie Ross from True Grit.

message 22: by Aenea (new)

Aenea Jones No one beats Lisbeth Salander. Antisocial with a killer intellect! :]

message 23: by Katsuro (new)

Katsuro Aenea wrote: "No one beats Lisbeth Salander. Antisocial with a killer intellect! :]"

Sometimes literally so. :)

Dana Al-Basha |  دانة الباشا I admire and love all those ladies but I would say I mostly was in awe at Arya Stark and Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones. I also LOVE Anne Shirley, I think Marilla Cuthbert is a woman of steel! I adore Cinder the gifted mechanic and cyborg, Isabelle Lightwood is the queen of kicking ass, Karou a rebel demon with blue hair, Sara Crewe always hopeful and don't let me start with Gail Carriger's Alexia Tarabotti!

message 25: by Mary (new)

Mary Pagones Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing, Cressida from Troilus and Cressida, and Sue from Jude the Obscure.

message 26: by Nevada (new)

Nevada The book The Broken Crown, and the whole series for that matter, is one of the ABSOLUTE best for different types of strong, interesting women. Jewel - a Seer that forms and defends her own family; Diora - a woman prized for her literally flawless beauty, that would be killed for her uncontrolled voice, who can carry a sword of fire that burns other men; Teresa - a master manipulator wearing femininity and obedience to clothe her will or iron; Kiriel - a god-born battle princess struggling with nature over nurture; Margret - matriarch of her family using brute strength, history and magic.

This is an often overlooked, amazing book that I recommend to everyone I possibly can.

message 27: by Teri-K (new)

Teri-K Jo March is number one. Also, Elizabeth Bennet, Anne Shirley and Tiffany Aching as mentioned above. Then the heroines from A Girl of the Limberlost, Christy, Heaven to Betsy. And Mrs Pollifax from The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax, to remind us that great heroines can appear at any age.

message 28: by Sue (new)

Sue Carris from World Without End by Ken Follett

message 29: by Blair (new)

Blair Mary Katherine from We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

message 30: by enoughtohold (new)

enoughtohold The link to The Hate U Give in the post goes to a book about CD-ROM games.

message 31: by Stuart (last edited Mar 30, 2018 07:47AM) (new)

Stuart I am reading an anthology of such stories and characters. Tanith Lee's Jaisel is one example. Emile Bronte's "Death of Augusta" is also included.

I do love C.L. Moore's Jirel of Joiry, and Ariosto's Bradamante

message 32: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn IMHO, no list would be complete without The Great Turtlenecked one: Kinsey Milhone from Sue Grafton's alphabet series.

message 33: by Blair (new)

Blair Cendaquenta wrote: "Tiffany Aching from The Wee Free Men (and sequels) is my Favourite Above Favourites. She is my Hermione.

Eowyn and Galadriel from The Lord of the Rings (really, most of Midd..."

I love Merricat too!

message 34: by Louie (new)

Louie Meg Murray from A Wrinkle in Time

message 35: by Melissa (new)

Melissa Kinsey Millhone from the Sue Grafton Alphabet Series is my all-time favorite. Also love VI Warshawski (Sara Paretsky) and Sharon McCone (Marcia Muller).
More recently, Caitlin Hendrix from Meg Gardner's UNSUB series and Thea Paris from KJ Howe.

I agree with many on the list above(Lisbeth Salander, Elizabeth Bennett, Jo March, Katniss, Arya Stark & Daenerys Targareyn, Herminone Grainger). Lots of great female leads in fiction.

message 36: by Celia (new)

Celia Éowyn!

"All your words are but to say: you are a woman, and your part is in the house. But when the men have died in battle and honor, you have leave to be burned in the house, for the men will need it no more. But I am of the house of Eorl and not a serving woman. I can ride and wield blade, and I do not fear either death or pain."

"But no living man am I. You look upon a woman. Éowyn I am, Éomund's daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him."

message 37: by Gwen (new)

Gwen Kind of an unfortunate choice of quote for Harry Potter, given that the whole context of that line is "Books and cleverness is what I'm good at, Harry, but you're better than me at much more important things."

message 38: by Jason (new)

Jason X Oly from Geek Love

madeline (The Bookish Mutant) Eva Nine from The Search for WondLa, Eleanor from Eleanor and Park, Cath from Fangirl, Kymera from Monstrous, Liz Sherman from the Hellboy and BPRD comics, Hermione Granger, obv.,...the list goes on.

message 40: by Kat (new)

Kat Kate Daniels from the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews!

message 41: by Urmi (new)

Urmi Chakraborty Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series is obviously my she's my real bestie...I just wish she existed in this world...I even have a diary in which I write to Hermione each single day...tho she doesn't respond, but still I love writing to her every night and that actually makes me feel like she somehow exists... When I read the Harry Potter series for the first time ever in my middle school, I seriously got inspired by her...she was the one who inspired me to study and read all the fucking times! God, please make me meet her once...but she just resides in my dream world...I'm ill-fated 😣😢😥😫😭!

Another fave heroine of mine is Elizabeth Bennett from Jane Austen's infamous Pride and Prejudice. She's intelligent and sensible. She is well read and quick-witted, with a tongue that occasionally proves too sharp for her own good. I adore her character. Like it's too good a trait for women of her age, her era and the then English society. She might have been her daddy's most favorite daughter, but she's my favorite heroine, my huge inspiration too!

message 42: by Rose (last edited Mar 30, 2018 11:33AM) (new)

Rose Definitely Aelin Ashryver Galathynius, from Empire of Storms and the whole Throne of Glass series.

Olivia "So many books--so little time."" Melissa wrote: "Kinsey Millhone from the Sue Grafton Alphabet Series is my all-time favorite. Also love VI Warshawski (Sara Paretsky) and Sharon McCone (Marcia Muller).
More recently, Caitlin Hendrix from Meg Gar..."

Kinsey Millhone is one of my favorites too. When I was a kid I liked Dorothy from The Wonderful Wizard of Ozand other Oz books.

message 44: by Picky Virgo (new)

Picky Virgo Kate Daniels, Lisbeth Salander, Sister Jane Arnold, V.I. Warshawski, Jo March, Charity Styles, Tuesday Next, Dolores Claiborne...

message 45: by [deleted user] (new)

Kate Williams from Marcelle Dube's Mendenhall series, Meg Harris from R. J. Harlick's Meg Harris series and Belle Palmer from Lou Allin's Belle Palmer series and maybe some others!

message 46: by amanda (new)

amanda  Beeks Menolly from a series written by Anne Mcgaffrey

message 47: by Sophie (new)

Sophie Elizabeth Bennet for sure, but also Anne from Anne of green gables.

message 48: by Craig (last edited Mar 30, 2018 12:46PM) (new)

Craig Justin wrote: "Mattie Ross from True Grit."


“Who is the best marshal they have?'

The sheriff thought on it for a minute. He said, 'I would have to weigh that proposition. There is near about two hundred of them. I reckon William Waters is the best tracker. He is a half-breed Comanche and it is something to see, watching him cut for sign. The meanest one is Rooster Cogburn. He is a pitiless man, double-tough, and fear don't enter into his thinking. He loves to pull a cork. Now L.T. Quinn, he brings his prisoners in alive. He may let one get by now and then but he believes even the worst of men is entitled to a fair shake. Also the court does not pay any fees for dead men. Quinn is a good peace officer and a lay preacher to boot. He will not plant evidence or abuse a prisoner. He is straight as a string. Yes, I will say Quinn is about the best they have.'

I said, 'Where can I find this Rooster?”

message 49: by Cassie (new)

Cassie Fischer Feyre from "A Court of Thorns and Roses"

message 50: by Cassie (new)

Cassie Fischer Chris wrote: "Eve Dallas, Detective, from J.D. Robb's (Nora Roberts') In Death Series. Eve is fierce, willful, and defiant, as well as loyal, competent, and beautiful. Great series comprising nearly 60 works."


« previous 1 3
back to top