-posted by Meghan
So, Mum (Ruth) recently read The Song of the Lioness series, and on my summer vacation/visit to her this summer I devoured not only that quartet, but also the other series by Tamara Pierce that take place in Tortall and involve some of the same characters: the Trickster series featuring Alanna’s daughter Ali, and the Wild Magic series about Daine (Alanna’s friend and Ali’s adopted aunt). Over a glass of wine one night (that’s me and Mom’s idea of a vacation – reading and discussing books and drinking wine) we were talking about other books we liked in that vein, and we started realizing that some of the best books that we’ve read (or re-read) lately have a lot in common. They all are part of a series (because once you meet these characters, you have to know what happens next!), they all take place in another time or place, they are all adventure stories, and they all feature fearless and smart young women.
The best thing is, these books and heroines appeal to all ages and both sexes – there’s plenty of adventure and just enough romance for everyone. These are some of our favorite kick-a** (literary) heroines. Who are yours?
Chances are pretty good that we don’t have to tell you anything about Katniss and the Hunger Games books, seeing as they were all huge bestsellers and it’s currently being turned into the most hotly anticipated movie (well, by us and Entertainment Weekly, which runs updates on the movie weekly) of 2012. If you need a refresher on the dystopic future world of Panem, you can read our earlier reviews/raves about the series (here and here). If you want to talk movie casting, meet me in the comments! (Mostly brilliant casting, but hello? Liam Hemsworth is NOT my Gale. Discuss…)
Mary “Jacky” Faber, from the Bloody Jack Adventures series by L.A. Meyer
I can’t believe we haven’t found a way to work a Jacky Faber book onto a list yet. This great series begins with Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary “Jacky” Faber, Ship’s Boy. Young Mary Faber is an orphaned street urchin, begging and working on London’s streets in the 18th century. When her gang’s leader is killed, she decides to make a better life for herself by dressing as a boy and signing on to be a ship’s boy in her majesty’s royal navy. Tough, intrepid, beautiful and flirty, Jacky goes from ship’s boy to young lady to pirate to captain to gambler to convict and more. She romps through history, meeting (and besting) some real historical figures. Her adventures take her all over the world, but she never forgets her beloved Jamie (at least, not for long!). Jacky’s latest adventure (her 8th) is being released on October 4th, so hopefully there are more bloody books in store.
Jane Peck, from the Boston Jane series by Jennifer L. Holm
Jane doesn’t want to be tomboyish or have adventures. She was a tomboy, the kind who ate too much pie and could spit with the best of the boys. Then she attended Miss Hepplewhite’s Academy for Young Ladies, fell in love with handsome young Dr. William, and wishes only to become his wife and an elegant lady. Jane thinks her life will be perfect when William asks her to move to the new Northwest Territory and be his wife. She sets out on a long sea voyage to meet him… only to find that he isn’t what he appears, life on the frontier is distinctly unsuited to ladylike ways, and she has more of her resourceful, tomboy self left in her than she imagined. This series is slightly reminiscent of the Little House books, with her own Nellie Olsen-ish nemesis who follows her west, and also a budding romance. This series is also full of real life events (like the Stevens Negotiations) and evocative descriptions of the daily life of pioneer women.
Vesper Holly, from the Vesper Holly Adventures series by Lloyd Alexander
With all the publishing world’s hysteria to crown a book “the next Harry Potter” there hasn’t been enough look back at some wonderful authors and series who were “the previous Harry Potter”. Lloyd Alexander’s Taran, an orphan who was raised by a magician, grew to manhood supported by his friends, fought and defeated the death lord, fell in love and saved a kingdom (sound familiar?), has been enchanting audiences for almost 50 years. Less famous, and just as delightful, is one of Alexander’s heroines: Vesper Holly. Orphaned at 16, Vesper’s new guardians are her father’s old friend Professor Brinton (Brinnie) and his wife Mary. Vesper drags her dear Brinnie from his beloved Philadelphia to adventures all over the world – saving kingdoms, finding treasure (and romance), and fighting evil (usually in the guise of Dr. Helvitius). Again, there are some interesting historical details woven in among the fictional characters and lands, but the real draw is the Indiana Jones-ish Vesper and the bumbling and loveable Brinnie.
Rowan Hood, from the Tales of Rowan Hood series by Nancy Springer
Not exactly a re-telling, and Rowan Hood isn’t an alternate story of Robin Hood, rather it’s a continuing story, with Ro cast as the daughter Robin never knew he had. When her mother is murdered, Ro sets off to find her famous father (disguised as a boy – there’s a fair bit of that that goes on with heroines in these books!) and recreates her own band of outlaws along the way. The series continues with the stories of each of her friends, before ending with a return to Ro and the conclusion of her tale. This series is an entertaining read for all kids (and adults) who have always loved Robin Hood.
Penelope Lumley from the Incorrigible Children series by Maryrose Wood
What if Jane Eyre were more plucky than mopey, wasn’t quite sure she was an orphan, was in charge of three wolf children, and had an odd secret that she herself was unaware of? She’s be more like Penelope Lumley! Book one in the Incorrigible series introduces us to Miss Lumley, a recent graduate of the Swanburne academy, as she arrives at Ashton Place ready to assume her new life as a governess. She is equipped with plenty of nerve, common sense, and an Agatha Swanburne saying to fit every occasion. Even occasions such as her three charges being raised by wolves (perhaps are part wolf themselves), a hair mystery of her own, some missing parents, the silly wife of her employer, and a blossoming romance with a dashing playwright (you have to get to book 2 for the romance to begin!)…
Still looking for more? This list doesn’t even include two of our favorite wonderfully adventurous heroines: Theodosia Throckmorton and Enola Holmes. That’s because these young ladies solve mysteries while they are having adventures and we have already featured them on our list of mystery series for tweens…