Margaret Rogerson is kicking off the summer with Sorcery of Thorns, a YA fantasy about an orphan named Elisabeth who dreams of protecting her world from the creatures housed in her kingdom’s magical libraries. Sorcery of Thorns is one of our must-read books of the season and to celebrate its release and her fierce leading lady, Rogerson shared the headstrong heroines she wishes she had as role models growing up.
I grew up on a diet of headstrong heroines in my favorite childhood fantasy books—characters like Aerin from The Hero and the Crown, Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle, and Cimorene from Dealing with Dragons. In a genre often dominated by men, it was inspiring to read about young women who were determined to forge their own paths in life and refused to give up even when the odds seemed impossibly stacked against them. I drew on that inspiration to craft Elisabeth’s character in Sorcery of Thorns, and I love that readers today have far more headstrong heroines to read about than I did as a teen. Here are some of my favorites from recent years:
The Winternight trilogy by Katherine Arden
About halfway through The Girl in the Tower, I realized that this was the only book that had ever given me the same profound feeling of catharsis I had while reading The Hero and the Crown as a teen. Vasya’s journey is that of a girl who chafes against the gendered restrictions placed upon her by society, and who can see spirits that no one else can—qualities that put her in danger of being persecuted as a witch in medieval Russia. Her development from a reckless, untameable girl to a fierce, self-assured young woman coming into her own incredible power left a permanent mark on my heart.
Nocturna by Maya Motayne
If you’re a fan of Arya or Lila Bard, you have to meet Nocturna’s Finn Voy. Finn is a talented thief who is also a faceshifter, possessing the magical ability to change her appearance, which she relies on so much that she no longer remembers her true face. Her difficult upbringing has left her tough as nails and given her a passionately independent spirit. I loved her for her cocky sense of humor, her deeply buried vulnerabilities, and her unforgettable voice. She’s the kind of character who makes you want to shake her, but you’d still follow her to the ends of the earth and beyond.
Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston
You may be familiar with Anastasia, but the animated version has nothing on Heart of Iron’s Ana, a scrappy and strong-willed space outlaw with a heart of gold hidden beneath all of her rough edges. What I love most about her character is her devotion to D09, an android with whom she was found drifting through space as a child. D09 is glitching, and Ana will stop at nothing to find the resources to fix him, even if it means crossing forbidden regions of space and launching herself into deadly peril. This is a great time to pick up Heart of Iron, because its sequel, Soul of Stars, comes out in July.
Even the Darkest Stars by Heather Fawcett
Kamzin is a highly skilled climber in the wintry, rugged Empire, a land of ice, snow, and dramatic mountain ranges. When she is hired by the Royal Explorer to lead an expedition to Raksha, the deadliest mountain in the Empire, she must push her skills to their limits. She will do anything to prove herself—including retracing the secret route to Raksha that her mother died attempting to scale. Kamzin reminded me so much of the heroines I loved in my favorite books growing up. Her unyielding determination to reach the summit in the face of a wide array of high-altitude perils left me breathless and giddy with adrenaline.
We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
Zafira is a woman who dresses as a man to provide for her village, a guise in which she has become a famed hunter. When she is called to an impossible mission, she must brave the harshness of an unforgiving magical desert, where challenge and heartbreak await her at every turn. I loved how Zafira confronts societal expectations, and I admired the emotional intensity of her commitment to providing for the people who rely upon her for survival, even knowing that they would turn their backs on her if they discovered her true identity. She’s a complex, stronger-than-steel heroine who I wish I could have known as a teen.
Margaret Rogerson is the author of the New York Times bestseller An Enchantment of Ravens and Sorcery of Thorns. She has a bachelor’s degree in cultural anthropology from Miami University. When not reading or writing she enjoys sketching, gaming, making pudding, and watching more documentaries than is socially acceptable (according to some). She lives near Cincinnati, Ohio, beside a garden full of hummingbirds and roses. Visit her at MargaretRogerson.com.