Are you as brave as your favorite fearless heroine? We’re the first to admit that we’re big scaredy cats. We’re certainly not as bold as Nora Walker, the protagonist of Shea Ernshaw’s Winterwood. When a mysterious boy shows up, having survived a night in the haunted forest surrounding the town, Nora decides to uncover the truth about who he is and what he witnessed in the woods. To celebrate the book’s release, Ernshaw put together a list of badass YA heroines she’d want protecting her in a haunted forest.
There are several well-known haunted forests around the world, from the Black Forest in Germany where the Brothers Grimm set many of their fairytales to the Island of the Dolls in Mexico where dolls can be found hanging from the trees and scattered through the grass—Google it if you dare. These forests are not the kind of places you’d want to enter alone.
In my second book, Winterwood, a haunted forest known at the Wicker Woods is avoided by locals and tourists alike. Only the Walker women, rumored to be witches, dare to enter this sinister stretch of forest. However, if you had the following badass female protagonists at your side, you might feel a little safer entering any of these dark woods. The following characters are not only courageous, they have kickass survival skills and cunning wits.
Who would you want at your side if you ventured into a dark, spooky forest?
Ia Cōcha is the most notorious fighter pilot in the universe. But don’t assume her strength is limited to her pilot seat; she’s had her fair share of bare-knuckle fights as well. In Maura Milan’s Ignite the Stars duology, Ia is an outlaw with a criminal background, but she’s also fiercely loyal and would never abandon her allies. If you found yourself side-by-side with Ia inside an unknown forest on some distant planet, she would do whatever it took to ensure you both made it safely through. Or die trying.
Onyii and Ify
Sisters, Onyii and Ify, are two fierce female protagonists. In Tochi Onyebuchi’s latest book, War Girls, Onyii and Ify are caught in the middle of a ruthless, futuristic civil war in Nigeria. While their story is both devastating and heart-wrenching, they survive their world by using their strength and skills to protect one another. Onyii is as fearless as they come and would clear a safe path through the darkest forest, while Ify would use her resilience and intelligence to track the night creatures who might stalk you through the woods. These two sisters are a perfect pair to have at your side, whether navigating a futuristic world or a haunted forest.
Tavia, Karam, and Saxony
In the streets of Creije, three female crooks use magic to survive. Tavia is a busker—a street performer—who sells black magic. Karam is an underground fighter who makes her living in illegal fighting rings. Saxony is a resistance fighter plotting to avenge her family. All three have found ways to survive in their brutal city, but when they’re forced to come together to save the world, they must resolve to trust one another if they want to defeat their enemies. So, if you found yourself standing at the edge of a cold, merciless forest, but these three cunning, crafty ladies were at your side, you can be assured they’d be the perfect team to see you safely through.
From the first page, Isabel Ibañez’s debut novel draws you into a world of revolution, romance, and Bolivian politics. At the center of this story is Ximena, a decoy Condesa who has been trained to kill. A skilled sword fighter, Ximena is not only battle-ready, but she can also hide messages in tapestries and slink through dark corridors unseen. When she’s forced to marry, she must use her skills to search for a deadly relic and return the true aristócrata to their rightful place—all without starting another war. With the courageous Ximena at your side, you could surely navigate a dark forest and slay some foes along the way. Be sure to pick up Woven in Moonlight in January of 2020.
Amora Montara is the princess of the island kingdom of Visidia. Don’t be fooled by her royal title–Amora is deadly with a dagger. She’s spent her whole life training to be High Animancer—the master of souls—and her magical talents allow her to torture her enemies, all she needs is a bit of their flesh. Amora might be the most ruthless, terrifying princess you’ve ever met. She is also terribly protective of those she loves, making her the perfect partner to take with you into a terrifying forest. All the Stars and Teeth debuts in 2020, and author Adalyn Grace delivers a fierce female protagonist you won’t soon forget.
Shea Ernshaw the author of The Wicked Deep and Winterwood. She works as a producer for a film production company and shares a home with her husband, a dog named Diesel, and two cats. She is happiest when lost in a good book, lost in the woods, or writing her next novel. You can connect with her online at SheaErnshaw.com and on Twitter and Instagram @SheaErnshaw.