Reviews

Top Five Wednesday: BIGGEST BADASSES

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I recently stumbled on this GoodReads group that proposes a weekly meme whose aim is to give a list of Top Five… anything, as long as they are book related. It sounds fun, and something I can manage even with my too-often-limited time.

This week the topic is: Biggest Badasses

For this week’s theme I had no doubts: I would list only lady badasses, because they are far more interesting and, let’s face it, far more fun  🙂

From Joe Abercrombie’s Half the World (the second volume of the Shattered Sea trilogy): Thorn Bathu  is a young woman who prefers to learn how to fight rather than sew and cook, and when she becomes an outcast after accidentally killing another trainee, she accepts to become part of a dangerous mission to seek allies against her people’s enemies. During that perilous voyage, Thorn (a name that suits her prickly temper perfectly) learns that fighting is not just a matter of brute force and that her innate aggression can be put to more proficient use.  Her bluntness, and a fiery temper that can flare at the slightest provocation, are however counterbalanced by a fragile soul that can be easily wounded, and this dichotomy makes her an interesting and relatable person.

Another character from Abercrombie’s Best Served Cold is Monza Murcatto: a successful mercenary soldier, known for her fighting prowess, she is left for dead after the assassination attempt perpetrated by her employer.  Surviving through sheer willpower and stubbornness, and a fierce desire for revenge, she gathers a band of misfits around her and proceeds through her bloody journey toward payback with little regard for the corpses she leaves on her trail or for the people she hurts – either physically or not.  Despite these unpalatable traits, Monza is an intriguing figure, one the reader ultimately ends up rooting for – and one that’s not so easy to forget.

M.L. Brennan has changed the rules about vampires with her V Generation series, but she has also created one of the best Urban Fantasy characters I ever encountered: Suzume Hollis, a kitsune shapeshifter – in other words, and according to her own description, a fox that can change into a woman.  Storming into the life of Fortitude Scott, a young vampire-in-transition, like the proverbial hurricane, she becomes his ally, his friend and the irresistible force that changes his world and his way to look at it.  Possessed of a wicked sense of humor, Suzume wreaks havoc in Fortitude’s daily existence – changing his computer’s passwords, for example, or leaving strange and embarrassing messages all over his apartment – but when push comes to shove she can be a formidable tracker and a deadly opponent. I believe the word “awesome” was created for Suzume…

The unforgettable protagonist of Mira Grant’s Newsflesh series (a trilogy of books about the zombie apocalypse) is Georgia Mason, a freelance blogger who – together with her brother and a small group of enterprising people – braves the dangers of the open world where the undead roam.  This is not exactly a story about zombies attacking people, but rather a picture of a world in the throes of fear after the upheaval of the zombie infection. When governments tried to hide the truth of the situation, only bloggers like Georgia kept facing the changed world to report and share the news. Living – and dying – in the name of truth.

Georgia’s heroism comes from the daily courage to go out of a home’s protecting walls and show people that they need not live under constant terror because she understands that: “…we have embraced the cult of fear, and now we don’t seem to know how to put it back where it belongs” and she wants to change that.

Cordelia Vorkosigan, mother of the more famous Miles – the protagonist of Lois McMaster Bujold Vor Saga – does not exactly fit the mold of ‘badass’: she is a strong woman, granted, a former captain in the Betan Cartographic Survey service, and a bold, opinionated creature who goes through life with the help of her deep-seated sense of justice.  Yet she’s far from the somewhat swashbuckling companions I listed above: her strength does not come from physical power but from determination – the determination to change, day by day, the strictures of her adopted home-world’s customs, that are far too much male-oriented and dependent of brawn rather than brains; the determination to insure her son Miles’ survival, despite his physical shortcomings resulting from an assassination attempt she endured during pregnancy; the determination to show Miles that intelligence and willpower can carry you forward just as much as muscles, if not more.  But in my eyes, she does enjoy a ‘badass’ moment in the second novel of the series, Barrayar: after facing the pretender to Barrayar’s throne and vanquishing him, she brings his head to the loyalists’ outpost and rolls it over a table, to the speechless surprise of the hardened soldiers standing around it.  And this is the reason I’m celebrating her with the attached images that I found courtesy of Gemmiona on DeviantArt (where any Vor enthusiast will find a good number of portraits from the saga, by the way).

cordelia_naismith_by_gemmiona-d33ku2u cordelia_vorkosigan_by_gemmiona-d33kv25

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14 thoughts on “Top Five Wednesday: BIGGEST BADASSES

  1. I need to catch up on… all of these. LOL I’m reading/listening to Shards of Honor right now. I am enjoying Cordelia as a character so far.

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  2. When it comes to badass ladies, you really can’t beat Joe Abercrombie. Murcatto makes Uma Thurman’s character in Kill Bill look tame. And Thorn Bathu makes every other “kickass” YA female character look like fluffy kittens. The girl takes a knife to the face! KNIFE. FACE. And she wears her scars with pride. All these other YA heroines who get their noses broken only to get magically healed back to their perfect prettiness by fairies, move aside. 🙂

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    1. Indeed! 🙂
      I forgot to mention exactly that: Abercrombie badass heroines don’t need to be beautiful, perfect, with flawless skin and hair. They are scarred, often broken in body and spirit, but still they come back and *fight*. Who needs a perfect nose when one is *that* awesome?
      😀 😀

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  3. I’ll nominate for a Lady Badass award the anthropologist in Beverly Connor’s _One Grave Less_. Strangely, this character, Maria, is NOT the featured protagonist, Diane Fallon.

    Evidently Connor is evidently no longer writing Diane Fallon mysteries. A loss to us all.

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      1. The last book her Diane Fallon series makes a bit more sense if you read the series from the beginning. Hold on, checking my copyright dates …

        One Grave Too Many — 2003
        Dead Guilty — 2004
        Dead Secret — 2005
        Dead Past — 2007
        Dead Hunt — 2008
        Scattered Graves — 2009 (first book)
        Dust to Dust — 2009 (second book)
        The Night Killer — 2010 (first book)
        One Grave Less — 2010 (second book)

        Let me also take the opportunity here to rant against publishers that print “Also by” lists in a writer’s book and DELIBERATELY list the works out-of-order. I’m sure they do this to hide older oeuvres within newer ones. It makes finding out in which order to read stuff a pain, though.

        Okay, I’m psitive there’s no typo in her.

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        1. With series, it’s always prudent to check a few reading-order lists online beforehand…
          Anyway, when in doubt, I always check publication date: that way I’m certain there will be some sort of logical progression in characterization, even when books in a series jump from one time-line to another 🙂

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