If you were a child in the early 1980s, there’s a good chance She-Ra was one of your female role models. She-Ra—aka Princess Adora—had an awesome transformation sequence, a complicated backstory, a talking winged unicorn, killer high kicks, and a strong moral code. The twin sister of He-Man, she chose to stay in Etheria even after discovering she’d been separated from her family at birth, devoting herself to leading the Rebellion against the oppression of the Evil Horde. What started as a vehicle to sell toys became a phenomenon that captured the hearts and minds of many children who, as adults, still carry a healthy dose of nostalgia for the realms of Etheria and Eternia.
This month, Netflix dropped 13 episodes of their She-Ra reboot, re-envisioned by Noelle Stevenson (Nimona, Lumberjanes), and it. Is. Awesome! The animation is stylish, striking the right balance between cute and cool. The storytelling is deep, and She-Ra’s values—bravery, loyalty, and doing the right thing—are on full display. As much as I loved the original, this reimagining is what is needed for today’s audience.
But if you grew up adoring Adora (sorry, I had to), or even if you didn’t, you might want to read about a She-Ra-esque heroine having more…adult adventures. (I’m not just talking about sexytimes, but yes, that too.) To help you out, I’ve rounded up some recommendations from a few authors who are known for writing kickass heroines of their own: Alyssa Cole, Holley Trent, Robin Lovett, and Kari Cole.
Kira Solomon from Shadow Blade (Shadowchasers series) by Seressia Glass
“Antiquities expert by day, Shadowchaser by night, and kickass heroine 24/7. Kira rides a motorcycle retrofitted with weapons caches, tucks knives in her boots, and has trained for years to fight the forces of Chaos. She’s also smart, resourceful, and caring, but her powers, which harm others through touch, along with her secret work battling to preserve the Universal balance, have meant an isolated existence for her—until she comes into contact with a blade wrapped in ancient magic and the 4,000 year old Nubian warrior who wants it back.”
Regan from Tempest by Beverly Jenkins
“I don’t think any list of kickass heroines could be complete without some of Beverly Jenkins’ historical ladies, in particular, the Carmichaels in the Old West series. I was blown away by their courage and adaptability, and their abilities to love so hard even after enduring more adversity than was fair. Spitfire Regan (TEMPEST), especially, deserves placement on the highest pedestal of bad-assery. Not only does she know her way around a kitchen, but she can wrangle a classroom full of rowdy frontier kids, renovate a house, and probably shoot a freckle clean off your hide from a moving carriage.”
—USA Today bestselling author Holley Trent
Moiread in Highland Dragon Rebel by Isabel Cooper
“In Highland Dragon Rebel by Isabel Cooper, Moiread MacAlasdair gives up her personal desire to embark on an adventure she never planned on, like Adora who gives up her promotion in the Horde to become She-Ra. And like Adora’s transformation to She-Ra, Moiread is a shifter, more vulnerable in her human form and unable to change to her dragon form without inconvenience. The gender politics with the hero, Madoc of Avandos, whom Moiread guards on a journey into a magical world, are comfortingly stable, and it’s a feel-good read where the badass-ness of the heroine is never in doubt, never a source of prideful insecurity for the hero, and portrayed as refreshingly expected and normal. The result is a romance between equals in full possession of their mutual desires, both a comforting and empowering read.”
Elena from Angel’s Blood (Guild Hunter series) by Nalini Singh
“One of my absolute favorite kickass heroines is Elena Deveraux from Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series. Elena is a vampire hunter. In the first book in the series, Angels’ Blood, she is hired by the archangel Raphael to track down a serial killer. Elena is smart, courageous, a wicked badass with a knife, and totally prepared to go toe-to-toe with lethal immortals. She’s as tough as any man, but it’s her big heart and unwavering loyalty to her friends that brings the dangerous and uber-hot Raphael to his knees. It doesn’t matter that Elena is mortal. He can’t resist her, and neither can I.”
Nemona from Toxic Desire by Robin Lovett
“As I was watching She-Ra, I couldn’t help but think of General Nem from Robin Lovett’s Planet of Desire series. Like Adora, Nem grew up under an oppressive regime, and even though she rebelled in favor of peaceful discovery over war, she still follows many of their tenets, such as hiding her gender and hating the Ssedez. When Nem’s ship is attacked, she crash lands on a mysterious planet with her greatest enemy, a Ssedez captain. Also like Adora, Nemona questions her previous conceptions of her enemy and learns to view him with compassion. (And lust. Lots of lust.) Without the physical and emotional protection of her armor, she reevaluates everything she has been taught, reclaiming her full name—Nemona—and shedding her old beliefs. Not only is Nemona a kickass fighter, her deep self-reflection makes her a better leader and a more whole person.”
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