I make no secret about my love for warrior women. My favourite fantasy tropes involve swords and playing hero, thus I tend to gravitate towards stories featuring women who run around whacking people with swords. A story with strong female characters doesn’t need to have buff women waving swords around, but hey, swords are cool. In fact, some of my favourite female characters win battles using their wit and bravery rather than a good weapon.
To me, characters who live by the sword are more than just brawn. They’re honourable characters who fight for those who can’t; to fight for what’s right and to not let anyone dictate what they’re fighting for.
So here are ten of my favourite warrior women from YA fantasy and why I love them:
Alanna from the Song of the Lioness
No list of warrior women would be complete without the inspiration behind many of the names further below! Alanna of Trebond is the ultimate warrior woman. Not content with growing up as a boring noble lady, Alanna disguises herself as a boy to train as a knight and rises through the ranks to become the prince’s own squire before earning her shield. Alanna travels the world to seek adventure whilst fighting through wars and saving the kingdom. What I love most about Alanna is her stubborn nature. Despite the enemies she makes, she stands by her principles and never gives up. And her sword is called Lightning! How cool is that? Why do I love these books? Read my review!
Amani from Rebel of the Sands
Technically not a sword-slinger, but a warrior in her own right. Amani is the fastest shot in the desert and never misses her target. Though talented with a gun, Amani also has the secret ability to summon the sands themselves and create deadly sandstorms against her enemies. Amani is another stubborn woman who doesn’t let men dictate her fate. She gets swept up in a rebellion against the Sultan, and whilst it’s not her fight, she helps them anyway even though she’s way out of her depth. I loved going on this journey with Amani as you can see from my review of the trilogy!
Celaena from Throne of Glass
Feared as the greatest assassin in the world, Celaena is taken from her imprisonment in the salt mines and asked to fight in a tournament for a prince in return for her freedom. What starts of as a deadly game becomes a magical war that spans kingdoms. The Throne of Glass series is one of the biggest YA series out there and recently ended with Kingdom of Ash. Celaena acts like a bit of a brat, but her arrogance is hiding a tragic past and many secrets. She’s a trained killer who knows how to take a life and look good doing it!
Eelyn from Sky in the Deep
Raised to be a warrior, Eelyn fights alongside her clan to defeat her rivals in a cold and brutal world. But when she spots her brother fighting for a rival clan – the brother who died years ago – her whole life is flipped upside down and she’s kidnapped by her enemies. Eelyn is forced to serve them as a slave but slowly learns that they’re not so bad, and survival for them all depends on uniting the clans. I loved the Viking-inspired world of Sky in the Deep, and Eelyn’s a warrior who fights for her own honour, but also shows a vulnerable side.
Eona from the Eon Duology
Another woman forced to disguise herself as a boy. Eona becomes Eon in order to train as the Dragoneye apprentice and earn all of the power and riches which come with it. After being chosen as the Mirror Dragoneye, a dragon spirit which hasn’t been seen for hundreds of years, Eona is forced to keep up the disguise in order to train – one wrong slip could end her life. However, she finds herself caught between political games and in the clutches of the dark Lord Ido who wants her power for his own. I love that she’s trapped between powerful men and chooses to forge her own path regardless. Read my review of the Eon books to find out more!
Katsa from Graceling
In a world where people with special powers are known as Gracelings and forced to serve the king, Katsa, the king’s niece, learns she possesses the Grace of killing when she’s a child and grows up as a killer, using her extraordinary abilities to torture and kill the king’s enemies. Katsa is well known across the seven kingdoms for her deadly skills but she turns her killer instinct against her uncle by running a secret council to see if she could be more than the monster she became – but a hero to help save others. Katsa is probably the biggest badass on this list and whilst she does fall in love with a prince, she doesn’t let love get in the way of her life or who she wants to be.
Keladry from Protector of the Small
Set in the same universe as the Song of the Lioness books, Keladry (or Kel as she’s known) wants to follow in Alanna’s footsteps and become a female knight. Times have changed so Kel doesn’t need to disguise herself as a boy, but her path isn’t any easier. In fact, it’s a lot harder! Kel has to deal with sexism as she’s forced to prove she can keep up with the boys. Kel doesn’t have the magical gifts or advantages that Alanna had, but she doesn’t let any of this deter her. What sets her story apart from Alanna’s is that Kel perseveres and makes a name for herself despite all the dung she has to plow through.
Laia and Helene from An Ember in the Ashes
Though Laia is technically the main character from An Ember in the Ashes, she doesn’t really come into her own as a warrior until later in the series, but honestly, her talents lie in her bravery. She’s tasked with sneaking into one of the deadliest military academies to spy on her cruel enemies in order to save her brother – getting herself tortured and almost killed in the process. That’s true courage! Helene is more of a traditional warrior who is trained to kill without mercy, and as the series goes on, I’m rooting for her to succeed!
Zafira from We Hunt the Flame
If you’ve read my review of We Hunt the Flame, then you’ll know this is one of my favourite new YA fantasy books! Zafira is the Hunter, a woman who disguises herself as a man in order to hunt through a mysterious but deadly forest in order to provide food for her people. But when a witch offers her the chance to hunt a magical artefact and bring magic back to the land, she doesn’t hesitate. However, others are also searching for this item and thus begins a cat-and-mouse chase with the Prince of Darkness. I love the enemies-to-lovers romance plot, but Zafira isn’t easily impressed and kicks some serious ass.
Zélie from Children of Blood and Bone
When her mother is killed, and magic is taken from the land, Zélie leaps at the chance to restore it and take down the king who destroyed her people and her home. Zélie is a feisty fighter who uses a staff to inflict damage. She’s also gifted with the powers of death itself! But she can’t save the world alone. Zélie teams up with her brother, and Amari, the princess of her enemy, and together they learn to trust each other and fight side-by-side. I loved how Children of Blood and Bone was written from Zélie and Amari’s point-of-view and we got to experience both characters growing into their strengths and fighting for what they believe in.
Bonus: Mina from Sand Dancer!
I can’t talk about warrior women without mentioning Mina! All of these amazing warriors influenced my own story, Sand Dancer, which is tale of fire magic, sword dancing, secrets, and revenge! Mina is a girl who dreams of becoming a warrior like the legends of her father’s tales. But when her father is killed for possessing fire magic – outlawed in her world – Mina seeks revenge and disguises herself as a boy to enter a sword-fighting academy and find her father’s killer. Mina is stubborn and has a one-track mind for revenge, but after discovering the identity of the killer, she realises that revenge has a price. Find out more!
Who’s your favourite warrior women from fantasy fiction? Share them below!