Princess in Chains: Is the Urban Fantasy Heroine a Victim of Writers’ Imaginations?

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I’d like to thank Alesha Escobar, friend and fellow indie author, for giving me the opportunity to host her here on my site as she kicks off her end of the Addicted to Heroines Blog Tour.  The tour will run from February 1-10 and will feature a handful of talented indie authors who’ve written some kick ass heroines.  For more information, click on the banner and follow along for a chance to have fun, meets awesome authors, and even win some prizes.

Princess in Chains: Is the Urban Fantasy Heroine a Victim of Writers’ Imaginations?

Quick.  Name one of your favorite urban fantasy heroines.

Now, give me one or two qualities that make her awesome.

Was one of them the fact that she could wield magic and swords like nobody’s business (Also known as being kick-ass)?

You’re not alone. Many readers (and writers) of the genre enjoy a strong heroine who can defend herself and others, if needed. However an interesting discussion has emerged as to whether or not this is the only road for our heroine to go down and if we’re forcing her into a singular role that sends the wrong message.

Physical strength and domination have always been associated with traditional male power, and a woman who exerts physical prowess must theoretically either transition into the realm of masculinity or at least be validated by it. Thus the UF heroine appears to distance herself from other women, she must be the sole “princess” among a nearly all-male cast, and as another writer put it, she must be “weaponized.”

The concept of the fantasy heroine jumping into the fray alongside the heroes isn’t something new. Examples range from the cross-dressing female knight, Britomart, of Spencer’s The Faerie Queene to the shieldmaiden Eowyn of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, who described her domestic life as a “cage,” and sought freedom and honor through taking up the sword and going to war like her male counterparts.

The UF heroine isn’t much different, except that her armor is a pair of leather pants (or ridiculously tight jeans, but that’s another story), and her sword is a pistol or magical ability. She too, wishes to break her chains and rattle her cage, and show the world what she’s made of.

Let’s be honest. There are those fist-pumping “You go, girl!” moments we love to revel in when we see our heroines karate chop an assailant, blast an evil warlock into next week, or punch the arrogant guy who doesn’t know how to keep his hands to himself.

However, if punching people is all she does, and there’s little else to our heroine, then it can get real old real fast. So in that respect, I agree with our friends who point out that we need more displays of different types of strength. There’s intellectual strength, emotional strength, and moral strength. Just think of times you’ve had to make a difficult decision, but chose what was right over what was easy–that’s a show of strength. Or how about a day you felt like falling apart, but then you ended up making it through, perhaps even helping someone along the way; that also, is a show of strength.

Our UF heroines don’t have to be princesses in chains, they can be as complex and multilayered as we’re willing to make them, and for me, that’s one of the awesome parts about being both a writer and reader of the genre.

You might appreciate the following heroines:

  1. Sabriel, Sabriel (Abhorsen, #1) by Garth Nix
  2. Karigan G’ladheon, Green Rider (Green Rider, #1) by Kristen Britain
  3. Alexia Tarabotti, Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate, #1) by Gail Carriger

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authoraleshaAlesha Escobar writes fantasy and urban fantasy stories to support her chocolate habit. She earned a B.A. in English Writing and a Master of Science in Education, and has enjoyed both teaching writing and being a writer. Her hobbies include reading, watching movies, and making crafts. She is currently working on the final installment of The Gray Tower Trilogy. Connect with her online for updates and discussions at http://www.aleshaescobar.com