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


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


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