5 YA Fantasy Books With Badass Female Characters

Heroines that deserve a spot on your bookshelf.
Image source: Alina Vilchenko on Pexels

There is nothing better than finding a book that features a fierce and confident young woman. Reading a YA novel with a badass female who knows her own worth and fights to protect it? That's the sweet spot right there. 

In the genre of YA fantasy, there are tons of female role models. That's why I've compiled a list of the badass females whose stories stand out against the huge backdrop of strong characters. 

All-time best YA fantasy books featuring badass young women: 

1. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas 

Image source: Barnes and Noble

A brief premise: In a kingdom without magic, a young assassin is summoned to the glass castle. Celaena Sardothien is called to compete to win her freedom and the title of King's Champion. But when her twenty-three competitors begin to die one by one, Celaena must find the evil before it destroys her world. 

The badass female: Celaena Sardothien - you might have seen her under a different name, but that comes later - is iconic on Bookstagram for a reason. An assassin with a hidden heart of gold and an unrelenting desire to free herself? 

Throne of Glass was the first book I ever read that made me go, "Wow, I wish I could be that girl." Celaena is, objectively speaking, terrifying as an assassin, but she's also hilarious and so clever you'd be desperate to have her on your team for any strategy game. 

She is a female character that you would be hard-pressed to find in any other book. Her growth throughout the series - seven books in total! - is incredibly dynamic, and you'll find yourself falling in love with her before you even realize it. 

Also, every single female character other than Celaena is just as badass as she is, but you'll figure that out soon enough. 

2. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo 

Image source: Barnes and Noble

A brief premise: Ketterdam is a center of international trade where anything can be bought - for the right price. Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker and his crew are offered the chance to partake in a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. This group of dangerous outcasts is the only thing that might keep the world from utter destruction...if they don't kill each other first. 

The badass females: Although the main protagonist is male, he is surrounded by some of the most badass female characters you will ever read in this lifetime. 

Inej Ghafa is a spy known as the Wraith, incredibly lightfooted and nearly always carrying her six knives. Nina Zenik is a former soldier, a Heartrender capable of damaging a person's internal organs. 

These two badass females - both intense and ferocious when provoked - have gorgeous souls that complement their deadly abilities. They are indicative of a badass female who does not always need to be readily armed - though they are - in order to be marked as strong. 

Inej and Nina are prominent examples of the kind of women the world needs to read about. 

3. Graceling by Kristin Cashore 

Image source: Barnes and Noble

A brief premise: As the king's niece, Katsa lived a life of privilege until she discovered that she is a Graceling - a person born with an extreme skill. With the ability to kill a man with her bare hands, she acts as her uncle's enforcer, traveling the land to threaten all who dare oppose him. 

The badass female: Though she's raised and trained as a tool made for torture, Katsa's strength doesn't lie in the palm of her hands but in the ferocity of her heart. 

She is determined to find the truth and will stop at nothing to get it. Katsa struggles to define her identity as separate from the king's resident torturer and assassin, but her growth is a testament to an inner resolution that remains steadfast against external influences. 

Katsa was an early paragon of female badassery, and she is a character that no reader is likely to forget. 

4. Truthwitch by Susan Dennard 

Image source: Barnes and Noble

A brief premise: In the Witchlands, some are born with a magical skill that distinguishes them from others. Safiya is a Truthwitch, capable of perceiving when people lie, and it is a skill that many with power would kill to have on their side. Iseult is a Threadwitch, able to see the invisible bonds tangled between others, but she cannot see the ties that are bound to her own heart. 

The badass females: A hotheaded impulsive young woman paired with a cool, wary best friend is the perfect combination for some reckless adventures. Iseult and Safi are iconic for demonstrating a female friendship founded on mutual love and respect - no unnecessary drama here. 

As individuals, they are written as totally distinct from one another, but they have a shared tendency to bite when other people tell them to back down. 

Truly, theirs is the best friendship that anyone ought to be jealous of, if only because your friends might not actually be responsible for saving the world. 

5. The Young Elites by Marie Lu 

Image source: Barnes and Noble

A brief premise: A decade after a blood fever sweeps through the land, some of the surviving children have been left with mysterious and dangerous gifts. With her jagger scar and silver hair, Adelina Amouteru is treated as an abomination of nature. But when a secret sect of these gifted children finds her, they find the power they have never witnessed before. 

The badass female: A troubled past, powerful gifts, and a dominating presence within a YA novel all seem pretty standard.

But Adelina is more than just your average Girl-With-Magic-Powers-Saves-The-World. She is led by vengeful darkness in her heart and the desire to destroy anyone who gets in her way. 

In short, reading The Young Elites is reading about a villain in the making. Adelina's journey throughout the series is one of pain, betrayal, and loss. It's also one of the found friendships, learning to trust, and unwavering self-confidence. 

These women showed me how to be a badass in a world without magical powers and a common tragic backstory. They are strong, capable, independent young women who did not wait for the patriarchy to give them room to exist. 

They are vibrant and powerful. Beautiful and deadly. Broken but never beaten. 

The future is female, so start reading! 

An Asian-Canadian with your stereotypical bubble tea addiction. I'm also a writer, student, and lover of all things Marvel-related.

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