Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sisters Are Doing It For… Practically Everybody, Including Themselves

I have returned to you, oh Smart Chicks blog! They could not KEEP me away!

I was actually a bit unsure what to blog about, until I read the fair Kelley Armstrong’s super informative post last week! There was one particular bit of information that I found very inspiring.

Q: Who are the Smart Chicks?
A: Not us. Well, not me anyway. It’s a tip of the hat to both our characters and our readers. We feel that all the authors on this tour write “smart chicks”—not necessarily kick-ass girls, but capable ones, and that’s what counts. And, of course, a love of reading always improves grades, so we consider all our readers “smart chicks,” too.

I am so glad I am not meant to be a smart chick. While our tour has some very, very intelligent ladies in it, I have to say, anyone who has seen me read a map had good reason to question my brilliance. (Imagine someone with all the sense of direction and cool reasoning capability of a panicked weasel, trapped in a wardrobe.)

But I am also terribly glad to see the celebration of capable ladies!

Have any of you guys heard the song Short Skirt, Long Jacket by Cake? It goes like this: ‘I want a girl with a mind like a diamond. I want a girl who knows what’s best.’

That is basically my theme song when I read books. Not for me, the lady who says ‘Count Squarejaw, I have every faith you will protect me from the ravening alien werepredator. I’ll be upon the fainting couch, waiting for you to answer the really important question of this book: if you like me, circle yes or no.’

Not for me either, the lady who says ‘Yuck, other girls. They’re all so much girlier than me.’ So a lady scorning Miss Swoonhilda won’t work either.

I like girls in books to be awesome in a variety of ways! And the more awesomeness and more variety I see, the more I like it.

Now, some of the Smart Chicks Tour authors have written some of my favourite capable ladies. I mean, really, really awesome heroines. Lots of really, really excellent ladies. But I fear I would seem to be simply bragging of the lovely company I find myself in if I discussed them.

So here are some heroines written by writers who are not in the Smart Chicks tour, but who I think exemplify the Smart Chicks way…

Sophie, the heroine of one of my favourite books, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones.

SOPHIE: Today an evil witch stormed into my hat shop and enchanted me to be eighty years old.
SOPHIE: Some people would be annoyed. I have decided to take matters in stride and appoint myself the housekeeper of a flying castle owned by the evil wizard Howl, who eats hearts.
HOWL: Uh – I guess – uh-
SOPHIE: All shall look upon my broom of fury, and despair!
SOPHIE: Must clean up bathroom, including all of the evil wizard Howl’s beauty products.
HOWL: Woman, you made my hair turn pink! PINK! It is time for an epic magical tantrum!
SOPHIE: You look silly with green slime on your face.
HOWL: How can I be the most powerful wizard in the land, when even my housekeeper does not fear me?
SOPHIE: Silly man, don’t take it personally. Nothing stops me. Not spells to make me old or wizard’s messy castles or attack by demons or creepy animated scarecrows. I AM A HOUSECLEANING FORCE OF NATURE.
SOPHIE: Just say ‘Yes, Sophie.’
HOWL: … Yes, Sophie.

Kate Sutton, from Elizabeth Marie Pope’s book The Perilous Gard.

KATE: My little sister has got me in trouble with Queen Elizabeth I and now I have been banished to a creepy faraway manor where the daughter of the house has disappeared and her young, handsome, troubled uncle lives in a Hut of Shame and Guilt. Someone needs to get to the bottom of this!
KATE: Seems the young lady has been kidnapped by faeries. And now her Hot Uncle Christopher has traded himself for her safety. Oh lord, nobly sacrificing heroes. I must see to this!
KATE: Being undercover as a servant to the faeries is very tiresome. Faeries keep making personal remarks about humans’ looks and gracefulness. Or lack thereof.
KATE: How’s it going, Christopher? In order to keep up your spirits before you get sacrificed, let’s think about farmland and ditches!
CHRISTOPHER: I know I’m a noble romantic hero, but actually talking about ditches really soothes me.
QUEEN OF THE FAERIES: Kate, I’d like to offer you a nastily tempting faerie bargain.
KATE: Oh Queenie, have you paid no attention to this book at all?

Kate Daniels (Kate is a clearly a good, capable name!) in the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews, beginning with Magic Bites.

KATE: Dear Diary, my to-do list for the day:
1. Avenge godfather’s death.
2. Insult king of shapeshifters.
3. Do battle with vampires.
4. More battle with vampires.
5. Strangely good kiss with king of shapeshifters.
6. See to serial killer.
7. Must tame city out of control.
8. Better see to plague.
9. Adopt street child, solve her mother’s murder.
10. Rescue werewolf sidekick.
12. Seriously, king of shapeshifters kisses like a minx.
13. Take part in crazy supernatural tournament fight to death.
Pretty much your average day. Could use a lemonade. Kate out!

Ellie Spencer from Karen Healey’s Guardian of the Dead

ELLIE: I think the handsome mysterious boy in class I have a crush on is hiding magical secrets from me! And so I am going to punch him in the face.
ELLIE: Got to save best guy friend from being made a love slave.
ELLIE: Uh-oh, matters have spiraled out of control, and now I must save NEW ZEALAND. This is going to call for more than face punching. There will have to be some roundhouse kicks in there as well.

Attolia from Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series, starting with The Thief.

Attolia’s Guide To Royal Etiquette

ATTOLIA: What do you do when your fiancé insults you? Poison him.
ATTOLIA: What do you do when a courtier plots treason? Starve him to death in a cage in the town square. (Plus: Makes everyone else reconsider treason!)
ATTOLIA: What do you do when you catch an insolent thief? Throw him in your darkest dungeon.
ATTOLIA: What do you do when you catch an insolent thief again? GET CREATIVE.
GEN: Uh, as the hero of these books, I’m going to have to ask you to be gentle with me.
ATTOLIA: Queens don’t DO gentle.

These are all very different ladies, with one thing in common: in a crisis, they tend to keep their head (just about, anyway. Usually. Just enough.) They have their own very strong views on things, and when they act, they act practically and decisively, using all the weapons they have to hand (brains, brawn, magic) to the very best of their ability.

Another thing they have in common is that I really, really love them.

So, thank you so much to all the lovely smart chicks who commented on my last post, and congratulations to shaideneuse, who my random numbers generator has declared to be our winner! Please email me at with your address, and I will send your prize.

And for everyone else, to win a copy of any book (which is already published, that bit is important!) by one of the Smart Chicks tour authors – I thought it would be nice to have a Smart Chicks Festival! So comment here (or link to a blog post of your own, if you find yourself with just too much to say) with thoughts about your favourite smart chicks in books, who they are, what they do, and why you love them.

And feel free to talk about the Smart Chicks tour authors’ characters, even though I did not. Because: wow, those are are some really, really excellent ladies.


  1. SHort Skirt Long Jacket is the theme song for the show "CHuck"

  2. This has been fun. I love the Smart Chicks. It's nice to have some who use their brains instead of the violent route - though I enjoy that too. Thanks.

  3. My favourite Smart Chick would have to be Clary from TMI because she is headstrong, funny, sarcastic, independant, a ginger, insightful and just plain awesome. CLary kicks butt in all three books and does it by herself. This is why I love her. SHe is the kind of person i want to be. Except for teh ginger part. I would not look good as a ginger.


  4. Smart Chicks make good books :) I've gotta got with Kat from Ally Carter's Heist Society. Smart, fun, loyal, capable, and she's a thief! How much cooler can she be? :p

  5. My favorite smart chick would have to be...Clare Danvers from the Morganville Vampires series by Rachel Caine. I love how much she has developed as a character; strong, funny, clever, not 'model material',realistic, great boyfriend, and she is making short people hopeful everywhere :)
    She really a character you can believe in, and I love that about her.

  6. I have many, many favourite smart chicks, and I won't go into the whole list here. The one I wnat to talk about is kind of obscure: Lisa from O.T. Nelson's "The Girl Who Owned a City".

    Setting: post-apocalyptic middle america, with everyone over the age of 12 dead of plague.
    OTHER CHILDREN: Whoo, no parents! We should break things and and get into fights!
    LISA: Hm, no one seems to have noticed that the supermarkets are still full of food. I'll start stockpiling. Also, touch my little brother and I'll end you, punks.
    OTHER CHILDREN: We have realized that no parents is not as great as it seems. We should panic. And form gangs.
    LISA: My agriculture experiments are going great, but I need a more secure location. A fortress sounds good. I'll let you in and share my food, medicine and long as you swear loyalty to me.

    Lisa was smart, tough, and she showed that toughness by taking care of people. She was definitely one of my heros, and not just because I wanted my own city too.

  7. Let's see... two of my favorite Smart Chick series (other than the ones here) are Green Rider by Kristen Britain, and Bitterbynde trilogy by Celia Dart-Thornton. Both have heroine, that instead of letting their problems be solved by a guy, completely save the day themselves. And they have very strong personalities, without giving up the ability to take advice from other people.

    I love Karigan, from Green Rider, because her point of view throughout the book is:
    Kari: I'm going to run away from school because I got expelled for fighting a noble boy and winning!
    Kari: Oh look a horse carrying a mysterious letter. I should take that to the king and worry my father that I have completely disappeared.
    Karigan: ...Now I'm listening to a horse. That doesn't sound crazy.

    I would totally spoil Bitterbynde if I said anything about it, so I won't.
    <3 Escere

  8. Also Eddis! Because the only thing more awesome than a book with a smart, capable heroine is a series with TWO smart, capable heroines who are intelligent in different ways and yet still end up getting along with each other!

    And the only thing more or at least as awesome than a series with two smart, capable heroine is a series chock-full of them! Midori Snyder's Queen's Quarter Knot trilogy (also called the Oran trilogy) is absolutely packed with strong, intelligent, independent women of all different stripes. Heroines, villains, other female side characters, they all have their different flaws and strengths, without necessarily playing into stereotypes. For example, there is a character who starts out as the Über Tomboy you mention who disdains girly things, but she 1) doesn't remain so throughout the book, and 2) goes through this change without coming out on the other extreme and becoming completely superficial. The character development actually feels real, and Snyder's writing is such that the fact that there are so many strong women feels natural, rather than forced.

    It's not a man-hating series either; it's just that the main male characters, too, have depth beyond "I SHALL SAVE YOU FAIR MAIDEN" or "YOU SHALL DEFEAT ME SO THAT OTHERS MAY KNOW YOU ARE A BADASS". I would list the characters and their actions in more detail, but then I'd basically be spoiling the entire series, and I think you would enjoy discovering their awesomeness. Also if I listed even just the smart chick characters, I'd be going through about 2/3s of the total character count over all 3 books. Possibly more, depending on your definitions!

    The series is, I believe, currently out of print again, but may be found in used bookstores, and certainly at most online purveyors-of-used-books. Books are: 1) New Moon (Snyder had this title before Meyer, darn it), 2) Sadar's Keep, and 3) Beldan's Fire.

    Also, shoutouts to smart chicks you already know, who happen to be from the last series that I desperately felt you needed to read/would enjoy reading: Cordelia, Alys, Drou, Elli, Taura, Ekaterin, the Koudelka sisters. And trust me when I say that, though Lois McMaster Bujold is probably my favorite author in the history of ever, in the specific sense of writing-smart-chicks...I think I would have to actually put her a place below Midori Snyder.

    Also also, Tananda, Maasha, and Bunny from the late Robert Asprin's Myth Adventures series.

    Tananda: Hey, I'm a curvy retired assassin who likes to drive men crazy and can choke people from a distance!
    Maasha: Hi, I'm an extremely heavyset woman with a heart of gold, glaring fashion sense, and magical jewelry that will make you wish you didn't say anything about items 1 and 3.
    Bunny: I'm a mob boss' goddaughter who looks like a trophy wife and handles financial accounts like a FIEND.

    Together, they are part of a syndicate/group of friends/etc. that FIGHTS (and, um, sometimes PERPETRATES) CRIME. Granted, they're not the main characters of the Myth series, but I feel that it's nice and certainly important to have strong female side characters who are more than just love interests or damsels in distress and are respected by their friends.

    I think that, as all of these characters/series were introduced to me at a very young and impressionable age, it definitely had at least a small part in influencing the fact that, even now, I have a habit of sometimes taking it for granted that women are and should be capable of being smart, independent, clever, multifaceted, talented, and quick-thinking—both in literature and real life.

    As for the girls who are going through that impressionable-reading stage now and don't have access to all of these older books—it's a good thing there are smart chicks like your Mae and Sin, and Ally Carter's Gallagher Girls and Kat, around. (:

    —Sharyna (LJ shachi, Twitter sharksonaplane)

  9. I am full of abiding love.

    1. Love The Demon's Lexicon.
    2. Adore The Perilous Gard. So much I had to find a copy at Alibris after my mom sold mine to a used bookstore. No respect.
    3. Kate Daniels. Fangirl squee here.

    I couldn't be happier over such a collection of finery if it were a basket of unicorns left on my doorstep by benevolent elves.

  10. I was going to suggest Clary (The Mortal Instruments) too. Something that made an impression on me in City of Bones was that she apologizes after punching Jace. Not sure why that stuck with me...I guess I've been made to think that girls in books who punch guys are heartless and non-dimensional. I also LOVE Eilonwy from the Prydain Chronicles. I haven't reread these in awhile, but I believe her first appearance is saving protagonist's *cough* and getting him out of a dungeon.

  11. I am going to have to agree with you that Kate Daniels from the Magic Bites series is definitely a Smart Chick! She is one of my absolute faves. She is always kicking someone's trash. Despite being totally hardcore Kate manages to have a soft side (that she tries very hard to hide). I love how committed she is to her friends/adopted family.

    Another amazingly Smart Chick is Mercy from Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series. I LOVE her. She manages to make nice (or more often than not - not so nice) with werewolves, vamps, and fey all while dealing with being a shapeshifting coyote herself. I love that she doesn't put up with nonsense from anyone, regardless of their supernatural power. Also, Mercy loves people (of all sorts/shapes/sizes) all the way - she is an all or nothing kind of girl and I think that is awesome.

  12. I don't have a single, favourite heroine, but here are a few.

    1. Sue and Maud from 'Fingersmith'. Love them separately, love them even more together. I would love to discuss why I love them, but it's hard to talk about Fingersmith without spoilering.

    2. Ariel from 'The Darkangel trilogy', by Meredith Ann Pierce. Unfortunately she is in love with a man who is evil in the first book and impossibly angst ridden in the second and third, but she has a lovely relationship with her friend Erin. When they first meet, in book 2...
    ERIN: Cut off my hand!
    ARIEL: ...
    ERIN: You need to cut off my hand so I won't have my soul taken by the Darkangel! The hideous beast that rescues maidens can't chew through shackles!
    ARIEL: Oh, that's not a hideous beast, it's my pet gargoyle whom I haven't seen in a year. Also, I will make my staff come alive and pick the lock on your shackles, so no cutting of hands is necessary.
    ERIN: ...
    ERIN: Next chapter, when we meet the creepy, incestuous man who deceives and drugs you with distressing ease, I will save you!

    3. Lydia, from Loretta Chase's 'The Last Hellion', who fights evil, writes gothic novels, punches aristocrats and occasionally cross dresses, all in Victorian London. This is a romance novel that passes the Bechdel test. :)

  13. Yay smart chicks! Other ones not mentioned:

    Both Fire and Katsa from Kristen Cashore's FIRE and GRACELING, respectively.

    Alanna from Tamora Pierce's SONG OF THE LIONESS series (who, incidentally, was the first AWESOME HEROINE I read/emulated/adored).

    Despite the fact that its not fantasy, Frankie Landau-Banks was possibly the smartest book smarty chick I've read in a really long time (THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU-BANKS by E. Lockhart).

    I'm sure there are more, but those are the first off my head. Heck yes Smart Chicks!

  14. Oh man, every time you do one of these types of posts I want to go out and raid a bookstore/library. You reminded me of exactly how awesome Sophie of Howl's Moving Castle is, and why I love her. I can't really think of any good examples on the spot like this, but a book that I've read recently with what I felt was an intriguing and intelligent female character was Paper Towns (John Green) - I love how we start off only knowing Margo superficially and then even through her absence get to understand her more over the course of the book.

    I wish I could think of more! My brain will probably start functioning properly as soon as I post this. Sad day.

  15. KATE DANIELS. She is so awesome. When I first started reading Magic Bites, I put it down again in a hurry, because I thought Kate was too kick-ass and all, but two years later I picked the book up again and I was overcome with Kate's awesomeness!

    R. J. Anderson's Knife is certainly a smart chick, and a small one at that. I am very much in awe of how she fights crows and treads the dangerous grounds of human houses and generally does lots of cool stuff she would usually considered to be too small for. And Linden from the second book is pretty awesome too, although in a different way than Knife. But they're both such smart chicks!

    I also think that Marian from Robin Hood is pretty much a smart chick, skilled with the sword, not all at once taken in by her swoon-worthy hero, and perfectly capable to defend herself, be it with words or arms. (I can only speak about the movie though, but I guess movie!Marian must have a model from the book.) That's why I didn't like that she has to be dramatically rescued by Robin in the end, fainting and swooning in one corner of the room, girlishly screaming "ROBIN! OH NO ROBIN! WATCH OUT HE HAS A BIG POINTY SWORD I THINK HE MEANS TO KILL YOU!" But otherwise, she's brave and hot and awesome.

  16. Three favorite smart chicks have already been mentioned here (Sophie, Kate Daniels and Attolia). I second the nomination for Eddis! Other smart chicks that I love are:

    Harry from The Blue Sword because first of all, she craves adventure as a result of reading too many books as a child. A heroine who loves books! Plus, she wasn't even that scared when she was kidnapped (by no less than a king with magical powers and glowing eyes) and was willing to be trained to become a lady warrior.

    The girls from the Sevenwaters series by Juliet Marillier - Sorcha, Liadan and Clodagh. Each with her own unique strength. Sorcha who is determined to fight the curse laid on her brothers. Liadan who fights for her loved ones even if she has to create her own path. Clodagh who doesn't have any special skills but has a heart of gold.

    Katsa and Fire from Kristin Cashore's books. Katsa definitely kicks ass, it's hard to find someone who will win in a fight against her. While Fire has more of an emotional strength that a physical one. Fire also has formidable mental skillz!

  17. Oh, wow, I didn't know anyone else had read the Perilous Gard! I love that book so much. And, of course, Sophie and Kate Daniels and Attolia are unbelievably wonderful, and I am so glad to see them getting love. All among my favorites of all time.

    Other favorite smart chicks... Mae, of course! Maree Mallory in Deep Secret (also Diana Wynne Jones), who dances in the streets and withers with a look and can't go into a bookstore without buying something. Kel from Tamora Pierce's Protector of the Small Series, because she is totally uncompromising on her virtues and also a lot of fun. Chloe, Elena, Nadia, and Jaime from Kelley Armstrong's books (three different series right there) are all totally different but they're all good at surviving and I love them all. Also many others, of course.

  18. So I'm one of those people with too much to say on the subject, so I went and created my very own post.

    Mainly, my fav smart chicks are Liadan from SON OF THE SHADOWS, Fire from FIRE and Meg Powers from THE PRESIDENTS DAUGHTER series. Wonderful post!!

  19. Ok, so I could probably go on and on about this topic; however, I'm at work and they tend to frown upon ignoring clients to blog. So I will narrow my response down to:
    Fire (from FIRE) and Katsa (from Graceling) are 2 of my favorite ladies! Both powerful and vulnerable in their own ways. My absolute favorite heroine of late is Rosie from Water for Elephants. If you have read the book, then you probably understand what I'm saying here. If not, I suggest you pick it up because it will change the way to look a female (not women) heroines.
    Thanks for letting me ramble. And now I must return to work.

  20. I'm pretty sure just about any of Tamora Pierce's protags could fit the bill, but I have a special place in my heart for Keladry from the Protector of the Small series. She doesn't dress up as a boy to become a knight like Alanna did, but instead endures all the ridicule associated with being the first girl to take advantage of a decree allowing her to train for knighthood. She is hands down one of my favorite female protags ever.

  21. My favourite Smart Chick would have to be Rose Hathaway from Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series because she’s witty, loyal and can kick butt when she needs to. In the words of Rose from Frostbite, “I'm seventeen years old, training to protect and kill vampires, in love with a completely unsuitable guy, and have a best friend whose weird magic could drive her crazy. Hey, no one said high school was easy.”

  22. Gosh, I love this post, and your summaries of these books. Attolia and Sophie are very awesome~
    My favourite smart chick would have to be Sabriel from the Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix. She's not perfect obviously, but I love how she pushes to do what she needs to, even though people underestimate her, and I love her compassion and perseverance/determination.

    Sabriel: I am going to leave my school for Young Women and Their Manners to go find my father, who has inexplicably gone missing! He just sent a dead talking thing to me, s’all cool.
    Sabriel: Well, there is a trapped naked boy before me, and the talking cat tells me that I should kiss him, but I shan’t, because he might get the wrong idea, and I don’t even know him >:I Even though I noticed he is very, very naked.
    Touchstone: S’up.
    Sabriel: … I’m still not kissing you. Now follow me, to where I shall save my father!

    Sabriel: Ladies and Touchstone, this is your Pilot Sabriel speaking. I’d ask that you keep hold of your chairs, since we are soaring at a high altitude and this aircraft doesn’t have seat belts.
    Touchstone: * faints delicately *
    Sabriel: Lily-livered-mumblemublemumble

    Oh, and I absolutely love how she tries to be polite and remember her manners when she's annoyed.

  23. My favorite smart chick is Claire from Rachel Caine's Morganville Vampire Series. She is truly the definition of a smart chick! She's in accelerated classes at TPU, and she even started there early! She can take care of herself in a town full of vampires, and still get a college education!

  24. I agree with many of the above (especially Kel) but I have to add Katniss from Suzanne Collins's Hunger Games. She is uncompromising about protecting others (even if she feels the human urge to occasionaly give up on that one) and exceptionally knowledgable/skilled in survival. Love her.

    Oh, and Rose from Spindle's End, and Sunshine from Sunshine and...ok, most of Robin McKinley's heroines.

  25. My favourite smart chick has to be Keladry of Mindelan from The Protector of the Small quartet by the amazing Tamora Pierce. Sure, Alanna is also amazing, but she trained to be a knight under false pretenses, not revealing her sex until after she was knighted. But poor Kel was terribly bullied by practically the WHOLE KINGDOM for being the first girl to train for her knighthood. Her fellow pages and squires, the training master, numerous knights, even her own sisters-in-law question her feminity and sanity. Despite the ill wishes of almost everyone around her, including the man in charge of her training (he comes around in the end of course, respecting Kel's perseverance, loyalty, cool head, knowledge, awesome fighting skills...), Kel manages to acheive her goal and becomes one of the best knights of the realm. Awesome!

  26. My favorite smart chicks are Sophie by Diana Wynne Jones, Claire by Rachel Caine, Bekka by Tamora Pierce, Tara by Melina Marchetta and ... Wow I meant only to list three. Whoops.

    I love Sophie because she's not perfect. She's stubborn and a bit of a bully, but she grows throughout the course of the novel not only as a practicer of magic, but also as a person. Claire is another example of someone who grows throughout her page time. She started off as a meek character whose biggest problem was being bullied by Monica. She was always intelligent, but in the latest books she's fiercely loyal, smarter than ever, and tough. She faces problems a lot bigger than Monica but never once pities herself or her situation.
    While I love all of Tamora Pierce's heronies, Bekka is the truest "smart chick" to me. She's shy and down to earth, but also tough and responsible. She's hardworking and loyal, managing to balance her life as a Dog with her friendships with not-so-respectable people. Tara from Melina Marchetta's Saving Francesca and The Piper's Son awes me because she doesn't take bullshit from people and she stays true to what she believes in. She advocates for other people, even if it means people think less of her or mock whatever cause she's supporting. She sees the bigger picture, but she's also a great friend. She's a normal teenage girl who is fun loving, clear-sighted and morally and intellectually developed.

  27. Attolia! Attolia! Besides her, I also very much enjoyed Chloe in Kelly Armstrong's Darkest Powers trilogy. Also, Mary in The Forest of Hands and Teeth, who is perfectly capable of beheading her zombified boyfriend if need be, as opposed to wringing her hands. :) I also highly adore the female characters of the Demon's Lexicon/Covenant/Surrender. Like Mae! And Sin! (Fighting magicians with dancing! And also crossbows!) And Olivia!

    ... I am shamelessly obsessed with TDL. I am no longer subtle.