22 Kick Ass Heroines

by Joanna Penn

I love reading thrillers with kick ass female characters. Here are a selection of books featuring feisty women who can fight as well as outsmart their enemies, some you may have heard of, and others will hopefully be new for you.

dieeasyCharlie Fox in Die Easy by Zoe Sharp

Charlie Fox, ex-Special Forces trainee turned bodyguard, described as “ill-tempered, aggressive and borderline psychotic, Fox is also compassionate, introspective and highly principled: arguably one of the most enigmatic − and coolest − heroines in contemporary genre fiction – Chicago Tribune” and Lee Child said: “If I were a woman I’d be Zoë Sharp. If Jack Reacher were a woman he’d be Zoë’s main character, Charlie Fox.”

snakeskinLucy Guardino in Snakeskin by C.J.Lyons

Just your average Pittsburgh soccer mom, baking brownies and carrying a loaded forty-caliber Glock…CJ Lyons’ FBI Special Agent Lucy Guardino has been described by real life FBI Agents as “dedicated, smart, and fearless.”

POEAlexandra Poe in POE by Brett Battles & Robert Gregory Browne

Half-Iranian bounty hunter reluctantly working for a defense contractor tracking down terrorists worldwide in the hope of finding her father, an Army colonel, who has been AWOL for 10 years. Poe is tough as nails, and never backs down from a fight, occasionally to her detriment.

bloodlinerollinsSeichan in Blood Line and the SIGMA series by James Rollins

Born in Vietnam, Seichan was raised on the streets, fighting for survival until she was recruited by the Guild to become one of their most feared assassins. Now part of SIGMA, Seichan seeks her past

budapestMorgan Sierra in One Day In Budapest by J.F.Penn

An ex-Israeli military psychologist specializing in psychology and religion, Morgan joins the secret world of ARKANE to solve supernatural mysteries around the globe. A Krav Maga expert, passionate about protecting her family, Morgan never gives up on a fight or a quest.

fleeChandler in Flee by J. A. Konrath and Ann Voss Peterson.

Chandler isn’t a person; it’s the codename for a woman who was shaped from a raw military recruit into a living weapon. She’s an assassin without remorse or fear, doing the bidding of an agency so secret that only three people know of its existence. But when her cover gets blown, she becomes the target of a wide-reaching conspiracy led by a mysterious figure whose connection to Chandler goes far beyond what she could have imagined.

concretepearlAva “Spike” Harrison in The Concrete Pearl by Vincent Zandri

Spike inherited her dad’s construction company and when one of her workers goes missing with ten grand of her own dough, she’s got no choice but to go after him on her own. She doesn’t carry a gun, but a framing hammer.

fataldistractionJess Kimball in Fatal Distraction by Diane Capri

Relentless victims’ rights advocate Jess Kimball and Jack Reacher both deliver justice when the legal system fails. Reacher waits until trouble finds him and then he does whatever it takes. But Jess pursues legal justice and draws lines she will not cross. How can she win against killers who refuse to follow the rules?

nightpreyRoberta Paxton in Night Prey by Carol Davis Luce

Assistant director of a local organization to aid abused women has been aiding and sheltering women and children for years, now she must do the same for her teen sister who has been targeted by a killer in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

therighteousEliza Christianson in The Righteous by Michael Wallace

Raised in a polygamous enclave, Eliza still manages to be a headstrong, independent woman, investigating evils both human and supernatural in The Righteous series. She doesn’t flinch from a fight, rescuing others and defending her family to the end.

hungergamesKatniss Everdene in The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Forced to fight for her District while the Capitol celebrates and the rest of Panem suffers under their tyranny, Katniss must kill to survive the murderous attempts of the other tributes.

angelwithbulletDixie Flynn in Angel With A Bullet by M.C.Grant

Wisecracking reporter Dixie Flynn thinks fast and talks even faster—it’s the only way to survive the San Francisco crime beat. When she’s assigned to look into the death of her former lover, artist Diego Chino, Dixie’s instincts tell her there’s more behind the apparent suicide than the police are letting on.

dragontattooLisbeth Salander in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Salander, a tattooed computer hacker who joins Mikael Blomkvist to investigate a murder in the powerful Vanger family, turns into an avenging angel as the series progresses.

genevadecisionPia Sabel in The Geneva Decision by Seeley James

Pia Sabel plays to win. Until a few weeks ago, she was an international soccer star. But now she’s taken the helm of her billionaire father’s private security company, and she’s playing against a whole new set of opponents – the kind who shoot to kill.

strangerintownSloane Monroe in Stranger in Town by Cheryl Bradshaw

When two children are abducted and the case goes cold, private investigator Sloane Monroe is out for answers. Will she find them in time, or is it already too late?

silenceoflambsClarice Starling in Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

Seeking insight into the deadly madman she must find, FBI rookie Clarice Starling turns to Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a monster cannibal held in a hospital for the criminally insane. As Dr. Lecter invites Clarice into the darkest chambers of his mind, he forces her to confront her own childhood demons in return for knowledge; an unspeakable tuition he exacts to teach her how the monster thinks. Time is running out, but Clarice is stronger than you think …

triggerJamie Dallas in The Trigger by LJ Sellers

Agent Jamie Dallas loves undercover assignments that get her out of the Phoenix Bureau. But when a woman and her baby disappear from an isolated community of preppers in Northern California, she knows the risk of infiltrating the armed group is dangerously high. Jamie specializes in undercover work and is an adrenaline junkie as well as a sniper.

smokeandboneKarou in Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Raised half in our world, half in ‘Elsewhere’, Karou has never understood Brimstone’s dark work – buying teeth from hunters and murderers – nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn’t whole. Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.

sentinelJane Harper in The Sentinel by Jeremy Bishop

Jane is a sarcastic, strong, no-holds-barred heroine capable of fending off angry whalers, anti-whaling activists…and viking zombies! Shipwrecked on an arctic island where ancient Draugar (the inspiration for modern day zombies and vampires) were buried, Jane, along with a band of survivors must face off against the elements and a 600 year old enemy.

shininggirlsKirby in The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

The girl who wouldn’t die hunting a killer who shouldn’t exist. Harper stalks his shining girls through the years – and cuts the spark out of them. But what if the one that got away came
back for him?

bluebirdflownSerena Wilcox in Bluebird Flown by Natalie Buske Thomas

The madness of futuristic America; corrupt, heavy with conspiracies– chillingly close to tomorrow’s headlines. President Ann Kinji trusts no one, except for government outsider, former private detective mother-of-three Serena Wilcox and her motley crew of vigilantes, burned agents & the criminally insane. As the United States continues to spiral out of control, can Serena stop all of the traitors before they kill the President? As the layers of betrayal are peeled, will anyone remain standing?

inceptioKaren Brown in Inceptio by Alison Morton

Karen Brown, angry and frightened after a kidnap attempt, has a choice – being eliminated by government enforcer Jeffery Renschman or fleeing to mysterious Roma Nova, her dead mother’s homeland in Europe. Unable to rely on anybody else, she undergoes intensive training, develops fighting skills and becomes an undercover cop. But crazy with bitterness at his past failures, Renschman sets a trap for her, knowing she has no choice but to spring it…

Over to you! Who are your favorite kick-ass thriller heroines, and which books can you recommend to others looking for strong female characters? Please leave a comment below.


Joanna Penn is an author, professional speaker and entrepreneur voted as one of The Guardian UK Top 100 creative professionals 2013.

She’s based in London, England although she lived in Australia and New Zealand for 11 years. She spent 13 years as a business IT consultant in large corporates across the globe before becoming a full-time author-entrepreneur in September 2011.

8 replies
  1. avatar
    scmathisen says:

    You might want to add Cassidy Jones from the books by Elise Stokes and Tori Brennan of the Virals series by Kathy Reichs to this list.

  2. avatar
    Paul B says:

    I’d also say Vic from Joe Hill’s NOS4A2. She’s the only kid to survive Charlie Manx (a horrific vampire type), and as an adult she battles her own inner demons whilst trying to protect her son from a vengeful Charlie.

  3. avatar
    Richard S. Hartmetz says:

    I would recommend a few lesser-known heroines: Muriel Peterson from the seven “Murry Peterson” spy novels, Robin Caruso, from the two “Robin Caruso” novels, and Maria Gonzalez from the “Blood of Darkness” series.

  4. avatar
    fkuri says:

    Rachel morgan by Kim Harrison, Dead Witch Walking
    Elena Michaels my Kelly Armstrong, Bitten
    Actually all of Kelly Armstrongs female leads
    Kate Daniels by ilona Andrews, Magic Bites
    Amaranth by Lindsay Buroker, Emperors Edge
    Kathy Mallory by Carol Oconnell, Mallorys Oracle.
    Mercedes Thompson by Patricia Briggs, Moon Called
    Ioney Mercer by Starzee on Wattpad, Rules of Survival.

  5. avatar
    Marina Doshkevich says:

    I am SO TIRED of that cliche. Every single female character in any fantasy or sci fi book or mobvie is smart, sexy and sassy. And they can ALL KICK ASS. EVERY. FRIGGIN’. ONE! No exceptions. Aren’t there any other types of female characters out there? These snarky brats in their revealing clothing that can diffuse all situations with a witty one liner, and get a guy to fall in love with them by insulting that guy are irritating. They are really overdone.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Here are a selection of books featuring feisty women who can fight as well as outsmart their enemies, some you may have heard of, and others will hopefully be new for you. This post first appeared on IndieReader. […]

  2. […] Fatal Distraction was featured in the same list as… wait for it… The Hunger Games! Pretty cool, huh? Check out the other great titles featuring feisty females like Jess Kimball on IndieReader. CLICK HERE […]

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