Hail the Strong Heroine!
I pretty much cut my teeth on the paranormal genre as a child. I don’t know where I inherited this obsession from for watching TV shows and movies and reading of this sort – think Star Trek, Xena, Star Wars, Tolkein, Anne McCaffrey, Andre Norton - because no one in three generations on either side of the family tree possessed the same interests.
There was the suggestion made that I was a changeling…*grin*…but for whatever reason, I loved this genre and gravitated towards it as a young writer.
While I enjoyed characters like Spock, Han Solo and Aragorn, I found myself fascinated by the heroines of this genre – Princess Leia, Ellen Ripley, Lessa of Pern, Talia of Valdemar, Xena, Sara from McCaffrey’s Restoree, the list could go on.
Why? Well, what’s not to love about a heroine who’s smart, determined, courageous and strong enough to take action to rescue herself or create her own destiny? These were the sort of heroines I wanted to write about!
Sure, throw in a great hero alongside her – who wouldn’t love a Han Solo, an Aragorn, or Wery leader like F’lar - but my fascination and connection lay with the heroine of the story.
In VENGEANCE BORN, the first book of my Light Blade series, the heroine is Annika, the daughter of a demon king. Right from the outset of the story we learn that she’s the product of a rape, a bastard child bred for retribution against an old enemy. She also yearns for escape.
Reviled by both demons and humans for her half-blood status, she devises her own plan for a new life, rather than wait for someone to save her. In the opening scene of the book she descends into her father’s dungeon to rescue Kalan, the hero, intending to ask him for sanctuary among the humans in exchange for his freedom.
In many ways Annika is a powerful character. She has the ability to heal or kill with a touch. Within demon society, power commands respect, yet instead using her Gift to elevate, Annika chooses to heal people rather than use it against them - her rebellion against a father who would use her Gift to further his own cause if he ever learned of the secret.
Having endured bullying and physical abuse from a young age, Annika’s developed the mental toughness and street smarts she’s needed to survive such circumstances.
“So, do you always perch on balcony ledges?”
“Not always.” Annika shot Kalan a sideways glance. The pale mauve sky silhouetted his strong profile. “Usually I sit on the pitch of a roof.”
His eyebrows rose and the changing expression on his face said he was trying to work out if she was joking. She wasn’t. He was curious but she knew he’d never question her, not unless she continued the conversation. He gave her the choice to share her past with him. Another thing she was coming to like about him.
With her fingernail, Annika scraped a design into the frost coating the stone beside her. “I was chased up into one of the fortress towers by some Na’Reishi children once. I think I was eight or nine at the time. They were several years older than me and considered it sport to try and catch me. The winner got first-rites.” She smiled crookedly as his brows dipped. “They got to hit me first before the others joined in.”
He issued a soft, vehement curse. “Did that happen often?”
“Two or three times a week.”
In her minds-eye, Annika could see her father’s angry face as she’d dared complain the first time it happened. Inwardly she cringed remembering the sharp sound of the blow as he backhanded her, the pain just becoming the freshest ache in her body.
You deserve whatever you get! Maybe it’ll teach you to run faster, think smarter.
She stopped scratching the ice and took a deep breath. “Getting caught in the tower, hearing them charge up the stairs and knowing what awaited me if I didn’t escape forced me out the window. My limbs shook so badly as I pulled myself over the eave I thought I’d fall before I reached the pitch of the roof,” she said softly. “After that I learned every hidey-hole, every dark corner, and possible escape route around the keep.” She pointed to several places around the Light Blade compound. “I’ve counted six good places here already.”
Once in human territory she confronts the poison of prejudice, challenging Kalan’s perceptions of her and standing up to the blind hatred levelled at her by the human Blade Council.
“I said I’d answer your questions.” With a trembling hand, Annika gently closed the book and pushed it away from her. “I don’t keep a journal, Councilor Candra, because I don’t know your letters and words. I was never allowed to learn them.”
Davyn grunted loudly. “Illiterate and a liar.”
Annika flinched, shocked by the utter derision in his tone, but a heartbeat later heat exploded throughout her body. She rose from her seat, the slow scraping of her chair capturing everyone’s attention. Trembling, she fisted her hands, aware that her admission had damaged their impression of her.
“For what it’s worth, Councilor Candra, I don’t need a journal to remember what I was taught.” Her voice wavered but she kept her head held high, drawing the shreds of her pride around her like a cloak. “My teachings are all up here.” She tapped her forehead and ignored the few who snorted. “Hesia, the human woman who taught me, told me many stories about the courtesy and tolerance of humans compared to the Na’Reish. She held the Council in high regard and spoke of you as respected leaders. She said with your faith in the Lady you could be relied upon to be open-minded and fair. But you’re not the Blade Council she spoke of.”
Her glance strayed to Kalan. He stood silent, his face an implacable mask, his gaze hooded. What was he thinking? Did he support her or not? Her anger faltered. Perhaps she’d overstepped the mark. It was too late to take back her words.
Why she was even bothering to care about what he thought of her she didn’t know. She turned her attention back to the other people in the room and raked her gaze over each of the Councilors, unable to stomach their prejudice alone or hide her contempt.
“If you measure a person’s worth by a single set of standards, and dismiss them because they don’t meet them, then I don’t know if you live up to mine.”
She turned on her boot heel and left the chamber.
Annika’s also found spiritual fortitude in the form of the Lady, a human deity responsible for the healing powers she possesses. Her faith gives her the strength to commit to her actions and make her own way in the world.
Then there were the prayers to the Lady for guidance and assistance. At first Annika believed Hesia and the human-slaves had been talking about an actual person, but the more she’d listened she’d discovered that She was a deity who offered them wisdom and comfort while guiding them in their journey through life.
To a child raised on rejection and distain, Her compassion and love fulfilled a need she’d never known existed until then. She was also a part of her mother’s world, something Annika had always craved to learn more about.
But while Annika has these strengths she’s also vulnerable.
Being born a half-blood wasn’t her fault. Annika’s throat tightened. Would she ever find a place in this world where she felt at peace? Where no one judged her for who or what she was?
Moonlight filtered through the thick canopy but even without it she’d have been able to find her way. Enhanced sight, inherited from her demon father. Yet another reason for Kalan to condemn and reject her.
Why was she letting his attitude affect her so much? Both human and Na’Reish despised her. She’d suffered their hatred and disgust all her life. Why had she expected this human to be different?
She blinked back tears. Perhaps because she had healed and then saved him. What did she have to do to make anyone value her beyond what her gifts could provide them?
Because of her upbringing she feels this incredible sense of separation and isolation, and constantly questions her self-worth, yet also yearns for acceptance and love.
As readers, I think these feelings are ones we can definitely identify with. Who hasn’t experienced them at some stage in our lives? Annika’s journey might be about finding a new life and freedom, yet there are some very personal flaws she also struggles to overcome.
So, is Annika a strong heroine? Well, if I’ve done my job right, then readers are going to be able to empathise and connect with her as a character. They’re going to root for her as she and Kalan begin their journey together – to human territory, and as a man and woman discovering love along the way – and perhaps, she might be someone who sticks in your mind over time like some of the heroines who have impacted me as a reader.
Thanks for hosting me here on your blog, Sally, and letting me share a little about Annika. It’s been a hoot!
VENGEANCE BORN (Book #1 in the Light Blade series) will be released February 7th, 2012, with Berkley Sensation. I look forward to and welcome feedback about Annika and her story.
About Vengeance Born
Vengeance BornLight Blade 1
Berkley Sensation, February 7, 2012
Trade Paperback, 336 pages
There is no mercy in the demon realm. No escape. In this place of desperation and conflict, anyone who is not pure bred is virtually powerless. Until an unlikely champion is born...
Annika, half-blood daughter of the Na'Reish King, longs for more than her tormented life among her father's people. Conceived in hatred and bred as a tool of retribution, she's gifted with a special talent that can heal as well as destroy...
With the Na'Reish vastly outnumbering them, Kalan, a Light Blade warrior, knows the future of humankind depends on him alone. Incursions into human territory and raids for blood-slaves by the Na'Reish Horde have increased. As Chosen-leader, he faces the task of stopping the demons-and convincing the Council of aging Light Blade warriors that change is necessary for survival.
When Annika learns Kalan is a prisoner in her father's dungeon, her dream of escape seems within reach. She agrees to free him in exchange for his protection once they reach human territory. Now, marked for death for helping him, Annika must learn to trust Kalan as they face not only the perilous journey to the border but enemies within the Council-and discover a shocking truth that could throw the human race into civil war...
Alliance Forged (Light Blade 2) will be published in July 2012.
Today, she’s a primary school teacher sharing her love for the written word with young children. In her spare time, she writes and reads all things paranormal.
Kylie lives in a small rural village in outback New South Wales, Australia, where she volunteers in a number of emergency service organizations in her local community. Visit her website at www.kyliegriffin.com