#RandomReads May Discussion

For the final post in May’s Random Reads, I’m going to be chatting about this month’s two Random Reads books in a bit more detail.
Our theme for this month was the fantasy genre. I am a big reader of fantasy – it’s probably my favourite genre, although I have been trying to read a bit wider lately. The two books I read this month – Song Quest, as picked by me, and Steelheart, as picked by Stacie – are really different ends of the fantasy spectrum, but they both got me thinking about one thing in particular.
Female characters.
So that’s what I’m going to discuss today. Feel free to join in with your ideas in the comments – it’s always interesting to hear some different opinions.
Stacie and I differed a little in our opinion of the female protagonist in Song Quest (see her review here). I’ve always loved Rialle: I grew up dreaming of being like her, and on this read through as an adult, I still loved her.
But I do understand where Stacie and others views come from. Rialle isn’t really the kind of kick ass heroine we’ve come to expect from YA books today. She’s softly spoken, scared of standing up for herself and yes, she does spend a lot of the book being drugged or feeling sick or being someone’s prisoner.
And I do see all of that. I do. But I also see Rialle standing up for the half-creatures, even when she’s not brave enough to stand up for herself. She stays silent for so long, even when she’s kept in a cage like an animal, just to try and protect the Echorium and their Songs. And when all is lost, she’s willing to sacrifice everything to try and stop the Kizpriest in his plans, even if it means death to herself.
She might not be the kind of heroine we’re used to now, but I still think she’s brave and strong in her own way. She might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I will always defend Rialle.
And now on to Steelheart.
I’ve heard this described as a ‘boy’s book’ which irritated me greatly. I’m not a boy, and I enjoyed it. What makes it a boy’s book? I enjoyed the fact that it had superpowers and nerdy characters and car chases and cool weapons. None of that makes it a boy’s book to me.
It is a rather male-focussed book though. As mentioned in my review, the book is told from a male perspective, the majority of Epics seen and described are male, and the only female characters we really see are two of the Reckoners: Tia and Megan. Tia is the nerd and medic, and doesn’t play a huge role in the story.
Megan, on the other hand, is quite clearly love interest first, character second.
I don’t want to judge her too harshly, and I did like her as a character, especially some of the late developments (those of you who’ve read it will know what I’m talking about). But I felt like we saw her through David’s eyes, and in his eyes she was often a hot body before she felt like an actual person.
I felt this was a shame, because she was such an interesting character, and I know there were other things David liked about her, but too often he got distracted by how hot she looked, or how that was making him feel, and that irritated me.
That aside, (that was more a personal rant) Megan as a heroine was almost the direct opposite of Rialle. She was fierce, sometimes mean and she wandered into danger, not without care, but willingly at least. She saved David’s ass more than once (even when he didn’t realise it) and led some villains on one awesome motorcycle chase.
To me, Megan and Rialle are two very different type of heroines, but heroines they are, in their own way. I understand the need for girls who can stick up for themselves, for girls who don’t have weak characters or personalities that would have been classed as ‘girlie’ in the past. But I don’t think we should discourage characters who do cry, or feel afraid, or aren’t ‘feisty’ or ‘feiry’. Not everyone in the world is like that, and not being like that shouldn’t be seen as a bad point either. 

Diversity in books is a big pushing point at the moment, and I think this means the types of characters we have, as well as genders, race and sexual orientation.
See Stacie talk about Song Quest in more depth here.