Top 5 Wednesday – Independent Ladies

“Top 5 Wednesday” is a weekly meme currently hosted on Goodreads by Sam of Thoughts on Tomes in which you list your top 5 for the week’s chosen topic. This week’s topic is: independent ladies!

Favorite leading ladies who aren’t distracted from getting shit done by their love interest (they can still have a romance subplot – this is going to be subjective based on what you think would be ~too much~)

Yup, this is a day late! But it’s been a bit of a busy week, and my brain insisted on complicating the prompt by asking questions like:

“What’s the difference between ‘independent female characters’ and ‘strong female characters’ and ‘well-written female characters’?”

And “If a female character is involved in a romantic subplot and still gets shit done, isn’t that also a testament to how supportive the love interest is?”

Anywho, on to the show! (I tried to go for a variety of genres/subgenres for this one)


Vanessa Ives | Penny Dreadful


“I am nothing. I am no more than a blade of grass. But I am. You think you know evil? Here it stands.”

AKA my favourite female character in all media (despite the “ending” they gave her). You see, Vanessa Ives doesn’t walk around seeking romantic subplots. The romantic subplots seek her out, begging for a crumb of attention, because she’s a planet of her own goddamn making and her law of gravity is the only one worth obeying. For 3 seasons she does her own thing–a mesmeric combination of fearlessness and vulnerability, of kindness and unbridled anger–and the would-be suitors trail behind her with flowers, crying, “Please notice me!”

Vanessa has forever redefined the idea of a strong female character and I will live and die on her altar ’till the end of my days.


Anne de Vernase | The Soul Mirror (Collegia Magica 2)


Anne is given what has to be the worst hand of cards that could be dealt to a female protagonist in fantasy: her father has been accused of treason and kidnapping and is now on the run; her younger brother has been thrown in prison; her mother has succumbed to insanity; and now she’s received news that her younger sister has died in an “accident.” Oh, and on top of it all, she’s about to lose her family estate.

Yet she remains on her feet, head held high. With logic, empathy, and sheer determination at her disposal, she carves out a place at the royal court, uncovers a dark conspiracy, and saves the world. Brava, Damoselle. Brava.


Julie (“Queenie”) | Code Name Verity


“I am a coward”

It’s kind of impossible to explain why she’s such an incredible character and why she belongs on this list without going into spoilers, so this is gonna be vague.

Julie is a WW2 British spy who gets captured by the Germans and is forced to write up a comprehensive confession detailing everything to do with the British war effort. Gorgeous, clever, and sophisticated, she’s always had the attention of boys. But it’s her best friend Maddie who’s had her heart. And it’s Maddie that she keeps in mind as she’s tortured and interrogated to a breaking point.

Julie’s choice isn’t an easy one, but it’s one she stands by…and there’s a lot to be said for that.

And “Kiss me, Hardy” remains three of the most devastating words I’ve ever read.


Flavia de Luce|Flavia de Luce Series

“I am often thought of as being remarkably bright, and yet my brains, more often than not, are busily devising new and interesting ways of bringing my enemies to sudden, gagging, writhing, agonizing death.”

Flavia de Luce–chemist extraordinaire, amateur sleuth, and precocious tween–has no time for your romance nonsense. Not when there are delicious murders to be solved and chemical experiments to conduct. I mean, she’s also 11 for most of the series (because the author seems to want to keep her as a preteen for the rest of her life) so romance isn’t really on the menu for her right now, but still. She has little patience for the foolishness of adults and since no adult in her life can seem to rub two brain cells together to solve a murder, it’s up to her to figure things out. Again.


Felicity Montague | Montague Siblings Series


You deserve to be here. You deserve to exist. You deserve to take up space in this world of men.”

Felicity is one of the best female characters I’ve come across in the past couple of years and I absolutely adore the development she goes through in Lady’s Guide. This is a girl who knows she can go toe-to-toe with the men when it comes to medicine and science, and she will do what it takes to prove that–to herself and to others.

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Chelsea February 14, 2019 - 1:45 pm

Great choices! Code Name Verity is one of my favourite books of all time and I love how it focuses on the relationship between Julie and Maddie. I haven’t gotten to Lady’s Guide yet, but I really enjoyed Felicity in Gentleman’s Guide and look forward to reading more about her. Flavia de Luce is a delight as well, although I’ve only read the first in the series.

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky February 19, 2019 - 12:20 pm

Thank you!! Code Name Verity is also one of my favourites of all time, and I should really get to the Julie prequel book sometime soon. And Felicity gets even BETTER in Lady’s Guide. Hope you enjoy it when you get to it!

Tammy February 14, 2019 - 2:24 pm

Flavia de Luce! Such a great choice, I’m a big fan of that series😊

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky February 19, 2019 - 12:22 pm

I never knew a series about an 11 year old chemist solving murders would be so addicting and interesting. 😀

Lisa (@TenaciousReader) February 14, 2019 - 3:56 pm

Oh, I’m actually not familiar with any of these, though I have wanted to watch Penny Dreadful. Think I need to check them all out!

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky February 18, 2019 - 6:27 am

Do give Penny Dreadful a try when you have the time! It’s such an underrated series and Eva Green is an absolute triumph as Vanessa!

Aurora Librialis February 14, 2019 - 6:06 pm

I loved Felicity so much in Gentleman’s Guide, I really need to read her books soon! I’ve never seen Penny Dreadful, but I’m already in love with Vanessa Ives. That might be a little bit because I’m already so in love with Eva Green, but it’s definitely also because she sounds freaking amazing! Lovely post ❤️

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky February 15, 2019 - 2:13 am

Omg Aurora. AURORA. You SO need to watch Penny Dreadful, it’s 1000% your thing!! I mean, season 2 is all about witches and covens and pagan rituals. And there’s a bisexual werewolf and feminist themes and POETRY, and you will fall even more in love with Eva Green after this because she’s just so effin’ phenomenal as Vanessa.

PerfectlyTolerable February 14, 2019 - 11:19 pm

FLAVIA DE LUCE sounds amazing!! Haha who doesn’t love a murder solving 11 year old!

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky February 16, 2019 - 2:37 pm

Ikr?! I love her. She’s so snarky and no-nonsense. And the audiobook narrator does a really good job portraying her!

bookbeachbunny February 14, 2019 - 11:38 pm

I loved Vanessa (and Eva Green just made that role) though I’ve never been able to bring myself to watch the last few episodes after I got spoiled. Blocked it out! And I’ve got to put Flavia De Luce on my list as I’d never heard of it but certainly sounds good 🙂

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky February 15, 2019 - 1:42 am

I swear, Eva Green was born to play Vanessa. I was so mad when I heard about the last episode and still haven’t watched it either. As far as I’m concerned, it ain’t canon. 😀

elfduchess February 15, 2019 - 7:21 pm

You’re making me super excited for both Penny Dreadful – which I finally succumbed to the lure of and added to my Netflix list…even if it is somewhat low on the list – and The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy – which I still haven’t read because I hit a bit of a reading slump. *le sigh* But also, I’ve heard some not so glowing things about it. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the story’s good because I adored Felicity in A Gentleman’s Guide.

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky February 18, 2019 - 6:12 am

AHH I’m so happy to hear that!! Penny Dreadful deserves all the love in the world!

And Lady’s Guide definitely isn’t perfect! My issues with it mostly has to do with the fantasy elements and some other plot bits. But I absolutely adored Felicity’s character growth, so if you liked her in Gentleman’s Guide I think you’ll REALLY like her here.

waytoofantasy February 17, 2019 - 9:22 pm

I’ve heard so many things about Code Name Verity, it makes me both want to read it and afraid to read it. I don’t want to break! lol I’ve read some of Elizabeth Wein’s other work and I really loved her female protagonist in A Coalition of Lions.

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky February 19, 2019 - 12:25 pm

It breaks you and then some but it’s soooo worth it. Go go read it!! 😀 And I’ve read pretty much all of her historical fiction stuff, but I had no idea she also wrote fantasy!

waytoofantasy February 19, 2019 - 2:26 pm

I’ll have to check it out then!

@lynnsbooks February 18, 2019 - 12:40 pm

This is a very interesting list – made even more so by the fact I don’t know any of your leading ladies – how shameful *hangs head*.
If I was to choose five I think I’d have:
Phedre no Delauney from Kushiel’s Dart (and maybe Melisande from the same series)
Wydrin (aka the Copper Cat), from Jen Williams Copper Promise series
Rebecca – from Daphne Du Maurier’s book of the same name for simply being one of the most memorable characters ever – who didn’t actually appear in the book other than in the form of memories.
Mercy Thompson – I just love her so she has to be on here and, similarly:
Toby Daye.
Lynn D:

maddalena@spaceandsorcery February 18, 2019 - 8:38 pm

Penny Dreadful is one of those titles I glimpsed on Netflix but did not pursue yet, so thank you for showcasing it here because now I intend to give it a peek! 🙂

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky February 20, 2019 - 2:35 am

I’m happy to hear that! I WHOLLY recommend it if you like gothic stories and poetry and 19th century literature. If you don’t….I still recommend it anyways because it’s just so, SO well acted. 😀

The Coffee Book Tag! – Sereadipity February 19, 2019 - 11:49 am

[…] Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky […]

Gerry@TheBookNookUK February 24, 2019 - 5:32 pm

Great post as always Kathy! I haven’t watched Penny Dreadful and I keep meaning to do so because I think I would love it muchly.

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky March 21, 2019 - 1:59 am

Gerry, you need to watch it!! It has incredible discussions of feminism and the stigma of female sexuality and so much more. It’s SO your thing! And then we can have essay discussions about it! I know exactly ZERO people in my life who has watched Penny Dreadful and I have four years worth of things I need to say. 😀

Gerry@TheBookNookUK March 21, 2019 - 8:30 am

You are most definitely not the first person to tell me I’ll love it! I just need to work out where it’s available in the UK as I don’t think it’s on Netflix. I could be wrong but I’ll need to check. I kind of love Eva Green and everything that I’ve heard about Penny Dreadful sounds like it’s pretty much my thing so I have no hecking clue why I haven’t watched it yet!

arubunwritten February 27, 2019 - 1:02 pm

Love this list! Romantic stories that are the subplot is always my preference tbh. Penny Dreadful is on my to watch list so it’s good to know it has an excellent female character!

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky March 13, 2019 - 5:57 am

I’m so glad to hear Penny Dreadful is on so many people’s watchlists. 😀 Eva Green is just off the walls amazing as Vannessa.


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