Does a Kick-Ass Heroine Actually Have to Kick Ass?

The Sable City by M. Edward McNally

Welcome to our weekly guest post on what makes a kick ass heroine in science fiction and fantasy. This week author M. Edward McNally shares about the kick ass heroine featured in his fantasy novel, The Sable City (Book I of the Norothian Cycle), and shares how his kick ass heroine doesn’t actually have to kick ass to be a bad ass.


“Tilda wanted either to jump up and down, or else kick her esteemed and honorable Captain square in his wide hindquarters.  She managed to do neither.  Just.”
– From The Sable City (Book I of the Norothian Cycle)

I included that quick bit as through the course of the first three books of my Musket & Magic fantasy series, The Norothian Cycle, that is as close as Tilda Lanai comes to being a literal, “Kick-ass” heroine. 😉

Though in a more metaphorical way, I like to think she qualifies. Tilda is an Island Guilder working for a powerful Trade House, trained as the saying goes, in the skills of “Musketry & Merchandising, Salesmanship and Swordplay.” People from less-polite cultures might call her a “thief,” but a Guilder is more than that in Island society. Yes, she may pick the occasional pocket, and the hooded half cloak does lend itself to disappearing in the shadows. But the business of the Islands is business, and so long as everybody else plays fair, the Guilders are as warm and hospitable as any other employee of a Trade House operating around the four continental coasts of the Interminable Ocean.

Of course if everything went smooth, there really wouldn’t be a story worth the telling. The Trade House that Tilda serves has problems, including the death of the House Lord and an exiled heir, and unless someone steps-up the whole organization will be disbanded, their assets carved-up and parceled around to rival Houses. Those assets include the Guilders, and Tilda is not one to let someone else decide who she is going to work for. If she was, she would still be a shop girl at her parent’s perfumery, not a newly-minted Guilder after three hard years of training.

And so, Tilda goes forth to find the missing heir to her House, and thus begins the requisite adventure part of any fantasy story; a tale of swords and sorcery, dragons and devils, a Lamia and a samurai, and one miscreant mercenary long on charm but lousy with a crossbow. That, as they say, is where the “ass-kicking” gets going.

So yes, Tilda is the lead of a fantasy series spiraling into Epic territory, or at least epic length. 😉 However, if I may be so bold, I like to think it is a series that while it respects the classic tenets of stories of its kind, it is not afraid to play with some of the standard tropes, and perhaps stereotypes, of Epic Fantasy. There is no great evil trying to conquer the world, no magic child foretold in a prophecy, no special destiny for anyone involved.

What there is, is a heroine, Tilda Lanai. A young woman trying to hold down a job, help out her friends, and find her place in a wide, wide world. It just so happens that a dragon might flap by through that world now and again, and oh yes, there is the one fabled Lost City full of demons and devils. But apart from that, the story is really just about people living their lives from day-to-day, and sometimes that can be pretty kick-ass, too.

Thanks much Beth, and everyone for reading!

The Sable City (Book One of the Norothian Cycle) by M. Edward McNally

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