On Sunday I posted a review of the brilliant Dark Goddess by Sarwat Chadda. Dark Goddess was officially published yesterday and Sarwat is currently on a blog tour in celebration of this. I was very flattered when Sarwat approached me asking if he could visit The Book Zone on this tour, and I think his choice of topic for this blog post is perfect.
I’ve written a book that the Guardian called “mythic, funny, violent and fast-moving”. It’s part of an action series about a teen who’s been trained as a Knight Templar. It’s about facing down devils, vampires, ghouls with swords and axes and it’s about as bloody as it can get.
The protagonist’s father is ruthless, single-minded and the Templar Master. He’s brought up his child to be his replacement. The child, if anything, is harder, tougher, more deadly that he could dream of being. It’s all in the classic ‘child inherits the mantle of the father’ tradition. You’ve had it in Star Wars. You’ve got it in Harry Potter. Percy Jackson. Alex Rider. You’ve got it in Conan the Barbarian.
It’s perhaps the biggest tradition in boys’ action series.
That’s what I’ve got for you. Interested?
Except my hero’s a heroine.
What? You’ve stopped reading?
That’s what they say. Boys won’t read girl leads. No matter what.
So, you guys who’ve read Phillip Pullman, please put your copies in the bin. The same with those of you who’ve read Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines. And Skulduggery Pleasant (book has his name on the front but the lead’s Stephanie, sorry). The list goes on and on. No-one with X and Y chromosomes should be watching Buffy. Heaven forbid they should play Tomb Raider!
I know, I know. You don’t want to read about girls whining in their bedrooms because their boyfriend doesn’t call and why can’t they be more skinny and beautiful and all that. Neither do I. I want to read stories where the lead goes out and makes a difference. A story where the hero’s pushed beyond their limits and somehow, through guts, blood and tears they beat the odds. That’s what I read and that’s what I write.
Who came up with this crap anyway? Some librarian in the 1930’s who had one shelf of Jane Austen and one shelf of Tarzan and noticed the boys went to the Tarzan shelf? Well, who wouldn’t? Tarzan is insane! The books are brutal, primitive and beautiful. What happens in Pride and Prejudice? They sit around moaning for 400 pages and get married and live happily ever after. Not a single elephant stampede anywhere!
I know boys read girl heroes. My biggest events are at boys’ schools. Blimey, my biggest sales are at boys’ schools. They can’t all be buying them for their mother.
What do you want in a book? I know what I want. Action. High stakes. Intense drama. Violence and the ‘all or nothing’ victory. Bad guys. Conflicted anti-heroes (no white-hats please). You might be surprised a lot of them are of the female persuasion. Isn’t it a shame to miss out?
Here’s five of the best that fulfil the above criteria and I guarantee you adventure that’ll boil your blood and freeze your heart.
1. Lyra out of Phillip Pullman’s Northern Lights trilogy.
2. Hester from Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines saga.
3. Josie, knife-thrower extra-ordinaire from John Mayhew’s Mortlock.
4. Scout from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird. Hey, I needed to put one classic in the list, didn’t I?
5. Katniss in The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.
Get them. Read them. Lend them to your mother. You’ll thank me later.
A big thank you to Sarwat for taking the time to write that article for us. If you want to find out more about the man and his books please do visit his website and his blog and don't forget to enter my contest to win a signed copy of Dark Goddess.