Guest Blog by KD Van Brunt (author, Win the Rings)
            When I started writing Win the Rings, the one thing I knew that I wanted was for my main character—Jace Moray—to be granite strong, and I don’t just mean emotionally or mentally strong.  Yes, I wanted those things, but I wanted a girl who is physically strong in her own right—a real ‘drop the gloves and swing away’ fighter.  This ultimately led me to a military setting for my story and to an main character who is a soldier. 
            In choosing this kind of main character and this type of setting, I’m following the well-blazed trail of so many great young adult books down through the years.   And in recognition of the tremendous influence of all the great “kick ass” girl heroines, I thought I would offer up my top ten list of the all-time greatest girl fighters, along with a number of honorable mentions.  Now, there are a lot of tough girls out there in young adult literature, so to narrow the field I’m focusing on main characters who are physically tough mostly (fudge, fudge) in their own right (as opposed to being strong by virtue of being a vampire, werewolf or some other special power), and I’m focusing on those who use that strength to overcome adversity and to triumph over long odds.  With that, let’s count them down—a drumroll please:
10.       June Iparis—June is the heroine of Marie Liu’s Legend-Prodigy-Championseries (2011-2013).  A fifteen-year-old prodigy, June is a highly trained fighter and she’s being fast tracked for success at the highest levels of the military, but she’s also street tough, as shown by her “skiz” fighting prowess. 
9.         Saba—In Moira Young’s 2011 Blood Red Road, we’re introduced to young Saba, who goes on the road to rescue her kidnapped brother Lugh.  Captured and forced to fight in the arena, she becomes a fierce fighter and a cunning survivor.  Her story continued in 2012’s Rebel Heart and will conclude with this May’s Dust Lands.
8.         Deuce, the Huntress—In post-apocalyptic New York, Deuce lives in the dark subway tunnels.  Named a Huntress at fifteen, Deuce and her sidekick Fade are walking lethal weapons.   By the end of Ann Aguirre’s Enclave-Outpost-Hordeseries (2011-2013), even the zombie Freaks are in awe of the mighty Huntress. 
7.         Tally Youngblood—Tally is the heroine of Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies-Pretties-Specialsseries (2005-2006).  Audacious and full of spunk, Tally is always being underestimated and making people pay for that.  By the time we get to Specials, with a few enhancements, Tally is a fighting machine and virtually unstoppable (she can catch arrows out of the air while riding a hoverboard).  In the end, she almost single handedly remakes her society.
6.         Paksenarrion Dothansdotter—Paks may be a touch of an obscure pick for some, but she definitely earns a spot on my list.  The heroine of Elizabeth Moon’s three book series the Deed of Paksenarrion (1988-89), Paks rebels against the life of a sheepherder’s daughter and runs off to join a mercenary company at age eighteen.  Paks learns the sword and soon outfights most of the men around her, achieving fame and respect.  The Deed of Paks is a significant series on many levels, not the least of which is its portrayal of women as the equal of men in all respects and as showing that a story with a teenage girl heroine doesn’t need to be slathered with romance in order to be compelling.
5.         Celaena Sardothian—Talk about bad ass and beautiful.  Celaena Sardothian is both.  Plucked from the Endovier salt mines after a year’s hard labor, Celaena is an assassin, trained in the art of fighting and killing since she was eight.  Offered a shot at freedom by competing against other assassins for the title of King’s assassin, Celaena proceeds to annihilate the competition and any one else that gets in her way.  We meet Celaena first in Sarah Maas’s 2012 book, Throne of Glass, and her story continues in last year’s Crown of Midnight.   We’re all waiting to see what Celaena will do next in this fall’s Heir of Fire.
4.         Tris Prior—In Veronica Roth’s Divergent-Insurgent-Allegiant series (2011-13), Tris starts out as sixteen-year-old Beatrice Prior trying to decide if her true calling is the selfless, meek life of the Abnegation faction or the brash, combative, in-your-face life of the Dauntless faction.  Surprisingly, Beatrice chooses Dauntless.  Small and frail, this looks like a bad choice at first, but as soon as she’s declared to be the first jumper, you know Dauntless is where she belongs.  Re-naming herself Tris, she proceeds to overcome countless obstacles and fight her way to the top of the class.  The encou
nter between Tris and Eric in Insurgent sums her up:  unless you want suicide by Tris, you don’t want to mess with this girl.  She should translate quite well onto the big screen in the upcoming movie.  Tris is the only one on this list who… on second thought, let’s not go there.
3.         Lady Katsa—Some people are going to insist that Lady Katsa from Kristin Cashore’s Graceling (2008) should be number one.  After all, when a pervy old cousin started to hit on her when she was eight, she killed him by punching him in the face so hard she shoved his nose bone up into his brain.  Yes, that’s gross, but they don’t come much tougher than that.  Katsa kicks buttsa.
2.         Katniss Everdeen—The star of Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy (2008-2010), Katniss is probably the most famous fighting female on the planet today: smart, brave, a revolutionary, and tougher than old shoe leather.  If, God help me, I were to be thrust into the hunger games, the last person I would want to face is Katniss.  That would be game over.
1.         Alanna of Trebond—When you talk about tough fighters, the discussion must begin with Tamora Pierce’s classic character Alanna of the four book Song of the Lioness series (1983-88).  As girl main characters go, they don’t get much tougher than Alanna.  As a young girl, she disguises herself as a boy and enters knight training, fighting her way through bullies and enemies to become the legendary knight of Tortall.  Alanna is just as engaging a character today as she was when the first book came out some thirty years ago. 
HONORABLE MENTIONS (in no particular order)
Dru Anderson (Lili St. Crow, the Strange Angels series (2009-2011))
Violet Eden (Jessica Shirvington, the Embraceseries (2010-2013))
Penryn Young (Susan Ee, Penryn and the End of Days series (2012-2013) (ongoing))
Six(Pittacus Lore, the Lorien Legacies series (2010-2013) (ongoing))
Wren Connolly (Amy Tintera, Reboot(2013) (ongoing))
Alice Bell (Gena Showalter, The White Rabbit Chronicles (2013-2014) (ongoing))

I know you agree and disagree with my list.  Bring it on and smack me in the face.  Contact me directly on my website and leave me your comment:   While you’re there, check out the details on my book, Win the Rings, including bonus content.   

Win the Rings by K.D. Van Brunt
Blurb:  Jace has been the property of the U.S. Army since they found out about her when she was five, and now she has become one of its most valuable weapons.  But Jace is not the only one of her kind. Gray is one too, but with the help of his sister, he has spent most of his sixteen years hiding from the Army.  
Now, the Army has found out about Gray and they cannot allow him to roam free.  Operating on the theory that it takes one to catch one, Jace is send out with a special ops squad to hunt Gray down. But Jace is not the only one pursuing Gray, and the competition is after her too.  What ensues is a desperate chase through city after city as duty and honor collide with love and sacrifice.
During the eig
ht hours of the day when I’m not writing, reading or sleeping, I’m a lawyer in Washington, DC.  I grew up in Southern California, moved to Seattle before coming east to Boston to go to school.  Now, I live in the great state of Maryland with my wife, my dog—a standard poodle named Buffy (and who do you think named her?), and my hot Camaro.  One of the few things I like better than pizza is driving fast.  So, if you happen be in the DC area and a black Camaro with a red stripe and a rear spoiler roars by and blows your doors off…thaaat could be me.