I found at least one of these female villains curiously unsatisfying for a slightly different reason, oddly enough. She was depicted as a goddess of both life and death, and while it wasn't an accurate reproduction of the actual Norse goddess, I found myself wondering: is the hero really surprised the goddess was working to achieve both those goals — death as well as life? That was in Greg van Eekhout's Norse Code, and frankly, I had numerous issues with how he handled Norse mythology. His was a classic example of simply disregarding all the powerful female deities after warping them so they're no longer active or warriors — and then (to add insult to injury) completely twisting one of the female deities so she can fulfill the old, psychologically-projected male fear of the so-called "smothering mother" trope.

But to return: this category — "Action!" -is in fact why I ranked the various series in the preference order which I did. Kitty has quite a bit of action, true, but I frequently felt it did not matter deeply — because she heals so incredibly fast, it's easy to not care very much if she gets hurt in a fight. In fact, that healing factor became a critical issue in one of the stories, which I thought was a clever use of it against the heroine.

Harry also is a heroine with an incredible amount of action in the stories. He, however, has the opposite issue for me: the poor man is almost always injured — and he never learns! As an example, this man has been hit in the head with a baseball bat, coshed in the back of the head with a blackjack (more than once!), barely avoided a sniper rifle shot to the head, had a clawed monster leap down onto his head and shoulders… and yet he has still not gotten any sort of head protection! While he too has an incredible (for a regular human) healing factor, he doesn't heal that fast. I find myself amusedly wondering sometimes if Harry actually likes pain… or if he's just been hit in the head one time too many, and can't figure out the cause and effect there. ;)

To be fair to Harry, as I've mentioned before, the perennially damaged protagonist is another classic staple of the noir genre. It's also probably one of the few feasible reasons for someone as ultra-powerful as Harry to not simply figure mysteries out, then handily defeat the villain a la magical Sherlock Holmes. The genre conventions also explain, I believe, why Harry is not required to face truly logical consequences of some of his actions — like the almost funny crying need for head protection, or the possibility of rape. That sort of thing simply "isn't done" in the noir genre, and so the heroine, as Harry, will never have to deal with it.

This is also, however, why I like Mercy better. She gets into scraps with the best of them when she's pushed into it, but she's no fool: when she can she avoids fights, and when she's drawn in she does her best to fight smart, rather than simply carrying the biggest metaphorical stick on the block. Further, she does her best to learn and grow from her experiences. For example, I was a bit shocked to see her facing rape in one story — and both stunned and impressed to see how delicately the author handled Mercy's reactions and recovery. I did not feel it was gratuitous, and while I didn't enjoy it, I do think it followed logically from the events within the story.

I suspect overall the human behavior in Mercy's world is a tad bit more internally consistent than in Harry's; if nothing else, Mercy understands you do not mouth off to powerful lunatics! I also believe Mercy thinks things through more than Harry — witness the differences in their respective romantic encounters, for example. Consequently I think she (quite logically) ends up fighting only when she must, and also more cleverly than he — because she knows she's not the scary/baddest creature on the block, because she's not too proud to be part of a team rather than the secretive leader, and because she isn't as "genre-immune" to damage as Harry.

Cassie sees a lot of action as well — I recall at least two stories which start in the middle of gun battles, for example — which impresses me because Cassie does not ordinarily carry any weapons! Being a very cerebrally powered heroine (a sort of oracle, in fact), Cassie is quite definitely a case of a heroine who must fight very smart, since there's no way she can stop a bullet or fire one of her own. Further, we can definitely see her very logically growing and learning, both in power and in trained abilities, as the series progresses.

Frankly, that's not an effortless sort of character or scene to write compellingly. It's always easiest to reply to a violent attack with yet more violence, rather than witty repartee, for example — which has correspondingly increased my respect for Cassie's author. I've already mentioned her fantastic use of humor in those battles as well. It is the amazingly clever use of action and humor, in fact, which caused me to immediately list Mercy and Cassie as my first and second most favorite heroines.


Similar Posts: