It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Cassandra Rose Clarke (see my reviews here), so you can imagine my excitement when Big Book Little Book was given the opportunity to host the latest stop on the blog tour for Cassandra’s latest book,The Wizard’s Promise.
One of the things I really admire about Cassandra’s writing is her ability to write strong but flawed female characters. I was delighted when Cassandra agreed to share her favourite flawed Queens with us. All Hanna Euli wants is to become a proper witch – but unfortunately, she’s stuck as an apprentice to a grumpy fisherman. When their boat gets caught up in a mysterious storm and blown wildly off course, Hanna finds herself further away from home than she’s ever been before.
As she tries to get back, she learns there may be more to her apprentice master than she realized, especially when a mysterious, beautiful, and very non-human boy begins following her through the ocean, claiming that he needs Hanna’s help.
It’s become a trend lately to say one’s favorite female characters are flawless. Usually this descriptor is paired with queen, as in, “Ripley from Aliens is a flawless queen.” I’m certainly guilty of doing this myself, usually on Tumblr. But the truth is most of the characters I call “flawless queens” aren’t actually flawless at all—and that’s exactly why I love them so much.
Flawed characters are more interesting to me as a rule, regardless of gender. A perfect character is dull and inoffensive, a bit like a meal at Chili’s. Utterly forgettable. A flawed character, on the other hand, will grab your attention and won’t let go. Consider movies like Star Wars or Pirates of the Caribbean: in both you are presented with a bland hero, ostensibly the main character (Luke Skywalker and Will Turner, respectively). But who grabs our attention? Who do really remember when we talk about of the theater? That’s right—it’s Han Solo and Jack Sparrow. That’s the power of the flawed character.
Of course, Han and Jack are both men, a trait they share with a lot of the favorite flawed characters out there in the world. Today, I want to focus instead on flawed female characters, a rarer beast. So without further ado, I present you with my Top Eight Flawed Queens: Rosa Diaz, from Brooklyn 99: Rosa is such a classic anti-hero type in the vein of Han Solo and his male brethren, only she’s a lady. A fabulous, fabulous lady. Let’s see: She’s secretive and mysterious. She has a horrible temper and responds to IT problems Office Space style, with destruction. Her coworkers frequently refer to her as “scary,” and she can bring the meanness when she’s of a mind. But she’s also loyal to her friends, and although it will take some wheedling, willing to admit she’s made a mistake. Plus she wears a bad ass leather jacket. Sansa Stark, from A Song of Ice and Fire: A lot of people reading these books tend to relate to Arya, but I was always much closer to Sansa when I was younger, and so she has a special place in my heart. I don’t consider femininity and politeness flaws (just the opposite, in fact), but Sansa can be incredibly naive at times, and she frequently makes poor decisions based on her ideas of how the world should be, rather than how it is, particularly at the beginning of the story. However, as her arc progresses, we see her learning from her mistakes, and coming to understand how her strengths—the aforementioned femininity and politeness—can help her thrive in a misogynistic, violent world. Harriet M. Welsch, from Harriet the Spy: Harriet is the first flawed character I ever fell in love with—male or female. I read this book around the same time I was devouring The Babysitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High, and as delightful as those series are, they really don’t bring the flaws in their main characters. Harriet, though, is a piece of work. She’s nosy (I mean, c’mon, it’s right there in the title). She’s intractable. She cares more about the truth than she does tact. She yells when she doesn’t get her way. And yet all those qualities make her incredibly relatable, and at the end of the story, when she realizes just how important friendship is, what could have been a saccharine after-school-special type message becomes resonant and powerful. Hermione Granger, from Harry Potter: She’s brilliant, yes, but she’s also a know-it-all and overly obsessed with her grades. One of her most famous of lines — “Try not to get killed, or worse, expelled”—sums up her general attitude fairly well. However, as a teenager fearful of authority, it was also basically my motto when I was in school, so I understand. Hermione would have been tedious if she had not been given those minor flaws and streaks of relatability. Was she a bit over the top? Sure, along with every other character in that series who didn’t have the initial H.P. But those flaws were what made her interesting, and let’s face it: she would have been a better protagonist than Harry. Margot Tenenbaum, from The Royal Tenenbaums: Margot is beautiful and talented, but she’s also secretive to a fault, and she lies to her family about her habits, simply, it seems, to prove that she can. She’s unfaithful to her husband and in love with her brother (she’s adopted). There’s a lot about Margot that should make her thoroughly despicable. And yet the film portrays her sympathetically, as someone whose flaws exist largely because of the difficulties of growing up with a father like Royal Tenenbaum. Margot is one of my favorite characters of all time. I love the beautiful complexity of her personality, and the way she slowly changes over the course of the film. Mindy Lahiri, from The Mindy Project: Mindy is a great everygirl character. She’s a bit neurotic, a bit lazy when it comes to exercise, and a bit too focused on men. She’s also overly in love with romantic comedies, like, to a fault. However, she’s a fantastic, caring OB-GYN (and better still, we get to see her work: in the first episode, she delivers a baby with skill and aplomb). Mindy is a wonderful example of a character who is good at her job but perhaps a bit flawed in her personal life—except the show allows her to be much more than that, too. Nancy Botwin, from Weeds: Nancy is a suburban mom who starts selling marijuana after her husband dies so that she won’t have to give up her wealthy lifestyle—or uproot her kids more than she has to. In many ways Nancy is the quintessential female flawed character for me. She makes some pretty terrible decision throughout the run of the show, and she can be selfish, naive, and rash. But at the same time, her actions often come down to a desire to protect her family, and she learns and grows from her mistakes. As with so many of the ladies on this list, she’s a beautifully complex, fully-realized character. Gloria Pritchett, from Modern Family: Gloria is the sexy, vivacious wife of an older man on a sitcom. This scenario doesn’t normally lend itself to complexity of character. And yet Gloria is given depth and flaws that round her personality beyond Stunning Eye Candy. She’s prideful and won’t back down from her opinions even when the evidence contradicts her, and she can be a bit grudgy (although not too much). She also has a terrible singing voice, although that doesn’t stop her from enjoying her karaoke machine. Guest post by Cassandra Rose Clarke Cassandra Rose Clarke grew up in south Texas and currently lives in a suburb of Houston, where she writes and teaches composition at a local college. She graduated in 2006 from The University of St. Thomas with a B.A. in English, and two years later she completed her master’s degree in creative writing at The University of Texas at Austin. In 2010 she attended the Clarion West Writer’s Workshop in Seattle, where she was a recipient of the Susan C. Petrey Clarion Scholarship Fund.
Cassandra’s first adult novel, The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, was a finalist for the 2013 Philip K. Dick Award, and her YA novel, The Assassin’s Curse, was nominated for YALSA’s 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults. Her short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons and Daily Science Fiction.