The Fantasy Heroine of Today by Stephen Zimmer (with giveaway)

The Fantasy Heroine of Today
and Rayden Valkyrie's Place as One
by Stephen Zimmer

Today's book, television, game, and movie climate contains an abundance of fantasy heroines, with all kinds of styles and mannerisms.  The prevalence of female heroines is one of the biggest changes of the past couple of decades, as there have been heroines in the past who have been center stage in fantasy-driven tales.

In the area of sword and sorcery, or dark fantasy, there have certainly been some iconic ones such as Red Sonja in the book and comic book world (Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith's Red Sonja growing from the seed of a Robert E. Howard short story) , and Xena, the great warrior princess, in the television series named after her.  Though I find Rayden Valkyrie very different than these two characters, they both inspired me growing up in terms of depictions of fantasy heroines.   Both were strong and also protective, and courageous in facing daunting odds.

In developing the stories behind Rayden Valkyrie, and strong female characters in other works of mine, I have given a lot of thought to female characters and what constitutes the heroic.

One commonality of the fantasy heroines, and female action heroines,  revolves around physical fighting, and the emphasis in a lot of the stories is showing the heroine kicking rear against a slew of opponents, and more often than not the focus is against male opponents. While the ability to fight and showing that ability can be very important to a story, I find all too often that stories put this aspect too much at the center of defining what a heroine is.  Being a heroine is much more than being able to beat up a lot of guys and emit a few snarky lines while doing so.

With Rayden Valkyrie, I wanted to convey heroism in other forms, not just in regard to combat and fighting.  While she is a highly formidable fighter, and demonstrates that ability many times in the action of Heart of a Lion, I also strove to show how other kinds of strengths are heroic and define what it really means to be a heroine.

My mother is the strongest person I've ever known, and she never got into physical fights. Motherhood embodies some of the greatest strengths in the world, and motherly instincts are female in nature.  My mother taught me a lot about strengths, and strengths of this type, by example.

While Rayden Valkyrie is not the mother to the boy she comes across about to be sacrificed to a malevolent god in Kartajen, motherly instincts do come out in her response to, care of, and protection of the boy from that point onward.  With a nurturing, compassionate kindness, Rayden looks out for the boy during a harrowing journey, and comes to develop a deep bond with him.

In another scene, Rayden's compassion and sense of nurturing brings her to connect with some vulnerable women in a caravan who are undergoing a horrific experience at the hands of some brutal men who are part of the caravan guard.  Her ability to tune in to the women and reach out to them enable her to discover what is happening, which leads to her addressing it with fearsome efficiency.

It is my hope that the reader finds these kinds of qualities to be strengths every bit on par with the ones that Rayden shows in physical combat, if not greater strengths.  I hope that these kinds of things, the motherly qualities she shows toward the boy, the compassion and loyalty she shows toward others, and a dedicated honesty constitute her heroism as much as her ability to wield her sword and axe.  Her code of honor, which embodies all of that, is the core of her strength.

I'm not saying that a male figure can't show these kinds of things, but I think a true heroine should be a more complete figure than merely a warrior.  With Rayden, I strive to show a strength of body, mind and spirit, and that does not always involve physical battle.

It is my hope that when readers finish the pages of Heart of a Lion, they have seen a number of ways in which one can be heroic, whether male or female.  Rayden Valkyrie is a heroine who is an inspiration to me and I believe she can be that for a great many others in a world that increasingly needs examples of what it really means to be heroic.


About the Author

Stephen Zimmer is an award-winning author and filmmaker based in Lexington Kentucky.  His work includes the cross-genre Rising Dawn Saga, the epic fantasy Fires in Eden series, the sword and sorcery Dark Sun Sawn Trilogy, featuring Rayden Valkyrie, the Harvey and Solomon Steampunk tales and the Hellscapes and Chronicles of Ave short story collections.

Twitter: @sgzimmer

Instagram: @stephenzimmer7


About the Book

Heart of a Lion
by Stephen Zimmer

Rayden Valkyrie. She walks alone, serving no king, emperor, or master. Forged in the fires of tragedy, she has no place she truly calls home.

A deadly warrior wielding both blade and axe, Rayden is the bane of the wicked and corrupt. To many others, she is the most loyal and dedicated of friends, an ally who is unyielding in the most dangerous of circumstances.

The people of the far southern lands she has just aided claim that she has the heart of a lion. For Rayden, a long journey to the lands of the far northern tribes who adopted her as a child beckons, with an ocean lying in between.

Her path will lead her once more into the center of a maelstrom, one involving a rising empire that is said to be making use of the darkest kinds of sorcery to grow its power. Making new friends and discoveries amid tremendous peril, Rayden makes her way to the north.

Monstrous beasts, supernatural powers, and the bloody specter of war have been a part of her world for a long time and this journey will be no different. Rayden chooses the battles that she will fight, whether she takes up the cause of one individual or an entire people.

Both friends and enemies alike will swiftly learn that the people of the far southern lands spoke truly. Rayden Valkyrie has the heart of a lion.

Heart of a Lion is Book One of the Dark Sun Dawn Trilogy.


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  1. Very true, Stephen. There are many qualities of a heroine, or hero for that matter, like just being able to stand one's ground.
    Congratulations on Heart of a Lion!

    1. Thanks Alex and I appreciate you reading the post. This is a very different kind of book than the one I had come out last week, haha! But it is very much about what a hero is, in a way that anyone can be, whether you can physically fight or not. In my eyes, the things that make Rayden the most heroic go beyond her ability to swing a sword and axe, though she's quite adept at that too, LOL.

  2. Thank you very much for the chance to share some thoughts about a character who is so important to me! Definitely honored to be at Beauty in Ruins! :)

  3. "Being a heroine is much more than being able to beat up a lot of guys and emit a few snarky lines while doing so."
    That is why I don't much like today's heroines. Too much internalization about their awesome fighting ability and how bad-ass they are. Steven's book sounds different.

    Good luck with the tour, and congrats on the release.

    1. thank you Dolorah. I really appreciate that. I do feel strongly that heroism needs to be so much more than what I see all too often in books/movies/games, for both heroes and heroines alike. I'm glad you understand what I am getting at and I have a hunch you'll find Rayden to your liking. :)


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