NOTE: This post series may include spoilers from the Zaria Fierce Trilogy. If you hate spoilers, please read about the themes in Zaria Fierce after you have read the books.
It was important to me to have the main character be a girl in my Norwegian fantasy trilogy as girls are usually sidekicks in the popular fantasy adventure books that I love to read, and I thought it was important to flip the message. That a girl could be smart, well-read, girly, and still be adventurous and the heroine of her own story is only right.
Zaria Fierce came to me almost as if she were a real person. She was a friend I could relate to because we both loved books. She was smart and she always tried to do what is right, even when she didn’t always know what that was. She was also unfailingly kind and just a little bit shy because she moved a lot and never had more than one friend. Her best friends were books.
At the start of the trilogy, Zaria wanted to be more courageous, but never really found an opportunity to be so and thusly thought she wasn’t. She was normal and relatable, which made her accessible to both boys and girls, because I think a lot of children (and adults) feel that they lack in themselves the characteristics required to be a true hero. They want to prove themselves and are ready for adventure, but wonder when their life will reflect on the outside how they feel on the inside. Where’s the adventure and excitement? Where’s the opportunity to be brave and good and true?
Now, even though she’s girly and bookish, Zaria is no damsel in distress. After all, she’s stood up to a nasty river-troll and gotten away, but she does need help from her friends. She isn’t an island and neither are her fans. Being a heroine doesn’t mean you have to be alone against the world. She isn’t alone and that’s abundantly clear when her friend goes missing and his other friends include her in the search for him. They form a tight-knit group and together they do their best to rescue him.
Additionally, being a heroine doesn’t mean you have to be brave from the start. Zaria isn’t. Things scare her and they continue to scare her throughout the books, but she perseveres and keeps going. That’s courage, and not only does she learn that she possesses it, but I hope her readers realize it of themselves, too.
It’s not always about facing down a bad guy, sometimes it’s about facing yourself. Being a heroine (or hero) is about finding out what you’re made of, continuing when hope is scarce, and the fervent desire to always do good and to be good. It’s about growing up, taking risks, not giving in to negative influences, and being true to yourself along the way.
I think that’s the reason for the success of the books. It’s not simply girl power, although it’s in there. Everybody wants their chance to shine. Everybody wonders how they’ll react when they face the world’s dragons. If you’re like Zaria, you’ll find that you had it in you all along. That’s the message I want readers to take away. That’s the hope I wish to give them.