Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature/meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Characters from X Genre. I chose fantasy.
I’ve been reading fantasy about as long as I can remember, if you count fairy tales as fantasy. Since I’m now old enough to have a child in college, that gives me a lot of years and a lot of fantasy novels to choose from, so it’s going to be tough to pin it down to only ten. But here goes (in no particular order):
- Keladry Mindelan (“Kel”), from Tamora Pierce’s Protector of the Small series. I know a lot of Pierce fans prefer Alana, but my favorite has always been Kel. She’s tenacious, courageous, smart, and she has a keen sense of justice and compassion. She’s a fantastic role model for girls and boys. (If you want to know more, check out my series series review here.)
- Harry Potter. Because seriously, how can you not love Harry?
- Hermione Granger. Another good role model. Highly intelligent and not afraid to show it. Loyal and brave. And not unlike Kel in her compassion toward the powerless and her sense of justice.
- Meg Murry, from A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, and A Swiftly Tilting Planet, by Madeleine L’Engle. When I was growing up, I loved that Meg wasn’t perfect. I identified with her introversion, her inability to fit in at school, and her mixed-up emotions, especially toward her father. And I loved the understated romance between Meg and Calvin.
- Sam Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings. I debated a long time on this one. I love all the hobbits, especially Frodo and Bilbo. I’ve also got a soft spot for Gandalf and Faramir. But Sam… Sam is a great character. He’s Everyman; there’s nothing special about him other than his deep devotion to Frodo, but he’s loyal, doggedly determined, and decent down to his bones, and he has unexpected depths. He’s gentle, but he can be fierce when he needs to. As Frodo says, he wouldn’t have gotten far without Sam. If you’re lucky enough to have someone like Sam in your life, appreciate him (or her) like the treasure (s)he is.
- Menolly the Harper, from Anne McCaffrey’s Harper Hall trilogy and other Pern books. Oh, how I wanted to be Menolly! Actually, I wanted to be Menolly and a dragonrider, but it would be tough to manage both. I admired Menolly for living Holdless, but I envied her musical talent and the opportunity to live and study in the Harper Hall. (I’m also rather fond of Masterharper Robinton; Piemur, Menolly’s scamp of a friend; and Jaxom, white dragon Ruth’s rider.)*
- Kvothe, from Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicle. The word “complex” was invented for this character. Kvothe is charming, exasperating, touching, and infuriating by turns. He’s a rogue, a thief, a scholar, a musician, a fighter, and a mage… but first and last, he’s a master storyteller. You can’t help but be fascinated, even while you’re facepalming because he’s being such an idiot. (For someone as smart as Kvothe, he gets himself into — and often, but not always, out of — a heck of a lot of trouble.) As a character, he’s awesome.
- Harry (Harimad-sol, Hari), from Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword. Because… because she handles difficult situations with dignity, integrity, and a lot of grit — along with a healthy dose of wry humor. Because I’ve always been intrigued by characters caught between two cultures. And because if I were Harry, I’d probably fall in love with Corlath, too.
- Matthew Clairmont, from Deborah Harkness’s All Souls trilogy. I’m not a fan of vampires in general, but Matthew has a lot of depth, in part because he knows so much and in part because he’s experienced so much emotional pain. And besides, I love history; how could I not be fascinated by someone who lived through all those eras I find so interesting?
- Alberich, from Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books (particularly Exile’s Honor.) I’ve been a fan of Mercedes Lackey’s books almost from the beginning, so I wanted to include one of her characters. Choosing which character proved more difficult than I expected. In the end I chose Alberich because he’s more complex than some of Lackey’s main characters, because his integrity and honor are bone-deep and I admire that, and because he combines two types of characters I’ve always found intriguing: the spy in the service of good, and the character caught between two worlds or cultures. (In case you’re wondering, the Lackey runners-up were Karal, Skif, Vanyel, and Talia.)
- Spoiler alert and bonus character: Snape. I don’t like Snape, but Rowling did a spectacular job in writing him. She makes the reader dislike and distrust him through the entire series, despite Dumbledore’s assurances. It’s only in the last book that you find out Snape’s true allegiance and motivation, and then your heart just weeps for him. The really amazing thing is that if you go back and re-read the books with that knowledge, nothing contradicts it, and some of what Snape says and does takes on a whole new meaning. Snape may not be loveable, but he’s a great character. And Alan Rickman played him to perfection.
Whew! That was harder than I thought it would be, and I had to leave out a lot of characters I really love. You’ve probably noticed that all but two of them come from books that are more than two or three years old. As I said above, I’ve been reading fantasy for a long time now. Most of these characters are from books I’ve read more than once, some of them as many as five or ten times (or twenty, in the case of LOTR.) They’ve had time to become my friends.
If you didn’t find one of your favorite characters on the list, please leave me a note below and tell me who it is. I’m always pleased to meet a new and interesting character!
* I wasn’t sure whether to include any characters from the Pern novels, which McCaffrey thought of as SF. The pre-industrial society in most of the Pern books always felt like fantasy to me, and as for dragons… well, you can’t get much more fantasy than that.