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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Odds and Ends: Some Interesting Fictional Characters Part 1: Ladies First (by Liviu Suciu)

I want to present some of the most interesting characters I've encountered in my reading across the years, characters that stayed in my memory for a long time. I will start with the ladies first, then I will do a post about men. I decided to have five categories of three characters each here. Most choices will be the expected ones for anyone who follows my quite repeatedly and far-from-shyly stated preferences, but hopefully there will be a few surprises too.

My usual rules of one character per author in each category, English language availability and some time passed since I have first read the respective books apply.


Most Interesting SF Heroine

Honor Harrington - from the eponymous series by David Weber - no comments needed.

Lady Sharrow - one of the top three IM Banks characters and one of the main reason Against a Dark Background is one of my all time favorite sf novels.

Paula Myo from the Commonwealth/Void series by Peter F Hamilton - a hard choice against Ione Saldana of Night's Dawn, but Paula Myo just commands the page whenever she appears.


Most Interesting Fantasy Heroine

Phedre Delaunay from the Kushiel's Legacy series by Jacqueline Carey - no comments needed and my top choice overall.

Firethorn from the eponymous series by Sarah Micklem; while sometimes compared with Phedre and indeed having some similarities, Firethorn is different in many ways and her story is even more dramatic and heart wrenching, though quite spectacular too. The final concluding volume of the trilogy is one of those top-top expected books of mine, though I have no idea when it will happen.

Arkady Desean from the Tide Lords series by Jennifer Fallon - when immortals fight for one's graces, you know there is a reason; smart, resourceful and determined, while the ending is one for the ages...


Most Interesting Non-SFF Heroine:

Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - no comments needed.

Eliza from The Baroque Trilogy by Neal Stephenson - no comments needed except to mention that The Baroque Trilogy is indeed non-sff though I usually tend to forget that.

Elizabeth Stone from Stone's Fall by Iain Pears - another no comments needed for anyone who has read the book, otherwise go and check it out.


Most-Interesting SFF Female Villain

Melisande Shahrizai from the Kushiel's Legacy series by Jacqueline Carey - no comments needed and my top choice overall.

Catherine "The Cat" Stewart from the Commonwealth/Void series by Peter F Hamilton - again no comments needed.

Aldona Anisimovna from the Honorverse by David Weber - with the array of memorable female characters created by the author, especially though not only in the Honorverse it is another hard choice against say Cordelia Ransom, Isabel Bardasano, Georgia North or Agnes Norbrandt, but Aldona is the subtlest of all.


Most-Interesting Non-SFF Female Villain

Mahaut Countess d'Artois from Les Rois Maudits (The Accursed Kings) by Maurice Druon. One of the most celebrated historical fiction series of all times is powered by the murderous rivalry between the powerful countess and her scheming nephew Robert.

* In the cover collage above I used the colorful (2005) TV series one for Le Rois Maudits which features Jeanne Moreau as the Countess and while she is very far from the book physical description of the character, she plays the part so powerfully and brilliantly to make one forget all that; sadly the actor playing Robert is miscast and cannot carry the role, though the production values alone make the series a good adaptation

Livia "First Lady of Rome" from I, Claudius by Robert Graves - no comments needed.

"Milady" from The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas - over the top even for Dumas but still...


Tanaros said...

I must say that I quite agree with your choices. I am half way through the first Kushiel book and I am already amazed by the lead character. In my opinion, Ms. Carey is one of the best writers today. I absolutely adore her Sundering duology.
As regards the SF part of your list, I am currently reading the third book in the Honor series, and when i started it I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of books. Judging by the cover art and label military SF, I thought that the books would be centered on action. Shame on me. The books are filled with well-rounded and believable characters, intelligent plots and very interesting science.
I am eagerly waiting to meet the other characters that you mentioned because characters, one of three essential elements of good writing (together with style and plot), stay with the reader the longest.

Liviu said...

Thank you for your kind words. Both the Kushiel Legacy and the Honor Harrington series are many times mis-represented by people who did not read them as "romantic - or even worse hardcore - fantasy" and "militaristic sf" and in both cases people are actually surprised when they read the books to see how wrong the above was...

Deborah said...

Couldn't agree with you more about Firethorn -- an absolutely riveting character. Sarah Micklem's writing is transporting. The world drops away as soon as I open her books.

Just finished my first Ian M. Banks novel. I've been missing out! Will look for the title you mentioned as my next read.

Liviu said...

Thank you for your kind words; Whenever is announced, the 3rd Firethorn book will be a top 10 anticipated novel - last year I ranked Wildfire 3 in my top sff.

Should check Passion Play when will be out - will have the full review about then too; while Ilse is not quite Firethron or Phedre, it has some elements in common, especially with the first one

grega_g said...

Nice post. I read Honor series, and Tide Lords and I agree, they have superb protagonists. Can't wait to check your other recommendations, starting with Commonwealth/Void.

Tom Lloyd said...

Couldn't agree more about Lady Sharrow; though I still can't quite pin down why she was such a great character, there's just more life there than some of Banks' women, so to speak.

Terry W. Ervin II said...

Very much agree with Aldona Anisimovna from Weber's Honorverse.

Liviu said...

Thank you for more great comments; the range of women characters that David Weber manages in the Honorverse - but also in his other series - is just amazing. To be honest most men in the Honorverse are much less memorable, leaving aside the dynamic duo but that's more Eric Flint, though the EGO-to-be is a cool villain also; even in the very male-oriented Safehold and there are some great women characters, while of course I have no clue where to situate Merlin who is probably the author's overall second best character, but is outwardly male, with the soul or essence of a female and an embodied "AI" to-boot

As per Against the Background, the novel has a one page epilogue that to me added quite a lot of value and was a sort of going full circle to the cable car opening with a woman and a girl, but which is not generally included in the print editions - not in the latest Orbit one that is now on the shelves, nor in my original Bantam one, though it may be included in some intermediate editions; it is easy to find it online


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