There are good books, great books, and books that rank in the stratosphere. What makes them so phenomenal? Characters.
Strip away the plot, setting and pacing, and it comes down to the personalities that fill the pages.
I’ve just completed my 23rd read of 2013. WOOT! Several of those books were in the 500-600 page range and held me mesmerized for each click of the Kindle. Included was a fantasy series by C.S. Friedman called the Coldfire Trilogy. Originally published in the 1990s, it was something I’d read before. I remembered being in love with the lead character (boy, is THAT a colossal understatement) and decided to read it again.
After drooling over anti-hero Gerald Tarrant through all three books, I started thinking about what makes me want to reread a novel. I realized I could group the characters I love into a three tier system. Take a look:
These are like the kids you went to school with. They had a hand in shaping who you are. You have amazingly fond memories of them and grow nostalgic whenever their names are mentioned. Years sometimes pass between visits, but you’re always thrilled when they drop by. You never tire of this group. They’re “comfortable” and easily inspire reminiscing. My group includes:
Frodo Baggins and Faramir
Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
Sir Francis Crawford of Lymond
The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett
The Once and Future King
This is the group that makes your heart go pitter-patter. As soon as you meet these guys, you’re smitten. For me, they tend to be down-to-earth, a mixture of alpha and beta hero. This is where most of my favorite characters fall. They require more than just an occasional visit. I’m usually inspired to hang out with them at least once a year or every other year. My list includes:
The Chesapeake Bay series by Nora Roberts
The Sign of Seven Trilogy by Nora Roberts
James (Gem) Carstairs
The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare
The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare
The Louis Kincaid Mysteries by P.J. Parrish
Book one of the Coldfire Saga, Gerald Tarrant on the cover
Cover art by Michael Whelan
These guys are definitely alpha heroes, no two ways about it. I can’t even say I love them, because that’s far too gentle a description. I’m thoroughly, utterly, unabashedly besotted in lust with them. Who are they?
The Pendergast series of novels by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
The Coldfire Trilogy by C.S. Friedman
So what attracts me to them? I discovered some amazing parallels:
Their occupations couldn’t be any dissimilar — Pendergast is a Special Agent with the FBI and Tarrant is an undead sorcerer who feeds off fear. After that, things get interesting.
Book three of the Coldfire Saga, Gerald Tarrant on the cover
Cover art by Michael Whelan
Both are cultured and aristocratic in nature, have a precise manner of speaking, are highly fastidious about their appearance (doesn’t hurt that they’re gorgeous), exceedingly wealthy, have genius level intelligence, and are unquestionably deadly. Both are always calm and unnervingly cool, even when facing impossible odds.
Pendergast is mid-30ish, albino-pale, tall and lean with light blond/whitish hair and silver eyes.
Tarrant is over 900 years old (but looks as he did at at 29), is ghostly pale (a side effect of being undead), tall and lean with light brown hair and silver eyes.
Pendergast’s closest friend is a rough-around-the-edges, heart-of-gold, kick-butt rumpled cop.
Tarrant’s frenemy is a rough-around-the-edges, morally conflicted, kick-butt warrior priest.
Pendergast is a special agent with the FBI, but also holds a PhD and speaks multiple languages.
Tarrant is the most powerful and feared sorcerer ever to walk the planet Erna, but was once revered as the Prophet who established the church of the One God. He is also the first Neocount of Merentha.
Are you sensing a pattern? Do I have a “type?”
These guys have nothing in common with the characters from my other groups but they have a lot in common with each other. There is no question they rule in the fictional realm when it comes to claiming my heart.
How about you? Do you have a type? Please share some of the characters you love and what makes them special. Do you have a Gerald Tarrant or a Pendergast who has left you besotted?