Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite Characters in Epic Fantasy Fiction

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish,¬†featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is:

Top Ten Favorite Characters in “X” Genre…

… where we each write about the genre of our choice. Tough call — historical fiction? vampire stories? old-fashioned romances? diet and exercise books? (ha – kidding!). I decided to go with Epic Fantasy, or at least what I’d consider epic fantasy: Swords, dragons, kingdoms, knights, perhaps some magical beings, certainly lots of heroic quests and struggles.

That said, my absolute favorite characters — most of whom do, in fact, wield mighty swords — come from just a few books, so here’s my list, broken down by the novel or series that feature these awesome* characters:

*awesome: inspiring awe. Not awesome as in “OMG! That song it totally awesome!”

From Lord of the Rings:

1) Aragorn: My king! Aragorn is everything an Aragornepic hero should be: noble, selfless, fearless in battle, utterly committed to his righteous cause.

2) Gandalf: Gray or white, Gandalf has more power in his little finger than most other fictional wizards combined. (I say “most”, because I’m still not sure who’d win in a head-to-head between Gandalf and Dumbledore. Just because Albus comes across as a twinkly old guy doesn’t mean that he’s not fierce).

3) Samwise Gamgee: What’s a quest without a devoted sidekick? You don’t get best friends better than Sam. Codex Alera by Jim Butcher:

Codex Alera, by the way, is a fantastic series. Jim Butcher is better know for his (also wonderful) Dresden Files books, but this six-volume fantasy series is crisp, funny, inventive, and sharply plotted. Colorful and memorable characters abound, but my favorites would have to be:

4) Tavi: We meet Tavi as a boy, frustrated by his lack of magic in a world where lacking such gifts makes you a freak. Over the course of the series, we see Tavi grow into manhood, come into his heritage, unravel mysteries, and — oh, yeah — pretty much save the world. Plus, he’s funny and fearless, loyal to a fault, and crazily adventurous.

5) Kitai: Daughter of the savage tribe across the border, Kitai is strong, steely, and independent. She may be Tavi’s love interest, but that doesn’t mean she’s at all subservient to or weaker than him in any way. I love how Jim Butcher creates Kitai to be a warrior. As the love story blossoms, it’s a love between equals, which seems rather rare in these type of heroic tales.

6) Araris Valerian: Araris Valerian is a tragic, heroic figure, dedicated to Tavi’s protection, never revealing his secret past or breaking the vows he’s sworn to uphold. And boy, can that man swing a sword!

From A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin:

7) Ned Stark: Ned is honorable to the point of ruin, but I love him madly despite his blundering belief that if he lives as a man of honor, those around him will do so as well. No spoilers here, so my Ned tribute will have to be brief and to the point. A sexy, devoted husband, a wise, demanding, but fair father, a steadfast friend, and a courageous lord. Sigh.

8) Jon Snow: I get the chills every time Jon repeats the oath of the Night’s Watch:¬†“Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night’s Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.” Jon has the power of his convictions, but he’s not afraid to shake things up. Again, no spoilers, but suffice it to say that Jon Snow is one of the main reasons I’m practically frothing at the mouth waiting for book #6 to show up.

9) Tyrion Lannister: It was a toss-up between Tyrion and Jamie here, but in the end I can’t put together a list of favorite characters without a big shout-out to the Imp. He may be devious and cunning, but boy, is Tyrion smart. The overlooked and scorned “grotesque” son turns into a force to be reckoned with. Tyrion is small in stature, but he can out-think any man or woman in Westeros, and it’s his brain that may save the day for his family in the end.

And finally, from The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley:

10) Harry Crewe: The Blue Sword is one of my favorite Robin McKinley books, and that’s mostly thanks to the amazing Harry Crewe. This Harry is a young woman, brought up to be a respectable miss, who joins a group of desert nomads and becomes a fierce horsewoman and wielder of the mythic blue sword Gonturan. Harry leads her people into battle and saves the day, all the while riding a horse with no reins in order to keep her hands free for fighting. (Can you tell how impressive I find this?) If you want an epic fantasy book that’s heavy on the girl power, don’t miss The Blue Sword.

I’m sure the second I hit “Publish”, I’ll come up with another ten characters who really should have been on my list. Who would you include in a list of top fantasy characters?