I’m just copying the cool girls at school with this post. Lynn, Mogsy and Tammy have all produced A to Z lists on their favourite authors (after posting about her favourite female authors Tammy went on to do the same for her favourite male authors), which have been great fun. But if I then tried to do the same there’d be a fair few repeats so I thought I’d go at this from another angle. So here’s my A to Z list of awesomesauce characters, my self-imposed rules being that I can’t chose more than one character from any work of fiction and no author can turn up twice.
(Additional: if I’ve written a post about any of the works listed I’ll make the title a link).
A is for Alana
Saga: Volumes One to Nine (so far) by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
I’ve only read volume 1 so far and I haven’t written up my post for it yet, but Saga’s Alana is my new favourite badass. She’s a bit of a potty-mouth, but she will do anything to protect her brand-new daughter, Hazel, and she wants to show her the universe, not just keep her safe. Sure she’s stubborn and she gets jealous and she’s a soldier so she defaults to violence perhaps, but she also loves to read, has a fabulous sense of humour and well, heck, she’s got wings!
B is for Binti
Binti, Binti: Home and Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor
Binti is my next fabulous female. She’s a super-smart mathematician from the Himba tribe who gets accepted into the best university in the universe. Within herself she unites a strong sense of tradition with a desire for adventure and boundless curiosity, which sees her develop a friendship with an alien Meduse and learn to embrace her ‘barbarian’ paternal heritage despite her family’s objections. If Binti stands for anything, she stands for growth – she approaches life with flexibility, recognising that accepting change can only ever make her (and all of us) stronger.
C is for Consuela Ramos
Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy
I love Connie most because of her capacity for love. Despite losing everything she holds dear, and her freedom, despite being degraded and denied any power at all, still Connie is capable of connection. This empathic quality is the very reason she is able to travel to the utopian future community of Mattapoisett at all. And her compassionate nature ultimately leads her to sacrifice this ability to travel to the only place in which she is not judged for her sex, colour or age in the hopes of securing a future in which no one will suffer as she has done. It’s a heart-breaking sacrifice. Connie should have her own monument.
D is for Decibel Jones
Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente
I picture him as Luke Spiller (lead singer of The Struts and possibly the prettiest man on the planet), only wearing far more glitter. I love that Danesh/Dani/Decibel/Dess can no more hide his glam self than I can walk past a mess without tidying it. Somehow he just immediately grabbed hold of my sympathy. There’s something ridiculously vulnerable about him despite the flirting, and the ego, and the vanity. And, like a stick of rock, he’s got glitter and glitz all the way through to his core.
E is for Esen-alit-Quar
Beholder’s Eye, Changing Vision and Hidden in Sight, and Search Image by Julie E. Czerneda
She’s a 500-years-young shapeshifting blue teardrop with a deeply curious, empathetic and friendly nature. Her personal Prime Directive is awesome. I want her for my best friend, but Paul Ragem got there first. Lucky b*****d.
F is for Captain Darian Frey
So maybe I’m cheating just a little here, but hardly anyone calls Frey by his first name (and this is my list and my rules, baby, *wink*). Frey is an asshole when we first meet him, but over the course of the three books I’ve read so far (to date I’ve still not read the last volume because I don’t want the Ketty Jay story to be over just yet), he is slowly, slowly learning to take responsibility for his decisions and step up to his role as captain of his unruly and lovable crew. He’s a bloody lucky smart mouth and a cocksure idiot, but life would be a lot less interesting without him in it.
G is for Gertrude
I Hate Fairyland Volumes One, Two, Three and Four by Skottie Young
This was going to be Granny Weatherwax because she is my all-time heroine. But everyone knows Granny Weatherwax (also, I’d have been obliged to place her under E for Esme …). You may not have met Gertrude, however. Gert has been trapped in fairyland for a very, very long time (twenty-seven years and counting). She may still look like the sweet and innocent little green-haired girl she was when she entered that magical candy-coloured land, but she’s a vicious, traumatised, immoral, selfish bitch under all that cute. She takes more than a passing interest in causing pain and suffering to others with a variety of weapons in her attempts to return home. Dorothy she ain’t.
H is for Horrabin the Beggar King
The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers
So, I said this was a list of awesome characters, but I didn’t say they were necessarily nice ones. Horrabin the beggar king is as creepy as they come, a stilt-walking clown who creates monsters in the deep dark vaults of his spooky-ass lair. He’s awesome simply because he’s imbedded in my head and I can’t get him out. I read Anubis Gates back in 2017 and from my first encounter Horrabin just dug right into one of the darker, more vulnerable corners of my brain and made himself at home. You know that irrational feeling you get sometimes that there’s something under your bed? I’m pretty sure Horrabin is under mine.
I is for Ice Cream Star
The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman
She’s a feral child in a post-apocalyptic world in which all adults have succumbed to the deadly ‘posies’. She is massively loyal and has a heart as big as a house, but she is also savage and brave and she will not quit. She is a gorgeous creation and I love her perfect, beautiful voice without reservation.
J is for Jane Brailsford
Ahhh, Jane. I have a very special place in my heart for Jane. She is beautifully British, loves tea and three-volume novels and ‘borrowing’ motor cars. She also truly understands the importance of food as a necessity for both strength and morale and ensures that she and her companions are always well-fed. These charming books should be known and read far more widely than they are because Jane is every kind of wonderful.
K is for Kivrin Engle
Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
I wonder if authors are ever sorry for what they do to their characters? Young historian Kivrin travels back in time to the 14th Century as a part of her studies, but due to an error she lands in the middle of the Black Death. As if that’s not challenging enough much of what she has learnt in preparation for the trip is wrong, her translator doesn’t work and she has no idea how to get back to her own time. Willis spares Kivrin and the reader nothing, and her story is truly harrowing whilst always remaining beautifully human. Kivrin is on this list because of her compassion and her strength and because despite everything she survives.
L is for Lola Hart
Random Acts of Senseless Violence by Jack Womack
Lola is 12 and has just received a diary for her birthday which she calls Anne. As her safe middle-class world collapses in on itself and American society crumbles, her gentle schoolgirl voice metamorphoses into a hard street-slang to rival that of A Clockwork Orange. Lola is sensitive and perceptive throughout the book, which just makes her descent into the darkness all the more heart-rending. And yet … that voice of hers remains so compelling.
M is for Mosca Mye
Another 12-year-old heroine with a great voice – what an unintentionally delightful coincidence! Whereas Lola develops criminal proclivities however, Mosca Mye is lawless from the very beginning. At the start of this duology Mosca is an arsonist and a thief who quickly throws her lot in with professional liar Eponymous Clent. She is every bit as devious and clever as Clent and they share a love of language that leads to plenty of fabulous verbal sparring, but she is also wonderfully absorbent, feisty, resourceful and curious, and unfailingly loyal to her grumpy goose Saracen. I love her to bits and never want to meet her.
N is for Nimona
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
(Authors take note: there are not enough characters with names beginning with ‘N’, please remedy this immediately). Nimona is a mischievous shapeshifter who desperately wants to be an evil sidekick and wheedles her way into villain Ballister Blackheart’s service. That she’s too villainous and bloodthirsty even for him is part of the story and I definitely don’t want to ruin it for anyone who hasn’t read this, but suffice it to say that Nimona is ridiculously darling whether she’s a shark or a fox or a pretty little red-haired girl and I dare you not to love her just a little bit.
(“UNHAND THAT SCIENCE” *snicker*).
O is for Ottoline Brown
Ottoline and the Yellow Cat, Ottoline Goes to School, Ottoline at Sea and Ottoline and the Purple Fox by Chris Riddell
(These are kids’ books for a reading age of about 7+ so if that’s not cool for you skip to ‘P’).
Ottoline’s parents are explorers who communicate with their daughter via postcards from all the far-flung places they’ve visited. Meanwhile, their daughter spends her days in the company of her best friend Mr Monroe who comes from a bog in Norway and is essentially Cousin It from The Addams Family. And while I question the Browns’ parenting style it has to be said that Ottoline is fairly sanguine about the arrangement. She loves eavesdropping in the laundry room, wearing mismatched shoes and fabulous outfits (having clearly decided early on not to wait until she is old before she becomes eccentric), and solving mysteries. When I fall into the deepest, darkest despair Ottoline never fails to rescue me from myself. I shall love her unapologetically and forever.
P is for Paama
Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord
Paama is an anomaly in SFF: a heroine who does not wield any weapons or magic, has no destiny mapped out for her, who is, in fact, entirely normal. She is strong and sensible and compassionate. She is a brilliant cook. She decides not to suffer her fool husband and leaves him, and yet when he needs help, still she goes back to help him even though he remains a selfish and ungrateful swine. She is the most human character on this list and that her courage is the courage to face the everyday as well as the supernatural makes her the most inspirational.
Q is for Quentin Coldwater
The Magicians, The Magician King and The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman
If I’m honest, I’m not actually sure I’d call Quentin awesome. Sure, I can fully identify with his absolute love for the fictional world of Fillory at the beginning of this trilogy, and with his yearning for Fillory to be real, but, man, is he ever a sulky sulkpot. I was going to choose his best-friend Julia Quinn because her story is the one that really grabbed me when I read these books: she really has to work for her magic and she pays a hell of a price, but ’J’ was already filled and I don’t want to pull the surname card twice. However, there are still beautiful moments where Quentin is the character the reader really needs to appreciate the magic – like during the flight to the Antarctic or his discovery of whale magic – because if it can make grumpy-pants Quentin sit up and take notice then it must be something special.
R is for Rovender Kitt
The Search for Wondla, A Hero for Wondla and The Battle for Wondla by Tony DiTerlizzi
Another children’s series this, but definitely one too good for them to keep to themselves. Rovender is a Caerulean wanderer on the planet Orbona, who meets protagonist Eva Nine and joins her on her journey. He acts as something of a local guide helping Eva come to terms with the dangerous world outside of Sanctuary, and in time becomes the family she never had. But he’s also a huge part of the person Eva becomes and his wisdom and heart rub off on her in a big way. If you want to get all psychological about it, I guess you could say my fondness for Rovender Kitt is based on my deep seated need for a benevolent father-figure; he is, after all, all about balance and spirit and looking within yourself, and I just lap that stuff up.
S is for Sulien ap Gwien
The King’s Peace and The King’s Name by Jo Walton
Sulien is the kickass female warrior I always wanted to be. In a world in which no one blinks at a woman on the battlefield she is respected by men and women alike. One of the things I love about her is that she is asexual, another is that her appearance is of no importance; she is a strong woman who wants to be the best warrior she can be, and that really is it.
T is for Thursday Next
The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots, Something Rotten, First Among Sequels, One of Our Thursdays is Missing and The Woman Who Died A Lot by Jasper Fforde
Literary Detective Thursday Next is the fearless, resourceful, war veteran heroine with a nose for suspicious goings-on that I first met in my twenties. Her smarts, practicality and wit made her instantly adorable to me, and that she’s still got her head screwed on even when I’m lost and have to start reading over again from the beginning is deeply comforting. If Thursday can deal with all that book-hopping time-travel crap, self-aware fictional characters, the eradication of her husband from history and the evil-doings of a multitude of villains (and keep a cloned version 1.2 pet Dodo) then I can hold down a job, pay my bills on time and remember my manners. Thank goodness for capable people.
U is for Uriel A.K.A. the Scourge
Weaveworld by Clive Barker
(Authors take note: I find that there are not enough characters with names beginning with ‘U’ either, please get on this).
The Scourge, a many-eyed, terrifying and destructive power intent on killing all of Seerkind. Being quite, quite mad, the Scourge learns the story of Genesis from human explorers and identifies itself as the avenging angel Uriel, and the garden home it once shared with the Seerkind as the Garden of Eden. That the witch Immacolata is afraid of the Scourge/Uriel should be a giant neon-yellow warning sign surrounded by fireworks for the rest of us.
V is for Lady Vincenza ‘Vintage’ De Grazon
Ah, Vintage, in my fortieth year on the planet I take great comfort in your existence. Thank you for being so full of curiosity, humour and chutzpah that you told your family where they could stick it and went out into your wide, poisoned world to explore, to find questions, and answers, and more questions. Thank you for laughing in the face of both danger and injury with a cocked crossbow in one hand and a notebook in the other. Thank you for wearing a jaunty hat and swearing freely and having style. You are an inspiration to a woman who can’t tolerate mascara or heels, but who loves to grub about in the dirt and read and was always a little worried that she wasn’t quite a woman because of it. You kick ass.
W is for The Weaver
Perdido Street Station by China Miéville
Oh man, the Weaver! Another terrifying entity that’s as mad as a box of frogs, the Weaver is just wonderful. It’s intent only on making the world-web prettier and if that means it has to cut off your ear, then so be it. The Weaver has an obsession with the beauty of scissors, plays tic-tac-toe, talks in riddles and appears to be multi-dimensional. I love it unconditionally and from a healthy distance away.
X is for … ummmm … The X-Men!
Yeah, I got stuck. But the X-Men are awesome. Woo.
Y is for Yardem Hane
Yardem Hane is the stoic, philosophical right-hand man to Captain Marcus Wester and my favourite Tralgu to boot. He’s got a dry sense of humour and that whole strong silent type thing going for him. There are tons of great, great characters in The Dagger and the Coin series, good, bad and undeclared, many of whom get way more page time than Yardem, and yet he’s the one I remember most fondly. Abraham has said he’s written all the fantasy he feels he wants to write for now, but I still hope for a book in which Yardem gets to be front and centre.
Z is for Zan
The Stars are Legion by Kameron Hurley
Zan goes through some serious crap. She’s an amnesiac being used by those who know more than her in a war between two families on two worlds. She faces monsters galore in her struggles upon one of these worlds. She also has to face the fact that she was a monster in many of her former iterations. But this time round she becomes someone different. It’s definitely a book you need to read for yourself to appreciate (or not), but know this: Zan has to crawl through uncountable layers of slime and membrane and all kinds of icky organic-ness to get to where she’s going and if that doesn’t make her a Hero, then nothing does.
So, what about you? Who’re your favourite characters? Who do you hate on my list? Who’d you replace them with?