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Help finding a page turning fantasy/fiction with a strong, ENGAGING main character?


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Initial post: 21 Apr 2012 13:25:59 BDT
John says:
The FIRST thing I will mention is that anyone that SPAMS this form with self published work will get a vicious and highly critical 1 star review of their new book. You HAVE been warned.

I am looking for some good fiction, not necessarily fantasy or sci-fi, but something good.

The most important thing is that I want the lead character to be really engaging. We all love a book with a strong character, usually this happens when the lead suffers.

I loved the Black Jewel trilogy. Good characters, plenty of pain. The FIRST harry potter books only. He suffered a lot, and those first 2-3 books were very engaging. The Kate Daniels books, excellent reading. Divergent - best female lead I have read in years, lots of suffering and as a result very engaging. Dune, the main character sees his entire house destroyed and his father is killed. He is forced to live in the desert, and effectively loses everything he has ever known. Again very engaging. Not so much into GRRM or Robin Hob.

Sorry about the excessive opening post. I wanted to be clear about what I am looking for. Please give me some suggestions, and let me know why you liked them.

Posted on 21 Apr 2012 15:52:40 BDT
Garscadden says:
I really liked the Joe Abercrombie The Blade Itself: Book One Of The First Law - I found the main characters engaging.

Sci Fi - Use Of Weapons - a very morally ambiguous main character.

Doc - a fictionalised account of Doc Holliday, before the Tombstone events. John Henry Holliday comes across as a fantastic character, and the sense of place is wonderful. I can't recommend this book enough.

The Takeshi Kovacs novels (starting with Altered Carbon), I find engaging. These are very noirish, and again quite morally ambiguous. Richard Morgan does go on a bit stressing ambiguous, bit it's not terribly so.

And of course The Arabesk Trilogy) by J C-G - lovely bloke, fantastic trilogy. Middle East, questionable main character, but again engaging (in my opinion).

I recommended this to someone else recently - The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break - the minotaur, a couple of millennia later, working as a short order chef. Wonderful main character.

Posted on 21 Apr 2012 16:01:15 BDT
John says:
I have read the blade itself. Very good, although I am struggling to get into the next book. I have read all the Takeshi Kovachs books. I will check out the other two recommendations.

Posted on 21 Apr 2012 16:19:09 BDT
Jim Webster says:
Very much a matter of taste, but Cugel who appears in Jack Vances books The Eyes of the Overworld and Cugel's Saga is a strong but not very likable character. He does suffer, mainly due to the side effects of his own duplicity, and regularly gets his come-uppance.
Actually I'd suggest you bought Tales Of The Dying Earth (FANTASY MASTERWORKS) which has these two books as well as the other two Dying Earth books in.
You can probably pick it up second hand very reasonably priced.
I'm biased in that I really love the work of Jack Vance, both Sci Fi and fantasy. However I realise that some people don't.

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Apr 2012 16:24:31 BDT
Garscadden says:
The second Abercrombie book wasn't so good, the third is worth reading though. (So I'd say stick with the second, just to get through to the third).

Posted on 21 Apr 2012 16:24:40 BDT
Anita says:
Please, try mine, I love torturing my characters... :)

I'm a bit embarrassed to suggest something as old, but I can't think of more engaging and suffering character as Ged of Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea (just stop after reading the original trilogy!)

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Apr 2012 16:31:29 BDT
Jim Webster says:
I'd second the suggestion that you stop with the original trilogy.

I'd also ask if we were allowed to mention our own stuff if we feel it might come within the parameters set? Not entirely sure mine does, I'm not in the habit of torturing my main characters, it seems a bit ungrateful when you're hoping they'll support you in your old age ;-)

Posted on 21 Apr 2012 16:35:27 BDT
Garscadden says:
I think I'm the only person who didn't hate the fourth book. Though i can hardly remember anything about it, and it is nowhere near as good as the first three. (But do i just think that because i was so much younger when I read the first three?)

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Apr 2012 16:38:22 BDT
Jim Webster says:
I didn't hate it, I just cannot remember a thing about it, yet I remember the other three well enough. Admittedly I've re-read them, but never felt the urge to re-read the fourth.
Now you've got me curious, what on earth does happen in the fourth book, I'm going to have to find it again!

Posted on 21 Apr 2012 16:46:15 BDT
John says:
I thought about the wizard of earthsea, but I read one of them as a kid and never went back. Anita, do you recommend the first or one in particular?

I am slowly getting through the second JA book, and its alright but not as fun as the first. When I finish it I will seriously consider reading the third. Your comments have been noted.

Jim, you can mention your work - but only if you can tell us how you have tortured your character :-) And it's fails the test I may have to enact the threat in the opening post :-)

Posted on 21 Apr 2012 16:55:28 BDT
John says:
I vaguely remember one book where the main character was hurt a lot. It was pretty good but for the life of me I cant remember which one it was. It was one of the follow on books to Dune, written by Brian Herbert. It followed (I think) Duncan Idaho as a kid, and lived as a slave runner with the Harkonnens. He was forced to try and escape from the Harkonnens who chased him for sport. Many of his companions were brutally killed. I think the second Dune trilogy has a great child main character who has to fight for his life as well, as I remember that was excellent too.

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Apr 2012 16:57:25 BDT
Last edited by the author on 21 Apr 2012 16:59:30 BDT
Garscadden says:
That was one of the 'House' series, can't remember which, but I assume Dune: House Harkonnen (Prelude to Dune). I didn't find those three terribly bad.

[EDIT - looks like i was wrong - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dune:_House_Atreides Dune: House Atreides (Prelude to Dune) ]

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Apr 2012 16:59:40 BDT
Last edited by the author on 21 Apr 2012 17:02:31 BDT
Jim Webster says:
Ah the agony he suffers, sometimes he doesn't get to have a second glass of a rather nice white wine.
It's hell out there I tell you!

However, looking for good reads and decent heros, have you read anything by Christian Cameron ? Killer of Men: 1 (Marathon (Orion)) has a tortured hero
I've got his Tyrant series which I enjoyed, and I've just bought the second of the 'Long War' series. These are very definitely historical novels, set in the Hellenic/Hellenistic period and as far as I can make out, the background is very accurate

Posted on 21 Apr 2012 17:02:49 BDT
Anita says:
John, absolutely: I'd recommend the first three books. Firstly because magic is not "empty" there, the books are full of wisdom, and well, you can really feel for the main character.

To tell the truth I really hated the fourth one. Not only because of feministic blabber I do not like, but also for some other reasons I can't tell, as that would spoil the third book for you

Posted on 21 Apr 2012 17:04:58 BDT
Anita says:
The Sardonyx Net

If you want a good book, and if you want the main character to suffer... :)

Posted on 21 Apr 2012 17:17:08 BDT
Sophia says:
Try the Alexia Tarabotti novels, a Steampunk series labelled The Parasol Protectorate and beginning with Soulless. It seems to have run it's course with the fifth book that came out recently.
Alexia is really fun to read, although described as "eccentric" a little too often.

Posted on 21 Apr 2012 17:38:32 BDT
Last edited by the author on 21 Apr 2012 17:44:21 BDT
John says:
Soulless had a very good first five pages, and yes I can see the eccentric coming through in the writing. I also read the free parts of the first wizard of earthsea(and liked it) and killer of men seemed good too. They are added to my wish list.

The sardonyx net - how is it? I cant see inside, and there are few reviews.

Posted on 21 Apr 2012 18:08:05 BDT
Anita says:
John, I loved The Sardonyx Net for different reasons, it's a good read, plus the notable author's ability to avoid cliches, like:
***SPOILERS!***
slaves - no revolution
he and she - no love story
a baddie - no repentance

There are some reviews from dot com, very long, not extremely helpful in my opinion, still, read those.

Can't resist to mention Barrington Bayley once again:

The Pillars of Eternity

(check out for a second-hand paperback)

If you don't find the main character suffering enough, I might question your state of mind (no offence!)

Just noticed that jumping from thread to thread I tend to repeat myself by recommending the same books <blush>. Sorry, guys. At least they are not written by me. But perhaps I need a break here

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Apr 2012 18:37:33 BDT
Garscadden says:
I've been recommending the same books for years, it seems a reasonable thing to do :)

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Apr 2012 18:50:08 BDT
Jim Webster says:
well if they were any good years ago, it's unlikely they'll have 'gone off' too much. ;-))

Posted on 21 Apr 2012 18:51:23 BDT
Sophia says:
And if, of course, you haven't read it The Mists of Avalon, then you must. It's entirely female-centric and a good take on the female side of the Arthur/Merlin myth.

Posted on 22 Apr 2012 15:59:02 BDT
John says:
Anita, I do the same thing. I guess we have our favorite books, and push them because they are good.

Sophia, I got the mists of avalon, and I will start on it as soon as my partner has finished reading it. Do we have anymore suggestions?

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Apr 2012 16:11:23 BDT
Jim Webster says:
If a book's worth mentioning, it must surely be worth mentioning more than one!

Posted on 22 Apr 2012 18:37:05 BDT
Last edited by the author on 22 Apr 2012 18:37:27 BDT
I love the Harry Dresden books and find him a very engaging character.

Harry Connollys 20 Palace series has some very good characters and ideas in - although the series seems to have been canceled due to poor sales despite very good reviews....go and buy them, who knows you may get it resurrected (please...!)

Surely the most tortured character has to be Thomas Covenant !!!

I haven't read the Earthsea series for many many years and can't remember much about them at all...

Posted on 22 Apr 2012 18:48:56 BDT
John says:
Yes, Thomas Covenant got it particularly bad. Both in the beginning of the first trilogy and at the end of the second trilogy. I read those books at school and I still remember his anguish. Brilliant, if at times, a little grim. I will check out your other two suggestions. Thank you!
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Discussion in:  fantasy discussion forum
Participants:  69
Total posts:  511
Initial post:  21 Apr 2012
Latest post:  20 Aug 2012

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