Top Ten Tuesday: Character-driven books

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This is a post for Top Ten Tuesday, hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. You can find out more and follow along there!

Character-driven books are BY FAR my favorites. I require very little plot; as long as a book doesn’t actively break my windshield and has excellent characters and worldbuilding, I’M THERE.

1. The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold: This series does not exist without Miles Vorkosigan and the labyrinthine pathways of his brain. Also, a wonderful supporting cast: Cordelia Naismith, Ekaterin, Ivan, Aral, Gregor (I kind of have a book crush on Gregor). There’s plenty of excitement, but when it comes down to it, half of the plot is because of Miles.

2. House of Shadows by Rachel Neumeier: Jumping from space opera to quiet, lush fantasy. At its heart, this is a story about sisters, especially Nemienne. Neumeier tends to be a very character-centric writer anyway, but this one is especially focused on this main characters and the interactions between them.

3. The Wheel of the Infinite by Martha Wells: Let me just quote my review: “Plus there’s Maskelle, who is not your typical fantasy heroine, who is smart and gutsy and damaged in a way that doesn’t lead to endless angst but a quiet determination to put things right. I can’t think of another character that’s quite like her, because her vibrant personality leaps off the page. No cookie-cutter heroine here, just a flawed but also awesome human being.”

4. Anything by Laura Florand: One of the reasons I love Laura Florand’s books so much is how well she writes characters. In an HEA romance, plot is not so much a factor, so a lot rests on whether the characters and their budding relationship work. Here they do, every time.

5. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman: I mean, when the title is the main character’s name…No, but really. This is a quietish fantasy, and so much relies on Seraphina and her journey. It’s so good, and I love her prickly, uncomfortable self.

6. Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge: This one isn’t out in the US yet (next year!), but believe me: it’s spectacular. And Triss drives the whole story. Like several of the other characters on this list, she’s flawed and yet completely sympathetic.

7. The Winter Prince by Elizabeth Wein: I mean, I could have gone with Code Name Verity or Rose Under Fire easily, but I still love Wein’s debut so much. I’m not always a fan of retellings that cast the villains as heroes, but Medraut is so much more complicated than that.

8. The Lord Peter Wimsey series by Dorothy Sayers, especially Gaudy Night: BECAUSE HARRIET IS THE BEST.* Also, Lord Peter turns into a real person when she shows up (and Sayers agreed!) and Gaudy Night is one of the best love stories ever.

9. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith: Here’s another book that simply doesn’t exist without Cassandra Mortmain’s voice. She makes the story, in her awkward, passionate growing-up.

10. The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner: I mean, you start with Gen, and you add Helen Eddis and Irene Attolia and the magus, and Relius, and the minister of war, and Costis and Aris, and Sophos, and yeah. Character driven is one way to put it.

* I have a tag on Tumblr which says exactly that, and I’m always quite pleased when I get to use it.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Top Ten Tuesday: Character-driven books

  1. Gaudy Night IS one of the best love stories ever. No romance novel could ever top that one.

  2. R

    So much agreement on so many of these… And looking forward to getting a look at #6 there sometime soon. If it’s on the same list as Seraphina and Gaudy Night, after all…

    Enthusiastic second on The Winter Prince. I, too, am skeptical of villain-as-hero retellings… but Wein – and Medraut – between them managed to convince me of this one.

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