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  1. #1

    Are there any fantasy books where there is no hero (or a villain is the lead)?

    I'm interested in finding a few good fantasy novels where there is no "hero" type character out to save the world from the demon/sorceror bent on taking over every living thing. I kinda like books where the central character is flawed and is not really a hero but more of an observer or a low level participant in whatever events might be going on. The Time Master Trilogy by Louise Cooper or The Sarantine Mosaic books by Guy Gavriel Kay are good examples where the lead character is really not a hero out to save the world.

    I'm also really interested in books where the lead character is a villain who attempts to acheive some less than virtuous goal. Basically I've read all the typical fantasy books, now I'm interesting in reading something a bit different.

    Anyone have a few suggestions?

  2. #2
    Ranke Lidyek
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    The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazney. The lead character, Corwin, isn't the nicest guy. He's out to accomplish "his" goal. Great series and very morally ambivalent until the final books where Corwin wonders what damage he's done.

    Highly recommended because it eschews standard fantasy conventions for a more intriguing, primordial approach.

  3. #3
    A servant of Lord Arioch FitzChivalry's Avatar
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    I think Corwin is still the "hero" type, he posseses a little antihero qualities though. He isn't out to save the world, but he is sure as hell not a low key character.
    If you want an observer, try The Black Company books by Glen Cook, it is told through the eyes of people who are just participating usually (eventhough few books are told from the pov of more central characters).
    There are many books with central characters who aren't heroes out to save the world, but it's rare for them to be just observers or low-key characters...

  4. #4
    dw4rf thrinidir's Avatar
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    Yes Black Company by Glen Cook. Let's also not fotget Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Donald E Stephenson...a most disdainful, irksome and grumpy leper-hero of them all. Heroes Die by Mathew Woodring Stover would also count in I believe. How about Scar Night by Alen Cambell? I would definitely say A Song Of Ice And Fire by GRRM althoug it has a few preety good guys and they are definitely not low key (on second thought ASoIaF does not really fit your criteria)...
    Last edited by thrinidir; July 19th, 2007 at 04:52 AM.

  5. #5
    Ranke Lidyek
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    Quote Originally Posted by FitzChivalry View Post
    I think Corwin is still the "hero" type, he posseses a little antihero qualities though. He isn't out to save the world, but he is sure as hell not a low key character.
    If you want an observer, try The Black Company books by Glen Cook, it is told through the eyes of people who are just participating usually (eventhough few books are told from the pov of more central characters).
    There are many books with central characters who aren't heroes out to save the world, but it's rare for them to be just observers or low-key characters...
    Actually, Corwin is the villain for the first half of the series. His brothers are afraid of him. He marches on Amber to take it over. He betrays people. He's out for himself. His curse is what causes the whole issue with Chaos.

    So, no. He's not a hero. Later on, perhaps.

    The Black Company books are very cool, though. Glen Cook has a mythos all his own. GRRM books could be considered to have villains and heroes in equal measure.

  6. #6
    A servant of Lord Arioch FitzChivalry's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ranke Lidyek View Post
    Actually, Corwin is the villain for the first half of the series. His brothers are afraid of him. He marches on Amber to take it over. He betrays people. He's out for himself. His curse is what causes the whole issue with Chaos.
    I don't he is a villain, sure, he is as manipulative and self centered as the other family members, but that's their nature, they are all scheming and fighting, so he is just one of many, it's politics, it's court intrigues, i wouldn't call him evil. And his personality is attractive and fun to read about, he is likable unlike such antiheroes as Elric or Gerald Tarrant. I think he is too far from what i would define as a villain. And Later when Chaos enters the picture, he is defintely on the side of the good guys.

    As for Thomas Covenant, Heroes Die, some GRRM characters or Elric, Gerald Tarrant, even Conan or Fafhard and the Grey Mouser, those are all antiheroes, not really villains... there was a thread about antiheroes as well, you might enjoy reading about them, but they are not really the answer to the question.

  7. #7
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    The antagonist Ciris Sarn an assassin in A RESONANCE OF SHADOWS is the lead character.

    ~ shameless plug of a long overdue book

  8. #8
    Registered User Raule's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arkitech View Post
    I kinda like books where the central character is flawed and is not really a hero but more of an observer or a low level participant in whatever events might be going on.
    Sarah Monette's Melusine might meet these qualifications.

  9. #9
    Registered User jchines's Avatar
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    Peter David's Sir Apropos of Nothing series might fit. Apropos is a great antihero who spends much of his time grumbling about how he's a secondary character in some other hero's story.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by thrinidir View Post
    How about Scar Night by Alen Cambell?
    I am going to disagree with this one. I think the lead Angel character is trying to be a hero, even if he isn't very good at it. And there's definitely a satan-like villain.

    My suggestion is "Little, Big," by John Crowley, though only because it doesn't have a clear hero/villain divide. It probably isn't the kind of sword and sorcery fantasy you're looking for, though, as it's very nearly spiritual.

  11. #11
    Speculative Horizons Moderator JamesL's Avatar
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    David Gemmell's Waylander is a pretty good anti-hero (Waylander, Waylander II and Hero in the Shadows), and his character Skilgannon is a brooding figure constantly trying to banish his bloody past (White Wolf, The Swords of Night and Day).

    My personal vote goes to Ian Graham's character Ballas from Monument, who is an excellent anti-hero. He's not out to save the world, he's out to save himself, and doesn't care how he does it. Despite this, he's a strangely endearing character and far more complicated than is initially illustrated.

  12. #12
    I eat fish. Bear's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amaunette View Post
    I am going to disagree with this one. I think the lead Angel character is trying to be a hero, even if he isn't very good at it. And there's definitely a satan-like villain.

    My suggestion is "Little, Big," by John Crowley, though only because it doesn't have a clear hero/villain divide. It probably isn't the kind of sword and sorcery fantasy you're looking for, though, as it's very nearly spiritual.
    Ha. I just finished Scar Night, and am currently reading Little, Big. I was a bit mixed about the former, but I'm enjoying Little, Big so far.

  13. #13
    I don't know if anyone has already suggested this, but all of the characters in Joe Abercrombie's The Blade Itself and Before They Are Hanged are quite selfish and unheroic in my opinion. It's what makes the books good, all of the characters are deeply flawed.

  14. #14
    I eat fish. Bear's Avatar
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    I'm looking forward to reading the Abercrombie books whenever they cross the ditch. I've heard a lot of good things.

  15. #15
    Registered User Werthead's Avatar
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    Ian Irvine's View from the Mirror series has no immediately obvious good or bad guys, just people with varying degrees of morality.
    Last edited by Werthead; July 20th, 2007 at 04:32 PM.

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