Friday, May 15, 2009

Bring on the Men. And the Women.

Sometimes, I receive a book in the mail that just comes at exactly the right time. There's something I've had a bit too much of in recent books, and that is boys. For quite a while, I've been reading novels that feature an endless parade of boys.

  • Kvothe - The Name of the Wind (for most of the book)
  • Neb - Lamentation
  • Arlen - The Warded Man (for most of the book)
  • Pazel - The Red Wolf Conspiracy
  • Tick - The Hunt for Dark Infinity
  • Brian - Doc Wilde and the Frogs of Doom
And it kinds of make me miss the men:
  • Eddie La Crosse - The Sword-Edged Blonde
  • Marlowe - The Mirrored Heavens
  • Royce and Hadrian - The Crown Conspiracy
And . . . uh . . . I can't think of any others.

To be specific, I'm craving a story about a grown men where he is the point-of-view character. Written by a male author. That isn't too gritty.

Of the aforementioned boys, I did get to read about Arlen when he was grown up, but by then he was . . . well . . . painted. And he subsequently lost a bit of his humanity. For a while, anyway. Kvothe is a man at the beginning of the story--and is very interesting--but then we spend most of his story in his boyhood. And Marlowe . . . well, I don't want to give it away. Royce and Hadrian were part of a plot-driven story, and we didn't spend a lot of time in their heads, except toward the excellent ending.

Anyway, about the well-timed review copy. Night of Knives by Ian C. Esslemont arrived in the mail last week, and check out part of the blurb:

Witnessing these cataclysmic events are Kiska, a young girl who yearns to flee the constraints of the city, and Temper, a grizzled, battle-weary veteran who seeks simply to escape his past. Each is to play a part in a conflict that will not only determine the fate of Malaz City, but also of the world beyond …

Promising! I also have Winterbirth, and Kat from Fantasy Literature has set aside her copy of The First Law trilogy for me (we're local to each other, so we do book exchanges). That ought to keep me for a while.

Anyway, I understand that the coming-of-age story is very popular in fantasy literature. But they always seem to involve boys. A couple of popular and fairly recent exceptions are Kristen Britain's Green Rider series, and Elizabeth Haydon's Rhapsody, both which I read. 

As an adult person, I like reading about adults at least half the time. And right now, I'm in the mood to read about a guy. Preferably older than 30, but I'll take a twentysomething if I must. I'm really looking forward to reading The Other Lands by David Anthony Durham because I'll get to read about my favorite character--Dariel--as a grown man (hopefully) while he explores the Other Lands in the title. I'm also anticipating Burn Me Deadly by Alex Bledsoe.

All this got me to thinking; how many fantasy novels can you think of--besides urban fantasies and paranormal romance--that features grown women? They've got to be out there, but I've only had my head in debuts lately, and I can only think of a few--Carole McDonnell's Wind Follower, Jo Graham's Black Ships, and Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliassotti, which I have but have not read yet.

What is your favorite novel about grown-ups, either men or woman?


T.D. Newton said...

I'd have to go back and reference the old Coldfire Trilogy by C.S. Friedman. Damien Vryce, warrior priest, is very grown up, not too gritty, and an interesting character. He doesn't hold a candle to Gerald Tarrant, of course, but honestly who does??

Memory said...

Very interesting post. I'd never consciously thought about it before, but coming-of-age stories really are a prevalent theme in fantasy.

As far as stories by and about men go, Guy Gavriel Kay springs instantly to mind. His SARANTINE MOSAIC, (SAILING TO SARANTIUM and LORD OF EMPERORS), focuses in on an artist in his thirties. Most of the supporting cast are also adults with life experience, although there are a few youngsters mixed in. The three protagonists in his LIONS OF AL-RASSAN are also mature adults.

The protagonists of Scott Lynch's GENTLEMEN BASTARDS SEQUENCE, (which currently consists of THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA and RED SEAS UNDER RED SKIES), start out in their twenties, with periodic flashbacks to their younger years.

I don't believe Neil Gaiman ever comes out and tells us how old most of his characters are, but his adult work does tend to focus on adults - Shadow in AMERICAN GODS, Fat Charlie in ANANSI BOYS, Richard in NEVERWHERE. Many of his SANDMAN characters are adults, too.

When it comes to stories by and about women, I've got to admit that I'm drawing a blank. I just read Mercedes Lackey's Diana Tregarde books, which are mostly set during the character's late thirties, but those aren't really sterling examples. Most of the female authors I read tend to focus on male protagonists or on young adults.

Anonymous said...

Let me put in a plug for Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn. The main protagonist is a young woman, but the other protagonist is an ~35 year old man. I'm reading this now (on audio) and greatly enjoying it.

Kimber An said...

As a fellow blogging book reviewer, I feel your pain. I'm still not over my "I'm so sick of Kick-butt Heroines who never get knocked up no matter how much wild nookie they have I could just scream!" phase.

And remember, authors, just 'cause we're sick of something, it doens't mean we don't like you. There's no way you can control whether we've had too much of one thing before your book showed up. It's totally unfair to you because your book might just be excellent.

Gary said...

You are so spot on. I noticed that myself a while back that the coming-of-age story just didn't move me the way it did when i was...well, coming of age. Good call.

Mervi said...

I prefer to read about adult characters so I can definitely feel your pain. Here some books with adult MCs:

Several MCs:
I second Sanderson's Mistborn-series and Guy Gavriel Kay suggestions.
Kristine Kathryn Rusch's Recovery Man-series has several adult MCs. The first is the Disappeared. It's SF.

One MC:
Jack Campbell's Dauntless the Lost Fleet. The MC is an experienced officer.
Dave Duncan's Ill Met in the Arena where the MC is in his 40s if I did my match correctly.
Warren Hammond's KOP and Ex-Kop have an older cop as the MC.
Roger Zelazny's Amber -series where the MC is thousands of years old.
Lois McMaster Bujold's Curse of Chalion where the MC is 35 and her Paladin of Souls where the MC is a dowager queen in her 40s.
Mercy Thompson in Patricia Briggs' UF series. The first is Moon Called.

Pissenlit said...

I hit the argh-too-many-boy-povs feeling back when Kristen Britain's Green Rider first came out so I was ecstatic when I found that.

I don't read very many straight up fantasy novels nowadays so not much comes to mind. Though Lisa Shearin's Raine Benares is a grown woman, no?

As for favourite novel about grown-ups? Gosh, that's tough if you don't nail down a genre 'cause I can think of too many. I think the majority of novels I read have adult protags.

Lori Devoti said...

Anything by Connie Willis. :)

Jeff C said...

I'll add L.E. Modesitt's name to the list. Many of his books have an adult male (and first person) PoV character.

Kimber An said...

I'm happy to read Middle Grade, Young Adult, or Adult, Male or Female, black, white, green, feathered, furred, or scaled protagonists. I just want variety!

Raven said...

Robin McKinley has some female protagonists in traditional fantasy settings, although they tend to be young women, so in a sense their stories are also coming-of-age stories.

Patricia C. Wrede's "Caught in Crystal" features a 40ish woman with two adolescent kids. Although I first read the book when I was a teenager myself, I remember that even then I found the character's age and the fact of her motherhood different and refreshing.

Patrick said...

I have to second Lois McMaster Bujold's Chalion books. They're some of my favorite books ever, and they feature adult, female leads.

Tia Nevitt said...

Wow, I wish I had been around to take part in this conversation, but I had to go out of town a day sooner than I expected.

Raven, thank you SO MUCH for telling me about Caught in Crystal! I read that book back when it was first published and I never could remember the title or the author. Too bad that was the last book in the series. I remember enjoying it very much. I'll have to look for it on my next trip to the used bookstore.

Thanks for all the recommendations!

Chicory said...

Let me think... Stephen Lawhead's Paradise War trilogy has a grown male protagonist. Then there's Terry Pratchett's Sam Vimes (my all-time favorite Discworld character). The hero of Patricia Brigg's `Dragon Bones' reads older than he actually is (about eighteen in the first book, but he reads in his twenties.) Incidentally, everyone should read `Dragon Bones.' It's just amazing.

Janet said...

Grown men? I'm reading The Company, by KJ Parker, in which the protagonist is 38. Grown women? Many of Ursula LeGuin's books either center on women (including the recent release Lavinia) or give equal billing to a man and a woman. Lois Bujold McMaster's Sharing Knife series starts with a very young woman, but still a woman.

That should give you enough to chew on for a while.

Raven said...

Tia, I'm really glad I could be of help! What a coincidence that I happened to mention that particular book. :)

Chicory, meet another fan of Dragon Bones. I couldn't really get into the sequel, though.

P. J. Loanzon said...

L.E.Modisett had a troubling theme of boys in his Recluse Series until he did a total 180 and started writing grown up characters, and to be honest, it wasn't as thrilling as his novelizations about coming-of-age stories.

I guess once you write a certain way for years (decades?) the transition to other-like characters can be hard.

Anne Elizabeth Baldwin said...

Sharon Shinn's Twelve Houses series features adults of both sexes prominently. Watch the series, tho. Her other books tend to be either more towards science fction, or more towards younger characters. {Smile}

Anne Elizabeth Baldwin