Fasten your seatbelts because today I’m going to be controversial.
The time has come for two things. The Fantasy Favorites series has reached the part of the show where the hero finally steps into the spotlight. Unfortunately, that also means the curtain will fall after this final entry.
I’ve been doing Fantasy Favorites since the end of July, so naturally I’m grieving like a parent about to send their oldest child off into the world.
Enter the controversy.
In many ways, the hero defines the fantasy story he or she appears in. I say “hero,” but I’m not going to exclude heroines from the conversation. Hero is just shorter and easier to type, so I’m sticking with that. And let’s be honest—most fantasy novels feature boys or men as the main character or world-saver.
Leaving that rabbit trail and returning to the path, it’s impossible to separate a fantasy story from the hero…for better or worse.
- Rand al’ Thor in Wheel of Time
- Eragon in the Inheritance Cycle
- Gedd in the Earthsea Trilogy
- Harry Potter in well…duh
Some stories bend the rules. For instance, the Narnia books usually contain two or more “heroes” who the story centers around. Same with Brandon Sanderson’s ongoing epic Stormlight Archive. I could argue that Lord of the Rings contains a host of heroes, and that Frodo isn’t the main one (but I won’t, because I’m already treading a slippery slope).
All that’s to say, heroes abound and play such a central role you’re guaranteed to run into a myriad of opinions.
- How can you possibly chose a favorite fantasy hero?
- What criteria do you use for defining a hero?
- What did you base your decision on?
Valid questions. At the end of the day (or the quest), for me, the hero needs to be a main character. Not the only main character, since most fantasy books provide a buffet of choices, but one who fills more than the boots of the sidekick or the cloak of the guide.
In past Fantasy Favorites posts, I’ve had difficulty picking a single favorite. Such is the case here. But I’m going to take a stab at it anyway.
Let the trumpets ring out and the drums throb, for the favorite fantasy hero approaches, and his name is:
Take that, stereotypical answers and cliché expectations. You heard me right. Not Frodo or Sam. Not Harry Potter—though in fairness, I haven’t finished the series yet. I know, bad me.
If you’re sitting there thinking, “Who the heck is Achan Cham?” you need to go grab a copy of By Darkness Hid.
How is it that this fellow, who is far from celebrity status in typical fantasy circles, has the illustrious honor of being the favorite fantasy character? In case you haven’t read the Blood of Kings Trilogy, I’ll avoid revealing any surprises.
Achan is gifted with a number of traits that make the bestowal of this honor possible.
1. He has a sense of humor
Humor is one of those things I appreciate in a character. Give me someone who can liven up a scene and they become someone I want to read more about. Plus, humor has a way of adding flavor to a story that’s impossible not to enjoy.
Achan easily ranks in the top class of witty heroes I’ve read. It seems he always has a clever reply tucked in his back pocket, ready to pull out at a moment’s notice. Sometimes to break the tension, sometimes as the perfect addition to a conversation.
Several of his comments over the course of the series caused me to laugh out loud.
2. He’s real and relatable
Characters come alive when you have a reason to care about them, when you’re invested in their story and have to read on to make sure everything turns out all right.
Such was the case with Achan. Though the hero, he has flaws. They don’t define him. Rather, they add depth to his character, a connection between him and the reader. Another facet to his personality.
He acts in realistic ways, gets into trouble, makes poor decisions. Far from a wooden caricature, he suffers through personal problems and rides high waves of success. A blend of good and bad, strength and weakness.
3. He doesn’t feel cliché
Achan’s story is one of many peaks in the mountain range of fantasy. An orphan who comes to greatness and does many other heroic things. Been there, read that.
Except in this case, Achan’s personality is so dynamic, the twists of his story so fascinating, his dreams and difficulties so real that the potential predictability fades in the background. It’s easy to root for him, to wince when things don’t go his way and hope he achieves everything he sets out to do.
A character like that is impossible to ignore, and better yet, provides the type of hero that makes for an engaging story.
So let’s raise our goblets to toast the favorite fantasy hero Achan Cham.
Who’s your favorite fantasy hero? Why? I would love to hear your thoughts.