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  • Fantasy novels without Mary Sues.
  • Kramer
    Free Member

    I’m currently reading the Riftwar saga by Raymond E Feist.

    I’m quite enjoying it, but it has the same problem as almost all fantasy that I’ve read, the POV characters are blatant Mary Sues.

    One thing I liked about A Song Of Ice And Fire was that the characters were all better written than that, but it doesn’t seem like the next one is coming out any time soon.

    Any recommendations for Mary Sue free fantasy books?

    funkmasterp
    Full Member

    Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy and the various stand alone novels set in the same world. I actually prefer them to A Song of Ice and Fire. There’s a second trilogy that is just as good but I’ve forgotten the name of it.

    edit – Age of Madness is the second trilogy.

    All the books are populated by absolute bastards who’re out for themselves. Brilliantly written and you get very attached to them even though they’re wrong uns in the main. No chosen one shenanigans and people can be taken out at the bat of an eye.

    finbar
    Free Member

    Joe Abercrombie is a fine exponent (even better than George RR Martin) of the fantasy sub genre I call “everyone is a bastard”.

    <I’ve already seen funkmasterp replied as I was writing that, but I’ll post it anyway>

    Kramer
    Free Member

    Thanks, that sounds much better.

    Northwind
    Full Member

    Steph Swainston’s Castle series has excellently terrible protagonists. Like, the main character in The Year Of Our War is essically an angel with a heroin addiction that lets him travel to other worlds when he ods. Something just a bit special about a junky running out of good blood vessels and having to inject into their wings.

    Riftwar does have some good bastards though.

    steezysix
    Free Member

    More like mythical fantasy than GoT, but I really liked the Iron Druid books by Kevin Hearne. Lots of humour as well as darker themes.

    billabong987
    Full Member

    Another vote for Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence is also very good.

    Spin
    Free Member

    Anything by Ursula Le Guin.

    daviek
    Full Member

    I have to admit I really liked the rift war saga but if you read all the books it’s quite an undertaking, sure it’s about 30 books?

    Robin Hobbs first? Trilogy The Farseer Trilogy is good and I don’t remember any Mary Sues

    **Edit**

    As billabong says Mark Lawrence is very good, start with prince of thorns and work your way through

    midlifecrashes
    Full Member

    Thomas Covenant chronicles by Stephen R Donaldson would be a bit different. I have only read the original trilogy though.

    finbar
    Free Member

    I think – if we accept Pug from Riftwar is a Mary Sue – Ged from the Earthsea Trilogy and Fitz from the Robin Hobb books probably are at least halfway there too. Happy to be debated on that though.

    prettygreenparrot
    Full Member

    Maybe mix in some non-genre  fiction? Fantasy and SF is fun but being genres they suffer from ‘readers liked this therefore they will like more of this’.

    Jonathan strange and mr Norrel has some of the genre aspects. It also avoids some of the downsides.

    Spin
    Free Member

    Ged from the Earthsea Trilogy

    Really? Ged is a shunned, scarred and fundamentally  human character. His powers are limited and he only comes to wisdom through an arduous process brought about mostly by his own hubris. He’s about as un Mary Sue a character as it’s possible to be and still be a hero.

    Apart from anything else Le Guin is far, far too good a writer to insert anything so inane as a Mary Sue.

    chrisjjb
    Full Member

    Agree with above

    Mark Lawrence and Joe Abercrombie are great for writing non Mary sue characters

    The prince of thorns series in particular

    kimbers
    Full Member

    another Joe Abercrombie +1

    Adrian Tchaikovsky’s fantasy stuff is great

    Echoes of the Fall Trilogy

    The Tiger and the Wolf
    The Bear and the Serpent
    The Hyena and the Hawk

    funkmasterp
    Full Member

    Forgot about Echoes of the Fall. Great series. Logan Nine Fingers/The Bloody Nine, Sand Dan Glokta, Caul Shivers, Whirrun of Bligh, Savine and Rikke from Joe Abercrombie’s books are some of my all time favourite characters.

    I think the stand alone novels The Heroes, Red Country and Best Served Cold are stronger than the two trilogies but they don’t work as well out of context.

    This thread has made me want to read them all again. Can’t believe they haven’t been picks up to turn in to a series by one of the streaming platforms. They’d definitely give Game of Thrones a run for its money.

    CountZero
    Full Member

    Kate Griffin’s ‘Matthew Swift’ urban magic series, which contain no ‘Mary Sue’s’, as one might expect from a female writer with strong feminist sensibilities. She’s also written a load of books as Claire North, which are all very well worth reading – she’s currently two books into a trilogy based on Greek myth, ‘Ithaca’, and ‘House of Odysseus’, the last of which I’ve just finished; I’m learning a shit-load about Greek mythology! 😁

    defblade
    Free Member

    If you enjoy Joe A’s brand of grimdark, try Richard K Morgan’s fantasy trilogy – The Dark Defiles/The Cold Commands/The Steel Remains – so long as you don’t mind reading gay sex scenes (actually inter-species/inter-universe gay sex).

    China Mieville well worth a look, too – some of the most evocatively descriptive stuff I’ve ever read, along with stories that’ll have you suddenly realising you’re more than halfway through a brick you thought would take a week to read.

    montgomery
    Free Member

    I keep meaning to re-read the two volume ‘The War of Powers’ that I’ve got on my bookshelf…

    J-R
    Full Member

    I’m just interested to have now learned the term Mary Sue.

    kcr
    Free Member

    Thomas Covenant chronicles by Stephen R Donaldson

    That’s a blast from the past. Must have read the trilogy about 40 years ago and it ended my interest in fantasy novels. I was willing the leprosy to  finish the miserable git off as I struggled to complete the third book.

    Garry_Lager
    Full Member

    The Baru Cormorant books by Seth Dickinson are some of the best fantasy I’ve read from recent years, and Baru has Mary Sue overtones tbh. The writing is too good to completely fall into this trap, though – very ambitious series.

    It is the nature of the genre that any fantasy book you dislike is often quite easy to characterise in this way. Kvothe in the massively popular Name of the Wind books is a notable example that a lot of readers seem to not mind either way. He is actually such a MS caricature that you wonder if the author had some massive rug-pull moment lined up.

    JA’s best served cold was announced as a film last year but IDK how far down the road it is – I guess loads of popular novels are constantly being optioned and scripts worked up etc.

    CountZero
    Full Member

    China Mieville well worth a look, too – some of the most evocatively descriptive stuff I’ve ever read, along with stories that’ll have you suddenly realising you’re more than halfway through a brick you thought would take a week to read.

    Miéville is co-writing a new fantasy series inspired by the BRZRKR comic book series, about which I know absolutely zip. His co-author is someone called Keanu Reeves, allegedly an actor, or musician, or something…

    I’ve got it on pre-order, I’ve read most of Miéville’s works and I’m intrigued to see what Reeves’ contribution is like. I’d imagine that there’s a fairly close connection between them in subject matter. It’s called the Book of Elsewhere, a sort of cross-time/dimension sort of thing.
    Probably no Mary Sue’s in it.

    Saccades
    Free Member

    BM for books to read.

    Except Robin Hobbs 💩

    mattbee
    Full Member

    K J Parker (A pseudonym for Tom Holt, or the other way round) writes some fantastic characters. Either the Engineer trilogy or the Fencer trilogy have to have the least Mary Sue types.

    nickc
    Full Member

    While I agree that both Melville and Tchaikovsky’s characters aren’t ever Mary Sues, they write almost unreadably shit books, which is perhaps a worse habit.

    tall_martin
    Full Member

    +1 on Joe Abercrombie
    +1 on K J Parker
    +1 on the war of powers, was that published by playboy?

    If you really want some grim reading with characters who are human what about Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. A book I couldn’t put down and still talk about 10 years after reading.

    I listened to The Brothers Karamazov on audio book in the car it was incredible- who was going to stab who in the back next! My wife hated it, mostly the medium sized cast with several russian names. while neither of them are fantasy, they were written so long ago that the setting feels very different from the current world.

    If you are prepared to read the entire rift war series, you probably have it in you to read war and peace. I read it, it was tricky to read (loads of characters all with multiple russian names). I bought it and read it all, quite alot of the time I was reading it to say I’d read it.

    Beagleboy
    Full Member

    I’m very much enjoying the novels of Jay Kristoff at the moment. I’ve just finished his brilliant Nevernight trilogy, where the main character could, I suppose, be described as a ‘Mary Sue’…. something I’d never heard of until I read this thread. However, his new Empire of the Vampire trilogy has a brilliantly unlikeable hero. A rude, sarcastic and vicious vampire hunter who’s brutally addicted to the distilled vampire blood that gives him his powers.

    I like them, but then I just read books to be entertained. 😉

    C.

    nicko74
    Full Member

    China Mieville well worth a look, too – some of the most evocatively descriptive stuff I’ve ever read, along with stories that’ll have you suddenly realising you’re more than halfway through a brick you thought would take a week to read.

    One of my favourite authors, his stories stay with you (assuming you get on with them). The Scar is absolutely fantastic and gripping; Iron Council is pretty good, Perdido Street Station is also really enveloping; and City and the City very good.

    I’ll also chuck in Robert Jackson Bennett, City of Stairs (and the rest of the trilogy). He’s a great author, writes a ton of different types of books, but City of Stairs trilogy is the most conventional fantasy-ish.

    IdleJon
    Full Member

    While I agree that both Melville and Tchaikovsky’s characters aren’t ever Mary Sues, they write almost unreadably shit books, which is perhaps a worse habit.

    😀 It’s not just me thinking that, then?

    I’ve just read AT’s Dogs of War, apparently not his best according to reviews, but it was so poor it was almost parody so maybe I missed the point. (Yes, we get it Adrian, the mean character is meant to be Col Kurtz. You don’t need to explain it twice, with reference to both the film AND book.) There’s a sequel which I won’t be reading.

    Mieville is a puzzle to me. A fantastically creative world-builder, but he loses the plot, literally. Two of his books finish with someone finding what is essentially a magic solution to the problem in their pocket, the best examples of deus ex-machinas I’ve ever read.

    vww
    Full Member

    Have to jump on the Joe Abercrombie wagon. Great characters who are both likeable and absolute b*st*rds. Start with the First Law trilogy. I believe there is a plan to film Best Served Cold with Rebecca Ferguson as lead, which could/should be awesome – I’d like to see her as Monza (i.e. angry and vengeful rather than the more polished stuff of Mission Impossible etc).

    And another second for Jay Kristoff. Nevernight trilogy is one of my faves. Mia could be described as a bit Mary Sue in terms of abilities, but, she’s also quite a deplorable character. I also like the sarcastic narrator in the footnotes. Light hearted, bloody and very good fun. Empire of the Vampire is also very good. Great (awful) characters and for a vampire book, didn’t make me think about Dracula at all, dare I say fairly original for a subject with so much folklore.

    ji
    Free Member

    Moving slightly off genre (from fantasy to SciFi), have a read of the Expanse series – it has the same scale of GoT, with less gore and sex, but great characterisation and no Mary Sues.

    fasgadh
    Free Member

     I was willing the leprosy to  finish the miserable git off as I struggled to complete the third book.

    Thank goodness you did not proceed to the second dose – it got worse.

    montgomery
    Free Member

    Re: The War of Powers – originally published in Playboy, I think, then consolidated into two books (which I bought in a local library sell-off). Subverted many of the derivative genre tropes, believable world building, sly digs at religion and authoritarianism, and a fair bit of sex, iirc. I suspect a re-read would find it a bit juvenile with some dodgy sexual politics, but the main protagonists certainly weren’t Mary Sues…

    Review quoted on Wikipedia:

    Colin Greenland reviewed The War of Powers and Istu Awakened for Imagine magazine, and stated that “‘Realistic, adult and funny’ said Science Fiction Review, but three different adjectives spring to my mind: crude, sleazy and crass.”

    thisisnotaspoon
    Free Member

    The Discworld?

    Although most of the characters are so inherently flawed that you can only assume the stories exist because that the whole world is populated by similar characters and this one just happened to survive for 400 pages.  There could be thousands of unpublished books where the protagonist walked into the broken drum and was immediately murdered.

    nicko74
    Full Member

    Great call – Rincewind is basically the exact antithesis of a Mary Sue!

    vinnyeh
    Full Member

    Richard Morgan of Takeshi Kovacs/Altered Carbon fame has written a trio of rather twisted fantasy novels (beginning with The Steel Remains). Worth a read.

    onewheelgood
    Full Member

    I was willing the leprosy to  finish the miserable git off as I struggled to complete the third book

    While this is true, you can’t deny that Covenant is the ultimate anti-Mary Sue. Book after book of unremitting misery and no sign of unusual competence.

    MoreCashThanDash
    Full Member

    I used to love fantasy novels but apart from GoT haven’t read any for 20+ years – enjoyed reading this thread and got a few to work on to get back in to it.

    Love the random knowledge this place throws out.

    CountZero
    Full Member

    Currently re-reading a novel by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, called Certain Dark Things, a fantasy involving vampire families in Mexico, involved in gangster culture, drugs and criminal activity, street kids and a main protagonist, Atl, whose family are descended from a line of Aztec vampires.
    I need to chase down any more of her books, I like her style.

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