What I Like And Dislike In Literature, Part II: Relationships In Fantasy (Teens Can Write, Too!)

tcwt-3[1]This post is the second half of my attempt to answer this month’s Teens Can Write, Too! prompt after missing the blog chain sign-up. (You can find a list of participants in the chain proper here until the end of the month.) Previously, I devoted an entire post to a rant about poorly-written relationships in dystopian YA.

Today, I’m going to answer the rest of January’s prompt:

“What is something you feel is generally written well in fiction? What is something you feel is generally written poorly?”

I didn’t intend to talk about only one thing again (we were allowed to discuss as many as we wished), and I certainly didn’t think I’d be talking about fictional relationships again. But… but I really want to, and I can’t think of anything else I’d rather talk about at the moment.

I love the relationships between characters in fantasy.

More specifically, I love the FRIENDSHIPS between them.

Why are awesome, well-written friendships so prevalent in fantasy, and why do authors of dystopian YA suck at writing similar awesome relationships? Truth be told, I have no idea. No. Freaking. Idea. Sure, most works of fantasy follow a quest narrative in which the protagonist requires plenty of help/support from friends in order to complete their journey, but… most of the main characters in dystopian novels undertake battles (against society, the government, evil aliens, et cetera) that are at least as daunting.

So I don’t know exactly why fantasy stories feature A) more friendships and B) better friendships than any other genre. They just do.

Personally, I've always thought this looked like an awkward class photo, but it gets my point across.

Personally, I’ve always thought this looked like an awkward class photo, but it gets my point across.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings are classic examples: They’re partially about brotherhood, about being loyal to the other members of a quest even though they may not share the same race, mother tongue, hopes, burdens, et cetera. (There’s a reason Legolas & Gimli are my favorite brOTP ever.)

Drogo-Viserys-game-of-thrones-24487869-720-479[1]Meanwhile, George R.R. Martin’s epic A Song of Ice and Fire series deals with the politics of a fantastical, war-torn land. If you like complicated, character-driven high fantasy, this is probably the BEST series to read. I like that it doesn’t limit itself to discussing just one type of relationship (and how it plays out, impacts the characters’ decisions, et cetera): You’ve got old friends, sibling rivalry, sexual jealousy, uneasy allies, and more.

Funny-Voldemort-and-Harry-Potter[1]Any discussion of friendships in fantasy would be incomplete without mentioning
the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. I love the “Golden Trio” (Harry, Ron, and
Hermione), but I love the Marauders even more – I hope that someday when I’m older I still have a few of the friends I do now.

gregor-and-the-marks-of-secret-244uv66[1]Suzanne Collins’ middle-grade Underland Chronicles are less well known, but just as deserving of praise. As a general rule, middle-grade books tend to not feature as much romance, and that’s completely true of these five books. Actually, what I love is that one of the friendships does develop into a romantic relationship, but it does so very gradually and subtly. It does so REALISTICALLY. I LOVE this!

I’ve saved my favorite fantastical friendships (how’s that for alliteration?!) for last. Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle features a bunch of SUPERB friendships. I really love that 17378508in this series, there’s less of an emphasis on one-on-one relationships and more of an emphasis on the group as a whole. I love, love, love reading about Blue Sargent and her Raven Boys. This wonderful series will end next fall with the publication of book four, but I don’t want it to. I want to go on reading about their adventures and squabbles and inside jokes forever and ever and ever.

Last but DEFINITELY not least is the Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy. If I seem to fangirl about these books very often on this blog, that’s because they are beautiful and perfect and I am in love with them – because they have, among many other things, some of the BESTEST friendships I have EVER read about. I don’t even know where to start fangirling.

last stand of dead menSkulduggery and Valkyrie have a lovely uncle/niece (or perhaps teacher/pupil?) type of relationship. Tanith and Valkyrie, although unrelated, have a great big sister/little sister friendship. I love reading about the adventures of the Dead Men, a group of mages who act like total dorks whenever they’re not busy fighting evil together. China Sorrows makes and breaks alliances at the drop of a hat, and Erskine Ravel is everyone’s friend. Even the villains have well-written friendships with one another – granted, they usually end in backstabbing. (Sometimes literal backstabbing. I’m still not over Last Stand of Dead Men.)

There are a few romantic subplots in this series, and they increase in number as the story goes on, but I love that they never, ever overwhelm the main plot. They never overshadow the friendships. Valkyie dates a couple of guys and Tanith dates, like, everyone (and I ship all of the Tanith ships, by the way), but at least they’re well-written – and at least those story arcs don’t detract from the friendshippy adventures. The series is, at its heart, about friends fighting evil and using magic and always, always having each other’s back.

And I just really, really love friendships in high fantasy.

What is something that you think is generally written well in fiction? And what are your favorite friendships from fantasy? I’d love to know!

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9 Responses to What I Like And Dislike In Literature, Part II: Relationships In Fantasy (Teens Can Write, Too!)

  1. Cait says:

    I really really love friendships too. Romances are great, but, like, I feel friendship should come FIRST in a romance anyway. It’s probably just me, but I’d rather read an epic friendship than a romance. *sigh* SO. YES to all of these. Maggie Stiefvater breaks my brain with her perfectly written friendships. ermagerd. I LOVE THE RAVEN BOYS (all of them) TOO MUCH FOR WORDS. I have no idea why dystopian authors fall off the wagon with writing good/believable friendships. They totally do fail at it, though. o.O

    • nevillegirl says:

      Yeah, it totally should – I never understand fictional romances in which the characters involved are dating because, like, they both think the other one is hot. That relationship won’t last for very long! What about getting to know one another first?! What about being friends who slowly realize they’re more than friends?

      I ❤ the Raven Boys. 😀

  2. Between you and Cait, I’ve got Maggie Stiefvater coming out my eyeballs. I bought The Scorpio races recently, though! Yay! But yessss, I love friendships in fantasy. His Dark Materials is a great example too. I’ll always love friendships in novels more than romances 🙂

  3. Alexandrina Brant says:

    Yay, friendships! I do like a novel that has strong relationships as well as strong characters (you know how some stories have great characters, but they’re all very ‘I’m too cool to actually be friends with these SCs I call friends’? *cough* Dystopians. *cough* Maybe the reason is too much focus on the lead YA character and their development as they lead a revolution/wait-that’s-every-dystopian-ever*). Great examples, too. I’ve always thought the fellowship line-up looks a school-picture day! It’s those dwarfs, man.
    Maybe fantasy more than YA has greater interpersonal relationships because there is a bigger cast, so each character has to have a meaningful connection to another, otherwise they get lost. Just a hypothesis.
    “and Erskine Ravel is everyone’s friend. ” Do you I detect a hint of irony in that statement? xD

    *Fun fact: I recently found the first page of a dystopian satire I wrote back in October when I was waiting for my friends to get off The Swarm rollercoaster, about a girl, part of the lead organisation, who guns down macro-spores that are invading her town. I was reading through it, and was shocked at how much I would’ve read on, lol. Satire dystopian are my only dystopians! xD

    • nevillegirl says:

      Yeah, maybe it IS because there’s a bigger cast… teehee, I’m glad you agree about the Fellowship school-picture thingy! 😛

      Tanithhhhhhhhh… ❤ I can't wait until you read TM7, it's really shippy. 😀

      Ehehe, dystopian satire? I've never read anything like that, but I totally would!

  4. Mo says:

    My favorite fantasy friendship? The one in which you and I go and fight crime and turn into pirates and possibly ride dragons.

    *heart eyes emoji at Tanith*

    • nevillegirl says:

      Aw, you’re sweet. ❤ We shall be the gayest crime-fighting dragon-riding pirates ever. Do these adventures also include finding buried treasure and rescuing cute princesses? (And what about DRAGON PRINCESSES?!) Because I'm totally down for that.


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