We’ve read ’em, we love ’em, we want more of ’em. Those books where a rag-tag group of people journey with each other towards a destination, a quest, a mission – an adventure. These are my favourite kind because we are treated to – not only an epic adventure – but a view of relationships, evolution of mind, heart and spirit and sacrifices made when we enter into these types of stories. I call these Fellowship stories because they always contain a group of three or more people travelling together towards a goal. We all are familiar with the Lord of the Rings – probably the most well-known Fellowship story of all. As I’ve read these types of books over the years, I’ve come to notice 5 unspoken rules about Fellowship stories. But before we get into them, what do I mean by fellowship?
Fellowship is defined as:
|1.||the state of sharing mutual interests, experiences, activities, etc|
So in the case of these stories, the mutual interest is a focused goal, usually to save the world, destroy the one ring, defeat evil, fight zombies, find a cure, and so on. The mutual experiences and activities are the challenges the group faces on their journey. I haven’t met a single person who doesn’t love the Fellowship type stories, whether they be a movie or a book. It is compelling to witness how a group stays strong or dissolves due to circumstances outside of their control. We see the true nature of character in group dynamics; who is lacking courage, who has malice in their heart, who is loyal, loving and brave. I am drawn to these types of stories (as I am sure we all are) because let’s face it, we are drawn to each other – we humans need each other. As an introvert I revel in solitude – but only for so long. Eventually I will seek human companionship. We create fellowships for ourselves without our even knowing it – our group of friends/family who we spend the most time with. We recognize ourselves in these stories, relating to one or two characters within. Who we cheer for, who we mistrust, who we miss when they are gone from the story can reveal something of our inner selves.
Let’s dive in to the five rules shall we?
The Five Rules of Fellowship:
- There must always be a group of three or more people
- It can start out as one or two but eventually, a group of three or more is formed along the way
- There must be a journey with a mission involved
- the journey has to be a physical one towards a destination (with the added bonus of an emotional and spiritual journey developing along the way)
- the mission usually involves saving the world, kingdom, city, country, another being or soul
- The group gets separated along the way
- either by choice or by force
- it can be the entire group splitting or it might just be one or two people who leave the group
- Someone in the group eventually (*usually) betrays another
- betrays the whole group or an individual
- this betrayal might be forced (blackmailed or seduced by power)
- betrayal might also by by choice (they put themselves before the group to save their own ass)
- * I say usually because not every Fellowship story has a betrayal – though most do
- Someone in the group will eventually sacrifice themselves for the group
- it could be the betrayer who redeems themselves in the end with an unselfish act
- the sacrifice is usually made so the rest of the group can be saved to finish their journey
These are the 5 rules I’ve observed that are standard throughout each story. Is there a rule you have observed that I haven’t listed? If so, I would love to know. Write it down in the comment section below.
To end this post I want to list the books of an author who writes a lot of Fellowship stories. Stephen King. He loves them and I love him for loving them. His Fellowship stories are:
- The Cell
- The Stand
- Stand by Me
- The Mist
Other Fellowship stories I’ve read that follow the above rules?
- The Passage Trilogy – Justin Cronin
- Dies the Fire – S.M. Stirling
- Swan Song – Robert McCammon
- The Wizard of Oz – L. Frank Baum
- The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien
- The Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis
- The Walking Dead (graphic novels) – Robert Kirkman
- The Braided Path – Chris Wooding
- A Song of Ice and Fire series – George R.R. Martin
- Tigana – Guy Gavriel Kay
- The Last Unicorn – Peter S. Beagle
- Fire of Heaven Trilogy – Russell Kirkpatrick
I know I’ve read many throughout the years and can’t remember them all – but these are the ones that stick out in my head. What Fellowship stories have you read? I would love to know so I can add them to my To Read list.
This post brought to you by the letter F and the A to Z Challenge.
This little blog o’ mine makes one thing very clear; I love a fabulous story with a fabulous female protagonist.
In my world there are 4 ingredients that make up an awesome sauce type of female character. They are:
1. Human-ness. They are allowed to be human and to be human is to be flawed. Sometimes these female characters are not always likeable. They are emotional, selfish, fierce, aggressive; whatever the trait, they are so much more interesting because of these things.
2. Their importance to the story. Without them, the story couldn’t exist. There are some female characters in stories that act simply as a placeholder for the attention and energy of a male protagonist and so they aren’t necessarily crucial to the actual soul of the story.
3. Intelligence. They can think brilliant and difficult thoughts, they can determine their own fate independently and make hard decisions. They see the world with open minds. They have awesome dialogue and are not made up of shitty, one dimensional stereo-types (which pisses me off to no end when these type of female characters exist).
4. Passionate. I don’t mean this in the sexual desire way (which unfortunately to often female characters are regulated to). I mean this in that the character has beliefs, values, unwavering commitment and passion for what she perceives to be right, not just for her but those around her, no matter if her belief is rooted in “good” or “evil”.
So, with keeping these 4 elements in mind I introduce you to a list of my all time top 5 female protagonists that have all 4 in spades.
Kaiku is a character from The Braided Path, an epic, heart-stopping book about social classes, politics, ethics and magic; and damn it’s a fine book. Kaiku is one of the main protagonists, a young woman who discovers unknown powers within and takes on a whole social structure of men that are determined to keep control and power over a system of have’s and have not’s. She has all four ingredients especially the human-ness quotient. She is quite unlikable when you first meet her; petulant, whiny, childish. But as the story grows, so too does Kaiku. She evolves before our eyes from a spoiled, helpless girl to a powerful, determined young woman. And yet, she maintains a level of that petulance as she evolves, it is just more refined, shaped and formed by the horrible things she has been witness to. This story can’t exist without Kaiku – she plays an extremely important part in the overcoming of evil, aided along the way by a very unusual and quiet man. And this is really where I appreciate the author, throughout the book Kaiku has had a couple of opportunities to “fall in love” and yet she refrains herself from such a path; she has a job to do and she will get it done. There is love, of course there is, however it is not the focal point of the story. This love is a result of a trusting partnership that developed through an intense and difficult journey she takes in the story and is not based on physical attraction or an aching, possessive need.
The Boudica I am speaking about in particular is from the author Manda Scott and her Boudica trilogy. Boudica was a Celtic queen in 60 AD who led her people in battle against the Romans. You can find many historical books and documentaries on her. The fact that she was a real, living woman makes her even more awesome but I really want to highlight Scott’s telling of her. We follow Boudica from childhood (where she makes her first kill and becomes warrior) to motherhood and it is a life filled with pain, blood, violence and tragedy, and yet, there is hope, love and friendship along the way. Boudica is a complicated woman, because she is queen she must lead as a queen would, but she is also a woman, a lover, a mother and a friend – it is this colourful mix of being that really allows you to see Boudica as the flawed, honest, tortured woman that she is. With so much resting on her shoulders (basically the survival of her people) Boudica must make sacrificial type decisions and it is in these moments where you see how alone and solitary a figure she really is. She takes lovers, she fights in bloody and raw battles and she is confrontational without being aggressive. She is a complex character living in unforgiving times which makes her such an interesting female character to read.
Zuleika is a fierce warrior in the story The Steel Seraglio and for me, she was a most unexpected surprise. Unexpected in that you are not aware of her level of cunning, power and athleticism until halfway through the book. She is a mysterious character, one of many women in a harem that is exiled to the desert once their master is assassinated. When you are introduced to Zuleika she is cold, silent and menacing even. You wonder if there is love in her heart as she makes hard and cutthroat decisions. You are given glimpses into her past and see why she is the way she is and you end up agreeing with her decisions. She is like a caged panther in the beginning part of the story, waiting for the moment where she can burst free. When the story culminates in one of the most breathtaking and heart-pounding battles I’ve ever read in a book Zuleika is pure, raw power set free. She leads the group of women to fight and take back the city they were exiled from and through this battle she is a General, soldier and assassin. To me Zuleika represents the primal nature within all women, the warrior-goddess we all are down deep inside. When the story went away from her and focused on others, all I could think about was Zuleika and when I would read her story again. There is a very human side to her as well and this comes in the form of (much like Kaiku) an unexpected source of love – one that I was not expecting but that was tender and tragic. You can feel Zuleika’s struggle to resist what she perceives to be a weak emotion and a distraction but in the end, through all the death, violence and victory she is born anew.
Okay, so you notice a theme yet? Dian is the main character in Califia’s Daughters, a post-apocalyptic story where the population of males have dwindled down due to a virus and so it is the women who now lead and build this new society. What I really liked about Dian was her quiet nature. She is an observer and the author does an excellent job of portraying this quality in Dian. Dian watches and assesses, she is not highly emotional and relies heavily on her intelligence and intuition. She is dedicated to her community, to keeping them all safe and watches over her people and the land on which they live. One fateful day takes her away from the people she knows and loves and sets her on a perilous, emotional journey. She is confronted with hard decisions and the grim reality of life in this new world. She is flawed no doubt, one might think that her commitment to the people she loves blinds her to the needs of others and often some of her decisions are seen as selfish. But with Dian you always get the sense that her decisions affect the greater picture, and they do. What I really enjoyed about this story is that Dian experiences love in three ways, through her dog Tomas, who aids her on her journey (which will devastate you at moments), through the man she has come to slowly love over time and through another man, Robin, a man whom she owes her life to. Robin is abducted and taken away and at a moment where Dian can choose to go home and be with her friends and community (and the man she does love) she can’t turn her back on Robin. What I appreciate here is that this choice is not based on desire for Robin, it is based on the fact that she can only do what she perceives as the right thing to do. Robin saved her life, she owes it to him in return – love and desire do not even enter the picture in this scenario and it is very refreshing.
And now for my number 1 pick:
I’ve chosen the character of King Arthur’s mother as re-imagined by A.A Attanasio as my number one. You want to talk about complex and contradicting natures? Ygrane in The Dragon and the Unicorn is a myriad of flaws, pain, desire, power, compassion, selfishness and selflessness. Women represent many things: nature, power, abundance, mysticism, sex and insight. It is all these words that could describe Ygrane from her journey as child queen to powerful witch queen with many enemies, even her own daughter. Ygrane’s choices throughout are complex, filled with a back story that Ygrane has lived hundreds of lives and her soul is filled with her previous incarnations as queen. It is in this lifetime, that of which the book takes place, that she seeks peace, not only for her people, but for her soul and her heart. She is queen caught between two worlds – the human world and the world behind the veil, the supernatural. Christianity wishes to destroy this world and she strives to protect it. As a child she is arrogant and stubborn, she believes she can change the tide of destruction by offering herself to a god but she is spurned. This spurning pushes her to accept a marriage to a human king who is cruel and violent towards her for she is without hope. In her desire to experience love at least in one of her many lifetimes, she sees a path before her that she desperately wants to find and yet it is this very path that allows the death of the cruel man she is currently married to. Throughout the story Ygrane makes choices that are at times frustrating and contradictory to her duty as queen but what she makes very clear, is that first and foremost, she is a woman and the heart and soul of a woman is in itself the biggest mystery of all – unexplored and unconquered. She is a mother who desperately seeks to save her child and in doing so sacrifices the very thing that could save her people. She is a woman in love who is helpless in preventing the death of her one love despite the power she has and, despite the numerous lives she has lived, underneath it all she is still that child who yearns to be free. Yrgrane is sensual without being sexual, she is intelligent, fierce, weak, doubtful, commanding and spirited. It is this character alone that compels me to re-read the story every year for she always has something new to teach me.
So there you have it, my top 5 kick-ass, awesome-saucy female protagonists. What are yours?
The Braided Path is a trilogy of novels written by Chris Wooding. These books were originally sold individually as The Weavers of Saramyr, The Skein of Lament and The Ascendancy Veil though I didn’t know this at the time I picked it up. All I saw was a big, fat, glorious red book with golden font on it that may or may not contain elusive, mysterious information unknown to the human race until now. (Side note: there appears to be a new cover and it seems like you may not be able to get the cover shown – which is too bad. To me this red cover just screams of secretive, intimate magic.)
This book is a huge, meaty, delicious read. It is filled with imagery, exciting characters and probably some of the coolest descriptions of magic that I have read in a long time. Before the geek in me gets loose, let me go over the synopsis.
The story follows Kaiku who starts off as an innocent young woman. Her family is attacked and as she sets out to seek justice and find answers she eventually uncovers a hideous secret that affects almost every part of the world she knows and lives in. The innocent, young and selfish Kaiku is forced to grow up and the growth of Kaiku is part of what makes this story so interesting to read.
Kaiku lives in a time of the Weavers; a group of men who practice magic by donning sacred masks. It is when these masks are on that these men can enter into the world that essentially makes up the reality in which everyone lives – a quantum world. We see only one physical ‘reality’ but the Weavers can see the connections underneath the physical (the quantum physics geek in me got really turned on with this story). Basically, they can manipulate time and space, I just was trying to sound more poetic.
The Weavers (in their own minds) are keepers of the righteous and are generally employed by the rich or by royalty. They use their magic to weed out the Aberrants; ‘impure’ individuals who are seen as monsters to the unknowing public and are told to be feared. But impure by whose standards and why? These are some of the questions this story asks. However, the Weavers have gotten cruel and egotistical in their time and they soon plot to gain control of the empire for themselves. It is in this mess that Kaiku finds herself.
For me, one of the most satisfying aspects of the book is the continued battle between the Weavers and a few select women. Being the domain of men for so long, women are not allowed to weave. We are told it is because they themselves are impure, however the reason women are not allowed to weave, we discover, is because they are too damned good at it. The Weavers fear women as they have a natural connection to nature and the world as a whole, therefore they have the potential to become for more powerful than them. This is a serious threat to the male Weavers and they will do anything they can to stop it from happening. (Let me take this moment to give a glorious high five to the author and his dedication to describing a moment in the story where the Weavers discover for the first time that a woman is weaving and they all freak out. I wanted to jump off the couch, scream at the top of my lungs and fist punch the air for days after that scene. A-maz-ing.)
Again, kick-ass female characters and some solid men that deserve to be partnered with them. Kaiku’s journey from petulant young woman to bad-ass warrior sorceress is well thought out and paced. The great thing is that even though she grows a lot throughout the book, she is still who she is and her petulance still comes out at times, especially as she grows more determined and more powerful. She did not start out as my favourite character but as the book went on, she worked hard to deserve my respect.
Okay, I could go on but I need to end this post or it will be so long that it will break the internet. There are thrilling scenes of battles, both physical and magical and great moments of dialogue. There is a solid story of politics and ethics and, the relationships that developed in this story are believable and felt genuine – not forced.
Bottom line is – I was just blown away by the imagination in this book. It was dazzling and epic and I guarantee it will feel as though the Weavers have a hold of your heart, ready to squeeze the life out of you when you read it.