Monday, 17 October 2011

Antagonists | The Strangely Sympathetic

 Firstly, some news! I abandoned you all for a few hours to get a post up over at Fantasy Faction (a great resource, if you haven't already found it - and I thoroughly recommend the forums). Anyway, the post is on magic in modern fantasy, and mainly about mysterious vs rule-based systems. And here's the obligatory link!

Anyway - back to the article:

We've all read a Dark Lord (and most likely three dozen) - and, of course, their oft-cliched ilk.

Antagonists who not only cackle as they kick the hero into a Darkly Dim Pit of Doom, but chuck a couple of dogs and orphaned children in afterwards. And... They're boring. Let's face it: one-dimensional villains, black-and-white morality - they're simplistic and we prefer to avoid them in most cases. There are, of course, exceptions - sometimes we just want old fashioned fun. But still, it's another thing entirely to make your antagonists sympathetic. And this clearly begs the question - who are the best sympathetic antagonists around?

From: Tigana, by Guy Gavriel Kay
Brandin is one of the tyrants of the Palm - and when his son dies in the process of its conquest, he wipes out the identity of a nation. Even its name was obliterated, unable to be heard: and the recovery of this identity is the goal of the novels' heroes. But is it really worth it - especially when Brandin begins to improve his government of the Palm? Brandin isn't as black as he looks - or is painted. And discovering that, through another protagonist - Dianora, who falls in love with him - is part of the tragedy of the novel. The protagonists likewise, grey as the novel progresses: resorting to more underhand means. Brandin is, by no means, a cliched villain.

Alberico, on the other hand...

The Vukotics
From: The Twilight Reign series, by Tom Lloyd
I am about going to talk about vampires. Therefore, some caution is required: the Twilight in the series' title does not make the vampires... those vampires! Anyway, onto the antagonists - and this time, the line isn't so easily drawn. The Vukotic siblings are their own side - and while sometimes that is aligned with Isak's, there are some hints that at times this might not be the case... At first, it seems a clear cut case of evil - with a capital E (and a kicked dog in the background). After all, the Vukotics are vampires, rebels against the Gods, cursed by said, and former allies of the hated elves. Think again. That was just the Gods' version...

Zhia, in particular, is involved with a protagonist - and we do get to see her more sympathetic aspects. The Vukotics might have their own plans (and a bad case of manipulation mania), but they're treated deftly: grey characters in a world with few absolutes itself, when they're antagonists, they're good ones. Getting round the religious dogma and norms in the world of The Stormcaller to expose the Vukotics' real stories is also quite a bit of fun, and as of The Ragged Man, we still haven't got it all.

And, of course... Many more. The Lord Ruler I could mention (at times) - but you can read about him in my previous antagonists article. Many more of Kay's, Erikson's Crippled God, etc. But I think I'm going to ask you instead. (Lazy or what?)

So, have you read these books, or have favourite sympathetic antagonists of your own? Comment and tell me below!