Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish, and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl to share our love of books and lists with our bookish friends. This week I’m ignoring the official prompt in favour of a Wyrd and Wonder fantasy-themed topic…
Fantasy is famous for its protagonists: the farm boy turned hero, the prophesied saviour, the great warrior, the conflicted wizard. But I want to take a moment to celebrate the supporting characters today – friends and supporters, cinnamon rolls and comic foils. Sometimes they discover their own inner hero and rise to glory; sometimes they suffer untimely deaths. Not all make their mark on our hearts, but I have a shelf full of secondary characters I adore. Ten isn’t enough to do them justice, but here are ten I love…
No shortlist of sidekicks could start without my favourite hungry furball. Shaggy, twiggy, less fearsome than he’d like to be, Gurgi is an unconvincing monster and a wonderful friend. He may be terrified rather than terrifying, but he never hesitates to put himself at risk to save his friends.
Of the many reasons I loved The Goblin Emperor, no small one was Maia’s inner circle. Csevet is a messenger turned private secretary, endowed with traits guaranteed to win my heart: efficient, competent and compassionate. Besides, you know how I love non-traditional fantasy jobs.
A terrified refugee of a House Hawthorn purge. A secret addict to a magical substance that can only destroy her. A human alchemist at the mercy of the Fallen. Let’s be honest: Madeleine is a mess. But I love her for her flaws and vulnerability, and I love how Aliette de Bodard pushes her weak link to forge her anew.
Is it unfair to call Elan a sidekick? He starts out that way at least: the pretty but not too clever bard who sings The Order of the Stick into trouble more often than out of it. Hopelessly naïve, dangerously optimistic, sadly lacking in common sense, he’s an unexpected and unabashed delight.
A street smart gutter rat who can pick locks (and pockets), Zaira is in some respects an archetypal sidekick, slyly calling out privilege and flirting with indiscriminately. But she’s also the most powerful warlock in Eruvia, whose deadly flames only get more powerful the more they kill. Please don’t tell her I called her Amalia’s sidekick.
You thought I was going to say Jean Tannen? Shame on you, he’s no sidekick: he gets joint hero status in my eyes. But let’s hear it for plucky young Bug, the eyes up top, as rash and irreverent as the examples set for him.
Speaking of hungry furballs – and characters who would react badly to being called a sidekick – let’s talk the Rocket the Raccoon of YA fantasy. Reichis is a squirrel cat: keen to rob you blind then eat your eyeballs. He’s foul-mouthed, belligerent and oddly likeable in spite of himself. Just expect him to reject any accusations of loyalty or affection.
Every fantasy hero with a big damn sword needs a clever friend to think their way of trouble. Jon Snow is lucky enough to get Sam Tarly. Sam is fat and a self-avowed coward in a world driven by toxic masculinity, and I love that he gets to show them all up as the asshats they are.
Secretaries and personal assistants. I can’t resist them, okay? Really Muire Lo should be on this too but I’m holding out for Ingrid: cool, calm, collected, as likely to arrange body disposal as book you a table for dinner. Her conspiratorial attitude to protecting Rook Myfanwy Thomas is a thing of joy.
Sometimes attitude comes in tiny, highly-compressed and adorable bundles. Zuzana is a manic pixie dream girl, an art student, a puppeteer, all sass and talent and kick-ass boots. In fact, she an archetype I could find irritating – but thankfully she’s a passionate, loyal friend who is completely unphased by, well, just about everything.
Who are some of your favourite fantasy sidekicks?