I have been reading fantasy novels basically as long as I could read. For the sake of argument, I’ll say I’ve been reading adult fantasy novels for over 25 years. In that time, I’ve read several hundred books and I’d like to share something that has really come to bother me in the last little while.
How many characters is too many characters? 10? 20?
Fantasy is often made up of sweeping epics that can get quite long. It’s fairly normal for a fantasy novel to have 500 – 1000 pages. In a lot of these novels, there are a lot of characters. Though some may die throughout the series, there’s always more being introduced. As I’ve been reading my current book and going through these different characters points of view, I’m wondering, was that really necessary? Is this character actually adding anything to the overall story here? Would it have made a difference if this character never existed?
Epics like A Song of Ice and Fire, The Wheel of Time, Dragonlance, etc, have so many characters that it becomes difficult to keep track of them all. And when you go to a new chapter and suddenly you’re following a new character (and a character you don’t even like) it can be somewhat jarring. It can take you out of the story as you now have to adjust what this person is doing instead of the person before.
Honestly, this is one of the biggest reasons why I only read two books of the Song of Ice and Fire series. I didn’t like most of the characters, which means I didn’t care about them, so I didn’t care about the story. I only actually liked two or three characters and naturally one of them dies by the end of the first book. I couldn’t keep going.
I can only think of one series (that I’ve read) that has a first person point of view that stays with the same character. Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Legacy series sticks with the same character from beginning to end for each of the 3 trilogies that make up the series. You never see what other characters are doing except from the main character’s perspective. This may be one of the reasons I love this series so much. Do you know of any others? I’d really love to know!
This turned into more of a rant than I had intended. I would like to know what other people’s opinions on the subject are. Do you prefer to read from the first person point of view of only one character, or do you enjoy getting into the minds of various different people? Let me know in the comments.