Having spent an entire week looking at characters my mind has become very much focused on characters I have enjoyed reading. Almost all of the books I would claim to love have at least one memorable character that I just thoroughly enjoyed reading about. Below are my nominations for greatest characters of all time (in a bunch of made up categories). Be sure to add your own categories and character nominations at the bottom.
Female Protagonist - Tori Alexander (The Ancient Future by Traci Harding)
Tori wins this one handily as I read and re-read the Ancient Future Trilogy about seven times while in school and have continued to revisit it once a year since. She's the character I never get enough of. Even though I didn't particularly like the follow up trilogy, I still gasp every time Tori gets abducted and... well I'm not going to spoil a good story for anyone else.
Why is Tori Alexander such a great character? She's a very contemporary woman, strong and independent, but she isn't obnoxious about pro-feminism or the like. She knows she is capable and she doesn't need to jump to her own defence every five seconds. Being sent back in time doesn't disturb her and unlike most other time travel story she doesn't spend ninety percent of the time moaning about the fact that she is upsetting the timeline. She merrily goes about teaching medieval knights in England martial arts and she doesn't take no for an answer.
Besides, it is hard not to like a character who managed to fight off an evil witch, marry a prince, travel back to Atlantis, and finally, forward to the foretold end of the world. That, and her arrogance and certainty lead to some very interesting conflicts along the way.
Other contenders for the title of greatest female protagonist included Rina Decker (Peter Decker series from Faye Kellerman) and Magiere (Dhampir from Barb and J. C. Hendee). Rina was finally passed over because ultimately she plays a supporting role rather than the lead. Magiere lost because at her core she is a con-artist who resents the role that is being thrust upon her. It makes for a really interesting story but a more flawed character.
Male Protagonist - Pelman (Pelman the Powershaper by Robert Don Hughes)
This was actually a really hard decision. There are so many really good male protagonists out there (as well as some really annoying ones). I do have to confess that I automatically ruled out any males who solved all of their problems with violence or were condescending to women which kind of ruled out the vast majority from the fantasy genre which I tend to read.
Pelman eventually won because despite being the main character and the one who ultimately solves everything, he spends all three books of the trilogy building up the other characters and driving them forward. I also love the fact that he is a PowerShaper in one of the three lands, an actor in another and a prophet in the third. The idea that a character will change completely )or be changed) by their geographic location, was one that I had not encountered before this trilogy.
It is his ever changing personality and his interactions with the supporting characters in his fantastical world that have managed to make Pelman stand out from other male protagonists.
When thinking of male protagonists my brain automatically bent toward David Eddings and either Sparhawk or Althalus. Both were eventually passed over because despite being really great characters, they both suffer from feeling at times a little too generic (Sparhawk being the classic fantasy knight while Athalus takes the role of rogue).
Anti-Hero - Daemon Sadi (Dark Jewels Trilogy - Anne Bishop)
Possibly people will argue over my definition of an anti-hero and yes it can definitely be argued that Sadi is not a hero in any sense of the word. However I found him heroic. All of his actions early in the trilogy are directed toward protecting Janelle and he ends up losing his mind for his efforts. That simple act of self-sacrifice allows me to classify him as a hero.
Any character whose nickname is the 'sadist' is not going to be a nice character. Sadi is a predator and has been made extremely malicious and very effective at his craft by the world in which he lives. To say that he isn't so bad because he only tortures-dismembers-disappears bad people isn't exactly an amazing defence for his character.
Ultimately I put Daemon Sadi up for greatest anti-hero because unlike most anti-heroic characters who have one dark incident that we see in the beginning, or a dark past that is often referred to but never seen, Anne Bishop puts Sadi's true character up there for all to see. Every horrific action. Yet the reader still feels for Sadi and wants him to succeed. As readers we are sympathetic when he loses his mind and is wandering. We eagerly await the resolution because we hope that Sadi will find peace. That is some incredible character creation when he can do the things he does and yet we still want him to win.
The other character I was contemplating was White Mike from Nick McDonell's 'Twelve' but he falls down because the focus of Twelve shifts between so many characters it is difficult to really grow attached to any one of them and it would be nearly impossible to argue that White Mike had any heroic tendencies. He definitely has survival instincts but they aren't really the same thing.
Villain - Marnie Simpson (Eye of the Daemon by Camille Bacon-Smith)
There are so many fantastic villains out there it was nearly impossible to decide. Once again I had to do a broad sweep elimination of all of the villains who sit in their lair, dressed in black, sending their minions out before them, etc, etc. The nomination for greatest villain had to be someone a little different.
I've settled on Marnie Simpson but there were so many to choose from. Marnie Simpson is a cold hearted individual who manages to play the role of helpless victim, cool business woman, lover, and still plot taking over both this world and the daemon's world. She isn't so much evil as greedy, malicious, and dangerously half-informed about things.
What I do love about Marnie though is that she doesn't let anything stand in her way. When one plan fails another is instantly prepared demonstrating her flexible nature. She plans well in advance. She has unlimited ambition. And, the best quality of all, she doesn't worry about the morality of her actions at any time.
As far as villains go, I contemplated nearly fifty before settling on this one. There were so many close contenders.
This was my list of greatest characters. I would love to hear yours, even if they aren't in one of the categories above.