Top Ten Tuesday – Books with Character Names in the Titles

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday participants are required to list their favourite books that have character names in the title.  I rather liked the idea of this topic, especially as I was unsure if I would be able to really complete a full list about it as only a few book titles really came to mind when I initially thought about it.  However, after a bit of research I was able to come up with pretty substantial list of potential entries, which included some amazing releases.

To make this list a bit of a challenge I tried to avoid books or comics that had series names included in the title (for example, all the Harry Potter books).  I also tried to avoid entries where they added on a name to the main title to designate that a book is going to be about a specific character in a franchise, such as Maul: Lockdown from Star Wars or Kal Jerico: Sinner’s Bounty from Warhammer 40K.  I did, however, include a few books from these franchises where the primary version of its title had a character name in it.  Despite these limitations, I still had a massive list of awesome books, which I then had to cull down.  I ended up having to remove several fantastic reads, but I think the below list really captures the absolute best books I have read with character names in the titles.  So, let us see what made the cut.

Honourable Mentions:

Tarkin by James Luceno

Star Wars Tarkin Cover

A compelling Star Wars novel that does exactly what it says on the packet, tell the story of Grand Moth Tarkin, one of the most distinctive villains from the original film.

 

Steel Tread by Andy Clark

Steel Tread Cover

I am being slightly cute with this Warhammer 40K novel, as Steel Tread is the name of a tank, rather than a human or alien.  However, I would argue that Steel Tread was a proper character, due its presence, impact on the protagonists, and because machines are partially sentient in this universe.

 

Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames

Bloody Rose Cover

The second book in Nicholas Eames’ The Band series, Bloody Rose is a fantastic fantasy read that centred around a group of mercenary monster fighters.  The title of this book refers to the infamous leader of this mercenary group, Bloody Rose, who serves as quite the distinctive figure.  A fun and captivating book that is really worth checking out.

 

Vader by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca

Star Wars - Darth Vader Volume 1 Cover

The first volume of the epic 2015 Darth Vader series was simply named Vader.  While this was an unimaginative title, the volume itself is extremely epic as it followed Vader in the aftermath of A New Hope.  Perfectly written and filled with some amazing artwork, this was a major volume that not only introduced the amazing character of Doctor Aphra, but also contained an exceptional ending where Vader discovers that the pilot who destroyed the Death Star was named Skywalker.

Top Ten List:

Mort/Eric by Terry Pratchett

Mort and Eric Cover

I have a hard time not including as many of Terry Pratchett’s masterful Discworld novels as possible on lists like these, and luckily for me there were only two Discworld books with character names in the titles, so I figured I would include both.  The first is the excellent novel Mort, which sees Death decided to recruit an apprentice, the titular Mort, who almost immediately starts messing with reality by trying to save the life of a doomed princess.  This was a hilarious novel, especially the bits following Death’s midlife crisis, and it sets up a bunch of other interesting Death-led Discworld novels.  The other book is Eric, one of Pratchett’s shorter books, that follows a teenage demonologist, Eric, who attempts a Faustian demon-summoning for absolute power.  Unfortunately, rather than summoning a demon, Eric instead gets the incompetent wizard Rincewind, who naturally stuff everything up.  This was another funny Discworld book, and I love how the cover of this book crosses out Faust and replaces it with a pen-drawn Eric, just to hammer home what this novel is satirising.

 

The Aurora Cycle by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Aurora Rising Cover

I had to mention one of the best trilogies of recent years with The Aurora Cycle by Australian authors Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, especially when all three entries contain a character name in their titles.  Made up of Aurora Rising, Aurora Burning and Aurora’s End, these titles all refer to the titular character Aurora (also known as Auri) a time-displaced psychic who ends up being the key to saving the entire universe.

 

Billy Summers by Stephen King

Billy Summer Cover

One of the more recent releases on this list was Stephen King’s Billy Summers.  An interesting and intense thriller, Billy Summers follows the titular character, an honourable assassin, as he embarks on his final job, only to encounter betrayal, introspection and a girl who changes everything.  This was one of the best books of 2021, and I really loved finding out all about Billy Summers.

 

Thrawn by Timothy Zahn

Thrawn Cover

Easily the best Star Wars book that focuses on a specific character is the epic Thrawn by legendary author Timothy Zahn.  This novel perfectly reintroduced Zahn’s greatest character, Grand Admiral Thrawn, into the new canon and is one of my absolute favourite Star Wars novels.  Eventually leading to another five connected books (Alliances, Treason, Chaos Rising, Greater Good and Lesser Evil), this was an exceptional read, and I like how the simple title Thrawn tells you everything you need to know about this book.

 

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Eragon Cover

Years ago, when I was first getting into fantasy I received a cool novel I knew nothing about apart from the title, Eragon.  Intrigued by its closeness to dragon, I dove into this great book and quickly became utterly engrossed by the story of teenager Eragon who finds a dragon egg and becomes a legendary hero.  I have a lot of love for this book and the Inheritance Cycle series that followed, so I just had to feature this novel on this list.

 

Usagi Yojimbo: Gen’s Story by Stan Sakai

Usagi Yojimbo Gen's Story

I really do tend to hit my classics when it comes to lists like this, so naturally I had to see if there was an entry from one of my favourite comic series, Usagi Yojimbo, that I could feature.  There were actually several Usagi Yojimbo volumes that contained character names in the title, including Lone Goat and Kid, Travels with Jotaro, and Tomoe’s Story.  However, the one I went with was the volume Gen’s Story.  This great volume contains a brilliant story that showcases the childhood of fantastic supporting character Murakami Gennosuke, better known as Gen.  This comic examines why the often disrespectful and uncouth bounty hunter has such dislike for samurai honour and discipline and served as a brilliant bit of backstory for one of the best characters in this series.

 

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Harrow the Ninth Cover

I was spoiled for choice for this list when it came to the works of Tamsyn Muir, as several of her books feature character names in the title.  While I was very tempted to feature her first novel, Gideon the Ninth (one of the best debuts of 2019), I instead went with her second book, Harrow the NinthHarrow the Ninth was an incredible read that ended up being one of my favourite books and audiobooks of 2020.  Containing a trippy and exceedingly clever narrative, this book follows Harrow, a spacefaring necromancer who is going through some major identity issues.  An exceptional read, I am really looking forward to Muir’s next book, the 2022 release Nona the Ninth.

 

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle Cover

I had to include the extremely compelling The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton.  Another brilliant debut and one of the best books of 2018, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle follows a mysterious time-displaced man who awakens in several different bodies during a fancy party at an old British estate.  Forced to experience the entire party again and again, the protagonist only has seven chances to discover who murdered the party’s host, Evelyn Hardcastle.  Compelling, unique and with a title that immediately grabs your attention, I deeply enjoyed this cool book.

 

Talon of the Silver Hawk by Raymond E. Feist

Talon of the Silver Hawk Cover

Another excellent book I had to feature on this list was the impressive Talon of the Silver Hawk by Raymond E. Feist.  While on the surface this title doesn’t appear to contain a character name, Talon of the Silver Hawk is the main character, as it was the name he chose during a tribal vision quest.  While he goes by other identities and names throughout the novel, this is the one closest to his heart and it makes for quite a catchy book title.  I have a lot of love for this novel, especially as it introduced me to Feist’s excellent and extended Riftwar Cycle, and it is really worth checking out.

 

Vader Down by Jason Aaron, Kieron Gillen, Mike Deodato and Salvador Larroca

Vader Down Cover

The final entry on this list was the cool comic Vader Down.  Written and drawn by the join teams behind the 2015 Star Wars and Darth Vader comic book series, this comic follows Darth Vader who is shot down above a Rebel-controlled planet, and must contend with a Rebel army, traitors, the original trilogy protagonists, and all manner of other dangers.  An exceedingly epic and exceptional limited crossover series, this is one of my favourite Star Wars comics of all time and it is guaranteed to make you a fan of the current Star Wars extended universe.

 

That’s the end of this list.  As you can see, there are some really cool books and comic volumes out there that make good use of character names in their titles.  I am very happy with how this list turned out and I think it captures my absolute favourite books that make use of this naming convention.  This might be a list I revisit in the future, especially as there are several other excellent books that I am planning to read soon featuring character names in the titles (for example, the upcoming fantasy book Kagen the Damned by Jonathan Maberry).  Until then, let me know what your favourite book was a character name in the title is in the comments below.

Top Ten Tuesday -Books with Single-Word Titles

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics. For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, participants are tasked with listing books with single-word titles.

It turns out that I have read quite a few such books in the last couple of years, and I was actually a little surprised by how many there were. In order to cull this list down to 10, I decided to focus on the best single-word title books I have featured on this blog and go from there. Many of the entries on this list were amongst some of the best books I have read in recent years, and most of them have featured on my Top Ten Books lists for 2018 and 2019.

I may have been a bit cheeky and added in more than then 10 books on this list. In instances where authors decided to give every book in their series a single-word title, I may have blended a few books together into one entry, especially if I loved each of the books in the series equally. I have also included a rather generous Honourable Mentions section as well, just to showcase how many amazing single-word title books have recently been published. While this is cheating somewhat, I think it makes this list more interesting so I’m sticking with it.

Honourable Mentions:

Timeless/Boundless by R. A. Salvatore

Timeless and Boundless Cover

Supernova by Marissa Meyer

Supernova Cover


Commodus by Simon Turney

Commodus Cover

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

Foundryside Cover

 

Top Ten List (No Particular Order):

Eragon/Eldest/Brisingr/Inheritance by Christopher Paolini

Inheritance Cycle

Thrawn by Timothy Zahn

Thrawn Cover

Legend by David Gemmell

Legend

Skyward/Starsight by Brandon Sanderson

Skyward, Starsight cover

Rage by Johnathan Maberry

Rage Cover

Planetside/Spaceside by Michael Mammay

Planetside, Spaceside Covers

Tombland by C. J. Sansom

Tombland Cover

Salvation by Peter F. Hamilton

Salvation Cover

Restoration by Angela Slatter

Restoration Cover

Deceit by Richard Evans

Deceit Cover

 

And that rounds out my latest Top Ten list. I think it turned out pretty well, and there is an interesting range of different novels there. Let me know which of the above novels you enjoyed as well as what your favourite books with single-word titles are in the comments below.

Throwback Thursday: The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini

Inheritance Cycle.png

Publishers: Paolini LLC, Knopf Books, Random House AudioBooks

Publication dates:

Eragon – 2002

Eldest – 2005

Brisingr – 2008

Inheritance – 2011

 

Reviewed as part of my Throwback Thursday series, where I republish old reviews, review books I have read before or review older books I have only just had a chance to read.

For my first edition of Unseen Library’s Throwback Thursday series, I have decided to review an important series from my youth, the Inheritance Cycle.  Loved by many, strongly criticised by others, the Inheritance Cycle is a highly inventive young adult fantasy series with an epic narrative of good versus evil

Released between 2002 and 2011, the Inheritance Cycle is the first series from author Christopher Paolini and contains four books.  Since its initial release, the first book in the series, Eragon, has been adapted into a movie starring Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich, Robert Carlyle, Djimon Hounsou and Rachel Weisz.  Despite its strong cast, the movie was a poor adaption of the source material and flopped both critically and financially.  As is often the case, however, the books are stronger than the film.

Eragon Cover.png

I received a copy of Eragon as a birthday gift a short time after its initial release in 2002 and powered through it in short order, as I was instantly hooked by the ambitious plot, massive amounts of lore, and the inventive fantasy elements.  Following Eragon I made sure to grab every other book in the Inheritance Cycle as soon as they came out and I considered it one of my favourite series.  Having re-listened to the entire Inheritance Cycle a few times on audiobook I still massively enjoy the series, although I have noticed a few flaws with the franchise.

The books are all set in the world of Alagaësia, a land filled with classic fantasy elements such as dragons, elves, dwarfs and magic, in addition to a few unique creatures and powers.  Many years before the start of the series, an order known as the Dragon Riders were formed to keep peace and harmony in Alagaësia.  The elven and human Riders were bound to their sentient dragons and formed a lifelong partnership with them, gaining powerful magical abilities as a result.  Following years of peace, the Dragon Riders were wiped out by a crazed former member of the order, Galbatorix, and his followers.  After destroying the Riders and driving the dragons to near extinction, Galbatorix conquered the human kingdoms of Alagaësia and forced the elves and dwarfs into hiding.

Eldest Cover.png

The first book in the series, Eragon, starts with the titular character, the young human Eragon, receiving one of the last surviving dragon eggs, which hatches forth the dragon Saphira.  Following an attack by Galbatorix’s servants, Eragon, Saphira and their mentor, Brom, are forced to flee their village of Carvahall and travel throughout Alagaësia before finally joining up with the rebel organisation, the Varden.  Along the way, Eragon and Saphira lose Brom, encounter the mysterious Murtagh, and rescue the elf Arya from Galbatorix’s captivity.

The following books in the series follow Eragon and Saphira as they lead the fight against Galbatorix while also learning about their powers and the history of the riders.  They encounter new mentors, find out terrible secrets about Eragon’s past, and eventually confront Galbatorix in a final battle.  At the same time, Eragon’s cousin Roran becomes a fugitive from the crown and must lead the entire village of Carvahall in an epic journey to the Varden.  There is also a focus on young political rebel Nasuada, who becomes leader of the Varden in the second book, and examines the trials and tribulations of leading a war against an all-powerful magic tyrant.

Brisingr Cover.png

The last two times that I enjoyed the books in the Inheritance Cycle, I chose to listen to them by audiobook, which are narrated by the outstanding Gerard Doyle.  Eragon is the shortest audiobook at 16 hours 27 minutes, while Inheritance, the finale, clocks in at 31 hours 28 minutes.  I am a huge fan of listening to books with large amounts of internal lore, history and background as it means I am less likely to miss an interesting fact or accidently skip over something with tired eyes.  As Paolini has created a massive amount of background lore and detail to accompany his story, I would heartily recommend listening to the Inheritance Cycle, as I felt that I absorbed so much more from the series as a result.  Doyle is an excellent narrator for this series, and at no point did I find his voice work either distracting or annoying.  His character voices are done very well, and he was able to produce excellent voices for both the male and female characters, as well as the various fantasy species.  I particularly enjoyed the Scottish accent that Doyle attributed to the character of Murtagh, as I felt it fit the character perfectly and made him very distinctive throughout the series.  Other features of the audiobook editions of this series that might appeal to potential listeners are the exclusive interviews with the author that were included at the end of two of the books.

Without a doubt, the best feature of this entire series is the sheer amount of imagination and lore that Paolini has invested in his book’s settings and history.  Each of the books in the Inheritance Cycle contains an incredible amount of background information, elaborate settings and a huge range of fantasy creatures, each with their own skills and history.  Paolini’s immense creativity is particularly evident in the series’ complex rules of magic that are a major feature of all the books.  The detailed explanation provided in Eragon is massively expanded upon in the later books in the series, and represents a significant part of the narrative.  It is also incredible to consider that Paolini created a completely new language for this magic.  With huge amounts of effort expended in creating complex lore, magic and history for all the races and peoples of Alagaësia, it is worth reading this entire series just to see all of these wonderful inclusions.

Inheritance Cover.png

There are some amazing story elements contained within the Inheritance Cycle books.  Paolini has created an epic fantasy adventure that draws the reader in and makes them care about the battle for Alagaësia.  This series has everything from impressive duels to large-scale battles that range from small groups of soldiers fighting to massive pitched battles and sieges.  There is also a significant amount of magic, politics, intrigue, romance, family and everything else that makes up a great fantasy story.  The main character, Eragon, is a classic hero coming into his great power storyline that fantasy fans will appreciate and enjoy.  However, I personally thought that the storylines that focused on Eragon’s cousin Roran were the best parts of the entire series, and business really picked up when he was made a point of view character in Eldest.  Roran is a much more grounded and likable character than Eragon, especially as he has to rely on his skill, cunning and luck to survive in a world where massive monsters and powerful magicians run rampart.

The first book, Eragon, is the only edition in the Inheritance Cycle that is told completely from the viewpoint of its titular character.  This book is a superb introduction to the series and spends significant time laying down the groundwork for the next three books.  Some great characters are introduced within this first novel, and there are a range of terrific battle scenes, the establishment of some fantastic relationships and some deep emotional moments.

The second book, Eldest, is another amazing part of this series.  Eragon spends a significant part of the book physically crippled following the final battle in Eragon, and Paolini’s descriptions of his despair and hopelessness are particularly vivid.  I am a real sucker for fantasy teaching sequences, so the scenes where Eragon learns magic, history and other subjects in the elven kingdom were really enjoyable for me.  However, the standout parts of this book focus on Eragon’s cousin Roran and the inhabitants of Carvahall.  Eragon’s actions in the first book results in Carvahall being targeted by Galbatorix and his forces, and Roran and the villages must first defend their home and then attempt to flee to the Varden.  Their exodus has some great scenes, including an extended voyage at sea, and is it fascinating to see how Eragon’s adventures impact the people he left behind.  Special mention should also be made of the scenes told from the viewpoint of Nasuada as she takes control of the Varden and leads its invasion of Galbatorix’s kingdom.  The final battle sequence of the book is another huge highlight, as the reader gets to see Eragon unleash his new powers in a massive battle scene.  The combination of the book’s three storylines into one conclusion is particularly enjoyable and epic, and there are some amazing battles and several important character revelations for the protagonist.

The third book, Brisingr, represents another fun addition to the series.  Eragon sets out on a journey of discovery during his arc.  Of particular note is the extremely intriguing look at dwarf politics and emotional reveals about Eragon’s heritage and family.  Roran’s arc is action-packed and exciting as it focuses on his role as a new member of Varden as he works his way up to becoming a high-ranking commander in the army.  The devastating conclusion to this book provides an emotional punch to the reader as one of the most likable characters meets their end.

Inheritance, the final book in the Inheritance Cycle, draws this story to its epic conclusion.  Readers who have enjoyed the first three entries in this series will have no choice but to see how this adventure ends.  Once again Roran’s arc shines through as the most enjoyable part of the entire book.  Not only does this arc focus on his own fantastic siege storyline, but it is through Roran’s eyes that we watch the massive battle for Galbatorix’s capital.  While Eragon and most of the other supporting characters are fighting Galbatorix, Roran is the only point of view character observing the fierce street-to-street combat happening in the city below.  Roran’s epic battles in this sequence more than make up for certain deficits with the main fight between the remaining Dragon Riders above.  That being said, Eragon, Arya and Angela’s earlier confrontation with a group of fanatical priests in tunnels below an ancient temple has a certain sinister edge to it that will appeal to some readers.  Offering a satisfying conclusion with a number of intriguing storylines left open for future books, this is a superb final chapter for the entire Inheritance Cycle.

While this series has a lot of great features and positive points in its favour, there are a few negative issues that need to be addressed.  When it was released, one of the main criticisms the Inheritance Cycle received was about its similarities to other works, and it’s honestly not hard to see some striking resemblances to the original Star Wars movies.  The Dragon Riders are extremely similar to Jedi, down to the unbreakable, colour-coded swords.  Obi-Wan Kenobi’s monologue from A New Hope about the destruction of the Jedi can pretty much be substituted for Brom’s description of the fall of the Riders.  The main character, Eragon, is essentially Luke Skywalker.  When we first encounter him he is living with a gruff uncle and suddenly receives a MacGuffin (in this case a dragon egg rather than a droid) that dramatically changes his life.  The arrival of the MacGuffin results in the death of his guardian and he flees the only home he knows with a mentor character.  The mentor character, Brom, the former Rider, has way too many similarities with Obi-Wan as he gives the protagonist his early, uncompleted training, provides him with his first weapon, and then dies about two-thirds through the first volume.  In the course of the first book Eragon also meets up with a rogue-like character, rescues a trapped female who he first sees from a distance (through magical scrying rather than a hologram) who later turns out to be a princess, and then flees to a rebel stronghold for an epic confrontation.  In later books Eragon meets a Yoda-like character in Oromis and finds he is related to the Darth Vader equivalent, Murtagh (after Murtagh obtains a red sword).  He eventually faces the Emperor-like villain, Galbatorix, at the very end of the series, and is forced to have a final duel with Murtagh in front of him.  Upon Galbatorix’s death and the utter destruction of his ultimate base, the heroes liberate the whole world from the control of the evil empire and Eragon sets out to teach a new generation of Riders.

These are only some of the more obvious similarities to Star Wars, and they are pretty glaring; however, this has never ruined the series for me.  Other criticisms about similarities to fantasy works such as Lord of the Rings, due to the inclusions of dwarfs and elves are a bit harder to credit, as these are hardly unique fantasy races anymore and Paolini does a fantastic job creating distinctive histories and traits for these races.

One thing that I really disliked about the series, however, is the terrible romantic arc between Eragon and the elf Arya.  Eragon pretty much falls in love with her the second he sees her, but Arya is strongly opposed to his romantic advances for various reasons.  Eragon’s unrelenting pursuit of her, especially in the second book, is very uncomfortable, and his depression and self-pitying attitude following her rejections are some of the worst parts of the series.  While their relationship in the third and fourth books becomes more natural and builds up as a result of mutual respect, I’m personally glad that Paolini doesn’t pull the trigger on their relationship at the end of the series.

I was also not a big fan of the extreme amount of self-doubt that Paolini injected into his protagonist, possibly to counterbalance the overpowered nature of Eragon.  Eragon spends way too long feeling sorry for himself, and the scenes where he deals with these feelings of inadequacy and doubt are some of the hardest to get through.  These character flaws, along with the Arya romance subplot, make it hard for the reader to like Eragon at times, and are part of the reason that I feel Roran is the better hero in the series.

While they did have some amazing parts, the third and fourth books in the series did seem to drag at times.  While I enjoyed Brisingr, when you view the whole series, I feel that Paolini could have probably gotten away with turning the series into a trilogy and simply incorporating some of the key story points into Inheritance instead.  The final conclusion of Inheritance is also a bit clichéd, especially when, out of nowhere, Eragon is able to use magic to make Galbatorix understand all the pain his actions have caused.  It’s a pretty weak way to end this epic confrontation, but luckily the reader isn’t too disappointed, especially with the epic Roran storyline down in the city ramping up the action in this part of the book.

Despite the above criticisms, I still rate all of the books in the Inheritance Cycle four stars out of five.  While this rating may be slightly bolstered by nostalgia, I do believe that this is an excellent series that will appeal to many fantasy fans, especially those younger readers who are only just starting to read the genre.  With an absolutely incredible amount of fantasy details, world history and established lore, I am still amazed by Paolini’s sheer imagination every time I go back to this series.  There are some electrifying storylines within all four of these books, as well as enough action, be it physical, mental or magical, to make any action junkie’s pulse run wild.  Readers looking for the next epic fantasy series to enjoy will find an incredible adventure awaits within the Inheritance Cycle.

My Rating (Series and Each Book):

Four stars