Tough Traveling is back! Nathan over at Fantasy Review Barn is the original mastermind of Tough Traveling. And Laura is reviving it as a monthly feature over at Fantasy Faction. What’s Tough Traveling? Pretty much, on the first of the month where we dig around to come up with examples of that month’s chosen trope in fantasy. We are using Diana Wynne Jones’ The Tough Guide to Fantasyland as our inspiration and guide. There will be link ups available over at Fantasy Faction, so join in and link up.
So let the fun begin …
This month’s theme? Non-Human Protagonists
I didn’t feel like I read all that many books with non-human protagonists, so most of mine are ones that may look human, but are some undead version, like vampires, or zombies, or even immortal gods. Also, aftwards I noticed the theme was supposed to be heroes… well, hopefully these can qualify in some way. I could probably make a case for most, though the demon from The Devil You Know would be the hardest. Ah well …. here it is. My list of non-human whatevers.
Atl from Certain Dark Things by Silivia Moreno-Garcia
Atl may look human, but she is anything but. Living in a vampire-free zone, she has to keep a very low profile. She also needs to feed. I love getting her perspective into the dynamics of different vampire species and how they interact and survive, as well as how they view humans. Atl is not just trying to go unnoticed by humans, she is also hiding from her fellow vampires. And while she may have the potential to be deadly to Domingo (one of the human protagonists), her developing relationship with him shows a different side of her.
Apollo from The Just City by Jo Walton
In this social experiment carried out by Goddess Athene, philosophers are brought together from across time to try and create a utopian society. I debated if Apollo counts for this as he is incarnate in this book, so is lacking all of his typical godly powers and forced to live like a mere mortal. But his perspective brings in his past and while he is currently restricted with his powers, his mind still remembers. And it is interesting to watch him learn that there are some areas were humans are better than gods.
Maksim Volkov from Spells of Blood and Kin by Claire Humphrey
This is a great example that sometimes being “other” than human can be terrifying. There is no romanticizing what Maksim is or what he does. Maksim refers to his kind simply as “kin” and while I can’t tell you exactly what Maksim is, I will say he suffers from an incredible need for violence, even when the rational part of his brain does not want violence. He has one companion like him, and they drink heavily and fight harder. They have the ability to “infect” others, and one more character in the book has his life take a very unpredictable and dark turn after a run in with Maksim. Sort of think of Maksim’s kind as a paranormal berserker Fight Club. With lots of booze and at times little self restraint. But the problem is that Maksim does not want to be like this. He wants to remain in control of himself and is haunted by his past.
Demon from The Devil You Know by K. J. Parker
OK, so I can’t remember if the demon has a name or not, so apologies if I he does. This book has two POVs, the greatest philosopher of all time and the demon who is a representative of the Devil. They are trying to negotiate a deal, and it is hard to say who is the master manipulator between them.
Angel Crawford from My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland
Angel Crawford may have been human once, with no life goals or aspirations. She was a high school drop out who liked drugs and drinking and who couldn’t hold a job. But in death, she found a new life as a zombie. It’s kind of funny seeing her get her act together a bit as she transitions to being undead. This is a much, much more lighthearted read than the Spells of Blood and Kin. Angel may be a zombie, but it is her sarcasm that fuels the book, not violence. Becoming a zombie and now truly reliant on a substance (brains) to sustain herself, she is able to conquer her old vices. She is finally able to overcome her addictions. And her job? Since the job in the morgue is quite uniquely fitted to her current state, it becomes a bit more important. And honestly, she just starts to take a real interest in things.
Angel keeps this book full of decapitated victims and brain cravings fun and light because of her wonderful and humorous perspective.
Joey Peacock from The Lesser Dead by Christopher Buehlman
OK, here’s another creepy book that does nothing to romanticize vampires or play down their ability for violence. I love the snarky insights that Joey Peacock delivers, his character is so important for this story to work. If you don’t like Joey Peacock (or at least enjoy reading about Joey Peacock), there’s no point in reading this as it is told from his perspective. Joey is stuck for eternity in his early teen body, not exactly your typical package, but his personality is anything but young and naive. Living in our world, vampires are forced to be ruthless sometimes and Joey is no exception. He is hard and gives a wonderfully clever and dark view of the world he’s living in.