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Dark Lord? No thanks, I'm already choking on clichés.

Discussion in 'Novels & Stories' started by At Dusk I Reign, May 12, 2011.

  1. Jess A

    Jess A Archmage

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    Oh, c'mon...I like a Dark Lord sometimes, as long as the rest of the story is gripping. Other times I prefer a realistic grey antagonist/protagonist. I have a bit of a nutcase character in the first novel, but he is only a small part of the plot. He has an entire history, though, and a reason for being the way he is. And he isn't evil. I have a problem with 'pure evil'.

    I am a fan of people who are manipulative to get into power or to get what they want. It doesn't have to be magical in nature, it can be political or social, or a mixture of all three. These people aren't 'evil'. They can be ruthless, cruel and seemingly heartless to get what they want, but they can love, too. They can fear, and mourne, and they have insecurities.

    What I don't really like is a villain or protagonist without a motive for their actions, whether 'good or 'bad'.
     
  2. JohnKPatterson

    JohnKPatterson Dreamer

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    I'm less fond of ambiguity than complexity. Anyone can shrug their shoulders when a moral conundrum shows up and it's no longer clear who's right or wrong. The characters who struggle to find answers along with the rest of their goals are more interesting to me. Ambiguity rarely satisfies and leaves the reader wondering what to make of the moral universe of a book (one of George R. R. Martin's few weaknesses).

    Complexity does give you an answer, but it's going to have a lot more layers than telling you who was right or wrong, who was good and who was evil. Avatar: The Last Airbender/Legend of Korra, Harry Potter and The Last Knight by Hilari Bell seem more adept at handling the delivery of a moral outlook than what Martin or Abercrombie have to offer (the more I hear about Abercrombie, the less inclined I am to read him).

    For that reason, moral complexity might just be a way to keep a variety of the "Dark Lord" in fantasy literature, as long as the battle between good and evil is kept complex and fraught with false appearances. Heck, that's basically the villain in my work-in-progress, a supernatural creature who acts like a cross between Serenity's Operative and Bane from The Dark Knight Rises, a villain with a conscience and a genuine desire to benefit mankind.

    Long story short, I find moral ambiguity kind of lazy -- in most fantasy literature, that is. Moral complexity is more interesting and truer to life. The characters, with their moral instincts, refuse to leave morality questions alone and try to actually sort them out. Moral complexity shows the author putting effort into untangling the knot.
     
    Mindfire likes this.
  3. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

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    I don't mind a dark god type character, but just an evildoer for evil-doings sake is toeing the line for me.
     
  4. Dark Lord characters have to be handled with tack and care in order to be realistic and engaging - too often we get a voldamort or *shudders* Joe Abercrombie style characters that can just ruin an entire story with their stupid 'I'm soooooooooooo evil!!!!!!' routines. But at the same time, overly grey characters can in fact become just that - grey or uninteresting.

    The importance of the 'dark lord' is that you must make the reader dislike the character but not be bored with it. This is an issue with Game of Thrones - Joffery is an a***, yet unlike Tyrion he has no interesting characteristics whatsoever - he is in my the least interesting character in the entire series simply because he is just so damn annoying. Whereas take for example the Tawny Man by Robin Hobb - which has a villian that is not only worthy of hatred, but also one that is engaging and interesting to read about. A villian has to be a joy to read, not something that I am half tempted to skip.
     
  5. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Not seeing that in Abercrombie, myself. Who are you thinking of?
     
  6. The entire cast? The last book of the blade itself was one cliche ridden horror - just because you reverse the cliche doesn't mean it isn't there.

    The only character I liked was the barbarian (can't think of his name right now) - but only because his Berserker side was well handled.
     
  7. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I don't agree. But putting that aside, it doesn't answer the question of who is doing the Voldemore-like "I'm so evil" routine in Abercrombie's books. It certainly can't be the whole cast. I'm curious who it is, and I may well have forgotten some aspect of it that goes down that path. The barbarian is Logen. I like him and Ferro both well enough. I liked Best Served Cold better, on the whole, however.
     
  8. Kit

    Kit Maester

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    Joffrey is interesting to me because he is unpredictable. I mean, you can predict that he will be selfish and bad... but he was kind of a tornado of chaos. Just when I thought he couldn't shock me any more, he did it again.
     
  9. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Anyone else read Abercrombie. I was thinking about this more when I got home. The characters I remember from the trilogy are the King, the Captain and his sister, Glokta, Logen, Ferro, and Bayaz. I don't see any of them fitting the Voldemortian "wuaahaha I'm evil" template. But it has been a while since I read them, and on top of that it is always interesting to me how different readers see things differently. What say you?
     
  10. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    Yes, I read the series. None of the characters struck me as being 'positive'. Bayaz - the wizard - he was looking pretty close to being an actual 'Dark Lord' by the end, when it became clear he'd been meddling in the kingdom for a long while under different guises, to keep things 'brutal'. Glokta, the inquisitor, came across as being nasty simply because he could a fair chunk of the time. He never really redeemed himself, though there were a few times when he almost did. His superior and the royals, from what I remember seemed downright cowardly. The barbarian Logen...he tried to be positive, but I kept getting the impression he was ultimately doomed big time.

    With the possible exception of Bayaz, I wouldn't call any of the characters 'Dark Lords', but there wasn't much likable about them either.
     
  11. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I liked some of them fine as characters, though not as people. But even Bayaz didn't fit the dark lord mold, in my view. He wasn't like a Thundercats Mum-Ra villain or anything. He had reasons for his actions, as misguided, arrogant, and self-serving as they were. I don't see a Dark Lord character in any of Abercrombie's books. Best Served Cold certainly didn't have one, and that one was better than the First Law, in my view.
     
  12. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    All traits you'd expect to find in a 'Dark Lord', though, including the reasons for his actions. And he'd been meddling to great ill effect in the affairs of that kingdom for a long, long time. It wasn't until towards the end of Book 3 (whichever one that was), when I saw Bayaz's collective actions throughout history that I decided he was pretty much evil.
     
  13. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    That's not the "ooooh I'm so evil! " characterization I was trying to though. Even if you see Bayaz as a dark lord he doesn't fit that caricature.
     
  14. Maybe I was going a bit-over-the-top when i said the whole cast, but I was mainly thinking of Bayaz. Bayaz, if you dealt with him from the opposing viewpoint - would b a cliche ridden villian - in fact the whole of the third book - after the very, very strong first and second book you can't help but think 'damn... is that it!?'

    Whilst the whole good overcoming evil is a bit tired; I feel that Abercrombie demonstrates why it's so effective as a creative medium - the blade itself didn't feel me with any satisfaction... I was actually hoping that Bayaz would get stabbed or murdered or written out of the book so I wouldn't have to put up with him.

    And that's not even talking about the whole 'lets go on a quest, oh wait... it's in my house' plotline.
     
  15. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I thought the third book could have been a lot stronger in terms of what Abercrombie did with the characters. All of them, really. I got the feeling he was determined to wrap things up in a trilogy when what he'd set up in the first two books was a bit much to close out in the third. I still liked the trilogy overall, but as I said I thought Best Served Cold was better. Maybe it reflected greater writing experience. One consistent thing its that there was still no one you could like as a person.
     
  16. Elder the Dwarf

    Elder the Dwarf Maester

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    Kind of off-topic, but I liked several of the characters in the First Law, if only for part of the time. I loved Logen for the first two books and Luthar for the second half of the series. I really liked Collem for most of the series, although he certainly has his down swings. Ferro and Bayaz I hated. Quai seemed like a pretty good guy, though. Oh, and Dogman, Threetrees, and Tul Duru were always great. Back on topic, I don't think there is a "dark lord" there. To me, Bayaz is more like Varys than Voldemort/Sauron.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2012
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