Best character-first SF/fantasy?

Hi, everyone!

I love science fiction and fantasy. But too many books in these genres fail to make me deeply invested in the main character/s. The ones I’ve read tend to be plot-first, action-first, or world-building-first, leaving the main characters flat and uninteresting.

What are the best character-first SF/fantasy books you’ve read?


For a sci-fi series that truly focuses on the main character/character-first, try the Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold. The series is a relatively long one, following Miles Vorkosigan’s life which gets ever more complex as the series continues, but starting with Shards of Honor (actually that’s book 2, but book 1 is the only in the series which doesn’t follow Miles Vorkosigan). However, Falling Free, which is book 1 in the series, is worth reading as it essentially comprises the backstory for several of the later books. In fact, even Shards of Honour which starts the Vorkosigan line, introducing Mile’s father (before Miles is born), so you could argue it’s not quite character-first, but …

Or for epic fantasy, there are the two Chronicles (3 books each) of Thomas Covenant (book 1 being Lord Foul’s Bane. Yes there is a whole fantasy world, obviously—it’s an epic fantasy, but without Thomas Covenant and his unwillingness to take up the mantle which drives the story, there would be no story.

Both of these are quite old, though, so maybe others could suggest something more modern?


Thanks for sharing! I’ll check them out!


I love the Honor Harrington Series ( SF) from David Weber. Honor is a relatively flat arc character, but in a good sense. Her sense of duty changes the characters around her.
But be prepared for looong space battles too. I often skimmed them, because I read for the character arcs, but a friend of mine said it was the best part of the book.
" The green rider" is also a character driven book ( the first books in the series, do not know the later ones).
Elantris and Mistborn from Brandon Sanderson are also character driven…


Awesome! Thanks for the suggestions!

Also going back a while, the Robert Aspirin-edited Thieves’ World anthologies invterwove (weaved?) a complex web of character-first short stories with strong character arcs in one setting. The individual plots didn’t matter so much as the conflicting needs and wants of the extensive cast of characters. It’s a high watermark I still aspire to after some thirty years.


Sounds fantastic! Thank you!

Some of the best character-first SFF books I’ve read in the last couple years are from the Inspirational market: Patrick Carr’s The Staff and the Sword trilogy, Morgan Bussee’s Ravenwood Saga, and Gillian Bronte Adams’ The Songkeeper Chronicles.

The Staff and the Sword is an adult fantasy set that feels like epic fantasy, but gets you invested in the MC right off and develops him throughout all three books.

The Ravenwood Saga is technically YA, but has broad appeal for adults too. Bussee draws you into a fantasy world, but does so by connecting you to the MC first and following her through the trilogy-spanning story that explores the culture and world Bussee’s created. And it’s available in audiobook too.

The Songkeeper Chronicles is clearly YA, but the message presented is so powerful, it shouldn’t matter what age you are, it’s worth reading. The MC is introduced right away, and I immediately felt for her. Though there were things about this set that I don’t particularly care for (overly thick prose, an annoying secondary character voice, and a couple minor things) it was well worth the time taken to read it, and it spoke to me in a way nothing else has. I cried for several days after finishing book three. I’m going to go through it again, but this time, I’m listening to the audiobooks to avoid some of the issues I had when I read it.

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