A Top Ten Tuesday topic, from The Broke and the Bookish, I’m interpreting their topic as best friendship in books. I managed to come up with 8–next week, I’ll do a follow-up post on the same topic, but in non-book media.
1. InCryptid series by Seanan McGuire
A family (the Prices) of cryptozoologists carry the mission of protecting cryptids from humans and vice versa. Sometimes the Covenant of St. George (a pro-human group interested in wiping out cryptids, who really hate the Price family) will make this hard. Sometimes, a rampaging cryptid will.
The network of family and friends that the protagonists have is very sweet. The Prices seem to have adopted various of their friends as family or practically family, especially the ones who needed the ties. They’re loyal to each other, and make for really good backup when trouble starts brewing. The friendships the Prices share with people who have their own outside ties and loyalties are more complicated, but that has its own appeal.
2. Protector of the Small Quartet by Tamora Pierce
In medieval Europe-esque Tortall, Keladry (Kel) is the first girl to openly enter the training program to become a knight. She manages to amass several groups of good people as steadfast friends.
There are the girl she knew from her childhood, when her parents were ambassadors to a foreign country–girls also trained in some combat, who make later appearances in the books due to growing alliance between the countries. There’s the group of guys she came into knighthood alongside, especially the ever-sarcastic Neal who shares many of her values if not her methods, and the boisterous Owen who broke the mold by actually being grateful when Kel helped him against bullies at school. Then there’s the men she served with as a squire, and finally the refugees in the camp she was responsible for.
Kel just goes around being an awesome person and forming strong bonds with people through her competence and consideration. It’s fantastic, and she’s fantastic.
3. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
In 19th century New York City, two supernatural creatures come to hide and live amongst the local immigrant communities. The core friendship in this story is between the golem and the jinni, both supernatural creatures trapped by human constraints in a human world–and that’s pretty much all they have in common. They’re very different people, with different values and personalities, which leads them to clash quite a bit.
To top it off, there’s a whole slew of supporting cast, each with their own values and beliefs. And they all clash a lot. But there’s a core theme of kindness. If it wasn’t for the characters’ willingness to reach out to people who needed it, whether or not they wanted it, no one would ever get anywhere.
4. His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik
Laurence is an English naval captain during an alternate history version of the Napoleonic Wars, where dragons are important air forces in war. He captures an enemy ship that has a dragon egg, and unfortunately, the egg hatches before the seamen manage to reach shore and get it to a trained handler! Now, the dragon is bonded to Laurence, and Laurence doesn’t know the first thing about aerial warfare.
Laurence and Temeraire’s relationship is kind of a mix between a paternal one (due to Laurence’s age and him being Temeraire’s caretaker for all of T’s life) and an interspecies friendship. But however you choose to classify it, it’s adorable. Laurence also ends up making friendships among his fellow aviators once he joins their ranks, though he admittedly had a few false starts.
5. So Long a Letter by Mariama Bâ
Okay, it’s not sci-fi, and that’s very weird for me. But it belongs on a list about friendship. I read it for a class on Sub-Saharan African Literature a long time ago. This book documents the friendship between two very different women, with opposite stances of gender equality, in 20th century Senegal.
It also has an eminently quotable passage on friendship: “Friendship has splendors that love knows not. It grows stronger when crossed, whereas obstacles kill love. Friendship resists time, which wearies and severs couples. It has heights unknown to love.”
6. Lions of al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay
I know I put this on lists all the time, but 1) it’s fantastic and 2) it really can’t be left out of a list on friendship. The entire conflict that the book is addressing is made personal through friendship. The story is a historical fantasy version based on the Christian-Muslim conflict in the Iberian peninsula, before Christian forces drove out the Muslims. A fantasy style pseudo-Christian, pseudo-Muslim, and pseudo-Jew develop a strong friendship in a neutral territory, before being dragged back into the religious conflict through their own personal webs of loyalties.
7. Kushiel/Naamah books by Jacqueline Carey
These books consist of three trilogies of alternate history fantasies–following either the characters of Phedre, a courtesan/spy, Imriel, a prince whose mother was a traitor, and Moirin, a half-foreign rustic with some royal blood going back a few generations. There are these really nice bits in all of these books (in the midst of all the worldbuilding and politics–there’s plenty of room for everything in these doorstoppers) where people form connections that just trump expectations for how their relationships should play out.
Phedre somehow manages to have a bond with her worst enemy. Imriel, miserable at being forced into an arranged marriage when he’s in love with someone else, forms a friendship with his new wife without falling in love with her–he loves the same person he always has. When he’s away at a foreign university, he comes to form connections there–my favorite is with his chosen professor, initially introduced to us while covered in pigeons. Moirin befriends women with involvement with men she is/has been involved with, left and right. Sometimes it’s nice to see this kind of extraordinary conduct in fiction.
8. Fire Logic by Laurie J. Marks
Shaftal has been invaded, leading to periods of war as the natives and the new settlers clash. It’s been a while since I’ve read these books, but the image that remains in my mind whenever I think of it, is of the main cast all huddled on a floor while planning their next move. They don’t aim for battles, being generally more inclined to conflict resolution. And while they don’t all agree with each other, or even like each other, there’s still ties of loyalty enough that they’re a strong core group.
I have some fond memories of this series, and really need to get around to the third book, which wasn’t even out back when I was reading this. My high school self remembers this as being an absolutely brilliant series, and I believe my current overly-critical adult self will agree, but I can’t be sure until I go back to it.