“In my life, I’d had my share of fights, sometimes with fists, sometimes with knives, occasionally with a sword.”First line in The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt just spoke to me, so I knew I had to figure out a way to do it. The prompt in question is “books with your favorite trope/theme”, but because I had my issues fitting ten books to one trope or theme, I’ve picked five of my favorite tropes and two examples for each one. That still gives ten books.
Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, so head over there to check out upcoming topics. But let’s talk tropes!
Trope: Unlikeable main character
Description: I don’t mean the characters who have a few flaws that can easily be framed as positive traits, but the characters that you aren’t supposed to love. You are supposed to see their faults and understand them and thereby understand people different from yourself.
Example 1: The Betrayals by Bridget Collins
The Betrayals takes place at the exclusive academy Montverre where the students are educated in the mysterious grand jeu. I’ll go so far as to say that there isn’t a single likable character in this book but Léo Martin is an especially interesting example of this trope. I can’t say exactly why because this book is all too easy to spoil, but he was a big reason this book ended up as my favorite of 2021.
Example 2: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
The well-known story about Dorian Gray, a man obsessed with his own beauty, is a great example of this trope. As much as it’s a story about vanity and narcissism, it’s also about how beauty on the outside doesn’t always match the beauty on the inside. Dorian is not a kind man but actually, rather mean and selfish, and you’re really not meant to love him, only be fascinated by what he’s willing to do to keep his youthful look.
Trope: Everything is weird (seriously, I don’t know what to call this)
Description: Those books where you have absolutely no idea what’s going on. You just read and hope it starts to make sense, and the challenge is for you to figure out how it makes sense.
Example 1: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
The most obvious example of this trope is Piranesi where a guy named Piranesi is in a house with a lot of rooms, and that’s about the extent to which anyone can talk about this book without spoiling it. It’s weird, you don’t even know the genre and yet you feel you can figure it out if you just pay attention. And that’s how to get me hooked.
Example 2: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
The Starless Sea is often compared to Piranesi and rightfully so. The Starless Sea doesn’t reach the same level of weirdness, but with its story-within-a-story structure, you’re still left with the mystery of how the seemingly completely unrelated stories fit together. All the puzzle pieces are important in this beautiful book about love and fate.
Trope: Tyrannical government
Description: A dictator-like rule that suppresses the population or certain parts of it through manipulation, secrecy and brute force. Often personified by one man.
Example 1: Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness
I can confidently say that Patrick Ness is my favorite YA author and Chaos Walking is the trilogy that started it all. We follow Todd who lives in a village only populated by men and everyone can hear each other’s thoughts. The ‘tyrannical government’ element is the Mayor whom I still consider to be my favorite villain ever because he’s such a masterful manipulator. You know he’s wrong but you also find yourself agreeing with him, and I love it when books bring such complexity.
Example 2: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I can’t talk about the tyrannical government trope without mentioning the one that kills kids for sport. A lot of YA books deal with overthrowing a government, but no one, in my opinion, has managed this trope as well as The Hunger Games because it is so much more than just one man (Snow) being cruel. It’s also all of society that over 75 years has accepted that watching kids kill other kids is entertainment.
Trope: The cinnamonroll male character
Description: The male character that is soft, kind and generally a good person. There is a feisty version and an unfeisty version, but I don’t care; I love both equally and by that I mean if a book has this kind of character, they will be my favorite character by a long shot. Bonus point if they’re the main character (but they rarely are). (This is my favorite trope ever).
Example 1: The Daevabad Trilogy by S. A. Chakraborty
A rich fantasy trilogy based on Middle Eastern mythology, but the character that represents this trope is Jamshid. He’s an important side character that I love so much I can barely talk about him in words that make sense. He is sweet, fierce and intensely loyal to the people in his life. Can I please get a companion novel about just him? Please?
Example 2: The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley
There is much to love about this duology but the main character Thaniel is probably why it holds a special place in my heart. Besides being kind-hearted, he also has a subtle intelligence that makes him able to treat people respectfully and lovingly, if they deserve it, of course, because don’t think being kind means he’ll let people walk all over him.
Trope: Royals out of their element
Description: Simply put, royals doing non-royal-like things like being on the run, being captured, being forced to live like a peasant, etc.
Example 1: Dragonfly by Julia Golding
Dragonfly is about a prince and a princess from two kingdoms whose cultures couldn’t be more different from each other, but they are forced to marry to form an important alliance. They are pulled “out of their element” as they are also kidnapped, which forces them to find a way of working together. It’s been a while since I read this book, but I remember flying through it because it was so interesting to see these characters work their way through unfamiliar situations.
Example 2: Ascendance by Jennifer A. Nielsen
I don’t want to be too detailed about explaining the trope in this series because it involves spoilers, but you have the second book titled The Runaway King so…
These are some highly addictive, action-packed books that are so good that I really should continue with the series sometime soon.
That was a lot of books that I dearly love, and if you have any recommendations for books with these tropes, I’m always looking for more. Maybe one day I’ll have read enough to make a top ten for just one trope. Other than that, I would love to know what you consider your favorite trope!