First off, HAPPY BELATED VALENTINE’S DAY everyone! Here’s my tribute to the holiday of love.
First off, I will admit that I am a sucker for tales of romance. One of the best things I love to find in a story is the unfolding of a beautifully growing love story between two characters, whether main, secondary, or tertiary. And the best things I love to find in those romantic stories is just a whisper of the identity of that couple, what makes them work so great, what makes them mesh, and at the same time, what makes them pit themselves against each other, and how they manage to stay together despite these moments of conflict. A person’s significant other has often been referred to as something like the “ultimate best friend”, and I like that idea. I’m not necessarily talking about soul mates. I prefer the term “kindred spirits”. People do change and grow apart over time as much as they can manage to stay together, and so these spirits collide and then part and that’s how it goes.***
I suppose what I like is the musicality and harmony, two people who work in sync, see eye to eye, and have each other’s backs and look out for each other, no matter what. There’s also a poignancy that I look for, and for me creates the best literary couples. The worst can bring out the best in a couple at times, those testing, trying moments of life and death where we can see the depth of what these people mean to each other. It’s the kind of moving and profound thing that creates that tug-at-the-heartstrings feeling even if you aren’t aware of the reason.
So I was thinking that for Valentine’s Day, I would compile a list of top couples that I’ve read in books. I’m covering a range here, from Young Adult to classic works to contemporary mainstream. These are the couples that made my heart ache their love was so beautiful, and I’m kind of rating them on a scale of how big that ache was. I also look for how well these relationships were developed, and how much I really believed in them and wanted them to succeed, and not just because the book told me to. I will admit too that a lot of the ranking was based on a gut feeling as well.
And keep in mind, this is all opinion based. That’s why there’s a comments section.
ALSO, keep in mind that these are all couples from books that I’ve actually read. I’m aware that there are books, like the Delirium Trilogy, or The Fault in Our Stars, that may contain great couples in their own right–or maybe they don’t. I don’t know. I haven’t read those books. So I don’t think it’d be fair to put those on this list.
And finally, keep in mind, there are going to be spoilers here for people who haven’t read these books before, so proceed with caution.
Without further ado then, here they are.
* Arwen and Aragorn, and Faramir and Eowyn, from The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Yeah, so I’m gonna seem like a hypocrite for putting these two couples on here when I’ve actually only ever seen the movies, I’ve never read the books. (And while I have read The Hobbit, I can’t put Tauriel and Kili on here at all because they were only in the movie, not the book. Otherwise I might’ve. Figures.) But that’s why they’re in the honorable mentions, because to be honest, I couldn’t not put them on this list somehow. Aragorn and Arwen are one of those quintessential love stories you find in ancient tales–precisely what Tolkien was going for, of course–and Faramir and Eowyn were just simply sweet, mostly because they were two sad people who found each other and made each other happy in that way. That kind of simplicity in love works really well for me: in terms of the film, they only really get developed in the extended cut, but Peter Jackson used that limited time very well indeed.
* Cathy and Heathcliffe, from Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte
Okay, so these two were, technically, PERFECT for each other. Being childhood friends (an angle I’m always fond of in a love story), they grew terribly close to the point that they probably would have ended up together if it hadn’t been for extraneous circumstances and certain flawed variables. Actually, they were perfect for each other…in the wrong way. The things that united them best were acting cruelly towards others as much as to each other when one had a bone to pick with the other. Cathy might have fancied herself happy being with Heathcliffe, but she was far too dazzled with the wealth of Linton to turn him down when he proposed marriage, giving in to her ambitions to become a great lady in a part of England that was very much cut off from civilization. Heathcliffe didn’t take that particularly well, and when he returned from running off (emo fashion) and usurped the property of Wuthering Heights, the bitterness between him and Cathy created a storm that destroyed most of the lives around them and nearly did so to the rest. But this would’ve happened anyway, even if they had gotten married in the first place. See what I mean by perfect in the wrong way?
But they are still awesome nonetheless, so, they make the mentions list.
Time for the actual top list.
Top Book Couples List
15) Matthew and Diana, from the All Souls Trilogy, by Deborah Harkness
I believe this series has been aptly called, “Twilight for adults”, and in some ways that’s definitely the case. But what I like about Diana and Matthew was what they had what Twilight lacked: there is actual development. It’s a VERY long time into the book before Diana and Matthew actually become an item, and what they’ve both got going for them individually is that they have actual personalities beyond confessing their love for each other and blah, blah, blah. That and Diana’s a freaking witch, so she’s got power in her own right. Indeed, there are times when Matthew has to sweep in and save her, but there are moments when she saves him too, and I mean literally, not just the, “saved him from loneliness” thing (though there is that too). That and the two of them have been set on a path to solve a mystery of creation, why it is that humanoids were split into the four factions of humans, vampires, witches, and demons. These are questions that Twilight never bothered to ask. There were a few moments though where it kind of dragged, and I almost wanted them to move things a little faster. I like that they took more time than Bella and Edward did at realizing their feelings for each other, that it felt a little more organic, but at the same time I recall saying to myself, “Get on with it” for all the times Matthew tried to put off that “first kiss moment”. Argh.
I would also like to just slip in as another great couple from this book, Diana’s aunts, Sarah and Emily, who simply prove to be just in being themselves that they are the best lesbian witches EVAR.
14) Garrett and Kate from Twilight: Breaking Dawn, by Stephanie Meyer
Because despite their not being the main couple, they’re an F-ING BETTER LOVE STORY THAN BELLA AND EDWARD EVER WERE!!!!!!!!!!!
There was a smidgen of development between these two on the sidelines too which I enjoyed. (*sigh* Lee Pace, you made these movies worth it).
I may have a bit of a Lee Pace bias going here.
Seriously though, they did more for me in their short amount of page development than Bella and Edward did. They were both vampires from the start, so no emo issues there, and the chemistry between them is pure fun, which is something else I look for in that development thing that’s so essential *wink*. That’s why in the film, all of my favorite scenes involve the two of them. (“If we live through this, I’ll follow you anywhere woman.” *shiver*)
13) Katniss and Peeta, and Finnick and Annie, from The Hunger Games Trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
Okay so I lumped these two together like I did with Arwen and Aragorn, and Eowyn and Faramir because they’re from the same book, but they rank about the same anyway, though I have to admit I’d rank Finnick and Annie slightly higher.
In the case of Katniss and Peeta, I couldn’t in good conscience not have them on this list. There were a couple sweet moments I do recall, like where Peeta gives Katniss the pearl out of the oyster in the Third Quarter Quell arena, and it tore me to shreds when Peeta was highjacked and wanted to kill Katniss because he’d basically been brainwashed (looking forward to that in the Mockingjay movie), but then Katniss kinda ruined it for me for basically giving up on trying to get Peeta back. I’m not saying she was wrong to face reality, but…I don’t know, for me, it felt like she was abandoning him, and that just nettled me. If it hadn’t been for events that followed, they probably wouldn’t have grown back together at all.
Finnick and Annie, I think, is pretty obvious: their story was awfully bittersweet. Finnick was this Adonis of a victor that had all these people fawning over him, but there was only one woman for him in his heart, and that was fellow District 4 victor Annie, who’d been mentored by him as well as by Mags during her time in the Hunger Games. I had flashbacks of the trauma of reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows when Finnick met his end in the worst possible way–“Oh God, it’s Lupin and Tonks all over again!!!”–but I like to think that Annie and their son, “little Finn” managed to make a happy life for themselves in the aftermath of the climactic events of Mockingjay.
12) Levin and Kitty from Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
So I went into Anna Karenina knowing that it involved a married woman of the aristocracy who has a torrid affair with another man. Naturally I was keen to read myself a good story of classic scandal and passion. But of course, this is Tolstoy, so the text was quite dense with philosophical reflections and aspects of politics (I’m still wending my way through War and Peace). At the same time though, there’s another couple in the book that I think is a kind of counter to that of Anna and her illicit lover, Vronsky, and that’s Levin and Kitty. Their’s is perfect in every way that Anna and Vronksy’s relations are flawed, not just in that they’re legitimate (they fall in love as single people and get married), but they also create an honest life of honest labor for themselves after that initial trouble of getting the two together (which creates one of the cutest marriage proposals ever, again cute in its simplicity). The fact that they succeeded where poor Anna and Vronksy, and Anna and her actual husband, Karenin for that matter, failed, made the book all the better (and more bearable to read).
11) Elizabeth and Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
I will admit I was not initially all that keen to read Pride and Prejudice. I had seen the Wishbone adaptation as a child (you know, the show about the Jack Russell terrier who reenacted works of literature and was absolutely ADORABLE in his Sherlock Holmes outfit?) so that was my only exposure to the storyline. After I saw the movie though, I found myself a little keener. And I was pleasantly rewarded for it. Jane Austen, as always, is indeed her own brand of regency fluff, but she creates dark moments well enough (maybe I ought to have put Margaret and Brandon from Sense and Sensibility on here instead?) that when things finally fall into place at that happy ending, the happiness is genuine. There’s nothing particularly raw in the story, not like Emily Bronte’s Cathy and Heathcliffe in Wuthering Heights, that’s not Austen’s style, but the passion’s still there, if a little more self-contained. Which is probably for the best. Elizabeth and Darcy themselves are perfect in the way that Cathy and Heathcliffe should have been (if they’d wanted to maintain a proper relationship anyway), personalities complementing and encouraging the best in each other, as well as finding themselves quite happy in each other’s company once they got over their initial prejudiced first impressions. (First Impressions was actually Austen’s original title, see what I did there?) Austen in fact says these sorts of things herself in the text. So I’ll allow it to speak for itself from here on in.
10) Audra and Vane from Let the Sky Fall, by Shannon Messenger
Now here’s a supernatural romance I enjoyed well enough, mostly because instead of vampires, it managed to pull off something a little more obscure: sylphs–air elementals, basically like fairies born of the element of air. Not only that, but in this case, it isn’t some issue of one’s a human and one isn’t, they’re both sylphs, and Vane, for his part, has a kind of classic destiny in that he’s slated to become the king of the sylphs (yes, they have a king). So I like the folk tale element here. And the angst in here (it comes with the territory) is legitimate. Audra feels responsible for the deaths of Vane’s parents as much as she does that of her own father, and there’s plenty of others who blame her too (including her mother), so she’s not exactly just doing it to fill some emo void. The tension between these two is real too, there’s a forbidden love aspect, in that Vane is in fact betrothed to another sylph, but Audra’s the one he’s falling for. He’s seen Audra in his dreams, but not for some psychic mumbo-jumbo reason, but actually because Audra’s used the winds to watch over him until the time comes when he’s ready to learn his true identity and regain his powers as a sylph to fight their greatest enemy, a group of rebel sylphs known as Stormers. S0 there’s some decent build up here. And while they do end up an item, the ending of the first book is kind of bittersweet in that Audra does ask that she be given time alone to sort out her issues concerning her mother (she turns out to be kind of a crazy murderess), and Vane gives her that space, trusting her to return (which I assume she does judging by the cover of the second book that’s forthcoming). There are a bit of the usual teen romance tropes here and there, but they’re done well enough that they don’t distract or bother.
Once again we have a couple that has some level of badassery, and that includes wind-wielding, wind-slicing sylphs.
9) Lena and Ethan from Beautiful Creatures, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
This is a little more like Twilight, in that it’s a supernatural romance where one person is human and the other is…supernatural. But instead of vampires, we’ve got witches–or rather, “Casters”, and humans are referred to as “mortals” (you know, like in Sabrina, the Teenage Witch). And again, the story’s written mostly from the perspective of Ethan, the mortal, the one outside the supernatural situation so we as the reader can sympathize and learn about the Caster world with him. But unlike Bella, Ethan has a freaking PERSONALITY (I can’t stress that enough). He has a real reason to be a bit depressed with his life too–he lives with his dad, yes, but his dad is basically an anti-social zombie since his wife died recently, so Ethan’s motherless and in many ways fatherless too. Lena just wants to be mortal, but unlike the citizens of Forks, Washington, who can’t seem to figure out (like the Quileutes do) that there are freaking vampires running around, the sleepy southern community of Gatlin county is very aware that there are “evil witches” about, and Lena’s under pressure against a town that hates her for being different. So yeah, I’d say the stakes are far higher here–not to mention her own mother’s trying to kill her (Jeez, what is it with her and Audra’s mothers both being psychopaths?). The point though is that the danger for Lena and Ethan to be together here is far more real than in Twilight, and quite as much as in Let the Sky Fall. But their relationship had something more. Yes, I know again that the two of them dreamed about each other, but not having read the books following Beautiful Creatures, I’m going by instinct and floating bits off the Internet and guessing that Lena and Ethan have a connection to a couple very similar to their situation from back in the days of the American Civil War that runs far deeper than just that their situations mirror each other. And the idea of reincarnated/lovers-from-the-past is a concept that always piques my interest as much as the childhood friend storyline. Lena and Ethan find each other in a world that won’t accept them for their differences, and the rebel couple is always all kinds of awesome. Plus, Lena saves Ethan from the brink of death and ends up with one green eye and one gold eye (this has to do with the Claiming thing).
That’s pretty cool.
8) The Count and Haydee from The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas
This was not a particularly prominent storyline in the original Count of Monte Cristo, however it evoked something in me. I’ll do my best to make this concise, being that like Anna Karenina, Monte Cristo is another one of those massively complex classic works. In the basic sense, both the Count and Haydee have been wronged by the same person, the Count’s old friend, Fernand Mondego. And while both characters are driven by a desire for vengeance initially, Haydee, melancholy in her state as a dethroned princess, finds that taking revenge brings her no happiness, and hopes to save the Count from falling into the same despair, since she’s fallen in love with him naturally. He saved her from the hands of slavers, and she looks on him as her savior from misery. The Count, for his part, having lost his old love, Mercedes, in his pursuit of vengeance, doesn’t openly acknowledge his new feelings for Haydee until he realizes that she feels love for him in return, and with her he finds salvation from a future he once believed destined to be filled with nothing but emptiness. This sort of development has a poetic sweetness to it that I also enjoy, when two lost souls meet and find a destination in each other.
The other couple featured in the story, Maximilien and Valentine, is also terribly sweet, but the love between the Count and Haydee had a little extra sweetness in the attachment of a theme of redemption that had me closing the very thick book with a sense of great satisfaction that after all the Count went through he managed to find a future after all.
7) Jane and Rochester from Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre is just a bit lighter, I think, than her sister Emily’s Wuthering Heights, which is quite utterly bleak in retrospect. Though it is by no means as light as Pride and Prejudice, for the most part, is. Actually it’s pretty twisted too when you really think about it, seeing as how Rochester’s big secret is that he’s actually married to a crazy woman whom he keeps locked up in the attack since she’s such a danger to all around her and so vulgar in her behavior. He finds some happiness in falling in love with Jane, the governess he’s hired for his ward, and though she returns his feelings with equal fervency, the courtship between the two of them–a delightful kind of teasing match of like minds–when she finds about this secret wife just as she’s about to marry him, Jane’s moral convictions force her to leave Rochester’s company, despite the pain it causes both of them. In the end though, moral reward wins out in classic fashion, and Rochester’s wife dies in a fire that she started, and though it leaves Rochester horribly disfigured from having tried to rescue her, Jane returns to him, having heard him calling to her in her mind (she’s not a crazy one, remember), leaving the new life she tried to carve for herself as a school teacher on the moors. Though she received the attentions of a young man vastly different from Rochester in every way (including being conventionally good-looking rather than being broodingly unappealing in physical terms), Jane’s heart sees past all that, and sees beauty in Rochester because she loves him for his spirit. They are–here’s that term again–kindred spirits, such spirits that find their way back to each other despite the obstacles that stand in their way. Definitely the kind of story that left my heart gushing with feels. REGENCY FEELS!!!
6) Alina and Mal from Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo
This one, I will say, right off the bat, I did enjoy very much. The only reason I haven’t gone on to read Siege and Storm, the next book, is that, aside from my massive to-read list, etc, is that I’m afraid of what’ll happen in the last book. I’m afraid that in the end, Alina and Mal somehow won’t end up together, like one of them’ll die. The thing about this love story is that, unlike Katniss and Peeta, it threw me for a loop–I thought that there might be something between Alina and the Darkling. There kind of was. There was a kind of Jane Eyre-Rochester thing going there for a bit, and then the Darkling shows his true colors and Mal comes back into the picture in Alina’s hour of need. The two are on the run for a bit, trying to find their way back to how things used to be, back to when they were childhood friends (they grew up as orphans together on a Duke’s estate–there’s that childhood friends thing again, lol). They finally realize their feelings for each other and have their first kiss, only to be found by the Darkling and separated again. Alina had made Mal promise her that he’d kill her to keep the Darkling from getting his hands on her if ever they were found, but Mal loses his nerve and can’t bring himself to kill the girl he loves. Mal is then sentenced to death for Alina’s having run away from the Darkling (tension, much?). Though Alina manages to rescue Mal, the two of them are left at the end of the book, still on the run and bound for new lands as they try together to figure out a way to defeat the Darkling, two lovers against the world. Totally awesome.
Maybe I will finish the series after all.
5) Alexia and Conall from the Soulless books, by Gail Carriger
Talk about obscure! I’m not sure if too many people have heard of these books, but they’re great, and I’m in the middle of finishing Changeless, the second book, after the debut volume, Soulless. And no, there’s no bestiality (actually, when Alexia touches Conall, he becomes fully human and is no longer a werewolf at all). But these two reinforce the reason why I not only enjoy Victorian romances (although true ones would contain less sexual innuendo and the like) but also the reason why I like romances between a strong-willed young woman and a disgruntled werewolf (and a Scottish one no less). Their relationship is at once quite humorous to read and extremely beautiful in its execution. It’s a kind of blending of Austenian wit and Dickensian loquaciousness with a style that manages to retain all this but still reach a contemporary audience. Or rather one that enjoys the nostalgia of the 19th century but also the technologies of good old-fashioned steampunk. I’ve been made privy to events that happen later on in the series but I know I will be pleasantly rewarded as a reader with touching moments as well as humorous ones, which is what makes this relationship so enjoyable to read. There’s romantic sentiment combined with humor, and part of that sentiment comes from the humor. Plus again there’s the whole “couple against the world” element in here again. But this time it’s with werewolves and badass parasols.
4) Odd Thomas and Stormy Llewelyn from Odd Thomas, by Dean Koontz
I just finished reading this book recently, and while the book built itself up to a climax that was quite short-lived to be honest (though relatively satisfying nonetheless), the real kick-in-the-gut was Odd figuring out in the aftermath of the shooting at the mall that his beloved girlfriend Stormy did not in fact survive, and that the only reason he can still see her is because of his power to see the “lingering dead”. Actually, this would have been a kick-in-the-gut for me, but I’d already had this tragic twist ruined for me. Nevertheless, it depressed the hell out of me, because the romance itself was played out so well, especially considering that most of the book itself covers a timeline of about two days for the most part. The term “kindred spirits” is definitely apt here: Odd and Stormy were only in their twenties, but they acted like a couple who’d been married for years. They were very much in tune with each other, and despite the fact that the belief in their love for each other stems from getting a print-out card from a carnival fortune teller machine (like in the movie Big) saying that they would be together forever (oh, the irony), Koontz manages to make this quite believable in Odd’s character and personality, and how Odd and Stormy act around each other, another pair that’s two lost souls finding a destination in each other. It’s very divine-mandate-romance meets the modern world, the kind of relationship that most twenty-somethings wish they could have so young. And I like that. Even if Stormy’s death was made all the sadder for it.
3) Romeo and Juliet, from…uh…Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare (maybe)
I couldn’t really bring myself to not include these guys on this list. And there are some who’ve argued that Romeo and Juliet would actually make a terrible couple, since their relationship is so based on teenage impulses. That’s probably true. If they both hadn’t died, it’s possible that they could’ve fallen apart like any couple that marries too young for the wrong reasons. But I’m inclined to think that in this case, that’s not the point, going off of a video the Nostalgia Critic put up on YouTube asking if Romeo and Juliet well…sucked. He made the argument that perhaps the play itself was more about prejudice rather than romance. In this sense then, I would like to think that Romeo and Juliet’s impulsive love story serves as something to pit itself against the grudge match between the Capulet and the Montague families, demonstrating an innocent example of what love and youth tend to do despite those who are old and full of hate. I get this image of a red rose growing amongst thorns, and that in and of itself is what, to me, makes Romeo and Juliet’s love story so beautiful, if tragically short. And that would serve as a very good reason why their storyline’s endured the test of time. Though not just the idea itself, that kind of thing was done all the time in the Elizabethan theatre, two young people from houses who hate each other falling in love despite that: Shakespeare (or whoever wrote it, whatever theories you subscribe to) sprinkles it with some beautiful poetry, and that’s the magic of it.
He MADE the balcony love confession into a THING, just with his words.
You can write anything that’s been done before, but what makes it stand out is how you do it. And Romeo and Juliet achieves this poignantly to say the least (just ask all the groundlings weeping as Juliet stabs herself and falls dead upon her beloved Romeo’s body).
2) Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks from the Harry Potter series, by J. K. Rowling
Okay, so there were a few couples I could’ve picked from this book series–Harry and Ginny, Ron and Hermione (though as we all know now, Rowling’s said they may need a little counseling to come through), or even Bill and Fleur–but my favorite out of all of those was the very tiny romantic subplot involving Lupin and Tonks. (I’m a sucker for those subplots, aren’t I?) Considering my #4, this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, so we’ve got the werewolf thing covered (I think it’s that wolves are so awesome, as discussed in my previous post ;D), and like Finnick and Annie in The Hunger Games, Lupin and Tonks have a bittersweet romance that manages some happiness before the tragic end (though instead of just Lupin dying, it’s him and Tonks both–I don’t think I’ve ever really recovered, and that’s why I had to write a fanfic about their relationship just to give myself much needed therapy on the matter). But unlike Finnick and Annie, we see a little more development in their relationship. It’s still in the background, but we get a sense of the obstacles Lupin and Tonks face, the fact that even though Lupin returns her feelings, he’s cautious about being with Tonks because of his being a werewolf. And then in Deathly Hallows things get complicated when Tonks gets pregnant shortly after they’re married and Lupin has a bit of a freakout and runs off, afraid to face the possibility of his child inheriting his lycanthropy. Harry though manages to knock some sense into the guy, and as we see later on when the baby’s born, Lupin’s more than overjoyed at having become a father. I read so much in the subtext of a character who was getting all the things he never thought he would ever get because of his condition, and the fact that he was made so happy that Harry observes much of Lupin’s youth shining through as he’s never seen in him before. THAT’S how happy this whole thing ended up making him.
Well, then of course the inevitable happens. Suffice to say, the second Lupin asked Harry to be godfather to his and Tonks’ son, I knew he was a dead man, and Tonks probably as well.
Lowest point in summer reading. EVAR.
But, as a shameless plug, here’s another link to my fanfic if you’re like me and still can’t quit let go of this awesome pair because the whole series has had that much of an impact on you. And Lupin and Tonks WERE awesome. Despite the lack of any detailed development, there was just something about the two of them that fit, and part of that comes through in Rowling’s writing of the characters. Yes, admittedly Tonks’ turning out to be pining over Lupin when he was rejecting her in Half-Blood Prince was kind of a red herring (since through the whole book Harry kept thinking it was Sirius with whom Tonks was in love, this being after Sirius had died in the previous book). But when it turned out to be Lupin, I was not only overjoyed, but reflecting upon it, the pairing just seemed instinctual. Tonks had this spritely kind of energy, and Lupin was a little more soft-spoken, but he had a history of making mischief with his friends as a boy, and I like to think that Tonks encouraged that fun side of him to come back out again after being dormant for all the years that James and Lily were dead and Sirius was believed to have been a traitor. And at the same time, I like to think that Lupin helped Tonks to gain a little more maturity in a good way.
Again, kindred spirits. Complements, as well as differences that manage to link together anyway. Good stuff there.
Too bad the movies kinda ruined it. (*takes moment to rage-fit and pull at hair*) But I will say that for the small amount of time that the actors were given, they managed to get a lot across.
Though the side of me that I think is the equivalent of what guys like about watching women kiss–the reason I like my yaoi fantasies from time to time–still likes to pair these two every now and then.
I even wrote an AU fanfic, along with my usual Lupin/Tonks ship stuff. So thank you, Movie 3. (Though I think people would’ve shipped them regardless.)
1) Finnikin and Isaboe, from The Chronicles of Lumatere Trilogy, by Melina Marchetta
As I said before in my post on “overlooked gems” in YA fiction, Finnikin of the Rock, the first book in The Chronicles of Lumatere Trilogy, is A-MAZING. Seriously, if you’re looking for a book packed with feels that can appeal to male and female readers both, that at the same time covers a lot of story and ground with just the right words placed in each sentence to create something overflowing yet concise (so as not to COMPLETELY overwhelm), you owe it to yourself to read these books. I’ve just finished the second, Froi of the Exiles, and have the last, Quintana of Charyn, on my t0-read list.
One of the best things about The Chronicles of Lumatere Trilogy, and therefore something that automatically wins glory points for me is the romance. Finnikin’s father Trevanion, has a love story that will rip your heart out and then gently put it glowing back inside your chest, and Froi in Froi of the Exiles manages to find a kindred spirit in a crazy princess who’s not as crazy as she seems, and certainly more than a little sad yet at the same time possessing a set of fangs. Finnikin’s childhood friend Lucian is matched with a woman from the seeming enemy country of Charyn, and at first hates her just being a Charynite, but it’s really only after he thinks she’s died of a plague that he realizes just how much he came to love her.
So WHY did I pick Finnikin and Isaboe in the end?
Well, in the first place, they’re the main couple in Finnikin of the Rock, the first book. Their story lines take a bit of a back seat in the next books, but we do see them build a family together, with Isaboe as queen of Lumatere and Finnikin as her consort (though for Isaboe, Finnikin is a king all to herself, referring to him as, “my king”). And the romance itself is equally as beautiful as that of the others. The setup for it is simply sweet in that happy nostalgic way, and it plays out much like a romance of old, like that between Aragorn and Arwen, but at the same time plays out with contemporary naturalism, like that of Odd Thomas and Stormy Llewellyn. Initially, Isaboe comes to Finnikin and his mentor, Sir Topher, under the alias of Evanjalin, and though Finnikin is initially angry with Isaboe not only for hiding the fact that she’s really the long-lost princess of Lumatere, but also the fact that her older brother, Balthasar is actually dead, he forgives her. Even before then, when she got him landed in prison with his father just to give his father a motivation to break out so he could be reunited with his guard to help free Lumatere from the imposter king, she proves herself to be willing to do what’s necessary even if it causes her pain, but at the same time comes to care deeply for Finnikin as much as he does for her, which is expressed at a critical point when Isaboe contracts the fever that’s been sweeping through the camps of many Lumateran refugees and Finnikin was struck with the fear that she might die. In a scene when he rushes to her side and takes her in his arms and kisses her fevered lips, my heart sang a chorus of romantic ecstasy.
This book gave me feels like no other book has, and the romantic elements were no exception. Melina Marchetta has the ability to write morally complex characters who are all tragic in their own way to varying degrees, all of whom cling to each other for hope or threaten to tear each other to pieces out of rage. She wove the hearts of Finnikin and Isaboe together very beautifully indeed, the courtship coming to a head in one of the best love-confession scenes I have ever read, mostly because it’s so full of two people who are bold in their declarations and deeply in love to the point of tears.
It’s only too bad that the only good pics I could find were two in existence practically (so I used them both), the first being a fan art image off of deviantART, drawn by bellaro, and the second being something I found off of the Goodreads page for Froi of the Exiles.
So that’s my list. And I gotta say, it was pretty fun to compile, and I’m glad I took the time to do it. It gave me a chance not only to reflect on the relationships I love so much from books and stories I love so much, but in that reflection it gave me an idea of where I want to go with couples in my novels from now on: I want to give the couples that I write that same sense of beauty and spontaneous romance, and sense of two hearts coming together and recognizing a likeness in each other that makes them want to spend the rest of their lives with each other. The kind of love that can withstand tempests and a world crumbling all around.
The kind of love that people will cheer for, because it’s just feels that damn good to root for it.
Now I send you off with a link in the pic below to an awesome vid about another couple that’s awesome, though in some ways is considered off the record since the writers keep it ambiguous on purpose.
Yes, it’s a Sherlock tribute, and I’m doing this in part for Valentine’s, and celebrating the fact that Season 3 just came out on DVD and I quiver with excitement even now, having obtained my copy. *giggles with glee*
And I promise the Desolation of Smaug review is forthcoming!
Until then, adieu.
***I had such high hopes for Twilight achieving this level of storytelling, but as you see from one of my listed couples, I had to wait until Breaking Dawn for two tertiary characters to do more of that in a few pages than what Edward and Bella managed throughout the entirety of the books. I still keep the books on my shelf, but more as a reminder of what NOT to write. To be fair, Stephanie Meyer is NOT God-awful. She just…*sigh*…exploited the “guilty pleasure” factor to the utmost, and created a relationship that was not just a little unrealistic but ENTIRELY realistic, and not simply because it involved vampires. That’s the last I’m going to say on the matter.
(All photos used in this post are property of their respective owners, creators, filmmakers, etc.)