Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Top 10 Literary Tricksters

A great part of reading is feeling a connection with the book's main character. Sometimes you relate to that character, but many times you can admire a character who is completely different from you. There are many ways that a character can be appealing; they can be sympathetic because they're going through, or have gone through, hardship. They can be brave or good, stand-up people. Determination and resourcefulness are also ways that characters can win your regard. One of my favorite types of character, however, are the intelligent, wily ones. The tricksters. They're clever and, yes, tricky, and surprise us with their clever plots and cognitions. These figures are archetypal — quite a few pantheistic religions have a trickster god. Moreover, they're tremendously fun characters to read about. Books with tricksters are usually rollicking reads. So, without further ado, here are my favorite literary tricksters!

1. Eugenides from Megan Whalen Turner's The Thief series.  Eugenides is an elemental trickster: acrobatic, foolish, and scheming.  He has devoted his life to serving the god of thieves, and his audacious capers are enacted for political purposes and to critique society.

Trickiest Tricks:
Stealing Hamaithes' Gift for the Queen of Eddis after playing a long con on the Magus of Sounnis. Kidnapping the Queen of Attolia in order to propose marriage. Destroying the House of Erondites from his bed.

2. Locke Lamora from Scott Lynch's Gentleman Bastard series.  Locke shares a lot in common with Eugenides, only he is nastier.  He is singled out as a child from a group of miserable, pickpocketing orphans as a particularly bad seed and is elected to apprentice with a guild of thieves.

Trickiest Tricks:
His Sisyphean accumulation of vast stolen wealth, all to be paid to the goddess of death.

3. Sage from Jennifer A. Nielsen's Ascendance trilogy. We first meet the deft, sassy Sage in The False Prince, as an orphan who is snatched from the streets because of his resemblance to the presumably dead Prince Jaron.  He, along with other orphans of similar appearance, are trained to impersonate the missing prince, and reclaim the throne as a puppet king for a corrupt nobleman.

Trickiest Tricks:
His successful hijacking of the impersonation plot to suit his own agenda.

4. The Scarlet Pimpernel from Baroness Orczy's Scarlet Pimpernel series. The oldest caper novel I've read, The Scarlet Pimpernel features a mysterious vigilante who smuggles French aristocrats to England before they meet their end under the guillotine.  He uses ridiculous disguises and comes up with absurd scenarios to fool his enemies, most especially the overly serious Citizen Chauvelin.

Trickiest Trick:
Assuming the personality of a foppish fool to make British society, and his wife, think that he is too mentally insufficient to be the Scarlet Pimpernel.

5. Amaranthe Lockdon from Lindsay Buroker's Emperor's Edge series.  Amaranthe's trickster talent is her gift of gab; she is able to talk the most recalcitrant people into doing the things she wants them to do.  This ability enables her to band together and lead a group of vigilante outlaws and change the course of the history.

Trickiest Tricks:
Convincing the assassin Sicarius to collaborate with her moments after he almost murders her.  Subverting countless enemy guards.

6. Cassel Sharpe from Holly Black's Curseworkers series. Coming from a long line of con artists, Cassel manages to squirm his way out of life-threatening scrapes, instigated by the FBI, his own family, and the magical mafia.

Trickiest Trick:
Slipping out of the FBI's grip and demolishing a Senator's political career with one unhinged speech.

7. Mr. Fox from Ronald Dahl's The Fantastic Mr. Fox. The classic children's author creates the original Daniel Ocean in this story about the lengths foxes will go to eat chicken.

Trickiest Trick:
Burrowing underneath Boggis, Bunce, and Bean's chicken house and cider cellar.

8. Frankie from E. Lockhart's The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.  A clever sophomore at the elite New England boarding school Alabaster, Frankie uses her indomitable smarts to navigate and conquer patriarchal waters.

Trickiest Trick:
Encouraging Alpha to take credit for all of her pranks.

9. Jacky Faber from L. A. Meyer's Bloody Jack series.  The protagonist of an epic historical fiction series, foxy Jacky Faber eludes the noose and sails across the world with her posse of loyal comrades.

Trickiest Tricks:
Her successful assent to captaincy aboard a British warship. Organizing a group of schoolgirls in an escape from the slaver ship,Bloodhound.

10. Veronica Mars from Rob Thomas' Veronica Mars series.  Yes, it was once a TV show, but now show-creator Rob Thomas has moved the story to book format.  The tiny blonde sleuths once more in books The Thousand Dollar Tan Line and Mr. Kiss and Tell. 

Trickiest Trick:
Too many to count.

What are your favorite literary tricksters?

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