1. Sarah Beauhall (Black Blade series by J.A. Pitts)
Sarah is the protagonist of Pitts' Black Blade series, and one aspect of the books is how she wrestles with her own sexuality and how she comes to terms with it, although in a more realistic sense she doesn't fully accept it by the end of the first book. Whilst she's in a relationship with a girl named Katie, she's struggling with the chains of her upbringing and the way it has forged her, to use a blacksmithing term. As the novel progresses, she begins to understand herself more and more, and it drives her forward as much as the main plot itself. In Honeyed Words, the sequel to Black Blade Blues, she's still not fully comfortable with who she is, but again, she gets more and more accepting of it.
I find Sarah to be a compelling and, above all, human protagonist. Her struggles resonated with me on various levels, and throughout the books I wanted nothing for her but to succeed and to become free of the chains she's bound in. I'm going to follow this series with pleasure.
2. The Princesses (Princess series by Jim C. Hines)
The Princesses are a well written trio of ass-kicking ladies, and I felt Hines did them justice. From left to right are Danielle (Cinderella), Talia (Sleeping Beauty) and Snow (Snow White), and they work together really brilliantly. Danielle is fairly typical in that she loves a prince, she has a child with him, and she is often the voice of moderation in the group. Talia is revealed to be gay, and she struggles with her love for a particular character throughout the series, and she's generally the more violent and stoic of the three. Snow is shown to be straight (I would say that's questionable, given the events of the books), and quite a flirt, and she takes the place of the giggly and sometimes irrational member of the cast.
I loved reading these books, and I think Snow and Talia connected with me on some level, Danielle less so. I empathised with Talia's struggles and was upset by her history, and I sympathised for Snow. I think I even developed a bit of a crush on both of them. It's a series I honestly cannot recommend enough, and it's touched me in a way few others have. I devoured each book in the series, especially the second and fourth, and I'm a little sad that it's over so soon.
3. April Ryan (The Longest Journey/Dreamfall, by Funcom)
Ah, April Ryan. A character I have a lot of time for. Thrust from her technological world of Stark into the magical world of Arcadia, she not only questions those around her, but the very worlds in which she exists. It's mostly her Dreamfall rendition that connects with me, however. Whilst in her first game, The Longest Journey, she was shown to be naive and perhaps innocent, it's the mature and jaded April that inspires me the most. After the events of the first game, she's been stuck in Arcadia as her ability to 'shift' between the two worlds has been lost to her. She was said to be a great and important figure in keeping the balance between the two worlds, but once that prophecy had been accomplished (and not the way she'd been expecting), April was left in a world that was almost alien to her. She had no direction, no hopes, no cause to fight for. In the years between the two games, she becomes jaded and loses sight of who she is, and at one point she comes out with a piece of dialogue that resonates strongly with me:
"There's meaning to your existence. Me? I wasn't who I thought I was. I honestly have no idea who I am anymore. Everyone kept telling me I was important, that I was needed. Then, one day, I … wasn't. I was just lost. So don't tell me I'm free. Don't tell me to live my life. You don't know. You have a purpose."That, to me, is a very powerful quote. If you trim down the edges and remove the events of the game, you're left with "I'm not who I was thought to be", or something to that effect. That thought, that idea, it feels very relevant to myself. I haven't lived to be who I hoped I would be, the person my family wanted me to be. I became lost, without focus, and like April, I feel I don't have a purpose and part of that has caused me to not know who I am. I, like April and Sarah Beauhall above, struggle with who I am on a deep, personal level.
I thought it'd be nice to share those characters and those experiences, perhaps to get them off my chest, but also to highlight the importance of story telling. If you come across a character that you connect with, they can change your life. I have John, Jim and Ragnar to thank for the above characters and the effects they've had on me, and I hope others have felt the effects of characters that they've come across.
N.B. The images above are taken from various materials around the internet. The picture of Sarah (Black Blade Blues cover) is by Dan Dos Santos and taken from the wallpaper he released, the image of the princesses is from The Mermaid's Madness and is by Scott Fischer, taken from a Penguin website, and the April Ryan image is taken from a Dreamfall wallpaper released by Funcom.