wombat_socho (wombat_socho) wrote,

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Sympathy for the Devil

Just finished Jim Butcher's Turn Coat, and I have to take my hat off to the man - he's accomplished something that's rare in this subgenre, which is to make me sympathize with a character I was hoping to see killed off, or at least put in a position where he can't bother the protagonist, in this case wizard for hire/private investigator Harry Dresden. If you're not familiar with the Dresden Files books, Morgan is one of the Wardens of the White Council, charged with hunting down and killing rogue wizards before they get to be a danger to the public or the Council. When we first meet him, Morgan is practically drooling at the prospect of being able to give Harry the chop, and a couple of the earlier books revolve around him seemingly catching Harry in violation of the Laws of Magic, and disappointed that Harry manages to wiggle out of his (according to Morgan) well-deserved beheading. Well, he gets to be slightly less of an asshole as time goes by, and by the time he finally dies at the end of Turn Coat, I actually felt sorry for the poor bastard.

Other cases of authors having characters do a heel-face turn (in the reader's eyes, anyway) are Agent Franks in Larry Correia's Monster Hunter International series. Our introduction to Franks in the first book is a pretty unpleasant one - he's ready to put a round through Owen Pitt's eye if his lycanthropy test comes back positive, and later in the book, he seems to genuinely enjoy beating the crap out of Pitt while he's being detained by the Monster Control Bureau. So he comes off as an overmuscled thug a quart low on the ethics...but over the next few novels, it becomes apparent that Franks is no ordinary thug, and by the time he takes center stage in Monster Hunter: Nemesis you find out who - or what - Franks really is, and it changes your whole perspective on the big lug. He's still not very likeable, but you understand that he's definitely one of the good guys.

Finally, in the realm of normal human beings, we come to Lady Death, more properly known as Tiphaine Baroness d'Ath, who starts out as a teenage ninja assassin in the service of the (definitely) evil Norman Arminger, Lord Protector of the Portland Protective Association. She quickly acquires a nasty (and well-deserved) reputation during the events leading up to the Protector's War, but when the PPA and its neighbors have to deal with the combined might of Boise and the Cutters, she quickly proves to be as adept a battlefield leader as she was at offing people the Protector (and later, the PPA's Regent Sandra Arminger) wanted dead. Over the course of the war, as we see her at home managing her fief and in the field, she slowly performs a heel-face turn, befriending young Rudi MacKenzie and Princess Mathilda Arminger both, and eventually her grudge against Astrid Larsson too fades out, to the point where she's able to act as Astrid's second-in-command during the botched operations at Pendleton, and evacuate the incapacitated Lady of the Dunedain when she could easily have left her to die. Seeing her in her old age -mind you, old age in the Emberverse isn't that old- as the avuncular Grand Constable of Montival, pulling some sleight-of-hand to allow Rudi's daughter Orlaith and her Japanese guest to duck out on High Queen Matilda, is pretty amusing, especially when we remember her in her blood-stained youth.

There's probably other characters like this out there in SF, but I haven't seen them. Certainly none so high-profile.
Tags: books

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