Valentine’s Day: Our favorite literary couples

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Valentine’s Day: Our favorite literary couples

A dual post from Kathryn and Elizabeth

When talking about great couples from sci-fi and fantasy books, there are a lot of obvious ones:  Harry and Ginny, Westley and Buttercup, Drogo and Daenerys, Katniss and Peeta (or Gale), and Bella and Edward (or Jacob), to name a few.

We decided instead of listing all the famous ones, we’d talk about some of the other sci-fi and fantasy couples from our favorite books.

(Except that Kathryn just HAD to go and include Ron and Hermione. ~ Elizabeth)

(I regret nothing! ~ Kathryn)

Five of Kathryn’s favorite couples

HarryPotterHarry Potter (the whole darn series) by JK Rowling

Ron and Hermione

Yes, it’s the obvious choice. Because reasons. No, let’s be serious here, the childhood rivalry – turned friendship – turned comrades-in-arms – turned sweethearts is one of the most believable literary relationships out there. We were able to watch their relationship grow over seven books, and see how the two of them came to absolutely trust each other.

Ron learned pretty damn fast that Hermione was a force of nature, and to not try to put her to one side so the menfolk could do the dangerous stuff, since she was usually the smartest and most talented in any group. And Hermione never tried to keep from bruising Ron’s ego, or tell him anything other than the absolute truth about himself, because even at her brattiest she knew that Ron was better than he believed he was.

wicked-book

Wicked by Gregory Maguire

Elphaba and Fiyero

It’s one of my favorite couples, mostly because it was so wonderfully unexpected: the social misfit with green skin living in squalor as a resistance fighter in the Emerald City, and the beautiful and wealthy lord with his harem of squabbling wives and his rarely-seen children.

That sounds like a relationship that either wouldn’t have happened believably, or it would have been something played up as a dark and depressing forbidden love. And yet it actually turned out very believable and sweet, with presents at Christmas (okay, Lurlinemass), and half-serious arguments, and drawing “Fieyro + Faye” on the flour scattered across a kitchen table.

It’s a shame that…ugh, spoilers. Moving on…

the night circus paperback cover
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Celia and Marco

This book is probably going to show up as a review eventually, but I’m going to give it a mention here because Celia and Marco are another stand-out literary couple.

Looking back it, the relationship might have been a little predictable; a boy and a girl, used as pawns by two powerful and heartless magicians, and pitched against each other in a decades-long battle of magic and art? That just screams “star-crossed lovers.”

But they’re also equally matched, and the very nature of their battle, competing with each other to create the most elaborate act in an impossible circus, added a lovely visual element to the relationship. They spend most of the book trying to outdo each other, creating a labyrinth of tents, each one with a  separate magical display. It made for a such a natural progression that you hardly realize the moment when each new tent becomes a love letter.

 

The Orphan’s Tale: In the Night Garden by Catherynne Valente

Eshkol and ShroudIn the Night Garden

If you’ve ever read any fairytales about Selkies you’ll be familiar with this story: a Selkie (mythological creature that looks like a seal, but that can shed its skin and become a human woman) misplaces its skin, and has to become the lover of the person who finds it, at least until it gets the skin back, and then it returns to the sea. Only in Valente’s story (one of the many intertwined stories in The Orphan’s Tale), Shroud is a male Selkie who’s skin is stolen, and Eshkol is a female satyr who buys the skin from the person who stole it.

It’s a nice reversal of the myth, but it’s also a lovely romance, sweet and wistful at the same time. And (as Elizabeth pointed out the last time we talked about this story) it also has a lot of things to say about power, and about how love can mean owning, but also the responsibility to not own.

Rant
Rant by Chuck Palaniuk

Buster and Echo

I can take or leave most of Chuck Palaniuk’s latest books, but Rant was a return to the level he was at with Fight Club and Survivor, and Buster and Echo are a big reason why. Every one of their chapters, every one, had some extra bit of information to make the two characters weirder, more improbable, and more unlikely that a pairing could ever work. And then it did anyway.

This is a strange, strange book, and definitely dark, violent, and occasionally gross enough to turn people off. But all I had to do to love this couple was read the chapter that takes place in the used car lot. Buster has a line at the end of the chapter that was so unexpected, and just cinematically perfect.

 

Five of Elizabeth’s favorite couplesPerdido

Perdido Street Station by China Mieville

Isaac and Lin

Isaac is a scientist who doesn’t look like a scientist: big, loud, cheerful, and loves experimenting in just about any new (completely forbidden, off-limits) field that comes his way. Lin is a khepri: she has a woman’s body, but a beetle for a head. Not “a beetle’s head.” Her head is a whole beetle: legs, wings, mandibles and all. She’s also an artist, and speaks fluent sign-language since, you know, beetles can’t talk.

They’re both considered a little perverted because they’re together, and they’re oddly proud of that fact. They’re really wonderful to each other, in a caring, loving, sarcastic kind of way. Their story isn’t always happy, but it has a lot of happy, sweet moments. As Kathryn said above, it’s a shame that…no, never mind, spoilers, forget I said anything…

Percy

Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan

Percy and Annabeth

Since I’m only halfway through the fourth book, I suppose I should say they’re a potential couple. They’re still in that clueless phase where they have no idea what’s going on and haven’t got a clue on how to verbalize a damn thing.

But you know they’re a couple. She kissed him! She calls him Seaweed Brain! That’s love!

Riordan has done a great job of making their relationship grow realistically, excruciatingly slowly. It took a whole book for them to realize they didn’t hate each other. But Percy thinks about her constantly, and charges into danger if he even thinks she’s in trouble. Even though she can take care of herself just fine. The only thing that annoys her more than Percy running to her rescue, is that Percy often ends up needing to be rescued. But you know from that kiss that he doesn’t annoy her nearly as much as he used to.

So Long and Thanks For All the Fish by Douglas AdamsSo-Long

Arthur and Fenchurch

The fourth book in the Guide “Trilogy” may not be the strongest in the series, but it’s one of my favorites, because the author finally started being nice to poor Arthur Dent. He got to go home, he got to wear something other than a dressing gown, and he met Fenchurch.

Fenchurch went a little crazy a few months before she met Arthur, on account of the Earth being destroyed, but not really. She’s calmer now, except for the fact that her feet don’t touch the ground. Literally, she floats about an inch in the air at all times. She was scared to tell anyone because, really, how do you say something that crazy? Luckily for her, Arthur’s seen three whole books worth of crazy.

She’s smart and quirky and still slightly crazy but remarkably cheerful. She’s absolutely perfect for Arthur. It makes me wish they’d make sequels to the 2005 movie: I’d love to see Martin Freeman as Arthur, giving her flying lessons.

KushielKushiel’s Legacy series by Jacqueline Carey

Phèdre and Joscelin

Born in a society of religiously-sanctioned prostitution (sort of) Phèdre is an anguisette: she experiences pain as sexual pleasure. Joscelin is a grim soldier in the one religious branch that doesn’t believe in having sex.

Technically they should have never gotten together, but when they do it’s really lovely. (And maybe a little disturbing at times, but mostly lovely.) They do the usual “oh we can never be together it’s wrong” dance for a couple books, before finally realizing they’re devoted to each other. And then there’s lots and lots of sex.

You’ve got to give props to the author: they’re both unrelentingly stubborn, totally different in almost every way, but the fact that they get together comes across as completely plausible. In a series that’s often written off as being practically porn, there’s a surprising amount of depth to all of the characters.

The Foreigner Series by C.J. CherryhForeigner

Bren and Jago

As the human paidhi, Bren acts as a translator and diplomat between the small continent of humans and the alien Atevi. Jago, his bodyguard, is an Atevi: she’s humanoid, beautiful, dark-skinned, and at least a foot taller than him. Technically Bren is in charge, as he’s the highest-ranking human on the entire planet. And he never ever tells her what to do, mostly because she carries a lot of guns.

Atevi don’t feel love the same way humans do, but Jago and Bren implicitly trust each other in everything. I love how the author never quite explains how they have sex, she just implies atevi are “different” and leaves the rest to the reader’s imagination.

In all seriousness, there’s a great balance between them, and their interactions say a lot about instinct versus logic, loyalty versus duty, and whether love has to be defined, or just enjoyed.

 

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