Fantasy with (ridiculously) powerful protagonists


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Fantasy with (ridiculously) powerful protagonists

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kesäkuu 4, 2010, 9:17 pm

One thing I love about Erikson's Malazan series is that he has a whole host of characters each more powerful than the next, able to lay waste to armies or countries, perform incredible feats of strength, endurance, skill, or magic, and yet he still manages to keep the stories interesting.
(Well, at least interesting to me. Should you disagree, this is not the thread to voice that opinion.)

What other books feature protagonists with comparable abilities? I'll leave the exact definition of powerful open, but I do mean significant gaps in power compared to most other people. Having a slight edge over everybody else wouldn't count here.

Protagonists should also either already start with these abilities (or at least a good portion of them), or gain them relatively quickly after introduction. Getting access to uber-magic for the final fight in the last book of the series is not what I mean.

This isn't a recommendation thread, more a "tell me of" thread, so please just mention whatever comes to mind. A short description of the abilities and their scale would be nice, though.

Some examples:

Zelazny had a thing for this. All Amberites and Chaosites have essentially the ability to create whatever worlds they want, just by searching for them in Shadow. They're also generally better than humans, have great regenerative capabilities, and thanks to incredibly long lives, usually vast amounts of experience in many skills. Some add impressive magic to this, and Chaosites are usually shapeshifters, too.

The Sartan and Patryn of Margaret Weis' and Tracy Hickman's Death Gate Cycle each have their own version of rune magic, which put them so far above the rest of the population that they were treated as gods. Until the Sartan decided to rearrange the whole of creation, to improve upon the original. That this failed somewhat spectacularly wasn't because they weren't powerful enough.

Veering into Space Opera/Science Fantasy, Simon Green's Deathstalker series is a good example of this. Characters grow from competent to close to omnipotent over the series, starting with greatly enhanced physical abilities and some standard psychic powers like teleportation, summoning of duplicates from alternate universes, or telepathy/telekinesis, and continuing on to immortality and large-scale reality manipulation.

kesäkuu 6, 2010, 4:10 am

Well, the classic of course is Lord of the rings where nobody measures up to Sauron's power - magical or corporal. He has armies of which the battle at the Pellenor Fields were a fingernail; he has fell servants whom no living man can assail; and Gandalf admits to Denethor that he is not ready to face up to one of the Ringwraiths, if indeed he ever will be (but of course he is at least able to defy the Lord of the Nazgul when he knocks at the city gates). Seems a bit unfair to have a squidgy hobbit bring you undone by chucking your own ring into the volcano.

kesäkuu 6, 2010, 7:22 am

Sauron doesn't really count, I think, he's not a protagonist. And even as an antagonist he's more of a plot-device.

Gandalf might, but that's not that obvious for those who have only read the main books.

kesäkuu 7, 2010, 6:25 pm

Pug, from Feist's Magician fits the bill of overpowered... Maybe Sapkowski's Witcher books can work like this too? The last wish is the first one translated to english, I believe.

Oh, and Anasûrimbor Kellhus in R. Scott Bakker's Prince of Nothing trilogy, although it is uncertain whether or not he is a protagonist.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 7, 2010, 8:24 pm

How about Elric of Melnibone and Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser? And Conan of course.

ETA: John Carter of Mars and Tarzan.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 7, 2010, 9:33 pm

The Wheel Of Time? Some of the protagonists have a lot more power than others.

the alchemyst by scott (the characters get pretty strong pretty fast, though still are rather weak in comparison to really old creatures)

percy jackson (main char is a demi god, though weak in comparison to true gods)

The Dune series may fit your bill too (seeing in the future, extreme body control, tech)

Prince of Nothing (extreme body control, conditioning, magic) but only for kellhus and there are more viewpoints than that

The Tide Lords by Jennifer Fallon (a bunch of true Immortals, as in impossible to kill, with huge magic powers once in a while, the wreck a continent if you want to kind)

Alien Taste (extreme accuracy of the senses, perfect memory, regeneration)

Across the Nightingale Floor (extreme hearing)

Laurell Hamilton's Series (she keeps adding powers to her chars, but you it takes a few books until the chars become imba, though they already start with powers like necromancy or turning flesh inside out)

Though Malazan seems to be the most extreme I can remember too.

Series which take a while until the chars become strong (usually about 1 book):

The Way Of Shadows by weeks(immortal assassin with magic, though it takes quite a while until the characters has it)

The Wayfarer Redemption (the main characters are gods, but I forgot how long it takes them until they get their power)

Cartomancy by stackpole (again a few gods as main chars, also takes until amost the end of the book until there)

Pug and Thomas from Feist, though they take a while and dont show up too much.

The Painted Man / The Warded Man (has 3 main chars, one of them becomes incredibly strong at the end of the first book)

blood rites by janrae frank (main char has about the same magical power as a god in that world, though he is not the only point of view, it takes a while until it gets there and he is slowly dying too, series is not for the faint of heart)

Sorcerer and Apprentice (In Serein) by Nick Starfields
(again not for the faint of heart, chars take the first of 3 books or so to get their power, but then they are the most powerful beings in existence after a short time)

something from the nightside (character starts with a seemingly weak power which is in fact incredibly strong, though that takes a few books to figure out too)

Marla Manson from Pratt also get's pretty strong, though with help from artifacts.

City of Pearl from Karen Traviss (main chars become/are immortal shapeshifters)

Hm, those are all that I can remember atm.
If you do not mind manga, then there are tons of shounen / seinen mangas with protagonists who have extreme power.

kesäkuu 8, 2010, 5:28 am

I dislike this style of hero - it's the MarySue problem from startrek.

Harry dresden is the worst example I know of, though by the same author Tavi in furies has the same issue.

Nothing is too much for them, whatever gods challenge them, they can handle. It just gets silly.

kesäkuu 8, 2010, 12:27 pm

7> But isn't Mary Sue more the best-at-everything-author-insertion-character that all of the other characters are in love with and/or jealous of and who always saves everybody else from everything?

I wouldn't remotely call Harry Dresden one of those. You can complain about deus ex machina if you want, though, since someone else (faerie queen/fallen angel/Gruff/archangel/Knight/etc.) is always pulling his butt out of the fire at the most convenient moment.

6> Good call on the c'naatat in City of Pearl. Though Traviss mostly avoids the overpowered-ness itself to focus instead on its implications.

I'd personally add Luke Skywalker to the list. The Star Wars EU authors now have to figure out ways to keep him out of the action (indecisveness, exile, etc.) so that he's not available to easily solve the galaxy's problems again.

kesäkuu 8, 2010, 5:08 pm

The Luke-thing is something that annoys me more than it probably should.
It's admittedly hard to avoid in shared universes like Star Wars, where one author has no or little influence over the previous work, but there should be better ways to deal with power-creep other than shutting a character down completely.

But if there's not even the excuse of a shared universe, that's even more annoying. Authors "benching" their own characters because they themselves don't know how to handle them anymore, that's reason to stop reading for me.

kesäkuu 14, 2010, 12:44 pm

I'm not sure if this would work or not, but the first series that occurred to me is the Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. There are two main characters: Vin and Kelsier. Both of them are Mistborn (as opposed to Mistings) which means they have abilities that most other people don't. Both have these abilities at the start of the book, and although Vin needs to learn to use hers she learns pretty quickly. I will add the caveat however that I've only read the first book in the trilogy, so I don't know about the others.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 16, 2010, 11:39 am

I'd second Mistborn: The Final Empire series in this category for sure, and yet it works well for the story as they get into some pretty nasty scrapes all the same.

The other I was thinking of is the character Gerald Tarrant in C.S. Friedman's Black Sun Rising, first book of the Coldfire Trilogy.

Edit: You know, I think I'd dump the whole lot of protaganists from David Eddings' Belgariad and Mallorean series into this category as well. Show me a time they were ever seriously threatened, lol.

kesäkuu 16, 2010, 4:12 pm

I'll have to disagree about lumping the whole cast of the Belgariad/Malloreon into this category.

The sorcerers, sure, they had potential far beyond most other characters, though they sure didn't flaunt it.

But Barak, Silk, Mandorallen, Ce'Nedra, Velvet, and all the other non-magicians, they're nothing special. Yes, Barak is perhaps a good deal stronger than most other non-Chereks, and Silk might be more dexterous than the average Drasnian.

But I'd put them all firmly into the "slight edge" category. Not being threatened alone does not equal powerful characters.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 16, 2010, 6:34 pm

Mistborn (for example Vin&Kelsier) are also rather common. The emperor would fit, but he is not a protagonist.

syyskuu 15, 2013, 2:56 pm

Vampire Hunter D seems to fit the bill.

syyskuu 15, 2013, 3:13 pm

The Incarnations of Immortality (a series by Piers Anthony) have a similar power level. They each represent one domain (Death, Time, Fate, etc) and have full control over it.

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 15, 2013, 5:47 pm

• Gavin Guile and former twin Dazen from the Black Prism series. The local pope (or anti-pope) equivalent, and archmage and sort-of-emperor of most of the known world rolled into one.

• Uther Doul and the Brucolac in The Scar. One is a badass through mastery of ancient alien weaponry, and the other is an ancient wise, sophisticated predator.

• Harry Keogh in the Necroscope series. Speaker with the dead, teleporter, and more later.

• Rol in The Mark of Ran / This forsaken earth. His coming into power in the first book may be a bit slower than you'd like though.

syyskuu 15, 2013, 5:33 pm

Would Granny Weatherwax (Wyrd Sisters, et. seq.) and Tiffany Aching (The Wee Free Men, et. seq.) qualify as crazy powerful? I don't remember much that can honestly threaten them, yet I don't see either one of them as Mary Sues.

syyskuu 16, 2013, 8:43 am

>16 Jarandel:: Seconding the Guile brothers from The black prism.

Aurian has a ridiculously powerful protagonist, and a villain who is just as powerful, but who uses his force for Eeeeeviiiiillll. No shades of grey here.

syyskuu 16, 2013, 4:40 pm

13: What do you mean, rather common? There are not that many Mistborn, and they definitely have way more powers than just about everyone around them. Sure, there are some opponents that are more powerful in a way, but you can hardly call them not powerful.

In addition, I was thinking about the Blood in general, and Jaenelle Angeline in particular in the Daughter of the blood series by Anne Bishop. The Blood are definitely a lot more powerful than the landens, and within the Blood, Jaenelle is so ridiculously powerful she could destroy all of them.

syyskuu 17, 2013, 5:11 pm

Tarod in Louise Cooper's Time Master Trilogy, prequel, and sequel trilogies might qualify, but not right from the start. N.K. Jemisin's Inheritance trilogy is all about gods, including one who destroyed a whole continent, so one might think it would qualify- but all of the gods we get as main characters are restricted to human form at the time.

>16 Jarandel: ...former twin?

syyskuu 17, 2013, 6:07 pm

>20 sandstone78: Well, as far as is generally known at the start of book 1 O:)

syyskuu 17, 2013, 6:54 pm

>22 sandstone78: Hmmm... I was wondering if it was something along the lines of William Sleator's Singularity, with two brothers who start as twins, and end up not twins by the end of the book. (Ah, now I want to reread all of Sleator's books.)

syyskuu 18, 2013, 11:09 am

Kvothe of the Kingkiller Chronicles. He begins off being pretty remarkable and is a bad ass in pretty short order once he begins the university.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 9, 2017, 12:04 pm

Tämä käyttäjä on poistettu roskaamisen vuoksi.

toukokuu 10, 2017, 10:22 am

A bad example stands out in the character named Kellhus, in the Prince of Nothing series starting with The Darkness that Comes Before. This fellow is utterly flawless, annoyingly so. I really wanted to see him taken down a notch and wound up actively disliking him.

Drizzt is a fabulously popular dark elf character created by R.A. Salvatore, who appears in too many Forgotten Realms titles to list but, for example, Homeland. He wields two swords to tremendous effect, slicing and dicing as required, always effortlessly successful for as far as I read. *yawn*

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 10, 2017, 12:20 pm

I agree that it can seem like a cop-out sometimes, for one character's powers to be so far above everyone else's that the plot resolution is a foregone conclusion. I brought up this issue in a discussion about a christian fiction book I accidentally read - the author just brought God in at the end to solve the crisis, which seemed like a let-down in the same way as if a fantasy writer just brought in some omnipowerful wizard at the climax.

I felt kind of like that about Saberhagen's Books of Swords - whoever is wielding Shieldbreaker has some serious advantage. Also the Specials in Scott Westerfields' Uglies series.

Sometimes though, I really enjoy a character whose exceptional powers are their own challenge as they learn that there are serious downsides - Buffy for example, or Vanyel in Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar series. Power attracts trouble.

The Valdemar prequels (Mage Wars trilogy) have two wizards who just about destroy their world, trying to subjugate each other - which sucks for all of the regular folks trying to live there.

I agree with >16 Jarandel: about Necroscope - Harry certainly has quite a lot of advantages.

Also the Bondsmages in the Gentleman Bastards series.

toukokuu 10, 2017, 1:20 pm

Honestly, I dislike books with type of character, but I did read two eBooks in the last year that qualify for what's being asked for:

Waiting Game: The Chronicles of Covent and Forged in Death are two fantasy books where the main characters are so overpowered, it didn't matter what the writer threw at them, they seemed to blink and beat it.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 10, 2017, 1:24 pm

>26 Darth-Heather:, sounds like instead of a deus-ex-machina ending, that author just went for the deus.

toukokuu 10, 2017, 4:40 pm

>28 Cecrow: good one! :D

toukokuu 23, 2017, 10:04 am

I think the best protagonist is Kvothe from {Patrick Rothfuss Kingkiller Chronicles. The Name of the Wind is probably the most well written book I have read. Kvothe, is brave, foolish, tragic...anything you can want in a hero. He survives countless beatings, brings down fire and lighting and of course calls the name of the wind. If you really claim to like fantasy and haven't read this series, I highly recommend it. It is up there with Lord of the Rings, and the Hobbit.

toukokuu 23, 2017, 10:59 am

I don't recall there being any limits to Tom Bombadil's power. Kind of messes up the story, in my opinion.

toukokuu 23, 2017, 11:07 am

>30 koolfrogs: it's shame about the sequel and current lack of conclusion though.

>31 cpg: - Tom is completely restricted to middle-earth (and his patch within that really) and oblivious to anything else. He has no power at all over the Ring for example, because it comes from the Valar/Wizards. It isn't stated how he'd react to a more physical force either, an army of orcs desecrating his land and rivers.

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 4, 2017, 1:34 am

Aaaah I love power discussions. Personally my characters come from less known novels (at least in america). Where should I start?

First, most of these characters work in a system of power that works around laws (Space, Time, Fire, Water, etc.). Its pretty easy to understand. If you control the law of water, you can control water.

For a weaker but still ridiculously strong character, I say Leylin from Warlock of the Magus World. Currently, he controls the law of devouring and massacre. He isnt fully proficient in the massacre law, but for devouring, he rules above all. Essentially, he can devour everything as long as it isn't too many leagues above him. For example, he trapped someone who tried to kill him in an illusion so perfect that their soul became part of it. He then proceeded to devour the dream, killing the person. He also acquires everything from something he devours. If he devours someone who controls a law of fire, he has the law of fire and so on. That already makes him almost unstoppable, but what's scarier about him is his personality. He is easily the dirties protagonist I have seen. He doesn't hesitate to scheme against you and the whole world. He doesn't care who he kills or pains. For example, he caused a plague to an entire continent, killing 10% of the population and created a church that hands out "cures" to gain good sentiments that he devoured to ascend to godhood. Furthermore, he is extremely intelligent, using unthinkable means to defeat opponents leagues above him. If I were to compare him with Sauron, he crushes him in ability to fight (he can wipe out his army in a few seconds, could consume Sauron, especially with his flawed thinking) since he is a demigod.

Up another level, there is Ji Ning (or Darknorth) from Desolate Era. He is proficient in three paths, the path of the body (strength), the path of the magic (magic spells) and the path of the hearth (mental fortitude, illusions). In addition to that, he is a genius in the sword. His sword arts are flawless both in attack and defense. He can literally destroy and surpass the limits of space and time. His sword strike can reach ANYWHERE in the universe (destroys restriction of space) and takes no time to strike (destroys restriction of time. When he was weaker, he still surpassed the speed of light). If you put earth in front of him, he could make it explode by tapping it with his finger. In addition to this, he has multiple magical techniques up his arsenal. Most importantly, his path of the hearth is extremely dominant, making it that he doesn't get influenced by anything (if you presented the one ring in front of him and told him it would corrupt him even a tiny bit, he would discard it like trash). He can also put illusions that are virtually identical to reality to use. Hence, his power extends to diplomacy, battle and much more. Especially in terms of battle might, Sauron can't compete with him. He would try to fight Ning but receive one sword strike and die. Along with him, Middle Earth would also be wiped from existence. Actually, any Ainur would face the same fate. Only Eru (God) can beat him.

After that come Meng Hao from I Shall Seal The Heavens. He is a person who has transcended beyond the laws. He can create and destroy any law in his universe. For example, if he says "By my name as a transcendent, I declare by a law that all burgers are free", then all burgers will be free. There is no if, except if you are also a transcendent and cancel out that law. Although it might sound simple, if you translate that to "all humans must prostate to me" or "all living being in the universe shall die.", its pretty terrifying. He is known as "Supreme being" and "Demon Sovereign" by most in the novel. Eru is on par with him.

Finally, comes Qin Yu from Stellar Transformations. He's known by most in the novel as "Universe Controller Yu" or "Meng Yu". As the name says, he is a universe controller. He is so strong that he can create/destroy universes. Thats what differenciates him from the likes of Meng Hao and Eru. Both are supreme in their universe but Qin Yu IS THE UNIVERSE. Sure, Eru can create anything, but the moment Qin Yu crushes his universe he is dead. He could also create multiple Eru's to compete with Eru with absolute ease. To him, Eru's power is something given upon his authorization. I don't think there is anything else to say. He is the SUPREME of all protagonist.

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 6, 2017, 7:32 am

>33 IAmSupreme:, we should throw all of those into a room together, cage match. Sounds like the winner will be whoever can think the words "You're all dead!" fastest.

Not sure why authors come up with the likes of these, I think it might be a Mary Sue thing (author projecting self onto all powerful being). What kind of story can you have when your character is that extremely powerful? Sure, they can restrain themselves out of some moral sense, but what kinds of stakes can you raise, where will you find tension or suspense if your character can dispense with any threat at the snap of a finger?

Steven Erikson often seemed carried away in his Malazan series (beginning with Gardens of the Moon), where one epic character seemed to get one-upped by another in quick succession until I wondered where it would end; but after a while I did get a sense of relative scale and consequences that adjusted things for me.

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 6, 2017, 1:51 pm

>34 Cecrow: I think it's just a thing in those wuxia web-novels he's mentioning. And probably more an end-game state than the beginning of the story.

As to how it sort of works, I suppose you could have a shonen-type progression (hero is weak or gets beaten by a much stronger foe at the beginning of each cycle but gains in training and determination until they overcome the obstacle or pulverize the threat, only to make room for the next even worse one). Or some way is contrived to strip the hero of most of their abilities but they manage to survive and recover until they can face whatever they need to (as was used for Corwin).
And yeah, it's probably all very focused on the hero and their struggle, with little thought or illustration of the consequences on the wider world of the existence of several such beings. Or those consequences are hand-waved somehow (such as 'the world as we know it' being only one of no to middling importance among many other possible playgrounds as it is in the Amber chronicles).

marraskuu 9, 2017, 6:12 am

The sorcerers in David Eddings Belgariad are insanely powerful. Fun series, though. :-) Vanyel, from Mercedes Lackey Last Herald Mage trilogy is extremely powerful, too, and so is Aslan, in Narnia, although he is more god than protagonist.

marraskuu 15, 2017, 12:12 am

The Symphony of Ages.
At the beginning of the series "The Three" main protagonists aren't too powerful, but by mid way through the series, they basically are immortal. There are mythical swords, Ashe is half Dragon, Grunthor can control earth, Rhapsody can't be burned at all. Even the newborn that comes later can basically alter time. These protagonists are crazy powerful!

marraskuu 15, 2017, 10:35 am

>36 Ennas: I felt that Vanyel's exceptional powers were the point of his character, though, and the overall plot that those with that level of power were doomed, so there was a sort of balance. The original mages from the Gryphon trilogy were even more powerful, and that didn't work out very well for them either.

joulukuu 3, 2018, 11:09 pm

I personally recommend The Inheritance Cycle series by Christopher Paolini.

maaliskuu 14, 2019, 4:30 pm

Robert Asprin's shared world "Thieves' World" seems to have the various authors competing with each other to have the most powerful character. Once it got several books in, each story in the series seemed to pick weaknesses in the other authors' characters and beef up the power of their own.