Tough Travels: Orphans

tough travelsIt’s Thursday again so I’m participating in the Tough Travels meme which is hosted by Nathan of Fantasy Review Barn. These posts are fun explorations of common tropes in fantasy, (sometimes) inspired by Diana Wynne Jones’s The Tough Guide to Fantasyland. Join me in the search for examples of this week’s topic – and don’t forget to check out other people’s lists, they’re wonderful and my TBR pile grows every week because of them!

Ohhhh! This week’s topic was so difficult – but not for the usual reason of not having any ideas. We’re off to Fantasyland looking for ORPHANS this week – No one in Fantasyland ever amounts to anything if they still have both parents. Rule number oneI had to narrow the list down to my favourites (I couldn’t think of a spin on this topic that would let me include all of my favourites. Because I apparently have a thing for orphaned characters, who knew…).


  1. darker-shade-magic-schwabLOCKE LAMORA (hahahaha) and crew and half of Camorr as well. Well, this choice will surprise exactly no one. I can’t help it, the topics just seem to FLOW in the direction of Lynch’s masterpiece (ok so I stretch them sometimes but still). Fun fact: if you mistype “locke” and get “lovke” instead, that means “tentacles” in Slovenian!
  2. Kell (and Lila?) from A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab. Ohh, Kell, I wanted to give him a hug so bad. Poor boy-man (How do you call someone who’s old enough to be a man but isn’t quite there emotionally? Is there a word in English?). He has a family but feels more like a possession than a child and knows nothing about his history.
  3. Harry Potter.
  4. Kvothe from Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicle. I don’t remember whether this should be filed in the *possible spoiler* area but Kvothe’s parents were killed by the Chandrian because they were working on a song that struck too close to the truth. Kvothe, the poor red-headed kid, was left to wander the woods and later the streets of Tarbean before he ended up at the University.
  5. daughter-smoke-bone-laini-taylorKarou/Madrigal from Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Orphaned TWICE – that’s some sort of a record, surely. Karou is a special case, a human girl raised by monsters. She knew she wasn’t their biological child but they were her family. Also: her human fake grandmother was the real monster!
  6. Celaena Sardothien from Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series. Wooo, a badass orphaned assassin! Well, Celaena might not have been my favourite character in books 1 and 2 of the series (which is slightly problematic seeing as she is the main character) but she really grew on me in Heir of Fire.
  7. Frodo Baggins. He ended up in Bilbo’s care because his parents were killed in a boating accident. His eccentric uncle did alright by him, I think!
  8. Bod (Nobody) Owens from Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard BookA tiny boy raised by ghosts after his family is brutally murdered. I read the translation of this one (very good!).
  9. Ivy from Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Wicked. Eh, I had to include another girl (and also help Danya with the urban/paranormal fantasy picks). Ivy is an orphan because the evil fae killed her family. She now hunts them and kills them. There’s a huge cliffhanger (you’ve been warned).

Nine seems like a good number, right? Well, honorable mentions go to: Rand Al’ Thor (I never know how to spell his name); Jace Wayland (YAY for the Shadowhunters tv series – will you be watching it?? I’m not a huge fan of the series but I’m a sucker for teenage paranormal angst.) and Fitz from Robin Hobb’s books. Oh, and the Stark kids. Those were orphaned in a rather spectacular way…


Who would you add to my list? 

Do you find this trope to be over-used or do you have a soft spot for these kids?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

  • bookwraiths

    Great list. I never realized there were so many of these in my favorite books. Authors really seem to love this character type.

    • Thanks! :) Yeah, this is a fairly popular trope, I had no problem coming up with examples, unlike with some topics. I think we’re meant to sympathise more with orphans, it makes the character more vulnerable and loveable! :)

  • Haha, yes, the Starks are pretty spectacularly orphaned. The Lannisters as well, at this point. And probably so, so many more….

    • Martin made so many orphans… I’m seriously considering just quitting the series (AND the TV series), it’s so hopeless and grim :(

  • What? No description for #3? ;P
    Karou/Madrigal is a great choice though. I was just thinking about her for a different post I am writing on YA.

    • I don’t think #3 requires a description – unless you meet a person who’s been living under a rock for the past two decades. I mean, even my non-English-speaking grandma knows about Harry.
      I love Karou. I worked on the series as a translator so I know it inside-out and I still think it’s great!

  • These are excellent choices! High 5 on picking Bod! I love his story. This reminds me I need to buy the audiobook for Schwab’s book.

    • Mm, yes, I think you should read Schwab’s book. In fact, you should probably do so NOW! (I’m a huge fan. I hope you like Kell & Lila!)

      Bod was such a cutie :) (And his adoptive family was great!)

  • HA! As shocking as it is, Karou’s actually not the only character I can think of who gets orphaned twice – Harry Dresden also has that dubious honour. IVY! Good call with that one (aside: I’m really looking forward to the sequel, summertime is perfect for JLA). PNR/UF readers, unite! I will watch the Mortal Instruments tv show but I’m skeptical about it…I really loved the first few books, but I think it’s okay because I read the first one in middle school. At that point I thought Jace was the perfect guy, now I think he’s a bit of a doofus. ;)

    • Yeah, I saw that in your post! Poor people, like once isn’t enough?!

      WHAT?! Is Wicked #2 coming out this summer? I didn’t know there was a release date… I know she has a sequel to Frigid coming out – tomorrow or something – and I’m probably going to read it soon but I haven’t heard anything about Wicked. I like her paranormals better than contemporaries.

      Ahh, Jace. I actually liked Jamie Campbell Bower (or however his name is spelled, I’m too lazy to check) as Jace in the movie, though it was pretty ridiculous. Eh, I’ll give the series a try and see what happens :)

  • Lynn Williams

    Orphans – who knew there were so many of them!
    I was thinking of Frodo and couldn’t figure out if he was an orphan or not – I guessed he was or why else was he with Bilbo?
    Nice going with the Laini Taylor inclusion.
    Lynn :D

    • Yeah, they’re EVERYWHERE!
      Full disclosure: I had to check Wiki to see how his parents died; I knew he was orphaned but didn’t know why. It’s been a couple of years since I last re-read LOTR and I have the story all mixed up with the movies anyway…
      Yeah, Laini Taylor’s great, I love her work :)

  • Maraia

    HAH, I just wrote on Cait from Paper Fury’s blog post earlier today that I thought I was the lone black sheep in not loving Celaena, despite (mostly) enjoying the series. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one! What are your issues with her?

    Off topic, but you reminded me of something. Yesterday I drove down to Virginia with my parents, and we spent a good part of the trip listening to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Both my dad and I couldn’t help but hear “Dear Frodo” every time the narrator said Frode’s name. It was very distracting, haha.

    Oh, look, Kaja wrote a Tough Travels post and Locke Lamora was at the top of the list. ;)

    Personally, I love this trope, and as long as it’s done well (obviously), I’m happy to keep reading about orphans. I think most of my additions to your list are from the same books I mention every time. I guess that just means you should read them. :D

    • Wait till next week: PEOPLE ON BOATS – that’s the topic! My first thought was HAHAHAHA omg I can include Red Seas under Red Skies :D I think it’s becoming a thing, me including Locke on these lists. I’ll be greatly disappointed if I ever meet a topic that I can’t bend a bit to stuff them in!

      Umm Celaena… Yeah. Well, first off, she’s too good at everything. She’s beautiful, kicks ass, can eat a ton of sweets without breaking out in pimples and getting chubby and I just couldn’t connect with her somehow. She’s also pretty vain (I mean, who thinks about pretty dresses when she’s in a damn labor camp?). And I disliked how she treated Chaol and Dorian in book 1. But in Book 3, she puts her head on straight, I think, so I liked her more. But I still like Rowan, Chaol and Manon better – they were the ones that made HoF a great book for me!

      Ahh, so I’m guessing Tamora Pierce? ;) I’m SO BAD at finishing series, I started 3 new YA ones this month alone and I really need to tie up some loose ends before embarking on new fantasy journeys…

      • Maraia

        PERFECT hahaha. If you ever come across a topic that doesn’t seem to fit, let me know and I’ll help you brainstorm. :)

        I’m pretty sure Sarah J. Maas based Celaena off of herself. Even the model for the original U.S. cover looks a lot like her. You pretty much summed it up, though. She’s too “perfect” and too narcissistic. I completely agree about Rowan (my faaaaavorite, can we just have a book about him?), Chaol, and Manon. I’m not sure I *liked* Manon per se, but she was certainly more interesting and had more depth as a character. I hope Celaena continues to be less full of herself in Queen of Shadows!

        I actually wasn’t thinking about Tamora Pierce, although several of her characters would certainly fit. I was thinking more about the adult series I’ve mentioned. The good thing about Tamora Pierce, though, is that they’re such short, quick reads. :D

  • Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    I forgot about Karou! :) Great list!

    • Thanks, Lisa! :)
      Karou is one of my favourite YA characters, I really liked her story.

  • Michael Senft

    Kell was on my long list. Completely forgot about Bod – I was trying to think of a Gaiman orphan!

    • Well, he’s really tiny so he’s easy to overlook :) Poor kiddo, right? But his adoptive family was pretty cool.
      Ahh, Kell will always make my short list!

  • Hmm, interesting, I contemplated Lila but it didn’t occur to me that Kell would probably have been the better and more obvious choice. It’s the whole reason he was raised by the royal family instead, right?

    ~Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    • Yep, he doesn’t know anything about his real parents, has this memory rune carved into his skin that the king and queen probably had put on him so he’d forget all about his past. I can’t wait to see whether he’ll figure out what happened to him! Have you read ADSOM, then? I haven’t seen your review but then I’m terribly behind the blog posts I want to read (ugh, there’s this nasty thing called life interfering with my blogging, SO frustrating!) :)

      • Yes, I finally read ADSOM! I haven’t written the review, so you didn’t miss it ;)

        • Ah, ok! I’m curious about your thoughts on this one. I loved it (as did most of the blogosphere, apparently) but my husband wasn’t THAT impressed…

  • MaddalenaSpaceandSorcery

    I should not laugh about the Stark kids being quintessential orphans but… they fit the bill perfectly, don’t they? :-)

    • Yeah, poor kids… And then Robb died, too, what a tragic family. Martin has made too many orphans, hasn’t he?

  • I had no memory that Frodo’s parents were killed in a boating accident. How…..odd. Also I didn’t realize Jace was an orphan? But I have yet to finish that series and obviously my memory of what I have read is poor. I am pretty intrigued by a TV show! I hadn’t heard about that! Lots of awesome orphanson your list :). Yay Orphans? That just doesn’t sound right.

    • Umm yeah, I’m pretty sure about Jace – that’s why he’s staying with the Lightwoods, isn’t it? And yes, the movie was such a flop (though weirdly enough, I liked it in a weird sort of way, it’s one of those car crash moments you can’t stop watching if you know what I mean? Have you seen it?) they scrapped the plans for the sequel and decided to make a TV series instead, casting different people and all. The actor playing Jace (Dominic Sherwood) is pretty! :)
      Nope, I always feel weird when I say I like orphaned characters but they are instantly made more loveable, aren’t they?

      • Though I like the book series I’ve not yet seen the movie! I do want to check it out though I think it may work better as a TV show. I’ll have to keep that on my radar – thanks!

  • Laura @ Half-Strung Harp

    Ooh, I’ve just started reading The Graveyard Book with a group of students at our school – only read 16 or so pages but am already hooked!

    Great list. I love how you decided that Harry Potter needs no explanation. :D

    • Ha, yeah, The Graveyard Book is pretty cool :) Bod’s adoptive family is awesome!

      Harry’s become such a huge part of the modern (pop) culture even my non-English-speaking grandma knows about him :)