Tough Travels: Middle Age Heroes

tough travels

It’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!

This week, we’re combing the Fantasyland looking for MIDDLE AGE HEROES: This hero stuff is usually a young person’s game. Occasionally, a grizzled old veteran can get involved. It is a true rarity for someone to join the good fight for Fantasyland living in that in-between ground.

Well! This should be an interesting batch of lists! :) Look, I like YA, I really do (if you come by Of Dragons and Hearts at all you’ll have seen that I post loads of YA reviews), but sometimes I just want to shake the hero/ine and make them see how naïve/inexperienced their views are. That’s not to say that adults can’t be naïve but at least they’ve seen some action already.

As I was making this list, I noticed the lack of female characters!! What is happening? Why am I only reading about women if they’re young? At least I can’t really think of many older ones, not main characters anyway… I’ll see if I can come up with some…


  • hobbitHarry Dresden from Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. You’re a wizard, Harry! Oh, no, wait… wrong Harry. Dresden is like a supernatural PI and gets into all sorts of trouble. He also thinks he’s pretty good-looking but I’m not sure I’d fall for his particular brand of greasy-haired charm…
  • Bilbo Baggins from J. R. R. Tolkien’s The HobbitHA! You can’t get more middle-aged than Bilbo in this story (he’s much older in The Lord of the Rings). I also wanted to include Aragorn but though his movie version looks pretty great, he was actually 80 years old (I think?) when we meet him in the story so that’s hardly middle-aged…
  • Kelsier from Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn. I don’t know exactly how old he was but he’s definitely a sort of father figure/mentor to Vin, so I’m counting him.
  • red-seasCaptain Zamira Drakasha from Scott Lynch’s Red Seas Under Red Skies. Ok so she’s not a main character but she’s pretty important and she’s a pirate. Yarr.
  • Logen Ninefingers from Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law trilogy. Not my favourite series if we’re discussing characters and their development (of which there is none but I’m really glad I read Abercrombie’s Half a King because it’s great). But Logen used to be a husband and a father and now he’s just a sell-sword roaming around with his band of misfits, looking for the next battle.
  • Ned Stark from George R. R. Martin’s A Game of ThronesI wanted to write “from George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire” but I don’t think it’s appropriate, do you? :) Anyway, he was a noble man and deserves to be remembered. RIP.

I also known Fitz from Robin Hobb’s books is middle-aged in the series that follows The Farseer Trilogy but I haven’t read them yet so he just gets a small mention because he’s great.


Which dignified hero/ine would you add to my list? 

Have you had any more luck coming up with female middle-aged main characters? 

I’d love to hear from you!

  • Bilbo is a great choice! I’ve got both Aragorn and Gimli… I think they’re both middle-aged by their own races’ standards.

    • Bilbo is one of my favourite characters from a children’s book – a typical example of a hero that appeals both to kids and adults. I read The Hobbit as a kid first but have re-read it many times since and I still think it’s awesome. :)

  • Excellent list! And so many of these I must revisit sometime soon…

    • Thanks, Nikki! :) Yeah, I’m thinking about re-reading Lynch’s books in anticipation of Book 4 though I don’t know if I’ll have enough time…

  • Logan is a great hero!

    For a female character, how about Odyssia from the comic, ODY-C? It’s a retelling of the Odyssey, except that Odysseus is now a girl, Odyssia.

    • Ah, an Abercrombie fan! :) (I’m a big YA-Abercrombie fan but not so much his adult stuff though I haven’t read the three books that followed The First Law trilogy). Ahh Logen… You’ve read the entire trilogy, right? You didn’t find it weird that he just keeps on doing the same thing over and over again, to the same results? (I’m not trying to be a grumpy cat here but The First Law trilogy just ticks me off for so many reasons. But I’m really glad I gave Joe another chance with The Shattered Sea books because they’re great! I’m currently reading Half a War and liking it a lot).

      That comic sounds really interesting! Is it worth reading? I don’t read that many comics – none, really, except for a couple of graphic novels years ago – but I’m thinking of getting into them because I’ve seen amazing reviews for several titles. And on the subject of the Odyssey – have you read Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad? It’s the Odyssey told from Penelope’s perspective (how she dealt with the suitors and waited for her (scumbag of a) husband and all). Some light reading, Atwood! ;)

      • I read the whole First Law Trilogy (minus the three stand-alones), but haven’t started the Shattered Sea trilogy, yet. I think that was just part of Logan’s character flaw; he wanted to be a “good guy”, but he didn’t exactly know how. The biggest thing that bothered me in the story was the almost lack of purpose. I kept looking for there to be some meaning, or a ultimate quest leading to an end. Once I accepted that, I thought it was a fantastic series; I gave the third book a 5 star. But I can see how somehow wouldn’t be the biggest fan, until that final book, the series wasn’t really blowing me away.

        I’m just starting to get back into comic myself! I really liked ODY-C! Volume just came out in US last month. It’s a complete genres twist; all the characters and all the gods are female characters! I think you may like it! I’ll be honest, it’s very difficult to follow and can be confusing at time, and it has a very psychedelic and trippy art style – which I really liked. I thought it was worth the effort to take my time reading it.

        I’ve actually never read any Atwood! :( But I was a Ancient Studies major in College, so I looked into that one :)

        • Yeah, I know that the pointlessness of their lives IS the point and that grimdark is a genre that excells in gore and slaughter but I guess it just isn’t for me. I just finished Half a War and I liked it but it wasn’t as good as books 1 and 2 so I’m wondering if this will be a pattern with Abercrombie’s books/series. I quite liked books 1 and 2 of the First Law series (they were 4-star reads for me) but the last one just didn’t live up to my expectations. I know lots of people love it, though – my husband’s a huge fan and he’s the one who got me reading Abercrombie in the first place.

          Thanks for the link! :)

          Ah, Atwood – if you like dystopias at all, you should read The Handmaid’s Tale, it’s disturbing but amazing. I reviewed it here, too. I’d start with The Handmaid’s Tale before reading other Atwood books, I think it’s the most transparent (I read one or two really weird novels that she wrote and they nearly put me off her writing but I’m glad I persevered, HT is great!).

          • I’ll be on the lookout for that too! I know a lot of people speak highly – like, very highly – of her, but I couldn’t have named one of her books or even know where to start with her. I do recognize the cover for this one though!

          • I had to read Atwood’s Surfacing for a class on Canadian lit at university and that’s how I started with her novels (not that I’ve read even half of what she’s written but still…). She’s pretty cool but tackles really difficult issues sometimes so her books aren’t really fluffy summer reads, you have been warned! :)

  • Lynn Williams

    I like the choice of Bilbo. I thought of Aragorn but then couldn’t make up my mind exactly what is age he was supposed to be. I like the inclusion of Captain Zamira – I didn’t come up with any females this week which I felt a bit bad about!
    Lynn :D

    • Yeah why are there so few middle-aged women? And the other participant’s lists are pretty much the same (except for the Bibliosanctum, probably). This is something that would make a great discussion topic! :)

  • First of all I am so with you on the YA – I do like it but am pretty picky about it because I foolishly let myself get SO irritated at the teenage characters. Good use of emotional energy huh! Also this:
    “He also thinks he’s pretty good-looking but I’m not sure I’d fall for his particular brand of greasy-haired charm…”
    Made me laugh out loud. Hee, hee. I’m actually reading one of the Dresden Files books right now and there’s a couple of mentions about how tall he is, at one point implying that he is over 6.5 feet tall (~2 meters)! I totally didn’t remember or process that about his character.
    I like your inclusion of Bilbo – he’s an awesome hero and it’s not just his age that makes him a unique one!
    Also I though about including both Logen and Glokta but wasn’t sure I could really call them “heroes”. Logen definitely fits better than Glokta for sure.

    • Oh I read about foolish teenage characters with particular relish, I love teenage angst (perhaps because I was a pretty level-headed teenager myself and never experienced that level of silliness? I don’t know…) but sometimes I just HAVE TO change to something more mature ;)

      Haha Harry is god’s gift to women, isn’t he? :D tall and manly and has a blasting rod and a staff and he … err… blasts things with his ROD and all. *snort* The only series I read recently that was manlier than Storm Front was Hounded by Kevin Hearne, he’s got another one of these hotstuff heroes that’s hard not to read as wish fulfillment fantasy! :)

      Ah nobody would really call Logen a hero, I expanded the definition of “hero” to mean “an important character in the book”.

      • So now every time Harry mentions his staff or rod, I’m going to start giggling! Thanks.

        • Aw come ON, you can’t tell me you never noticed it before! :D (And you’re welcome!) ;)

  • Maraia

    How is the Dresden Files series? I read Codex Alera and really enjoyed it (have you?), but I got the impression that DF was more steampunk?

    Bilbo. <3 <3 <3 Was Aragorn really 80? That's disturbing. I will continue to think of him as incredibly attractive and not-too-old Vigo Mortensen. ;)

    I was so glad that Kelsier ended up as a role model rather than a love interest. Their age difference was too big, I think.

    Fitz! I love Fitz. Did you start with Liveship Traders? I know we talked about it (and I saw on GR that you just finished the second one), but I can't remember. I started backwards, but I'm glad I didn't read Liveship Traders first.

    Let's see…Glenda Larke's Isles of Glory trilogy has some great older characters, the main one being female. The City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennet features an older female MC. Juliet Marillier's Sevenwaters trilogy has younger MCs (even though they're adult books), but her newest series, Blackthorn & Grim, has older ones (female & male). The MCs in the Riyria Revelations are also older. I'm not sure all of these are *quite* middle aged, but definitely not teenagers.

    • DF is urban fantasy – I haven’t read Codex Alera but I rather liked the first book in the DF (that’s as far as I got so far, I have book 2 on my shelf and A. says it’s good so I’m going to read it eventually). It’s not bad but you have to know there are like 15 books published and it’s still going strong as far as I can tell so you might take this into consideration! :)

      Yeah Aragorn was apparetnly one of those long-lived humans of royal blood and he was pretty old when LOTR starts. I’m appreciating Vigo more now that I’m “older” – 10 years ago when the films came out I was more into Frodo and Legolas ;) I like the scruffy long-haired charm, though!

      Oh yes, I’m so glad Kelsier wasn’t a love interest. I didn’t particularly like him, either…

      I just finished book 2 in the Liveship Traders – I started this series AGES ago and I’m slowly working my way through it. I started Hobb with the Farseers and I’m really glad I didn’t pick the Traders – I don’t know if I’d have appreciated her writing as much! I’m definitely looking forward to finishing Traders and getting back to Fitz and Molly and everyone I love :)

      • Maraia

        HAH, nothing turns me off of a series faster than hearing there are 15 books and counting. I’m also not a big fan of urban fantasy in general. I really enjoyed Codex Alera, though, if you need another series to add to your list. ;)

        Oh right, I guess I did know that, but 80 seems so old! Good think he married an immortal, haha. I also liked Legolas and Frodo more when I was younger, but Vigo Mortensen-Aragorn was always my favorite. Actually, that’s not entirely true. My biggest LOTR crush was Dominic Monaghan, who played Merry. Unfortunately, seeing him in that Rhianna music video a few years back COMPLETELY RUINED HIM FOR ME. I’m still bitter at my cruel friend who told me to watch the video.

        So you haven’t read Tawny Man yet? That’s still my favorite. :D Her series definitely build off each other. I love seen the little connections and character references.

        • OK, I’m not watching Merry in any Rhianna videos! :D I’ve been spared this horror and I have no intention of ruining perfect little Merry with R’n’B. Thanks for the warning! :)

          Noo, Tawny Man is coming up after Liveship Traders, so I have some 900 pages to go until I see Fitz again :)

          • Maraia

            It was horrifying. It wasn’t even the type of music, it was his character in the video. I don’t understand why he accepted that role. (Well, I’m sure money has something to do with it, haha.)

            I’m glad I started with middle aged Fitz. I need to finish up Liveship Traders so I can start on the dragons. Maybe we’ll end up reading Ship of Destiny at the same time!

  • It’s so funny that you mentioned how middle-aged female characters are rare, because yes they are! I noticed that too when making my lists, which is why I made mine pretty all female :)


    • My list would have been really short if I did that :( I’m so writing a post about this!! :D

  • Hm…I have to say, I apparently do not read fantasy unless it is a YA novel. With the exception of the Harry Potter series, I avoided fantasy novels for nearly a decade. I had such a bad experience with the Lord of the Rings series when I was 13, and I was convinced I wouldn’t like fantasy novels. Then I was introduced to the Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima, and that totally changed my view on fantasy novels. So far, I’ve only really explored YA fantasy novels, and I love most of what I read. I’m in the process of re-reading the Lord of the Rings series, and I’m so glad I gave the books another go because I’m really enjoying them this time around. I’m hoping to explore some non-YA fantasy novels now that I have my library card :D

    • I have CWC on my tbr, everyone I know has been going on about how amazing the series is! But I’m really bad at finishing series and really good at starting new ones so I’m going to try and change that first.

      I read LOTR when I was 14 and really liked it, I think it cemented my love for fantasy novels but I guess it’s a personal preference – I was reading every fantasy book I could get my hands on in the children’s/YA department of our library and then ventured into the adult section! BAM – instant love :)

      If you need suggestions, let me know, I can give you a list of my favourites! :)

      • Kaja, I would love some suggestions! The world of fantasy is vast and I have explored so little. Most days I don’t even know where to start.

        • Alrighty then! :) (by the way, I saw you went on a commenting bender, thank you!)

          So! I wanted to check out your Goodreads but I don’t think we’re friends! (And I can’t find a Goodreads button on your page) :( This is me, doing some half-assed creeping, I’m not very good at this stuff. Anyway, if you do have GR and want to add me, I have a button in my sidebar –>

          My all-time favourites are:
          – Patrick Rothfuss: The Kingkiller Chronicle (Book 1: The Name of the Wind). Two out of 3 books are out, both are massive and the third probably will be, too. It’s epic fantasy and Kvothe, the main character, is a youngster for most of the story. It’s pretty lyrical for epic fantasy, no epic battles or anything but I like that in fantasy. I mean, there’s plenty of action but still. Kvothe is also a pretty unreliable narrator (thinks very highly of himself) and is too smart for his own good but I love him to pieces.

          – Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard sequence (The Lies of Locke Lamora is book 1) – if you’ve seen Ocean’s 11, this is like that set into a magical Venice-like city. Locke and his crew are amazing thieves but also too smart to really imagine that anything could go wrong with their plans. Half of the story is present-time, half is about Locke’s childhood as an orphan in a pretty un-loveable society. Book 4 is supposedly coming out in September, they’re all big but not as big as Rothfuss.

          – Robin Hobb’s The Farseer Trilogy (Assassin’s Apprentice is book 1). Hobb’s a woman and she writes amazing fantasy. It’s also epic – both in scope (landscapes, mythology and all) and happenings (not as much killing as Game of Thrones but she writes a great plot). I lovelovelove her characters, her psychology is great and she’s my husband’s favourite writer. I’m currently reading her second trilogy but we own pretty much everything she’s ever written. :) Also long books!

          – Victoria (V. E.) Scwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic – you’ve probably seen some reviews for this one around the blogs this spring, it was pretty big. It’s a good transition from YA to adult fantasy, I’d say, and I’ve read several other books by Schwab and really liked them. That said, I have no idea if the rest of the series will be as good (Book 2 coming in Feb 2016). It’s also half shorter than the others if that’s a bonus :)

          That’s it for now – check these out (I don’t mean read them, just see if you think they’d fit) and then we’ll chat :)

  • I know what you mean about the lack of female middle-aged characters, so frustrating! While I was making my list the only one I could think of was Claire (who, as you mentioned, is on the younger end of middle aged when the series opens). But now that I’ve thought about it more I’d like to add Blackthorn from Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier! She’s an awesome middle-aged character.

    I am SO excited about this lady pirate business, you have no idea! And a Captain at that! We are also in complete agreement re: Harry Dresden. He’s the kind of guy that I’d bro around with, but I wouldn’t see him as a viable romantic interest. Too smarmy.

    • Yeah somebody else suggested Dreamer’s Pool! I saw really great reviews for that one and am considering starting it before Daughter of the Forest because that series has seven parts or something. I KNOW it’s really good but it just seems so overwhelming! With Dreamer’s Pool, I’m only one book behind so far…

      Ah, yes, I’d love to grab a beer with Harry Dresden, swap war stories and all ;) As much as I like a more mature male love interest (as opposed to teenage bad boys), Harry would never make the list. Nope.

      Lady pirates –> coming soon to a book near you. I hope you’ll like LoLL enough to continue with the series! :)