Friendship—it is a relationship between two or more people that implies being friends; and friend is a person whom one knows, likes and trusts. It is intrinsic feeling humans have felt since the dawn of our species, essential to human survival, and a relationship most of us crave to have (or are lucky enough to have). Besides being such an important part of our lives, there is also an added value in using friendship in books; it can be used to explain poor decisions by a character or, more commonly, the drive of a character.
Fantasy explores this sentiment and there are several series that are solidly based on a friendship between two or more characters. Some are popular examples whilst others might trigger your interest for the story and the series!
Darrow and Sevro are possibly the best example of friendship of the series, yet it is difficult to choose. Most of the story is based on close relationships between the characters and the (inevitable) betrayals that fires the story. Having to start an insurrection to stop the status quo where the Red are at the bottom of the “food chain” whilst the Gold can do however they please, Darrow is chosen to become a Gold to aid the insurrection led by Ares. The story constantly refers to Greek mythology—which is the second reason I picked up the book beside well-deserved high praises from the readers—and a fixed cast system. It is a complex story and it increases in value throughout the trilogy. This series also serves as a good bridge between YA and adult fantasy/sci-fi.
The Gentleman Bastard series by Scott Lynch
This adult fantasy series tells the stories of Locke and Jean who are possibly the best expression of friendship. The two are very different from one from the other, physically and in interests, so they initially dislike each other. Better said, a young Locke rejects a young Jean; this childish behaviour leads to one of the best “father-son” moments between Locke and Father Chains (mentor to both the young thieves).
Locke and Jean share a similar story—they are orphans gifted with well-functioning brains who are brought together and taught by Father Chains. They become friends over time, which we experience on the very first page, and become an incredibly connected pair who are also partners at work. They’re so closely connected that they will also race to save each other lives and willing to sacrifice their own to save the other.
It sounds cheesy written like this, but it had so much depth, love, and frustration with the characters becoming incredibly relatable throughout the books. As much as they are able to think similarly, they are also filling each other’s gaps and skills.
For instance, Locke is skilled at convincing and manipulating people, while Jean is incredibly talented at fighting with his axes called the Twisted Sisters. When oral persuasion does not work, the Twisted Sisters will do the work. The stories themselves are entertaining, usually providing two stories, one exploring the present and one the past so the reader can better understand who the characters are and where they came from.
Royce and Hadrian are medieval skilled mercenaries selling their trade to the best bidder. Yet, they are not the typical mercenary as they have a conscious and a general interest to do “the right thing”, one more than the other. Royce is talented in the thieving art and Hadrian is the best swordsman. Now, the series improves over time—the first instalment of the series is very simple yet the strongest aspect are the characters and, in particular, the interaction between Hadrian and Royce which gets even better over time. Friendship is so instrumental to the story that a moment of difficulty between the protagonists is key to one of the stories.
This trio really does not need an introduction and, possibly, I could avoid going into details. But where is the fun in that? Harry, Ron and Hermione are probably the most famous friendship in this list. Peculiar for many different reasons, starting from the fact that is three people in a close relationship, it involves both sexes, and it is relatable. All the relationships have their ups and down and it does not even start as a friendship. Ron and Harry are in sync from the first moment, but Hermione is the odd student, the know-it-all who rubbed Ron and Harry (and frankly the whole school) the wrong way. If it wasn’t for a deadly threat to her life—pretty much caused by our favourite rascals—the group would not have become the trio we all know and love.
The characters still go through rough times, for instance when Harry participates in the Tri-Wizard Cup and Ron does not talk to Harry for a long time. Ron and Hermione also go through a similar phase for quite some time amongst many other moments between the trio. Now, this is a teenager friendship, but it is nice to see that it will continue to flourish and keep the close bond when the characters become adults. As a side note, I’m still waiting for series where Harry is an Auror!
The Witchland series by Susan Dennard
The story is based on the friendship between two talented witches Isuelt and Safiya, the first with the power to see threads between people and the second with the power to sense if people are truthful. The friendship made it into the list primarily because it is a friendship amongst women—which is very unusual in fantasy although lately there is more and more focus on diversification of characters.
It is debatable whether one gives more than she receives from the other (Safi), but it is heartwarming to know that there is someone out there who is willing to do all she can to make sure the other is well. In this, this is an exemplary friendship. The story is also fairly fascinating, it is based on the premise that Safi is a truthwitch, a once-in-a-lifetime birth (in fact a bit more rare than that) and Iz and Safi embark on an adventure, more like a run, to save themselves from control by others.
The relationship between Davian, Wirr, and Ashalia is the first milestone of the story. The series is reminiscent of Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and The Lord of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien for the grandeur of the world, the plot (a quest to defeat a dark lord) and yet, it is modern in terms of characters ambiguity, character development and world building. It is the friendship between Davian and Wirr that will kick all the events in the book and save someone’s life in the process. Ashalia’s development is partially based on her relationship with Wirr and Davian.
Imagine the Three Musketeers crossed with the justice system and this would be the Greatcoats series. Falcio, Kent, and Brasti are Greatcoats serving the King as travelling magistrates to provide justice around the reign. They become outlaws when the nobles decide to kill the King; yet, the Greatcoats’ work is not done because the King gave each Greatcoat a quest before his death. Specifically, Falcio, Kent, and Brasti work together as a cohesive group, depending on each other’s skills and abilities. The story is mostly narrated through Falcio’s perspective—with a lot of irony, bordering into sarcasm, and a lot of dry humour. The series grows in content and darkness, tackling very severe and violent crimes, and describing the relationship between the three main characters. The series also explores the needs to individual growth and personal discoveries to be able to contribute to the group as a whole. It is absolutely entertaining and you might want to be a Greatcoat by the end of the first book!
The series has an extremely interesting foundation: Rock stars meet fantasy. The result is an incredibly coloured and varied cast of fun, strong, complicated men who fought together as a band for hire. Friendship is the whole trigger for the story and the adventure old friends start—to save a damsel in distress, only the damsel is the daughter of one of the warriors and a bad-ass warrior herself, leading a group of mercenaries. The book is incredibly entertaining, with several hints to video-games. You might want to give it a go!
Are there more friendships you would like to see in this list? Are you going to read one or more books mentioned here? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section!