We asked our readers for their thoughts on the all-time best book characters from sci-fi and fantasy, and got some incredible suggestions in return. A few are heroes, some are villains, and the rest fall somewhere in between. Regardless, they’re all from amazing sci-fi and fantasy books. If you’re looking to meet some new compelling characters, check out these Portalist reader favorites.
And if you need even more ideas for what to pick up next, take a look at all the great suggestions we received!
The Seafort Saga Books 1–3
Throughout the Seafort Saga, we watch Nicholas Seafort rise through the United Nations Naval Service ranks. He shows a spine of steel, willing to make decisions and back them up, no matter how dangerous the consequences appear. He is meticulous and stubborn, never relenting when there’s a problem to be solved.
Resourceful and full of grit, Nicholas Seafort is a relatable hero who shows us the path to greatness lies in hard work and determination.
Roland Deschain of Gilead
The gunslinger Roland Deschain has a destiny: to destroy the Dark Tower. He’s the epitome of the strong, silent hero, but that’s largely due to the trauma of losing so many people he loves.
Serious in nature, Roland loves a good riddle even if he overcomplicates them, but this highlights a defining character trait. He overthinks, sometimes letting cold calculation push him forward, which can make him come across as a bit indifferent. But as Roland redeems his past choices, he grows into a hero readers can champion.
The Old Kingdom Collection
Sabriel, a girl with years of private school training, makes an unlikely Abhorsen: the only person who can legally practice necromancy. But this role does explain Sabriel's fascination with death.
Sabriel puts her academic prowess to good use, letting it help her solve the situations she finds herself in. She’s social and believes in doing her duty, but she loathes any form of deception and only follows orders if she understands them. Sabriel combines her intellect with her curiosity, keeping the reader guessing what she’ll do next.
The Silent Blade
It’s hard to argue that a character who lives by such a strong inner moral code isn’t great.
Drizzt Do'Urden the dark elf is thoughtful, facing his own internal struggles as he weighs his beliefs and principles against the world he lives in. Though he strives for perfection, he isn’t perfect. However, his persistence towards that goal that makes him relatable. He also really wants to belong.
Drizzt is a character many readers can identify with and understand, and that’s why they cheer him on.
Made of metal, razor wire, blades, thorns, and scalpels, the Shrike from Dan Simmons' Hyperion Cantos is terrifying. Not only can it manipulate the flow of time, allowing it to move incredibly fast or appear in multiple places at once, it is also known for impaling its victims on a Tree of Pain, where they can’t escape the torture because they never die.
The Shrike has loyalty to no one; its aims shift as the future shifts, making it a character readers love to hate.
[Spoilers for Dune to follow.]
An Atreides Swordmaster, Duncan Idaho’s loyalty is steadfast. He fights to protect the duke’s son, even against Paul’s own mother if necessary. Duncan's priority is to do whatever it takes to protect not just his ward’s life, but the duke’s interests as well.
In the end, he fights to the death to protect the duke’s son, but his sacrifice takes out quite a few elite soldiers and allows Paul and his mother to escape with their lives. Duncan Idaho's skill and unwavering loyalty are what make him a hero that readers admire.
A Song of Ice and Fire Series
He drinks and he knows things. Although that line could be mostly bravado, Tyrion Lannister proves its truth over and over again. No matter what obstacle is thrown his way, he outmaneuvers his enemies––and his family––to come out on top.
Tyrion is incredibly intelligent, but also has a strong sense of empathy for others. He just doesn’t let his understanding of others, or his emotions, stand in his way. Tyrion is willing to make the hard choices when necessary, making him one of the most compelling characters in the entire series.
The Lord of the Rings
Gandalf is the wizard of all wizards. He can appear elusive, disappearing with little notice to solve a problem or get help. But in the end, he always shows up to save the day.
Gandalf has a mischievous sense of humor, and loves a good party, even bringing fireworks when he decides to join in. He’s wise and is filled with unrelenting hope, cheerleading his friends and allies to keep going, to keep trying no matter what. In this consistent behavior, he teaches readers how to believe in themselves, too.
RELATED: Lord of the Rings Characters, Ranked
The Gentlemen Bastards Series
Sabatha Belacoros is one complicated woman. She’s equal parts rival and love interest to the main protagonist, Locke, keeping both him and the reader on their toes.
Viewed by other characters as arrogant and reckless, Sabatha is actually quite cunning, using her intelligence, skill, and femininity to get what she wants, whenever she wants it. Even though she’s a side character, she’s incredibly captivating and complicated, which keeps readers turning the pages for more.
Polgara the Sorceress
What’s not to like about a sorceress who taught herself magic, became extremely skilled in healing, and modernizes the government in her small section of the world?
All the while, Polgara had to overcome significant loss, as the people she loved died long before she even aged. Polgara takes her duty seriously, caring for her makeshift family while keeping the true extent of her powers secret. It’s easy to see why readers like her combination of smarts, magic, and skill.
The Ender Quintet
Andrew “Ender” Wiggins is an unusual hero. First, he’s a child, so definitely not your average warrior. And while he’s a brilliant strategist and tactician, his biggest strength is his ability to deeply empathize with his enemy. Because he can understand his enemy, and then think like them, he can use that to win, but he hates himself afterwards.
Ender's reluctance to fight is what causes him to seek an alternate solution in the war against the alien Buggers. This choice to put compassion and love over his skill as a soldier is what endears readers to Wiggins so profoundly.
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
Captain Nemo is a mysterious sea captain who simultaneously opposes and embraces tyranny. Is he the hero or the villain? Well, it depends. It’s alluded to that he’s suffered greatly at the hands of an unnamed nation, and in fact, Nemo seems to be motivated solely by taking violent revenge against them.
But he’s far more complicated than a man with a vendetta. Nemo is thoughtful and caring, but can be callous and cruel. Every facet of his personality seems at odds with himself, making him an extremely enigmatic character that readers love to dissect and attempt to understand.
The Ringworld Series
Louis Wu is a difficult character to nail down. Part of it is that his memory has been wiped multiple times throughout his very long life. And partly, it's because he’s just not really into sharing or showing his emotions.
Louis is opinionated and adventurous, willing to verbally explore his ideas with anyone and everyone, often with the goal of bringing them to his side. He can be quite narrow-minded when he first encounters new cultures, but he also learns along the way, righting previous wrongs and generally trying to become a better person. His ability to change and grow is what draws readers to him, letting them see their own flaws and how to overcome them.