From adventurers to hermits, swordsmen to squires, best friends to lovers – sidekicks come in all shapes and sizes, and the best ones don’t simply accompany the hero on a quest. They can often become a hero in their own right, and in their own ways.
Today I’m shining a light on some of my all-time favourite sidekicks – and yes, I might have interpreted some a little broadly. But we make our own rules in fantasy, right?
Let’s take a look at who’s on deck…
Joscelin Verreuil (Kushiel’s Legacy)
I do love a good sword-wielding sworn protector, and so I’m kicking things off with one of the best. Joscelin enters the story of Phedre no Delaunay with every emotion he possesses wound impossibly tight, and it’s our heroine who coaxes him out of that shell and inspires truly eternal loyalty. And he is never less than magnificent in action.
Ciardha (Swords and Fire)
No last name needed for this absolutely badass “personal assistant”. Though when one is serving in such a distinguished position among the staff of ‘La Contessa’ Lissandra Cornaro, perhaps it’s a given that one’s actions speak louder than words. Or, indeed, names. Ciardha demonstrably does her best work when no one is paying attention to her, however, and whether she is keeping her lady’s schedule in pristine order or taking out luckless attackers, her work, like her composure, is always flawless.
Quentin (The October Daye series)
Every knight needs a squire, and a knight such as October Daye needs one who can learn to keep up with her – and learn when it’s appropriate to be ‘disrespectful’. As a teenager growing up not only among the Fae courts but in Toby’s household, Quentin learns those lessons in all the best ways. He’s going to be a remarkable man, and I’m going to be all misty-eyed to see him become that man.
Nott the Brave (Critical Role, Campaign 2)
Taking a slight detour from written fiction here, to include my absolute favourite D&D live-play web series – and therefore, one of my two favourite D&D-related characters.
Nott the Brave (played brilliantly by Sam Riegel) is “a little goblin girl” with sharp crossbow skills, sticky fingers, certain deep-rooted phobias and a drinking problem. I’ll avoid spoilers by not going into detail about those, but as the tiny, fierce best friend to the party’s equally messed-up wizard, Nott surprised (and destroyed) a lot of fans, myself included, with the revelation of her hidden depths, and in particular the depth of her protective nature. “He’s MY boy.” Indeed.
Tasslehoff Burrfoot (The Dragonlance Chronicles)
And then there’s this cheeky little bastard.
I always have a soft spot for a good ‘plucky underdog’, and Tasslehoff Burrfoot stole my heart while he was busy ‘discovering’ things in other people’s pockets. Whether being hilariously irritating to those around him, or having his own memorable moments (including, technically, becoming a dragon?), I’ve always thought of him fondly.
Micah Heslop (Tremontaine)
Arguably, Micah could be considered a main character in her own right in this serial melodrama, if not for the fact that she spends most of her time happily shut up with her books and her numbers and away from parties and crowds and people. Nonetheless, Micah’s role in the events that transpire here are undoubtedly vital, and I only love her more for the fact that, by and large, those events pass her by as being unrelated to mathematics and thus unimportant – but she still manages to be a good friend and a perfect cinnamon roll and I would protect her with my life.
Gurgi (The Chronicles of Prydain)
While reading this series last year, I went back and forth in my estimation of them (generally speaking I love them, but they do have Issues) – but one thing I will never question is that I fell absolutely in love with Taran’s scruffy, sweet, terrified but heartwarmingly brave companion. Who needs swords and plate mail, am I right?
Zuzana (Daughter of Smoke and Bone)
Anyone who can make me feel anything other than a knee-jerk revulsion where puppets are concerned is pretty remarkable, straight off the bat. But Zuzana Nováková also danced, sparkled and sassed her way into my heart as Karou’s fiercely supportive, often blithely optimistic best friend. I still haven’t read the final book in this trilogy from Laini Taylor, but let it be known that if anything bad happens to Zuze I. Will. Riot.
John Granby (Temeraire)
Anyone who was around when I read, discussed and (later) often raged my way through these books, when my blog was still in its original incarnation, might remember my feelings about John Granby. But despite my misgivings about his treatment in the later half of the series, I’ve never been less than fond of Granby himself. It is known that every heroically windswept Captain needs a grumpy, rough-edged first mate, and Granby gives them all a run for their money.
Amanita Caplan (Sense8)
I know that this immensely popular Netflix show may not hit everyone’s radar as ‘fantasy’, but a) science fantasy is totally a thing; b) this fits that bill, and c) if Star Wars can be described as fantasy then so can this.
ANYWAY. If there was ever a more perfect example of everything that’s good and true about sidekicks than Amanita Caplan, I can’t think of one. Rather than being sidelined as nothing more than The Girlfriend, she accompanies Nomi Marks on her and her cluster’s wildly dangerous mission – but more importantly, she cements her place as an invaluable ally simply by refusing to dismiss what her lover is going through as some form of mental illness. When Nomi needs backup, Amanita’s there to cause distractions. When she needs her girlfriend to listen and support her, and to be honest with her, she is every bit as brave. I could go on forever about how much I love Amanita, but if you’ve seen this show, I bet you already understand.
How about you? Do you agree/disagree/have your own favourite sidekicks? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Critical Role cast: tvtropes.org
Sense8 cast: Netflix Official Site
Book cover images: Goodreads