Richard from Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series.

I know what you are thinking: another wizard from another epic fantasy series. I understand. Just hear me out.

As a reader, I like two plot devices more or less equally- a larger-than-life hero saving the world and an ordinary person rising to the occasion. Rarely do the two meet in the same story, and almost never in one character. Terry Goodkind manages to pull it off, mostly by re-thinking some of the fantasy tropes, at least in character development.

Unlike many fantasy characters who discover their world-saving superpowers in their teens, Richard is older, in his mid-twenties at the start of the series. Thus, we are spared the usual teen angst of "Why me?" and/or "I don’t want to." Richard is already a complete person in his own right who sees a task that must be done and proceeds to do it.

A more interesting part of Richard’s personality, though, is his ability to walk into most situations and make them better- for himself, for people around him, and sometimes for the world. Sometimes he does it with magic and -of course- with the Sword. Those scenes are suitably spectacular. However, truly special moments come when Richard uses tools available to anyone: intelligence, perseverance, and, in a few outstanding scenes, simple kindness.

Interestingly, throughout the series, the author keeps coming up with ways to strip Richard of his magic and put him back into an "ordinary man" position. It would seem an odd choice, but one that has paid off with the fans. Faith of the Fallen, the book generally considered the best in the series, has Richard magic-free for the duration, yet still delivers some of the most memorable scenes.

That brings me to the point that is not new, but crucial, especially in the context of fantasy fiction. A good character must always be grounded in reality. After all, we as readers want to know that we too can rise to the occasion. Even if we never get to save the world.

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