Espresso Expressions: Readers And Their Characters

I’ve decided to begin “Espresso Expressions” as a weekly feature on my blog that will explore a range of thoughts on books, readers, characters, literary themes…you name it! Actually, you name it. I want your topic suggestions. I want your opinions on these posts. If you email me a topic that you’d like me to cover, I will do a quick spotlight on you! After all, it’s interesting to know more about who suggests a topic and why! (I won’t be featuring anyone this first time since I selected the topic.) I’m supremely excited about this new feature. I will post my Espresso Expressions on Sundays; Sundays are, after all, great days to become introspective and investigative.

You DO NOT have to be a fellow blogger to participate! You can find my email on my Contact page. Thank you in advance to everyone who participates! It will be so much fun!


This week’s topic: “Like calls to like.” –Leigh Bardugo

The Darkling. So intriguing. So enticing. His power acts as a magnet and draws me to him. So tempting. So unlike me. I’m good, right? I make mistakes sometimes, I do bad things, but I’m a good person, right? Except that my fascination with The Darkling’s darkness seems to come from my very core. It’s natural. I can stay engrossed in his darkness because I’m not actually doing anything wrong…right?

These are the thoughts that run through my mind, and, from my conversations, the minds of numerous others. Let’s dig deeper, shall we?

**Disclaimer: Don’t get the wrong idea! I love Leigh Bardugo’s writing and characters. **

All of the greatest characters in literature both contemporary and classical are figures to which we can relate. Whether it’s the young adult female protagonist who is a book nerd, a trait that nearly every person reading the book likely has, or whether it’s the Shakespearean tragic hero who ponders the meaning of life through convoluted, Renaissance-era prose, we often find something inside of them that mirrors something inside of us. In Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone, one of the fundamental principles of the Small Science is “like calls to like.” The magic in the person calls to its counterpart that exists in the universe that surrounds the person.

One of the main characters in the book, the Darkling, has received a lot of popularity even though he represents evil and remains a villain through and through. This phenomenon was so unusual that I started to contemplate why he became so popular. Sure, he’s got the “bad boy” label down to a tee—he probably created the entire appeal of “bad boy.” But the bad boy usually uses the title as a shield to cover some sensitive romantic side or dark past or even finds himself being redeemed! Someone or something will come along and show him that he has a soul, that he can offer the world something, or that he is bigger than his past. The Darkling may have a dark past, but…he created it. He is darkness. He is not sensitive or even remotely romantic. He is manipulative, self-serving, power hungry, and destructive. He tears countries in two, he kills without mercy, and he is a ruthless hunter. He has no redeeming qualities.

And we adore him.

Why is that? I think it’s because we can understand him. There’s a part of every person that battles with the temptation to commit wrongdoing. I’m willing to bet that even the most perfect saints in our history dealt with it. The difference between them and the vast majority of the human population is their relentless pursuit of goodness and refusal to give in to their dark desires. If we look back to Greek mythology (or Percy Jackson), the gods and goddesses are very relatable. They’re all gods of human emotions, needs, and ambitions. They may know more than humans, but they aren’t omniscient. They may be more powerful than humans, but they aren’t without weakness. The Greeks found it hard to worship a God that they couldn’t understand. They understood Aphrodite; they understood Ares; they understood Athena. Even the great Zeus has his faults.

Such is the importance of dynamic characters. They allow us to explore ourselves objectively; they allow us to see ourselves reflected. What are your thoughts on this idea? What types of characters are most important to YOU when you read a story?



6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Grace
    Jul 22, 2013 @ 21:03:25

    Wonderful post! You are a great writer. I haven’t read this book yet, but this idea of a character who has no redeeming quality, who truly does remain evil, is quite fascinating. Have you ever read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis? It’s an excellent read, I think, about a demon who writes letters coaching his nephew through the destruction of a mortal. Very interesting. Your observations of the Darkling reminded me of Screwtape, that he is hateful and evil, yet we love him. (Of course it’s also easy to dislike Screwtape, as his only real charm is the very English humor as C.S. Lewis occasionally demonstrates.) I think I’m mostly attracted to tortured characters, people with pasts so dark you can hardly believe they are the person in front of you (figuratively). Tyrion Lannister and Arya Stark of Game of Thrones, Luna Lovegood of Harry Potter, Rumplestiltskin/ Mr. Gold of the ABC T.V. show “Once Upon A Time”… As Tyler-Marie stated above, great insight on this character. 🙂



    • Angie
      Jul 23, 2013 @ 00:08:30

      Firstly, thank you for your kind words! I’m glad you liked it. I haven’t read Screwtape Letters yet, but never fear–it’s on my “to read” list. C.S. Lewis’ writing blows my mind. I’ll tell you what, girl, those tortured characters are the essence of my reading joy. (I get way too excited to discuss them.) I haven’t read Game of Thrones yet, although I feel that I need to considering the genre I love. It’s also on my reading list. Oh boy. Your list of tortured characters is very well-rounded. Love it. One of my favorite YA paranormal romance “tortured souls” is Will from Clare’s Infernal Devices. Sure, girls across the globe may fangirl over his looks and roguishness, but his tortured, sacrificial soul…man. I go into a little more detail (I think) when I reply to Tyler-Marie’s comment, so check it out if you are willing to endure another giant paragraph! Thanks so much for commenting. You should consider participating in Espresso Expressions; if you want to, just email me a topic and answer a couple of quick questions so that I can spotlight you!


  2. Tyler-Marie
    Jul 21, 2013 @ 21:22:50

    Really awesome post that stimulated a ton of thought! Do you think that the author meant for the Darkling to be liked by audience? Or was that just in the natural design of the character that couldn’t be helped??


    • Angie
      Jul 22, 2013 @ 18:06:05

      Thanks! I think that the author meant for him to be intriguing. Of course, I’m sure she knew that anyone described as irresistible as he was would be a fan favorite. What types of characters impact you the most when you read something?


      • Tyler-Marie
        Jul 22, 2013 @ 19:53:15

        Great insight! Characters that impact me the most are usually those small innocent characters who make impactful decisions. The Jane Eyre character who turned down a great desire of her heart in order to be morally right. Those characters impact me because I inspire to do what’s right in difficult situations like them. 🙂 Great question! I could write a few pages on it! How about you?


        • Angie
          Jul 22, 2013 @ 22:03:41

          Oooh, that’s good stuff! 🙂 I would have to say that characters that most inspire me to be a better person/Christ follower are the ones that put others first and are champions of humility. Hadassah in Francine Rivers’ “A Voice in the Wind” is a serious book hero for me. Yet…I absolutely love characters that are tortured souls; the ones that are searching for redemption or hiding their demons to protect the ones they love. Gah. Yet again…my absolute, 100%, nonnegotiable, most impacting characters are the ones who transform, who discover themselves, who grow. Tris from Divergent. Lena from Delirium. Harry from HP. Hadassah from A Voice in the Wind. Meghan from The Iron Fey. Percy/Annabeth from PJ and the Olympians. Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment. The list could go on and on. Easy, cheesy romances are okay for a brainless escape…but connecting with the characters and seeing pieces of myself inside of them–that’s why I read.

          End of long paragraph 😉


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