Thursday, 9 October 2014

Tough Travels: Dark Ladies

‘Tough Travelling’ is a weekly feature: every Thursday (hopefully!) I’ll be rummaging around in my memory to come up with various examples of commonly used fantasy tropes. Full credit goes to Nathan of Fantasy Review Barn for coming up with the idea: be sure to check out his blog!

This week the theme is ‘Dark Ladies’, which is a bit tricky. In fantasy fiction you can’t swing a cat without hitting a famous Dark Lord: Voldemort, Sauron, Saruman, Dracula, Darth Vader, Rumpelstiltskin, and even Satan. Dark ladies, however, are not quite as prevalent throughout the genre as Dark Lords, although they do seem to have begun appearing more widely in the last decade or so.

I’ve taken ‘Dark Ladies’ to embody female characters who hatch ‘wicked’ plots, possess some sort of dark magical power, and/or whose actions deliberately cause harm to others. With that in mind, the list begins with:


(The Broken Empire trilogy by Mark Lawrence) 

Chella is a necromancer, and one of the main antagonists in Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire trilogy. She’s beautiful, seductive and cruel, and has the ability to raise entire armies from the dead: an ability she uses to terrifying effect in all three books.

The Silent Sister 

(Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence) 

I had to mention Lawrence again here. We know virtually nothing about the Silent Sister, other than that she is a creepy, mysterious and powerful crone. We know that she is probably directly responsible for the horrific deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of people, and that she changed the lives of protagonists Jalan and Snorri with one single curse.


(the Shadow Ops trilogy by Myke Cole) 

I’ve only read the first book in this series (Control Point) and so don’t know much about Scylla, other than that she is merciless and possesses a destructive power which has thoroughly corrupted her. Her power is terrifying, and she is made even more fearful by the fact that she is kept in confinement: the first couple of times we meet her are through the bars of her prison, and her guards are afraid of her even when she is fully incarcerated. Furthermore, she has big plans for the world, and though her ideals are somewhat admirable, her methods are utterly reprehensible.

The Emerald Queen 

(the Serpentwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist) 

I haven’t read this series for a very long time, but from what I remember the Emerald Queen was very much a Dark Lady. Mysterious and powerful, she is seeking a magical artefact that has the potential to destroy worlds. She is ruthless and cunning, commands huge armies and is bent on the destruction of Midkemia.

The Lady 

(The Black Company by Glen Cook) 

Again, it’s a very long time since I read anything by Glen Cook, but I remember enough to know that the Lady is about as dark as they come. She was the head of a tyrannical empire before being imprisoned, and is later released to unleash her darkness once more. She betrays her husband and fellow tyrant by leaving him buried, murders her own sister, and rules a dark army led by ten foul generals known as the Taken. The ultimate Dark Lady? Perhaps.

Others who deserve a mention are:

  • Bethod’s nameless witch (Joe Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy)
  • Inevera (The Demon Cycle by Peter V. Brett)
  • Poliel, ascendant goddess of disease (Steven Erikson’s The Malazan Book of the Fallen)
  • Catarina (Miserere by Teresa Frohock)
  • Bellatrix Lestrange (the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling)

That’s it for this week! Happy travelling!


  1. If I don't read the Black Company soon then I don't know why not!! I keep seeing it on these lists and it's made me desperate to get to!
    So glad you got Mr Lawrence in here - for both series as well - kudos! I was going to add Prince of Fools - I was thinking for the Queen rather than the silent sister - very nice choice.
    Lynn :D

    1. Thanks! Yes, for some reason I didn't even think of mentioning the Queen, despite the fact that the series is named after her. ;D

  2. Wow, really great list. Looks like lots of dark ladies in Mark Lawrence's books (grimdark, after all!) and I wish I remembered more of Scylla from Control Point, because that was a pretty good book and I'm hoping to one day finish the trilogy.

    ~Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    1. With Control Point, I found that I liked it but didn't love it. I also mean to continue with the trilogy, but I have a feeling it will be a while before I do . . . there are much more tempting books vying for my attention at the moment. :)

  3. The silent sister is one hell of a character. That said, I am thinking she may end up being a big nasty on the side of, well maybe not good, but perhaps not pure evil.

    1. She's definitely an ambiguous one at the moment . . . especially since we only see her through the eyes of a very unreliable narrator!

  4. Hearing about Scylla makes me want to read Control Point so badly! She sounds evilly awesome. Apparently I also need to read The Black Company so that I can have a sense of who this Lady is and why she's so terrible. Great list!

    1. Ooh, yes, read the Black Company! It's been about eight years since I read it, and I have a feeling I'll be re-reading it sooner rather than later. :D

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