Yesterday, I said this:
Edmond Dantes is a fantastic protagonist because he is aloof, chilling, and powerful. Because his own internal thoughts are largely hidden from the reader, he is also an ambiguous protagonist who could very well go all the way, wreaking terrible vengeance on those who wronged him. Each time he steps back from complete vengeance, that decision is powerful.
I can think of just a handful of other novels in which a protagonist or important secondary character reminds me of Edmond Dantes as the Count of Monte Cristo. Here we go
–Aristide Courveur, in Champion of the Rose and Bones of the Fair.
Aristide is aloof, chilling, and powerful. He isn’t driven by revenge, and he isn’t a man of mystery, but he seems similar to the Count in some pretty fundamental ways. Also, although he isn’t driven by the need to seek vengeance for past injustice, you don’t want, for example, to be responsible for the death of the woman he loves. Or let him catch you aiming to do any harm to his country.
–Francis Crawford in the Lymond Chronicles
Lymond isn’t chilling in the same way as the Count of Monte Cristo, but he does pick up the mysterious background, in a way. I mean, everyone knows who he is, but almost no one knows what happened to make him the man he is when the series opens. He plays a deep, deep game, like the Count. Vengeance is something he has his eye on, though it’s not his prime motivation. He’s not as powerful; that is, Lymond is often driven by events, not driving events. Nevertheless, when I think of protagonists who remind me of the Count, Lymond is one I think of.
–Kirth Gersen in a series I haven’t actually read: The Demon Princes series by Jack Vance. Here is the description that led to my placing this series on a Count of Monte Cristo list:
The story of Kirth Geren as he exacts his revenge on five notorious criminals, collectively known as the Demon Princes, who carried the people of his village off into slavery during his childhood. Each novel deals with his pursuit of one of the five Princes.
As you see from the first entries in this list, I wasn’t specifically looking for vengeance plots, but for protagonists who remind me of the aloof, composed, secretive, deadly Count of Monte Cristo. I don’t know if Kirth Gersen has any of the same personal qualities, but wow, he sure sounds like he’s got the vengeance thing down pat. I was never a big Vance fan, but if any of you have read this series, what did you think?
–Nicholas Valiarde in The Death of the Necromancer
I know I KEEP mentioning Nicholas lately, but what can I do? Driven by long-term plans of elaborate vengeance, check. Secretive about his background, check. Not exactly aloof, but he can be chilling. He’s unmoved by a lot of things that would make other people flinch. He’s certainly very dangerous if he’s your enemy. He hasn’t got the same public aura of dangerousness, he hasn’t got the immense wealth, but still, I think he belongs on this list.
Can anybody add to this list? Who else reminds you of the Count of Monte Cristo?
8 thoughts on “The Count of Monte Cristo: not retellings but reminiscent”
The personality isn’t a great fit, but I wonder if you could make an argument for Medair? (Andrea Host) No one knows who she really is, she lost everything, she started out on a mission of revenge, and, while it’s not known to everyone else, she’s in a position of immense power. The ability to take revenge is always in her hands, completely her choice to make. The target for her revenge is less direct, but there’s more parallels than I initially realized.
It has been many years since I read Demon Princes, but my recollection is that they are closer to Oceans 11 than to Count of Monte Cristo.
There was an old Guy Gavriel Kay book set in the Italian city-states where the emperor had cursed the entire peninsula to punish them for the death of his wife. He was a fairly sympathetic character, and, at the end, he released the curse voluntarily.
Allan, I think that was Tigana — one of many, many books I should read again.
Kirth Gersen does have some reminiscent qualities. In terms of your four, he is certainly composed (like practically all Vance protagonists) and certainly deadly; he’s somewhat less aloof. He is secretive a good bit of the time, as a convenient means to an end. In book 2 or 3 he also becomes ridiculously wealthy.
His mission of vengeance is more thoroughly episodic, and a lot more about procedural obstacles than internal questioning — the five demon princes are all conveniently awful people. When poetic justice plays a role (which it does), it’s more the author’s conceit: Gersen usually has enough trouble getting the job done at all.
I can kind of see some resemblance but it wouldn’t particularly have occurred to me if I weren’t looking for it.
Well. not a modern one, but Mathias Sandorf by Jules Verne. Aloof, chilling, and powerful protagonist motivated by vengeance, but with some moral dilemmas.
It might actually be considered a retelling. There are some plot twists and quite a lot of action, adventure and fantastical technology, so classic Verne, but the basic storyline is very similar:
Sandorf is a Hungarian freedom fighter, involved in a conspiracy to free Hungary from the Habsburgs, they are betrayed, his friends are executed, his family is murdered, he himself escapes by faking his death then comes back to punish his enemies and help his friends or the families of his friends.
But his friend’s son is in love with the enemy’s daughter…
Maria, that does sound very much like a retelling or at the very least an homage! I have never heard of that one. Thanks for the pointer.
Allan’s suggestion is definitely Tigana, and it was the death of the son, not the wife. And .. sort of voluntarily. He’s definitely morally grey: capable great good but also commits great evil.
I will have to look for that Verne Maria suggested.
Not sure if any characters are quite reminiscent of Edmond Dante’s. Brandins motives in Tigana motivated by grief not a need for revenge. You could consider Inda— but he, too, had no anger or need for revenge. Maybe Nicholas in House of Nicollo comes close.