A post by Marie Brennan at Book View Cafe: New Worlds: Bodyguards

This caught my eye because I love bodyguards. Now all of a sudden I can’t imagine why I’ve never written a novel where the protagonist is a bodyguard. Or an assassin. Or a thief. But in a lot of ways I like bodyguards better than either of those other options because I could do so much with themes of loyalty and trust, which, as you might have noticed, I gravitate toward all the time anyway.

Of course I do have characters who sometimes take on something of a bodyguard role, including most recently Geras, for example. And Ezekiel sometimes takes that sort of role. But that isn’t their primary function.

I won’t say I suddenly want to drop everything else and write a fantasy novel where the main character is a bodyguard, but I will say, I suddenly DO want to add that to the list of future projects.

Now, I doubt that Marie Brennan is going to let this post turn into a list of SFF novels with great bodyguards … although that would be neat … but sure, let’s see what she says:

If money is the carrot, then the stick is threatening the bodyguard’s own life, or that of their loved ones. If you abandon me, you won’t live for long afterward. … That points toward the final motivation, which is loyalty. … Human beings are capable of remarkable altruism, and if someone believes sincerely enough that your life is more important than their own, they may willingly risk themself or even die to keep you safe. This kind of logic gets treated as natural in a society where ideology says some people are inherently superior to others. …

In the moment when a bodyguard’s services are truly needed, and in the aftermath of that crisis, you can learn a lot about both the characters’ personalities and the society they live in.

Bodyguard motivations: Money, threats, loyalty. Obviously I would move straight toward the latter if I were writing the novel. Let’s see what the motivations have been for bodyguards in SFF novels …

1) Matadora by Steve Perry

Dirisha Zuri… a dangerous drifter, a dark-skinned beauty, Khadaji’s colleague. A ronin, whose expertise in body control and knowledge of the fighting arts drew the attention of Matador Villa. The school wanted her talents… and the galaxy desperately needed her deadly skills.

The motivation here starts off sort of money and sort of supporting good causes and shifts to loyalty and then love.

2) The Foreigner series.

The motivation is loyalty atevi style, which is to say, man’chi.

And … wow, this is a very short list. So, what else? SFF novels where a bodyguard is either the protagonist or a very important secondary character, not just part of the background or scenery. Oh, I can think of one more. Wait, two:

3) The Goblin Emperor

Maia’s guards are among the most important secondary characters in the story.

4) The Hands of the Emperor

Not Cliopher, but two of the other important members of the Emperor’s household; plus plenty of other guards who are part of the background.

What are some others? Now that I’ve suddenly realized this is a trope I like a lot, any suggestions would be appreciated.

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14 thoughts on “Bodyguards”

  1. Barbara in Heather Rose Jones’ Daughter of Mystery and its sequels. Of course, she doesn’t exactly stay a bodyguard, but she keeps holding herself responsible for Margerit’s safety.

  2. Oh, thanks, Irina! I think I actually may have that on my TBR pile. I guess I should move it up toward the top!

  3. The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner–particularly Pol in book 1 and Teleus (and arguably Costis?) in the rest of the series…

    and of course Murderbot!

  4. I know I’ve read some candidates, but not much is coming to mind except the MG (I think?) Artemis Fowl series wherein the bodyguard is a very important character*, and more CJC: Fortress – for Idrys, who is more, but certainly acts as that, too; and Cyteen, Ari’s pair of azi. Other examples are staying just out of reach, drat it.

    I think there are some in Hodgell. Not that the main characters cooperate and make it easy for them.

    *We’ve recently been poking at AF for how the genius level protaganist is written and made plausible.

  5. I know you asked for SFF novels, but I’m nominating an anime/manga: Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. Major role for Ling’s bodyguards and the loyalty goes both ways to be carried out in important ways.

  6. Interesting post! I love bodyguards, too. In my Annals of Alasia series, one of my favorite characters is Erik, Prince Jaymin’s (later King Jaymin’s) bodyguard. He’s a supporting character in most of the books, but book 6 (In the Double Agent’s Service) is all about him.

  7. Good heavens, I don’t know what was wrong with me. Murderbot, yes, of course!

    Good one, Elaine, Catlin and Florian are definitely bodyguards I should have thought of.

    Thanks, Annie, I’ll check that series out soon. I’m tempted now to start at the end…

  8. Because I just started rereading the Vorkosigan series for the zillionth time – Bothari. He’s fascinating and tragic and heroic in so many untypical ways, especially if you start with the Cordelia books, like I just did.

  9. I adore bodyguards and I would LOVE to see a bodyguard novel from you. (Nikoles has strong bodyguard vibes, to me, although really he’s a subordinate who occasionally gets a chance to protect Aras— but it’s the bonding of personal loyalty that does it.)

    Most of the bodyguards I can think of recently are from TV (Asian dramas) rather than books. Fei Liu in NIRVANA IN FIRE, Ji Changwook’s character in THE K2, the female general’s female bodyguards in OH! MY GENERAL. Though Alex Rowland has a bodyguard romance novel (fantasy) coming out next year, A TASTE OF GOLD AND IRON.

  10. Rian, in Wheel of the Infinite.
    Miri Tayasin, mercenary, retired, bodyguard, retired, have weapon, will travel, in Clan Korval.

  11. Many good suggestions, most of them ones I ought to have thought of. Not sure about Miri, but later in the series, the Yxtrang recruit might count?

    Mary Beth, if YOU love the Rowland book, I’m sure I will, so maybe I need to add that to a wish list right now.

  12. Just prior to the first book, Miri’s bodyguarding job goes bad, leaving her on the run from the Juventas. Val Con meets her mis en scene. But yes, the Xtrang end up as bodyguards.

  13. Rachel, I haven’t read the Rowland book yet but I’m excited from the snippets I’ve seen!

    There’s also Sarkis, in T Kingfisher’s SWORDHEART, who is a warrior stuck in an enchanted sword and compelled to bodyguard anyone who draws the sword. (However much he may disapprove of their decadent Southern ways)

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