Did I just start a new feature? Yes. Will I keep up with it? Almost certainly not. But who cares. I’ve been wanting to do more recommendations post, or just to go back to a different format than just plain reviews. So I was watching a video where someone did the 25 Books Challenge that is basically to name 5 books for 5 prompts in 2 minutes. The prompts are random (like name 5 books with the letter Z in the title) but I thought that it’d be fun to every once in a while do a Trope Five – basically five books (like top five, get it) matching a certain trope. I am sure someone is already doing this (and probably using the same title) but I just thought it’d be a fun way to structure a recommendations post.
The first one we’re starting with is the Mentor-Apprentice trope. I absolutely love this dynamic because I think it has so much potential for different kind of dynamics. There’s respect, but there’s also resentment and this need of the apprentice to prove himself to his master/mentor, so I think that allows for some complex characterization, and we all know how much I love that. And there’s even potential for a romance (although I don’t think I have that many on my list (would love to hear some)). I think this one is more explored in fantasy, but there’s definitely room to fit this sort of teacher/student dynamic in a contemporary setting as well. So let’s get into it!
the poppy war by r.f. kuang
The Poppy War is shaping up to be one of my favorite series of all time and I absolutely loved Rin’s relationship with her mentors. On one hand, there’s master Jiang and he is the kind of mentor I really enjoy (the one that seems silly but could actually kill you) and I really enjoyed his and Rin’s dynamic. There’s also disappointment and resentment woven into it throughout the series and it’s this really complex dynamic of loving your teacher but finding out that you don’t really know them at all. Rin also has a sort of mentor/apprentice relationship with Altan, but it’s very different. Altan is her commander but he also guides her through being a shaman and channeling the Phoenix and they have this really tortured dynamic, where Rin is not clear on her feelings towards Altan and also feels like she could never live up to his standard. If you like these sorts of dynamics, The Poppy War is a great place to look for them. Plus, if you are a fan of this trope, a significant part of the first book happens in a school, which is a great setting for this kind of trope. More of my thoughts on The Poppy War here.
the final empire by brandon sanderson
One of my favorite mentor/apprentice relationships is between Kelsier and Vin. I love Kelsier as a character, I think he is absolutely brilliant, and I love the way Vin gets adopted into his gang, and how Kelsier teaches her about allomancy and being a Mistborn. I think they also have a really complex relationship, one that Vin internalizes in a way, and I absolutely loved them. One of my favorite things about this trope is its potential to shape the apprentice’s character throughout the book or series and I really love how that is handled with Vin’s character. Plus, this is one of my favorite series of all time, with the absolute best world-building, plot and magic system. So could not recommend enough.
the fifth season by n.k. jemisin
I cannot begin to stress enough how much I love Alabaster and Syenite’s relationship. Alabaster is a really reluctant mentor and someone who really hates the system in place and sort of becomes a mentor to Syenite in a way that is also eye opening for her in terms of fighting the system and dismantling it. He is also really powerful and so there’s that dual role of his as a mentor, both in terms of magic and in terms of the system of oppression that is in place in this world and sort of illuminating the role Syenite and him are playing in it. Love their dynamic so much, even though it’s not the traditional mentor/apprentice dynamic. The Fifth Season is one of my favorite reads of this year, it’s amazing, so I would highly recommend it. Again, there is a sort of school setting to it as well, which is always a bonus.
the raven cycle by maggie stiefvater
I bet you are so surprised to see the Raven Cycle here. BUT I can’t help it, I love the relationship between Adam and Persephone. Persephone teaches Adam about communicating with the leyline and helps ground him and understand his role as “the magician” and his deal with Cabeswater. This relationship is particularly interesting because Persephone is really weird and mysterious, and Adam is this person who does not trust other people. So I think there’s a lot of interesting stuff with their dynamic, and I always enjoy going back and reading about the way their characters play off each other. ALSO you know I could have said Ronan and Kavinsky here too, but I do have some self-respect.
the percy jackson series
To finish of on a nostalgic note, I want to talk about Chiron and Percy. Chiron is one of those characters that’s a real father figure for Percy in a way. He is really supportive and someone you go to advice. There’s obviously no tension here as with every other relationship on this list, but it’s one that’s really caring and important for Percy as a character. I really enjoy it and I think relationships of this kind are always comforting in Middle Grade and I really love how they’re done in this genre.
I would love to hear from you! Tell me 1) your favorite mentor/apprentice relationship and 2) what other tropes you would like me to explore in future posts! I’d love to hear.
In the meantime, happy reading
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