Best SIBLING Books

This is in part prompted by a friend’s listing of SF/F featuring siblings and the attendant potential for ick. I tried to think of siblings done well in SF/F where…

1. Both sibs are alive and kickin’. Unfortunately, this means Jo Walton’s Among Others, featuring twins Morganna and Morwenna, does not count, because one of these two is dead before novel’s start, and so the focus is more on the survivor’s guilt and grief, not on sibling dynamics.

2. Incest isn’t a major thing; so no Cyteen, no GoT Lannisters, etc., etc.

3. At least one of the siblings is female; I think general fiction is filled with ambivalent brotherly fraternal dynamics.

I have to confess I’m drawing a blank! Part of me is thinking of Arya and Sansa from GoT but the series isn’t really “about” them as sisters. There’s Morgaine and Arthur from Mists of Avalon, but incest. The only one I can think of is Melpomene and her bro from Orbital Resonance, and really that novel took the healthiness of their bond and the exceptional nature of their relationship (because they were the only ones in their part of the station with siblings) as a given.

Any suggestions for others? Why are they your favorites?

Comments

  1. Avi says

    How about Patricia McKillip’s Riddle Master series? Complex sibling relationships: Morgon, Tristan and Eliard; Raderle, Duac and Rood; Heureu and Astrin.

  2. Jenny says

    Your third criterion talks about “general fiction” and I’m not sure if you mean “general SF/F” or only general fiction.

    For SF/F that handles male siblings (brilliantly), Lois McMasters Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga contains several books about the sibling-pair Miles and Mark Vorkosigan: Mirror Dance is probably the most obvious, but the dynamics are important in several of the other books too. They aren’t conventional siblings by any means – and the books also explore Miles’s pseudo-sibling relationships with his foster-siblings and cousin – but there’s no incest and they’re both alive. One of the foster-siblings is female, by the way, but since Miles is in love with her (or IMO thinks he is, and continues to think he was, throughout his life this far) I don’t think it counts.

    (Eomer and Eowyn aren’t looked at enough, are they? A pity.)

  3. Maria says

    *bonks self on head* A Swiftly Tilting Planet. Duh! Meg and Charles Wallace save the world together, and also their dad.

  4. Maria says

    Jenny,

    I feel like heteronormative brother/brother relationships are explored really thoroughly and with a lot of nuance in SF/F…

  5. Shauna says

    The siblings that immediately leap to mind are Glenin, Sarra and Cailet, who are the three primary characters of the Exiles fantasy trilogy.

    Also:
    Katniss and Prim Everdeen from the Hunger Games
    Elphaba and Nessarose from Wicked
    many sibling sets from Madelene L’Engle – my favorites are Meg & Charles Wallace from a Wrinkle In Time and Vicky/John/Suzy/Rob Austin from the “Chronos” series
    most of the Star Wars novelizations, many of which feature Luke & Leia and/or Leia’s twins, Jacen & Jaina

  6. Rebecca says

    The Demons Lexicon series by Sarah Rees Brennan is pretty good, the first book focus mainly on the relationship between two brothers but the second and third books focus as much on the relationship between a brother-sister pair (Mae and Jamie) and a sister who plays a guardian role to her younger brother and sister (Sin, Lydia and Toby)

    The Wind Singer Trilogy by William Nicholson and the Doomspell trilogy by Cliff McNish also focus on the relationship between brothers and sisters but its been a long time since I’ve read either of them and I’m not sure how widely available either of the are.

    The Circle of Magic series’ by Tamora Pierce is great and focus on the relationships between foster siblings.

  7. Maartje says

    In Thea Beckman’s Thule trilogy the third book features three sisters as protagonists as well as another young woman who has a brother and a younger sister and especially the relationship between the brother and sister is difficult. Having been brought up in a military patriarchy the idea that the son rules the household after the father dies, even though he is not up to the task, makes things difficult.
    I cannot state enough how I wish Thea Beckman’s books had been translated into English. She is such a fenominal writer.

  8. Rebecca says

    Rebecca,

    opps sorry, I didn’t read the original article before I commented so I didn’t realise that Demon’s Lexicon was already mentioned.

  9. Cheryl says

    I know John and Carol Barrowman, who are sibs, wrote Hollow Earth, which is about twelve-year-old twins Matthew and Emily Calder, who, according to the summary on Amazon, “…are able to bring art to life and enter paintings at will. Their extraordinary abilities are highly sought after, particularly by a secret group who want to access the terrors called Hollow Earth. All the demons, devils, and evil creatures ever imagined are trapped for eternity in the world of Hollow Earth—trapped unless special powers release them.

    The twins flee from London to a remote island off the west coast of Scotland in hopes of escaping their pursuers and gaining the protection of their grandfather, who has powers of his own. But the villains will stop at nothing to find Hollow Earth and harness the powers within. With so much at stake, nowhere is safe—and survival might be a fantasy.”

  10. Deborah Bell says

    There’s a novel by Susan Palwick called The Necessary Begger entirely about a family – brothers, sisters, father, mother. It’s a fantasy about a family who are exiled from another planet to ours because one of the brothers killed a necessary begger (a religious pilgrim, basically) and how the family deals with being punished for his wrong doing, and the entire books centers around the familial relationships and complex emotions around what happened.

  11. says

    The Legendsong Saga by Isobelle Carmody. Glynn and Ember are twin sisters, and Glynn plays a caregiver role towards her sister.

    They are physically seperated for much of the story, but even when they aren’t together, their relationship defines them as characters and drives much of what they do (especially Glynn). Also, siblings Solen and Hella play largish roles, and two other secondary characters, brothers Bleyd and Anyi, are motivated by their relationships with their siblings, a dynamic which is explored more in book two. Their sister Rilka kicks arse as a the most politically savvy sibling and is twelve (!).

  12. Ara says

    “Sorcery and Cecelia” deals with a very healthy female *cousin* relationship, as they write to each other about their adventures.

    Diane Duane’s Young Wizards books deal some with Nita’s relationship with her sister Dairine, especially after Dairine gets her wizardly powers and becomes a major character in her own right, and even more so after their mother dies and Nita gets cast into the hold-the-family-together role. While their relationship isn’t the focus of the books, it’s a recurring subplot that grows in prominence.

  13. says

    For a while I’ve been working on a cartoon/comic book called “Koko the Blue”. It’s about a witch and her younger brother who go on adventures together. It’s very much a cartoon, inspired by the likes of “Looney Tunes”. The brother and sister aspect came into because I hated how so many cartoon siblings hate each-other. Koko and Jodo (the brother) bicker, but they love each-other and work together.

    You can see some samples at my site: http://www.bakertoons.com/koko-the-blue.html

  14. Shauna says

    Also! Does it count if one of the siblings is undead? A friend of mine wrote a fantasy novel, Erekos, which features a young woman who raises her sister from the dead.

  15. says

    Another of Jo Walton’s works, The King’s Peace (one of my faves), shows the rather strained relationship between Urdo’s queen Elenn and her sister Emer, and their very different natures. And of course there’s the main character Sulien and her relationship with her brother Morien (especially after he becomes heir to their land, while she is a knight in the High King’s service). Neither of these are very positive familial bonds, but they are very interesting.

  16. Cloudtigress says

    The first siblings that come to my mind are from C. J. Cherryh stories.  The Foreigner series has Bren and his brother Toby, though that relationship goes from minor subplot to semi-important subplot depending on which book you’re reading in the series.  Otherwise Cajeri* (the Atevi equivalent to the Crown Prince of the Empire) and his soon-to-be born sister might fit your criteria better.  Girl’s not even born yet and the not-quite 9-yearold Cajeri is already casting her in his mind as a political rival to his future rule, at least as of the latest book (Protector) anyway.  He’s served by two sets of brother/sister pairs as bodyguards, Antaro & Jerigari (16 & 17), and Vejico & Lucasi (19 & 20) (think I have the right ages connected to the right characters there).  Their relationship to each other isn’t quite as important to the overall plot as their relationship to their young lord is, but it’s still a factor in things.

    Depending on your definition of ‘alive’, there’s Cherryh’s SF story Voyager in Night.  Rafe Murray, his sister Jillian, and her husband Paul Gaines get picked up by an alien captain who essentially copies their minds/souls to his ship’s harddrive and turns them into holographic versions of themselves to add to his collection of other aliens that he’s turned into holograms over the centuries (these are not people the alien captain has sought out btw; they are people who’ve accidentally came aboard his ship through various mishaps that were eventually turned into holograms to keep the captain company during his endless voyage through space).  Basically the story’s about the still-living Rafe interacting with hologram versions of himself, his dead sister, and her dead husband.  Weird story, but good, if you don’t mind the  weird twist in the last scene of the book. 

    *I _think_ I got all the Atevi names spelled correctly.

  17. Em says

    Kate Elliott’s Cold Magic trilogy has Cat and Bee, who are technically cousins but are raised together like sisters since the age of six. Their relationship, joking and supporting each other and saving each other from danger, is one of the major elements of the books, though they do get separated for good chunks of time. (Cat and her half-brother Rory are also a prominent non-romantic relationship.)

  18. Alara Rogers says

    Marie Brennan’s “Warrior and Witch” is *sort* of about sisters, although it kind of turns out they are more like dopplegangers and they can only achieve the power they were born to by merging back into one being.

    In David Brin’s “Glory Season” women are either born parthenogenetically as part of a line of identical clones, or as individuals, and the parthenogenetic ones tend to have higher social status, so two identical twin “individual” girls set out to make their fortune by pretending to be part of a parthenogenetic line.

    Susan Cooper’s “The Dark Is Rising” puts a lot of emphasis on the relations between a girl named Jane and her brothers.

    “The Girl Who Owned A City” focuses a lot on the sibling relationship between two children, Lisa and Todd.

  19. Marie says

    I’m tempted to say every Diana Wynne Jones book ever, but since that wouldn’t strictly be true. The Dark Lord of Derkholm deals with a huge variety of sibling relationships throughout the novel. The male/female ratio is about 50/50 but not all of them are human.

    The Spellcoats is another fantasy about a family there are two sisters and one plays a fairly important role, while the other narrates. I want to say they have three brothers?

    Dogsbody is definitely sci fi and another example cousins living together more or less as siblings, but I think it bears mentioning because it deals with the complexities of kid harassing each other ever though they have a mostly decent relationship and the girl cousin has to deal with realistic abuse and neglect that doesn’t touch the boys and that they can only help with so much.

    Charmed life is almost entirely about sibling relationships and how they can be abusive rather than just fraught. The first sibling relationship is contrasted with another healthier one, both of which are between a boy and a girl.

    Time of the Ghost is partially autobiographical and is entirely about three sisters. Since there are only two other major characters and their parents mostly ignore them they are pretty much the whole novel.

    Howl’s Moving Castle is another about three girl siblings and their relationships, differences and points of view are discussed at length. While they are not physically together throughout most of the novel their interactions are key. The book starts by comparing the three and ends somewhat similarly.

    Deep Secret is more half sci fi half fantasy andy yet another cousins living together, more or less , as siblings that features a girl and boy with distinct and different attitudes and ways of acting to others and each other, and who clearly care for each other very much (not in an incestuous way). The other narrator is one of three boys who all interact throughout the book. Without spoiling too much other siblings pop up with a huge variety of relationships.

    Cart and Cwidder only has one girl sibling and a few boys, but her relationship with her brother is arguably the most important part of the book, emotionally at least.

    The Song of the Lioness series of books doesn’t focus on the main character’s relationship with her brother too much but it does get very interesting in the last book.

    I’m not a huge Orson Scott Card fan for many reasons, but Speaker for the Dead is actually a pretty good book. Ender and Valentine’s relationship is important and well written. If you want to avoid giving your money to someone like that you can always check out a copy at the library.

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