Thursday, June 17, 2010

Kylar Stern vs. Richard Rahl

First off, I want to say that I am neither picking on Mr. Weeks or Mr. Goodkind, or their characters. Kylar and Richard are two fabulous characters. The title of this article could just have easily been “Mat Cauthon vs. Michael Hosea”. However, there are two good reasons why I did not title it that:

  1. I love Mat Cauthon (as I’ve mentioned before), and no character can hold a candle to him.
  2. Too many of my friends love Michael Hosea and might come after me and kill me if I say anything slightly negative about him.

So instead, I chose two characters who aren’t so close to my or my friend’s hearts, but are still good examples of what I want to talk about.

Kylar Stern is the main character of the Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks. If you haven’t read these books, you need to. In fact, open a new tab and order them online right now. I’ll wait for you.


Done? Good. So Kylar Stern starts off as a boy named “Azoth”, who is basically a gang member. He lives on the streets and hopes to survive each day without anything too absolutely horrific happening to him. In order to get out of his life, he apprentices himself to the most feared wetboy (a magical ninja/assassin). He and the other characters who are part of the story don’t always make the best decisions. They make mistakes. Sometimes I wanted to strangle Kylar or shout “ARE YOU STUPID?” I refrained from shouting – no need to scare my roommates. Kylar didn’t just make mistakes, though. Mistakes alone are easily overlooked. Kylar made bad decisions. Kylar did horrible things. He’s a ninja/assassin so you can at least assume he’s murdered his fair share of people. Kylar is an imperfect character.

Now, moving on to his opposite in this discussion, we have Richard Rahl. Richard Rahl is the main character of the Sword of Truth series – which I’ve mentioned before. I have many problems with Sword of Truth (mainly they were too long), but Richard Rahl is a fantastic character. He is basically your farm boy turned hero. Or rather, your woods guide turned Seeker of Truth. He’s amiable, a good man, mostly even tempered – but learns to use his rage for justice and truth to be the Seeker - and quite the libertarian. I wouldn’t say Richard is 100% perfect, but he’s pretty darn close. His only real character flaw is his anger.

So on one hand we have Kylar Stern – an imperfect character with more flaws than I can count. On the other hand, we have Richard Rahl, who more than 90% of the females who read Sword of Truth fall in love with. (Yes, that’s a completely made up statistic – but you get my point). Which sort of character is better? Which sort of character makes for a better story?

Kylar is frustrating, infuriating, and makes me want to yell at him. Richard is steady, compassionate, understanding, and makes me want to hug him. However, Kylar is the character I connected better with.

I’m clearly not a ninja/assassin – nor am I magical – but I could relate to the fact the Kylar made mistakes. I could relate when he made the clearly wrong decision. I could relate when he did something that was just wrong. Kylar was a sinner and so am I.

Richard is a much harder character for me to relate to. I read his story because I loved him – not because I related to him. Following his story was like following the story of a boy who is an unattainable crush – unrelateable but dazzling.

The Sword of Truth is immensely popular, so obviously creating a perfect-ish character is ok. However, when it comes to the books that really make me think, the books that really connect to me, it’s always the books with imperfect characters.

When I got to the end of Sword of Truth, I missed Richard Rahl. When I got to the end of the Night Angel Trilogy, I couldn’t stop thinking about all the character development that had happened (which is deeply tied in with the plot points – as it should be).

So I think I’ll try my hardest to create characters who struggle, characters who make mistakes, characters who sin. The love interests won’t just be handsome men who can come to the rescue (should the damsel need rescuing). They will be imperfect men, who frustrate the heroine, constantly vex her, and sometimes forget to rescue her.

People aren’t perfect, and I don’t think our characters should be either.


  1. kyler is waaaaay better... finished reading the last book for the fifth time today.... i dont know if there will be another book about him but i want to read it already!... durzo made some comments about dragons and other mythical creatures... so i want him to fight another one...(im talking about that dragon inder the hell's asshole)

  2. I haven't read The Night Angel Trilogy, but I have read The Sword of Truth Series. However it seems that Richard Rahl's character development is of a different kind than Kylar. Richard doesn't become a better person on anything, its more that he learns to accept who and what he is, and the duty that it entitles. Richard starts out as a simple woods guide in an non-magical land, then ends up fighting for control of the world as a War Wizard. In the mean time all he wants in a place for him and his love to live in peace, yet he is chained to prophecies and duty. The only reason The Sword of Truth series works is because he is such a 'good' and 'flawless' character. If he wasn't, he wouldn't have fought a war for people who didn't believe in him.

    If anything, these seem to be bad characters to compare. Maybe Mat Cauthon vs Kylar. Or Richard Rahl vs Harry Potter. Seeing as both of those characters are on the same level as far as character flaws.

  3. Anonymous, I'm not really intending to compare Richard and Kylar. I'm comparing two types of characters, the Mat Cauthon's versus the Michael Hosea's. The imperfect characters versus the perfect ones. And I prefer the imperfect ones. It is apples and oranges, I agree, but I like apples better than I like oranges. This isn't math and science, it's preferences. I have friends who adore Michael Hosea, Richard Rahl, and other perfect characters, and that's cool. You're allowed to like oranges and I'm allowed to like apples. :)