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Deadly Sibling Rivalries in Fantasy

Siblings are often the best part of growing up—they’re usually someone you know you can count on, someone who will have your back even as they’re making fun of you. But sometimes siblings can be dangerous, even deadly. We love a good story about sibling rivalries gone vicious! Here are some of our favorites:

by Tessa Gratton

Tessa Gratton’s fresh take on the story of King Lear revolves around the relationships of three sisters struggling for control of their father’s failing kingdom: Gaela, Regan, and Elia. The eldest, Gaela, pursues martial control; her sister Regan seeks to restore the ancient religious rites long forbidden by her father. Elia stands between them, resented by her older sisters. As tensions rise among this fractured family, the conflict between the three begins to take a deadly toll on the island of Lear itself.

by George R. R. Martin

There are plenty of contentious—and outright murderous—relationships between family members in the A Song of Ice and Fire series: Tyrion and Cersei, Catelyn and Lysa, Daenerys and Viserys. Perhaps one of the most consequential for the fate of Westeros, however, is the rivalry between Renly and Stannis Baratheon, both of whom become contenders for the throne in the wake of their brother’s death. Their rivalry leads them close to outright war between brothers.

by Brandon Sanderson

There’s no conflict quite like that between half-brothers—especially when one is illegitimate and kept hidden from the other. That’s the setup between Zane and Elend Venture in The Well of Ascension, the second book in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series. While Elend was raised in comfort as the heir, Zane, one of few full Mistborns in the world, was raised as a weapon. Zane is definitely an unstable individual, so of course he wants to kill his half-brother. Standing in his way is Vin, the heroine of Sanderson’s series and a powerful Mistborn in her own right. Zane was robbed of a normal childhood, but readers win when Zane and Vin face off, with Elend in between.

by Robin Hobb

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from reading, it’s never to trust ambitious younger siblings. Regal in the Farseer Trilogy is no exception: he seeks to position himself as the heir to the aging king, establishing a rivalry with his older brother Verity—and he just might have plotted the pre-series murder of FitzChivalry’s father.
 
 
 
by Steven Erikson

Like A Song of Ice and Fire, Steven Erikson’s epic series has plenty of siblings who really (really, really) don’t get along. From a pair of sisters who find themselves on opposite sides of a rebellion, to nearly-immortal brothers who can barely be on the same continent, being someone’s brother or sister is as likely to be a guarantee of violent conflict as it is to be a source of familial love.

And you thought your family didn’t get along.

by Roger Zelazny

Roger Zelazny’s classic series follows “shadow-walkers” who can move through parallel worlds. The ability belongs only to those of royal blood, descendants of the mad sorcerer Dworkin Barimen. Of those with the ability, there’s a lot of in-fighting—much of it deadly as the various family members try to take the throne from Oberon, the liege lord of Amber. Before the story even begins, Oberon’s sons Osric and Finndo supposedly conspired against their father, were caught, and sent to the front lines of a war from which they never return. The scheming and conspiracies only get worse from there.

by Brian Staveley

Few fantasy sibs get their ​wires crossed as badly as the Malkeenians of Brian Staveley’s Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne. Separated by vast distances in the middle of a massive conspiracy to topple their murdered father’s empire, Kaden, Adare, and Valyn each do their best to survive the crisis and fight back against the conspiracy, only to end up in deadly conflict against one another. We mean, Let’s hug this out, and just ignore these knives I’m holding kinds of conflict.

12 thoughts on “Deadly Sibling Rivalries in Fantasy

  1. Glen Cook’s Black Company novels have Soulcatcher and the Lady – a fantastic pair of sisters who absolutely despise each other.

    1. Absolutely, that’s a very multifaceted conflict between half-brothers (and so far with surprising consequences).

  2. Don’t forget Sorcerer’s Ring by Morgan Rice. Them FitzGerald’s really have it in a twist

  3. Great article! Will have to check out Staveley in particular-always nice to see an author I haven’t heard of in an article like this!

  4. I’m just re-reading “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” by Tad Williams, which is framed on two brothers after the death of their father- Elias is the bluff warrior who is seduced by the power offered by his evil priest Pryrates, while Josua tries to do the right thing for the kingdom, which inevitably leads to war.

  5. The Black Prism by Brent Weeks. Excellent stuff! Magic and a sibling rivalry that leveled entire cities. It’s basically the best book you’ll ever read.

  6. Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake! First book in a crazy series about triplets born each generation to kill each other for one to be queen. There can be only one!

  7. How can you possibly neglect to mention Professor Tolkien? Never mind Moringotho and Manwe, but Feanaro and Nolofinwe’s rivalry basically sets off everything else!

  8. Chivalry’s death was not pre-series. Granted, it happens off-screen but half a chapter in the first book is about the initial reaction to it by various characters.

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