Fantasy Friday 4 - Fantasy names

This is a meme hosted by Rinn Reads where anyone can join in and talk about anything Fantasy!

This week I'm discussing names in fantasy.

One of the reasons I love fantasy is that it's really cool to imagine other worlds, especially ones with magic or creatures that don't exist in ours. That said, sometimes those really cool worlds and characters have such unpronounceable names. 

I can see why fantasy names are often so difficult to pronounce - the author wants to build a world different from our own, so obviously the culture and language would be different too. A lot of the times you want exotic names to go with exotic places, but I feel like there ought to be limits on how many consonants you can have in a row for the sake of your reader's sanity. I definitely appreciate pronunciation guides though (thanks, Christopher Paolini!).

That said, there are some names that are really gorgeous, and others that fit the culture that they are portraying really well. There are also some fantasy names that have roots in foreign languages (often Welsh, I think) so that makes them a little better. So here are some examples of words and names that worked for me...and some that didn't.

examples of names
Did it work?
Jaran by Kate Elliott
(Ok, it's sci-fi, so I cheated a little. But the names do sound like fantasy)
Jaran,  Ilyakoria Bahktiian, Sonia, Yuri, Chapalii
Yes! The names were mostly derived from Russian, and all had a distinct flavor. The names fit the horse-riding nomad (Mongolian?) flavor really well, and most of the names were pretty easy to pronounce.
Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson
Vin, Sazed, Kelsier, Rashek, Terris, Skaa, Kandra
Yes - not only were most of the names easy to pronounce, they fit the pseudo-European society really well. The more fantastical elements had more fantasy-esque names.
The Kingkiller chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss
Kvothe, Denna, Bast, Chandrian, Cthaeh
Maybe... most of the names were fine but with a main character named Kvothe (you try saying that aloud three times fast!) it was kind of annoying.
Trickster's Choice  by Tamora Pierce
Allianne Crow, Veralidaine Salmalín, Rubinyan Jimajen, Ochubu Dodeka, Veron, Verayu, Luarin
No. There were so many characters and so many of them had similar or unpronounceable names that it was really hard for me to keep them all straight.
Pathfinder Series by Orson Scott Card
Rigg, Param, Umbo, Olivenko, Vadesh
Maybe. The names weren't that hard to pronounce but they were all so...ugly. They all felt funny as I read them.
Eragon by Christopher Paolini
Eragon, Saphira, Islanzádi, Oromis, Glaedr, Nasuada
No. Some names were really pretty (like Saphira) but most were really hard to say. Most of the characters were elves and dwarves, so not only did they have strange names, they spoke in strange languages which were even more difficult to pronounce.
Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta
Finnikin, Froi, Arjuro, Beatrice,  Phaedra, Charyn, Lumatere
Yes! Each region/family had its own culture and rules for names, and most of them were beautiful. I just loved the names Isaboe and Phaedra, as well as the places Lumatere and Charyn.
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  1. Rinn (Rinn Reads)April 25, 2014 at 2:21 PM

    Yay, thanks for joining in, Kritika! =D

    Fantasy names are tricky. Sometimes they just sound silly, other times they're impossible to pronounce. My favourite types are those based on mythology or ancient cultures, but then altered a little - so they're both familiar and different.

    I like the names in the Mistborn series too - easy to pronounce, they don't sound stupid and they're memorable. Same with the Kingkiller Chronicles, although there are some trickier ones I think they're all great.

    Those names from Trickster's Choice kind of look like someone vomited up a load of letters onto the page =(

  2. Just so you know, Kvothe is supposed to be pronounced like "quothe". It's weird and doesn't make much sense, but that's what Mr. Rothfuss wrote.

  3. Michelle {Book Hangovers}April 25, 2014 at 8:12 PM

    OMG! Fantasy and their names! I struggle with this so much and Fantasy is my FAVORITE genre. I know 90% of the time I'm mispronouncing names of people and places. Lol! For instance, right now, I'm currently reading Throne of Glass and left and right there's a name I can't pronounce! Good thing in the paperback there is a name index in the back so I can sound out the names!

    Love your post! Happy Friday!

    xoxo Michelle @Book Hangovers

  4. I think the names from Tricksters Choice (at least for the Copper Island characters) are meant to sound vaguely Indonesian. Personally I really like them. I can see how they'd be difficult if you're unfamiliar with the language though.

  5. I agree - names based off of mythology or existing cultures are the ones I like the best.

  6. Thanks! That's actually super helpful. Name of the Wind rubbed me the wrong way the first time I read it, but I'm thinking of giving it another shot. Knowing how to pronounce "Kvothe" will definitely help haha

  7. Name indexes are the best! Thanks for stopping by :)

  8. I'm not very familiar with Indonesian names, but I do know a lot of Indian/Thai/Cambodian/other south Asian names. I felt like the names used in Trickster were too similar on top of being hard to pronounce, which made the book really confusing for me. I love Tamora Pierce, but that series' names drove me nuts!


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