Top 5 Wednesday: Sibling Dynamics

This week’s Top 5 Wednesday theme is Family Dynamics. I love family dynamics in books, and something I’ve been particularly focused on lately is siblings. Sibling relationships are fascinating to me because there is so much shared history and so many experiences that siblings go through together. You don’t get to pick your siblings, and you don’t always approve of everything they do, but they’re still family and you gotta stick together. There are lots of great examples of sibling relationships in fiction.

Call Down the Hawk

by Maggie Stiefvater

I love devoted siblings who will do anything for one another but will always be grumpy about it on the outside. 

I feel like I truly discovered my deep love of Declan Lynch on my second reading of The Raven Cycle, but this book cemented it forever. I adore characters like Declan who are so fucking done with the bullshit their lives are throwing at them but they keep dealing with it because they are watching out for their young siblings. Also, his heartburn. I just… love how stressed out this poor man is.

Back Roads

by Tawni O’Dell

This is one of my favorite types of sibling dynamics to read about: a young and well-meaning character struggles to take care of his younger siblings after a parent dies, leaves, or, in the case of Harley Altmeyer, kills his other parent and goes to prison leaving him and his three sisters essentially orphaned. 

Harley is 19 with three sisters ranging in age between six and sixteen. He is traumatized by the loss of his parents as well as a childhood of abuse, but he’s doing his best to take care of his sisters. The picture painted in Back Roads of mental health, poverty, life in a rural town, and the confusion of young adulthood has stayed with me for many years since I first read this book.


by C.L. Polk

The dynamic here is a great one: estranged siblings learning to trust each other again (with a few bumps in the road along the way). 

Poor Miles and Grace were set up from childhood to have a difficult relationship: their father valued Grace’s magic and saw Miles as nothing more than a living battery that his sister could drain when she needed more power. Some of my favorite parts of Witchmark were of Miles standing up for himself to his sister and convincing her that he and the other Secondaries were valuable.


by Sarah Monette

This book is the answer to the question “what if someone took every single angst trope and assigned them to two brothers who then discover each other’s existence in their darkest hour of need?” 

Melusine is by no means a perfect book, but my favorite part about it by far was the sibling dynamic between Felix and Mildmay. Mildmay is my archetypal favorite character: good intentions, highly skilled, unlucky as hell, and stuck in an awful situation. Reading along as he lovingly dragged Felix on a cross-country road trip was so endearing. 

(Also, I can’t include this in a list of “sibling dynamic” books without mentioning that there are unrequited incestuous feelings from Felix toward Mildmay. I read that as a reaction to the abuse Felix suffered; I don’t think he was ever taught that he could love someone in any way that wasn’t sexual. I did mention that we’re going for every single angst trope here, right?)

Dragon Bones

by Patricia Briggs

I wanted to include an example of close-as-siblings dynamics, and this is one of my favorites. Ward and Oreg are not technically siblings (although they are probably very, very, very distantly related) but Ward treats Oreg like a little brother, to the point where Ward’s actual younger brother, Tosten, gets jealous of Oreg. I like seeing examples of friendships that form so deeply and tightly that they might as well be siblings, even if they’re not related by blood.

Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite Tropes

Did I mention that I like Dark themes and angst? Well if I haven’t proven that yet, we’re going there today! Also note, this post will contain spoilers for some of the books mentioned (particularly The Song of Achilles).

How We Got Here

Half Bad

by Sally Green

This trope is one of my favorites. You start at the end of the story and give a weird, tantalizing setup. Then the rest of the book is explaining how you got to that point. It’s popular in movies (Deadpool) and television (the first episode of Breaking Bad), but I also love when it’s used in books. It’s basically a way of working in extensive backstory and flashbacks, another favorite trope of mine

Half Bad starts with teenaged Nathan in a really brutal situation: kept outside in cage, manacled, and forced to train in combat. When he tries to escape, the manacle on his wrist releases acid that melts his skin to the bone. He’s doing his best to cope with the abuse, using his “trick” of not caring about anything. And then suddenly the first section is over and we get to see exactly what led to this messed up situation in the first place.

Undying Loyalty

Dragon’s Winter

by Elizabeth A. Lynn

I love books where the primary ship is solidified before we even meet them, or at least where the couple gets together early. I love seeing the love and the bond between characters tested by hardship, especially when they are deeply devoted to one another.

One of my favorite examples of this trope is Dragon’s Winter, because we start out with Azil and Karadur already as friends and lovers, but then we get to move forward in time to after Azil has unwittingly betrayed Karadur, been kidnapped, tortured, and finally returned. To see their love survive that kind of test is so beautiful! 

Despair Event Horizon

The Song of Achilles

by Madeline Miller

This is a very specific and weird trope that I love, but it’s basically when a character has a complete and total breakdown after having something really horrible happen to them. Specifically I love it when they just lose their shit when their partner or lover dies. I love happy endings, but if I’m in the mood for tragedy I want balls-to-the-walls, no-coming-back-from-this-shit kind of tragedy.

Which is exactly why I love The Song of Achilles so much. After Patroclus is killed, Achilles loses his fucking mind. It’s not healthy to give up on life after a partner dies, but this is fiction and, for me, this is the just so damn romantic.

Break the Cutie

The Hunger Games

by Suzanne Collins

Break the cutie is a great trope, because it takes a character who is defined by their positive aspects and allows the stark contrast between their optimism and the gritty reality of the world to come into conflict. 

Hunger Games is a great example of Breaking the Cutie, especially when it comes to the character of Peeta. There’s a lot to complain about with The Hunger Games, but one thing I think it did really well was being super mean to Peeta. If you like books that heap suffering on your favorite characters, The Hunger Games is where it’s at.

Food Porn


by Brian Jacques

I don’t love the term “food porn”, but I do very much enjoy what it entails. What’s not to enjoy about authors lovingly describing plate after plate of savory, juicy, ripe, tender, roasted, sizzling, candied, overflowing… everything. Food porn is just fun and it’s a great way to do world-building. 

I love food porn in general, but as a vegan the feasts at Redwall Abbey have stood the test of time for me as a food porn favorite. Brian Jacques makes vegetables sound so damn delicious. I loved this series as a child and to this day I remember learning how to bake scones to pass out in elementary school while I presented my book report on Redwall.