1. Black Orchid by Neil Gaiman / Dave McKean. Because one thing is certain. This one came earlier than his Sandman series (also excellent and among my favourites). It moves from a location of extreme violence to something else entirely: among other things it's about a refusal to seek vengeance.
- The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. I'm re-reading this one at the moment. I'm not sure that political fiction comes any better than this. Misplaced missionary zeal, Congolese independence and the attempts of Orleanna and her four daughters to make peace with their histories.
- Monsignor Quixote by Graham Greene. I think this was his last novel. In post-Franco Spain, a Catholic Monsignor and a Communist Mayor set out together in the monsignor's trusty Rocinante, evading both La Guardia and the Church. Both their travels and their friendship takes them into dangerous terrain.
- The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Tolkien is sometimes maligned, I think, for 'shallow, cardboard characters.' I think he often expects readers to infer interior states of mind, from his character's speech (which is not always candid) and his descriptions of their actions. Also, the love story between Frodo and Sam -- and I think it is a love story -- is powerful stuff.
- His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman. If you've not read these, just go read them already. Silver-tongued Lyra lived peaceably enough (though not unadventurously) in Jordan College until her life is caught up in her father's attempt to cast down the Authority and create a Republic of Heaven.