We love a Lawful Good warrior in fiction—those who believe in the inherent goodness of others, and in the ability of laws to impart fairness and equality. They typically find a place in law enforcement, though in science fiction and fantasy that can mean anything from an ancient order of mystic knights to a specialized branch of the Ministry of Alchemy. Their devotion to rules and order may elicit eye rolls or exasperated sighs from more roguish-types, but we’ve got a lot of respect for characters that try to uphold a code. Well, within reason, anyway…
We’re highlighting a few of our favorite by-the-book advocates in genre fiction—add your own picks in the comments!
Captain Carrot—Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett
If there was ever a way to make a stickler for rules and regulations lovable, Terry Pratchett certainly found it in Captain Carrot Ironfoundersson of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch. It’s not Carrot’s fault that he’s so adamant about going by the book—specifically the actual tome The Laws and Ordinances of the The Cities of Ankh and Morpork, a book that he is probably the sole reader of. Described as “the Disc’s most linear thinker,” Carrot was raised by dwarfs, and happily accepts their straight-forward approach to the world. When Carrot joined the Watch, his “old-fashioned” view of justice got him into trouble when he arrested the leader of the entirely legal Thieves’ Guild on his first day. He’s since won over a lot of people despite his affinity for rules, and is always quick to outwit people who dismiss him as dim… because simplicity is not the same as stupidity.
Agent Onsi Youssef—The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djèlí Clark
Agent Hamed Nasr isn’t particularly happy to be handed a new recruit for a partner, but he doesn’t have much choice as an employee of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities. Agent Onsi Youssef may have a sweet tooth and a penchant for asking too many unrelated questions while working, but he knows his training backwards and forwards, and probably memorized some manuals on the way. Although Hamed might not appreciate Youssef’s by-the-book style, with a case involving a haunted tram car in the city of Cairo, he’s going to need all the help he can get…
Captain “Clever” Cleaver—Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary K. Wolf
The source material for ’80s favorite Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is quite different from its movie counterpart in a number of ways. The book includes a character named Captain Cleaver, a toon policeman who has zero interest in Eddie Valiant’s shenanigans. Worried about the private detective’s devil-may-care attitude messing up his own investigation, he makes it his business to harangue Valiant on a regular basis. Interestingly, the character was originally slated to appear in the film version in much the same capacity, but was cut out as the movie’s tone evolved.
Donald Morgan—The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
In a fun twist on the Good Cop trope, Donald Morgan isn’t an enforcer of physical laws, but magical ones. As the warden of the White Council, this was a job assigned to him, and one that he took deadly seriously, even to the point of being willing to give up his own life. Harry Dresden eventually realizes that Morgan has been doing this job for centuries, which is part of his obsession with the law—in the past, mercy has never worked where he’s employed it, so he made the decision to only ever follow the letter of the law.
Eliasz—Autonomous by Annalee Newitz
Eliasz is one of those interesting characters who initially seems completely by the book, and ends up going off in a completely different direction by the time the story comes to a close. While tracking down a pharmaceutical pirate named Jack, Agent Eliasz is assigned a robot named Paladin for the case. At the start of the mission, everything is ordered and precise for the military-trained Eliasz and his new partner. But the longer he gets to know Paladin, the more curious he becomes about his ‘bot partner—and if there’s any possible way for them to be more intimate. Essentially, Eliasz casts the rulebook aside because he falls in love.
Nale—The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson
A member of the Knights Radiant, Nale skirts the line between Lawful Good and Lawful Neutral—he believes in the justness of his cause, but his Order of Skybreakers literally includes “I will put the law before all else” as one its Ideals. For Nale, this means carefully following the laws of whatever land he is currently in—even on his quest to hunt down new magic users. Nale exploits local laws and customs to further his quest, in one case having filled out all relevant paperwork in order to act as a magistrate and execute a surgebinder for thievery. When his efforts were thwarted by a royal pardon, Nale relented because her escape—while personally frustrating—was still lawful.