It’s not something I come across often, but after picking up The Oversight by Charlie Fletcher, and seeing two full pages of character names with brief descriptions, I have to admit I balked a little. Was Fletcher trying to be helpful, or stylistic? Or are his characters too numerous and flat for me to remember them without a reference page?
This being said, I’m not stranger to books with large casts – back in the day when I was reading The Song of Ice and Fire series multiple times, I had a really good handle on who most of the people were, even the more obscure characters with small parts. But Martin didn’t feel the need to post a ten page list of characters before readers even got to the first sentence. If he had, I’m not sure I would have started the book!
Having finished The Oversight, I’m not sure the character pages were necessary and I didn’t end up referencing them. It just got me thinking – do character pages before the book starts add to the book, or perhaps make the reader wary? Do you have a preference? Do you even read them when they’re present? I typically don’t pay them much attention, but I’d rather they be in the back of the book so as not to distract me before I even start reading.