I think this is a valid gripe for people who are less familiar with the genre and scope of most epic fantasy books. Lots and lots of characters of varying importance to the story (do I really have to remember the second maidservant's name...?) and, since this is fantasy, some incredibly weird names (Blödhgarm...author, are you yankin my crank?).
I'm not a fan of the crazy weird name thing, so hopefully that'll appeal to readers who see an umlaut and throw the book in the firepläce. But I'll confess, I do have a lot of characters. The world is populated by lots of people because, well, it's a world. I did resist the urge to name every single guardsman or street merchant who walked by, but I operate from the basic belief that everyone has an interesting story to tell (both in the world of my books and in the real world), even if those stories don't get to be told just then.
So how to keep things organized in the reader's mind? Well, I try not to throw too many names out there at once, and I do my best to establish a consistent context for them based on the current POV character's perspective. For example, one of the heroines of The Queenschair, Arsaya, has a rather unkind way of looking at the people around her, and presumably her thoughts about them (and her nicknames for them) make them a little easier to remember.
In Arsaya's mind:
Yennava = "Mama who doesn't appreciate me much"
Garland = "Papa who doesn't appreciate me either but at least he spoils me"
Zeydric = obnoxious big brother, "Beautiful Boy whom Mama loves more than she loves me"
Ebreyon = the great and magnificent King (heavy sarcasm), "Smiley"
Selana = the beautiful and graceful Princess (even heavier sarcasm), "Devil Eyes"
And so on and so forth. As long as the characters aren't presented as lifeless names on the page and have proper stories/attributes/roles attached to them, I think they stand a good chance of "living" for the reader.
But for those who just can't keep track of all those names, an alphabetical list of names and characteristics always helps! Mine appears at the back of the book but is carefully designed not to contain any spoilers from the book itself, so it's safe to check while reading. Or right here:
The Queenschair - Cast of Characters
Arsaya Amalor, 21 years old. The only daughter and younger child of Baron Garland Amalor of Ishten-Hyrona. The "Jewel of Hyrona" who is renowned for her beauty and viewed favorably by the public.
Chanyn Arbreth, 26 years old. The Heir Baroness of Chadarun, and the only surviving child of Baroness Mayin Arbreth.
Ebreyon Marin, 25 years old. The King of Yenmas, who ascended to the throne four years ago after ending the Imperial occupation. A war hero beloved by the people, he struggles with the day-to-day affairs of ruling the Kingdom and relies heavily upon his twin sister Selana and their mother.
Erinya Marin, 49 years old. The Royal Mother of Yenmas who raised her children in the ancient fortress of Ihanas, hidden from the Imperial occupiers. She was a lowborn woman of the southeastern Prairie and a soldier of the all-female Rose Battalion before marrying Tensarus Marin, illegitimate son of King Nial. The only surviving member of the pre-war Royal family, she helps guide her children in ruling the Kingdom.
Garland Amalor, 49 years old. The Baron of Ishten-Hyrona, husband of Yennava, and father of Zeydric and Arsaya.
Hanran Resayar, 53 years old. The Vice-Leftmarshal of the Trisala Army.
Jaun Kirik, 25 years old. The Knight Fifth of Trisala and younger brother of
Jebriel Harken, 31 years old. The Knight Second of Trisala and Captain of the Palace Guard. Among the elite bodyguards of House Marin, he is second in rank to the Kingsknight.
Liyan Franzin, 46 years old. Master sergeant of the Army of Chadarun and weapons instructor to Lady Chanyn Arbreth. He is a trusted confidant of the Heir Baroness.
Mahalla Dehann, 22 years old. The Lady of Kaslan, Rhinal
of Saria. The
daughter of the late Lord Phaedron Dehann and his late wife Lady Thessa, who
was in fact the Princess Sabrya Marin in exile after the fall of Yenmas to the
Imperials. First cousin to Ebreyon and Selana, as well as a more distant
relation to House Amalor. Although Mahalla was the sole survivor of the
legitimate Marin line, she renounced her claim to allow Ebreyon to become King
of Yenmas. She chose to remain Lady of Kaslan and rebuild her father's city. Province, United Kingdom
Mayin Arbreth, 54 years old. The Baroness of Chadarun, mother of Chanyn. The widow of Baron Dalreyus, she was reinstated as ruler of her province after the liberation of Yenmas.
Nesemay Cherren, 70 years old. The Senator of Sagovia. The wife of the Sagovian Senator before the Imperial occupation, she held her family together after the fall of House Marin. Her only son Hathan, a promising young politician, was assassinated by unknown assailants during the time of Imperial rule, leaving Nesemay to raise her grandson, Lelan. She is now grooming Lelan to succeed her as Senator someday. Although she is a full-blooded Xadeian from the north, she is respected on all sides of the political spectrum and is considered a moderating voice in the Senate.
Oberim Walis, 58 years old. The Lord Marshal of the Trisala Army, the highest-ranking general in the service of House Marin. He is physically ailing and increasingly unfit to serve as an army commander.
Rahna Essien, 17 years old. Known as the "Red Huntress". Born the eldest daughter of the shoemaker Rahdamon Essien, she joined the Mastorian war against the Imperials to avenge the deaths of her mother and youngest brother. In the summer of 1008, she met King Ebreyon Marin of Yenmas when their forces cooperated in hunting Imperial raiders along the border. The following winter, their friendship turned to romance.
Ramidiah Drakken, 30 years old. The Queen of United Saria. A hero of the Second Heavens War, during which she befriended Ebreyon Marin. She accepted his proposal of marriage in 1007, but broke their betrothal to marry another man.
Reysa Lederen, 16 years old. Soldier of the Trisala Capital Guard at Remeo Garrison and younger brother of Sharalenne.
Royven Elminas, 37 years old. The Knight Third of Trisala and Vice-Captain of the Palace Guard.
Selana Marin, 25 years old. The Princess of Yenmas and first in line to the throne. Her differently colored eyes, one blue and one brown, are considered disconcerting and even frightening by some.
Sharalenne Lederen, 17 years old. Servant girl at
and older sister
of Reysa. Trisala
Turin Kirik, 30 years old. The Knight Fourth of Trisala and older brother of Jaun.
Tylius Valore, 28 years old. Family friend of House Marin and a loyal companion of Ebreyon since their younger days. Crippled at the Battle of Huyzen during the Yenmarian Liberation War, he now makes his home in the Jemerian resort town of
Yennava Amalor, 46 years old. The Baroness of Ishten-Hyrona, wife of
, and mother of Zeydric and Arsaya. Garland
Zeydric Amalor, 26 years old. The older child and only son of Baron Garland Amalor of Ishten-Hyrona. His father's heir and Captain of the Hyronan Seahorse cavalry regiment. Reputedly the most skilled swordsman in the Kingdom, he was appointed Kingsknight by Ebreyon. They have been friends for over ten years, though Zeydric carries on a far less cordial relationship with Ebreyon's sister.