Kage Baker's second fantasy book, The House of the Stag, goes back a few years to show how the Saint and the Man on the Mountain actually grew up and met. I love her goofy world building and the broad strokes and fine detail she uses for the different cultures (the Yendri, the Children of the Sun, the demons). Innocent wisdom and faltering self-deceit both appear in true characters, with a firm understanding of human nature and the strengths and weaknesses people are prone to. Gard was my favorite, mostly because he got to go places and see things, but the Saint surprised me by not being boring at all.
Now, of course, I want to go back and reread the first with a new understanding of the characters, but I think I'll go on and read the third first. And then maybe try her science fiction again. A