Maybe you’re tired of characters who always look at the world as white and black. Good and bad. Hero and villain. Right or wrong. Heroes who always have to do the correct thing — the socially acceptable way — to get to their goal. Well, the characters in this list are anything but that. These morally grey main characters are about to show you a whole new world.
I think about these characters as people who do everything in their power to achieve their goals, by any means necessary. If society sees their ways as “bad”, it doesn’t matter to them. That kind of thing puts these particular characters in a grey area where we as readers cannot seem to put them inside a box. Are they the hero or the villain of the story? That’s the magnificent thing about morally grey characters: They are a little bit of both.
I’ve always had a big love for morally grey main characters. It’s possible that one of my favorite things to happen in books is to see the “good” main character corrupted by “evil”, or, more like, they finally realize that one person cannot be inherently good — that the world doesn’t work that way. The realization unleashes a new beginning for our protagonist, and with that, the story finally starts.
The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri
Tasha Suri is known to be a magnificent writer who always delivers yearning and emotion. The Jasmine Throne will be one of your favorite reads for this year, no doubt.
This is the start of a new trilogy set in a world inspired by the history and epics of India. An imprisoned princess and a maidservant unite their forces to take down the princess’s evil dictator brother. These two characters will do anything to get what they want — manipulate, seduce, even use each other. Ruthless in their own way, they will captivate you until the very last page.
Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust
The story of a girl who doesn’t know if she’s the hero or the monster of her own life.
Soraya is cursed. Her touch is lethal — if she touches someone, they die. Wanting freedom, she finds out that being held in the dungeon below is a demon who holds the answers to all of her questions. The answer to her freedom.
The Young Elites by Marie Lu
I really love when a book makes you believe the main character is the hero. But then you find out that, sure, they’re the hero of their own story, but for everyone else? They’re the villain.
Adelina is a survivor of the blood fever. But she didn’t come out unscathed. Her black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and she is rumored to have dangerous powers as well. In a world where she has been betrayed time and time again, Adelina finds something inside herself she never really thought she would find: a darkness craving to come out.
Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao (Sept. 21)
So you can be excited about what’s to come in the future, I obviously needed to add Iron Widow, a Pacific Rim–inspired science fiction novel where pilots of giant robots pair up to fight mecha aliens beyond the Great Wall.
Eighteen-year-old Zetian offers herself to be a concubine-pilot, but only to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But his death happens unexpectedly — she kills him through their psychic link. After that, she is labeled an Iron Widow, a female pilot who sacrifices male pilots in order to power up their giant robots.
The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe
This twisty YA novel will grab your attention as soon as you start reading the very first paragraph.
Nora is the daughter of a con artist. You could say she is a master of disguises. Then everything gets complicated when her ex walks in on her with her girlfriend! The morning after that, they have to go to the bank to deposit the fundraiser money they raised, and it’s very awkward indeed.
That’s when two guys enter the bank and start robbing it. But Nora is there, and they really don’t know who they’re messing with.
The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco
This is the story of Tea, an asha so powerful they had to exile her.
Told in separate timelines, the past tells the story of how Tea came to be a very feared asha, a bone witch. Her beginnings. Everything starts when she accidentally resurrects her dead brother.
The present gives us a look at Tea, years later, telling her own story to a bard. This Tea is thirsty for revenge from all the people who have wronged her.
How did Tea go from small village girl to frightening villain?
The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
It was a shock to everyone when Rin aced the Keju — the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies. No one really believes a war orphan did it without cheating. And to get into the most elite military academy in Nikan? Unthinkable.
Rin is happy she finally is free from her life of servitude. But when she arrives at Sinegard, she discovers that everyone is the same no matter the place. There, she finds out she has an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism.
This series explores morality, not only in Rin, but in various characters in the story. Rin is ruthless — ambitious for power. And when she finally finds it, she will burn down the world.
The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K.S. Villoso
Queen Talyien must unite her people. Even if it means marrying the son of her father’s rival. She thought peaceful days would come after it, but his sudden departure before their reign began fractures the kingdom beyond repair.
Years later, Talyien receives a message, urging her to attend a meeting across the sea. But what she finds there is an assassination attempt which leaves her stranded in a dangerous land.
Talyien wants to protect those she loves and she will do whatever it takes for that to happen. You won’t be able to trust anyone while reading this series…Isn’t that incredible?
We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man to hunt for the people of her village. Nasir is the Prince of Death, the one who assassinates people who are dumb enough to defy his father.
Both of them are tasked to retrieve a magical artifact for their own benefits: Zafira needs it to restore magic to her suffering world while Nasir is searching for it because his father sent him to get it. He also told Nasir to kill the Hunter.
If you’re into monster girls and antiheroes, you’re in the right place. Here we love characters who aren’t good or bad. Who make choices that are probably not “good” for the world. But that’s okay — they aren’t here to please those people…they are doing what’s right for them.