There’s nothing better than a good antihero. Take Kaz Brekker, leader of the Crows (a crew of talented young people with underhanded methods). Life in the Dregs is awful, but somehow, Kaz builds a safe haven for his crew. Not that he would ever get so warm and fuzzy about it. After all, that safety is for him first and foremost—or so he wants us to believe. He keeps his distance with his leather gloves, constant scheming, and snarky quips. And that’s why we love him.
Kaz’s morals are ambiguous, but his devotion is not. A good antihero puts their desires first, their morals second. And sometimes, they throw morality out entirely in favor of money, vanity, power, or revenge. After you’ve read the Six of Crows duology and binged Season 2 of Shadow and Bone, we know you’ll want all the antiheroes to help ease your Kaz Brekker hangover. Here are 11 of the best antiheroes in SFF: morally gray, just like Kaz.
More compelling antiheroes like Shadow and Bone's Kaz Brekker
There are always two sides to every story, and in Gregory Maguire's Wicked, Elphaba knows people only see her green skin. They never see her gentle nature, how smart or funny or kind she is. But she doesn’t care.
Sometimes the world needs a villain, and Elphaba is more than happy to wear that pointed hat.
Victor Vale knows that sometimes the line between human and monster, good and evil, right and wrong, is blurry and indistinct. He’s focused, to the point of obsession, but even though he’s an escaped convict with an axe to grind, there’s something about his morally gray state-of-mind that has you rooting for him anyway.
And I Darken
Lada learned early in life that being ruthless was the only way to survive. She and her brother were abandoned by their father and left to live in the enemy Ottoman court. Lada learns to wait and maneuver political scheming on the razor-sharp edge of her sword.
Lada wants her birthright. She wants to rule Wallachia, and she won’t let a thing like her heart get in the way.
Prince of Thorns
There are two things Jorg knows about the world: It’s full of chaos, and it’s full of violence. Disinherited after his mother and brother are killed, Jorg uses his charm and wits to forge a bloody trail through the world. He leads a band of outlaws, throwing morals to the wind. But he’s never forgotten the men who betrayed him, or given up on his quest to exact his vengeance.
She Who Became the Sun
Zhu had the terrible luck of being born a girl. She then bore the predictable fate of nothingness. Her brother was the one destined for greatness. When he dies, she takes his name, determined that she’ll do whatever it takes to not only survive but fulfil her brother’s destiny.
Soldier-turned-mercenary-turned-convict, life for Takeshi Kovacs has never been easy. Even when he finds himself on the right side of a conflict, he only ever wants his life back. His only constant is his sister, and he loves her enough to kill for her, over and over. But that determination and loyalty matter. And while he may not be the good guy, he’s not totally bad, either.
Monzcarro “Monzo” Murcatto
Best Served Cold
Is it really surprising that one of Joe Abercrombie's characters appeared on this list?
It’s really hard to be mad at a girl for wanting vengeance after being thrown down a mountain. Especially when the person doing the throwing is only alive because of you. And they killed your brother. As leader of The Thousand Swords, a mercenary army numbering 10,000-plus, Monzo is no stranger to the brutal reality of living life by the sword. But when you’re betrayed, Monzo knows the best way to serve revenge is ice cold.
The Poppy War
Rin had to fight for every accomplishment her entire life. Her aunt didn’t make her life easy, students at Sinegard refused to make her life easy, and possessing the power of a not-so-dead god definitely isn’t easy. But her refusal to give up puts you firmly on her side. Even as she wanders dangerously close to losing her humanity in the end.
Geralt of Rivia
The Witcher: The Last Wish
The last thing Geralt of Rivia wants is the responsibility of taking care of a human. He’s a monster, and a monster hunter. Geralt was given up at birth and transformed into a Witcher. But when he accidentally invokes the historical Law of Surprise, his fate becomes entwined with Princess Cirilla. Geralt can beat any monster in any kingdom, but he can’t fight destiny—no matter how hard he tries.
Trail of Lightning
Maggie Hoskie is good at killing monsters, and the fact that her gifts keep other people away is just icing on the blood-splattered cake … especially when she isn’t exactly sure if she’s turning into a monster herself. Every time she uses her power, it becomes harder to contain the bloodlust demanding to be free. When a disappearance sends her hunting, the truth behind the monster may be more personal and terrifying than she’s ever experienced before.
Featured photo: Still from Shadow & Bone Season 2 trailer / YouTube