Hello, today we’ll be discussing the interesting phenomenon of antiheroes!
Firstly, there’s a very important question to address:
What is an antihero?
Well, remember when you were younger and in every story you thought there was a ‘goodie’ and a ‘baddie’? An antihero is both of those things and neither of them at the same time. They’re the protagonist of the novel/ movie /play/ epic poem/ pop-up book but they’re not what we would normally consider a hero. They might not want to save the world, they might not put others before themselves and they might not always take the most ‘morally correct’ decisions.
Their goals may be quite selfish or just defy everyone’s expectations and they may do many morally and ethically questionable things to achieve their goals. Their good intentions do not necessarily result in good actions. Nevertheless, they always have redeeming qualities and can come across as very likable, multi-faceted characters so even if they do bad things it’s hard to hate them.
In stories the hero may be flawed but is generally labelled as good, fair and brave. The villain may be vulnerable but at the end of the day they’re evil. An antihero’s character is shades of grey–they’re not fully good or fully bad and they’re not quite evil.
Personally, I enjoy reading about antiheroes because their motivations are normally very complex and it’s impossible to predict what they are going to do next as they’re not confined by strict moral values. Seeing how they justify and explain even the most terrible actions is scarily interesting. I always find that even though my brain is telling me that the character is bad and I shouldn’t like them, it’s hard to hate them when you have access to their most private thoughts and know all the events that led them to be the way they are.
Here are some of my favourite antiheroes and why!
Baru from The Traitor by Seth Dickinson: Baru would do anything and betray anyone to save her island and it was terrifying to watch her destroy people I thought she loved in the name of her cause. She was a genius and the reader was made to understand how important her mission was to her even as they watched her humanity slip away.
Rin from The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang: Rin had indomitable power and and it was intriguing to see how she thought she was using it for the greater good even when she wasn’t. She made lots of wrong choices but at the same time she still wanted to try and help.
Kaz Brekker from Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo: Kaz had only two goals in mind: money and vengeance, and it was obvious from his actions that he was not a good person. However, his tragic and terrible backstory evoked sympathy and it became hard to dislike him when you realised the reasons behind his actions. Add to that how loyal he was to those he cared about and he ended up being almost likable!
Lada from And I Darken by Kiersten White: Lada was brutal, unforgiving and ruthless. Everything a woman wasn’t supposed to be in her society. She wanted to claim what was hers and she hungered for power and while she slowly spiralled down and isolated herself from everyone, I still found myself rooting for her.
Jude Duarte from The Cruel Prince by Holly Black: Jude was brilliant. In the most terrifying way. She also hungered for power and she wanted to make her place in Elfhame no matter the cost. She became as cold and cunning as those around her and while what she does is entirely self-serving you can’t help but want her to succeed and marvel at her scheming.
I took to Twitter to ask the bookish community about their favourite antiheroes and here’s a list of some of the characters that were mentioned:
- Locke Lamora from The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
- Elphaba Thropp from Wicked by Gregory Maguire
- Catherine Pinkerton from Heartless by Marissa Meyer
- Adelina Amouteru from The Young Elites by Marie Lu
- Tea from The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco
- Ia Cōcha from Ignite the Stars by Maura Milan
- Victor Vale from Vicious by V. E. Schwab
- Maud from An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good
- Sebastian Morgenstern from The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare
- Arya Stark from A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin
So that’s antiheroes! Let’s end with a quote from a tweet by Kara Harte from Kattitude Reads:
“A good anti-hero is flawed and makes mistakes, but for the most part has good intentions at heart.”