A little while back I did a Top Ten Tuesday post talking about my favourite morally grey characters, and a lot of the comment and responses I got from other bloggers were talking about how their favourite characters weren’t the heroes of their favourite books, but the anti heroes.
And I’m the same. While I loved characters like Ezra in Illuminae, or Kell in A Darker Shade of Magic, I always preferred scenes with AIDAN in, or learning more about Holland’s past. I sometimes enjoyed reading about the morally grey characters more than reading about the heroes, and the more I thought about it the more I wondered why.
What is it About Anti Heroes we Love So Much?
When it comes down to it we’re supposed to root for the heroes over anyone and everyone else, and in most books I do. When I was reading Harry Potter as a child I wasn’t on Voldemort’s side as he tried to kill the boy who loved, but Harry’s as he struggled to destroy all the Deathly Hallows before finally facing Voldemort. But if you add a morally grey, anti hero character into the story and I can easily find myself rooting for them instead.
Holland, from the Shades of Magic series by V.E. Schwab, was a character I hated in the first book. But as the series continued and we saw more of Holland, discovering his real motivations – his desire to heal White London – and witnessing the horrors of his past, I started rooting for him. By the time I was halfway through A Conjuring of Light he was one of my favourite characters in the series.
A point someone made in the comments of my Top Ten Tuesday post was how it would have been easy to see Holland as the hero of the series if it had been told from his POV rather than Kell’s and Lila’s. It’s the same situation with Vicious, also by V.E. Schwab. Victor could never be called a ‘hero’, but he was the hero of his own story while Eli was the hero of his. Both characters thought they were doing the right thing but in the general public’s eye one was a hero and the other was a villain.
I’ve always found morally grey characters more interesting to read and I think it’s because I can see more of myself in them than I can in the heroes. Granted I’m never going to be able to put myself in the same situation Kaz and the Dregs were in Six of Crows, or Ethan and the Zeroes were in Zeroes, but their actions are easy to understand because their motivations are more human.
When it comes down to it how we feel about characters is largely affected by how we connect to them. Heroes are great to read about but it’s always the flawed and human characters who stay with us because we can connect to them more.
There are plenty of different anti heroes; characters like Holland who have a redemption arc but there are also characters like Lada, from And I Darken, and Mia, from Nevernight. Characters who don’t have a redemption arc, who don’t need one, and whose stories have the potential to end bloody, but they’re some of my favourite characters because in a way they’re almost like the villains masquerading as the heroes.
They can’t afford to care about the bodies that fall at their feet, the lives they have to end to get what they want, and it brings to mind the saying; ‘every villain is the hero of their own story.’
Personally I want more anti heroes in books; more characters like Holland who get their redemption arcs, more characters like Kaz and the Dregs who are out for themselves and no one else, more characters like Lada and Mia who are more brutal than any hero should be. It’s always more fun to read characters we can connect to, characters who have different motivations than simply saving the world.
Now Onto the Discussion Part of This Post:
What is it you love about morally grey anti heroes, and why do you think you love those types of characters so much?
Do you like reading about the anti heroes the most or do you prefer the heroes or villains of the story?
Who are your favourite anti heroes?
Let me know in the comments below.