Top 5 Most Interesting Antiheroes In Fantasy
Everyone loves a hero but villains are much more interesting. It makes sense then that combining the two often makes for the most compelling characters in literature - antiheroes. To quote our friend the dictionary: “an antihero is a main character in a story who lacks conventional heroic qualities and attributes such as idealism, courage and morality.” Because these outcasts are often so compelling, especially in the modern age, we have seen more and more appear in literature. Fantasy, Sci-Fi and speculative fiction books are no exception. In fact, I’d say they pose the best antiheroes out there in prose. So, with that in mind here are the top 5 most interesting antiheroes in fantasy…
#1 Delilah Bard from the Shades of Magic series by VE Schwab
“I apologize for anything I might have done. I was not myself.”
“I apologize for shooting you in the leg,” said Lila. “I was myself entirely.”
Expert thief, cut throat pirate and one-eyed magician of unimaginable power - Lila Bard has got to be the most kick ass antihero in fantasy, ever. The fact she seems practically unrepentant about the bad shit she does for good (and often still suspect) reasons, is very refreshing in an anti-hero. She is also a lot of fun, with a wicked sense of humour. It’s like VE Schwab has just made up an alter ego for herself and packed in all of the cool things she’d liked to do if life were fantasy. The series is worth reading just for Lila alone, but there’s so much more to enjoy as well.
#2 Kylar Stern from the Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks
“Assassination is an art, milord. And I am the city's most accomplished artist.”
Deadly assassin, weaver of dark magic, and hopeless romantic - Kylar Stern is a conflicted anti-hero par excel-lance. Kylar is so interesting because we follow him right from childhood all the way into his deadly career as a ‘wetboy’ for hire. Despite Kylar’s profession and deeds we never think of him as anything other than a hero (even if he is one that has been soaked in blood most of his life). If you love characters you can grow with right from the ground up, it’s well worth giving the Night Angel series a read.
#3 Ahmann Jardir from the Demon Cycle by PV Brett
“Pain teaches and so we give it freely. Pleasure teaches nothing, and so must be earned.”
Demon Killer, embracer of fate, betrayer of friends. Some might argue that Jardir is a villain rather than an anti-hero, but they’d be wrong. Originally positioned as a key villain early in the Demon Cycle books, Jardir clearly becomes one of the key heroes of the story. Like Kylar Stern from the Night Angel Trilogy, we eventually get to fully see the growth of Jardir from boy to fully-fledged Chosen One (actually Chosen Two if you read the books). Everything he does is for the greater good, and not in a deluded way. Without Jardir, the ending of the Demon Cycle would not be anywhere near as satisfying and interesting as it could be. I won’t give any spoilers though.
#4 Lestat de Lioncourt from the Vampire Chronicle by Anne Rice
“I'm Gentleman Death in silk and lace, come to put out the candles. The canker in the heart of the rose.”
Blood-thirsty vampire, killer of Queens, deceiver of Satan himself - Lestat de Lioncourt starts as a villain, then turns into an anti-hero you fall in love with as soon as you hear his side of things. While The Vampire Chronicles isn’t pure fantasy in terms of kings, queens and knights, Lestat is definitely of that dark fiction bent and must be put in the list of most interesting characters of all time. If you’ve only read the first book in the series (or have only seem the Tom Cruise movie) you really must dive into the other books. For my money things only get extra interesting once Lestat comes in as narrator.
#5 Kidd from Dhalgren by Samuel Delaney.
“Babes, I am so bored here that I don't think, since I've come, I've ever been more than three minutes away from some really astonishing act of violence.”
A sexually ambiguous poet who carries a bladed ‘orchid’ strapped to his wrist - Kidd (or Kid) has to be one of the most twisted main characters of any book you’re likely to read. Just like the Vampire Chronicles, Dhalgren crosses genre boundaries, this time from Sci-Fi into Fantasy and perhaps just straight up speculative fiction. Whatever you class the story as, and whether you position Kidd as hero, anti-hero or just plain oddball, you can’t argue with the fact he’s interesting. If you’re up for a truly bent read that will have you questioning morality, meaning and perhaps your sanity for starting down the path, check out Dhalgren, and step into Kidd’s world.
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Cover image for this post by L’Oweana on Tumblr, fantasy fan art extraordinaire.