By Anna Parsons
Everyone loves a bad boy.
While most interesting characters have both good and bad in them, sometimes our favorites are the ones that toe the line between the two…and maybe sometimes lean a little bad. Whether they have a good heart but a rough exterior or are a villain with the potential to change, some of the most intriguing stories revolve around people with layers, who are easily misunderstood because they’re fighting their own internal battles.
Aeduan in The Witchlands Series by Susan Dennard
Aeduan, trained as a mercenary from an early age, is a Bloodwitch, able to smell magic and track people by their blood as well as regenerate from gruesome injuries. He emerges as an early villain in Truthwitch as he discovers Safiya’s power and hunts her and Iseult, forcing them to flee their home. But despite his dark past and connection to the aggressive Raider King, Aeduan at times shows unexpected compassion. Conflicted about his role, he may not be the ruthless killer he seems.
Jace in The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare
Dressed in black, riding a motorcycle, and covered in tattoo-like runes, Jace is a classic example of a fantasy bad boy. He’s the best Shadowhunter of his generation and absolutely gorgeous—and well aware of it. To many people he comes off as arrogant, aloof, and occasionally cruel, and he doesn’t hold back with his biting sarcasm. But this mask covers a hidden vulnerability and a person fiercely dedicated to those he loves. And no matter the danger, he doesn’t hesitate sacrifice himself for what’s right.
Kaz in The Six of Crows Duology by Leigh Bardugo
If you like stories with complicated characters then you’ll love Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows, where you can take your pick from a whole criminal crew. Paid to break the maker of a highly addictive magical drug out of an impenetrable castle, this rough group has several intriguing guys (not to mention some fierce girls). There’s Jesper, a sarcastic marksman with a gambling problem, and Matthias, who is bitter and cold from years unjust imprisonment but begins to warm up to the crew. Leader of them all is Kaz, a criminal prodigy and gang leader bent on revenge for his brother’s death who does whatever it takes to get what he wants. As they complete their mission, you’ll have to wait and see whether they’re hiding hearts of gold or set on a darker path.
Carswell Thorne from The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
A troublemaker and master of excuses ever since he was a child, Carswell is notorious for stealing a spaceship and deserting the American Republic Military. Flirtatious, devious, and wanted by several governments, under this reckless exterior is a kind and devoted friend.
Aaron Warner in the Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi
Raised by an abusive father, Aaron learned to hide his emotions and present an unfeeling front to the world. Now the head of the military Sector 45, Aaron is a calculating, manipulative perfectionist who will use intimidation to get his way. But as the story goes on, he grows as a person and reveals depths of his character that were previously hidden. You can decide for yourself whether or not they redeem him.
Girls are next! Who should we be sure to include?
Originally published May 3, 2018.