Let’s Talk Bookish – Morally Grey Characters

Hey there! Welcome back to another Let’s Talk Bookish discussion. Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme, hosted by me and Dani @ Literary Lion, where we discuss chosen topics, share our opinions, and spread the love by visiting each other’s posts.

Today’s topic is: What makes a great anti-hero/morally grey character?

It’s super ironic how I slept in on the day of my topic, yet I always try and post on time for everyone else. Sorry for the late post guys! Without further ado, let’s get started.

First of all, I absolutely love morally grey characters and anti-heroes. Absolutely love them. It’s so fascinating seeing them do terrible things, but also being good and kind at the same time. It’s so fascinating seeing them do terrible things, yet supporting them and understanding that it’s necessary.

I love the complicated emotions that arise when I read about a morally grey character. On one hand, I don’t necessarily agree with what they are doing, or they do something utterly horrifying and I’m shocked. But then five seconds later, I’m defending their actions while rationalizing them in my head.

I also love how they can delude you. For instance, they’ll be doing relatively good things, or things that aren’t totally bad that you don’t object to, and then out of nowhere they do something horrifyingly cold and you’re just sitting there in shock. (Kaz and Oomen? That was…something I wasn’t expecting…)

Basically, loving a morally grey character makes me feel super conflicted and I have so many different emotions while following their story.

To me, morally grey characters are the characters that have been hurt and broken and destroyed, and instead of turning out to be a total villain, they retain some goodness in them and sometimes do what’s right. And isn’t that better? Think about it. Would you rather have a morally grey Kaz, or a totally cold hearted one?

Yeah, I thought so.

Of course, you all know my favorites, and I honestly would like to add more favorites to that list, so if you have any suggestions for awesome books with morally grey MCs (especially female ones!!), I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

And now for the ultimate question:

Is loving morally grey characters wrong?

Honestly, I’m not really sure. I think that with some love, morally grey characters can become less morally grey and possibly do what’s right all the time. But when they do bad things, things that you disagree with, then no, you’re right to dislike them in those instance.

But let’s think about it this way. You can love the person or the character, but you don’t have to love everything that they do. That’s true for everyone in real life. They won’t always do things that you love or agree with, but that doesn’t stop you from loving and supporting them.

I love them because they aren’t black and white. They aren’t all good or all bad. They are honestly like most people, but more brash and loud about it. They don’t shy away from doing what they think is right, or getting what they want. And that is honorable in a way, but again, you don’t always have to love everything that they do.

So yeah. I love morally grey characters, even if they do bad things. Because doing bad things makes them more real and more imperfectly perfect.

This Week’s Participants:

Dani @ Literary Lion | Evelyn @ Evelyn Reads | Caitlin @ Caitlin Althea | Abby @ Beyond The Read | Rian @ Dogs and Books | Jane @ Blogger Books

Who are your favorite morally grey characters and anti-heroes? Do you know any female ones? Why do you love them? What do you think makes a morally grey character? What are you having/did you have for lunch i’m hungry? Chat with me in the comments below!

36 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Bookish – Morally Grey Characters

  1. I love morally grey characters and I think a big part of that is how they can constantly surprise you. As a reader you never know what they’ll do next so you’re naturally excited to see more and more of them. And a lot of them are super complex as well with well thought out backstories which are always fascinating to learn.
    I also 100% agree that we need more female morally grey characters and I’ll let you know if I come across any. I guess Jude from The Cruel Prince is one really as she does do some pretty terrible things but she’s been through so much and I love how fierce she is.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yup, exactly! Thanks! And yes, Jude would defintiely count. Another thing about morally grey characters is that they don’t act like a good person? Like they’re moody and dark and rash (or cold and calculating), so they don’t strike you as a nice protagonist. So Jude definitely fits in for that.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. great discussion, Rukky!! I really love morally grey characters too, and I think the reason people like them so much is tied to Brandon Sanderson’s theory that flaws are what make a character interesting. And morally grey characters are some of the most flawed characters ever. I also LOVE reading about characters with agency. I’m all for training sequences and whatnot, but I love it when we’re following a character who already has most of if not all the necessary skills to accomplish what the plot needs them to accomplish, and that’s why I love Kaz Brekker and morally grey characters so much—they know how to get things done.

    P.S. For morally grey female characters, I recommend The Poppy War (Fang Runin definitely makes some Choices), and The Young Elites (I’ve only read the first book, but I know from people who’ve read the whole trilogy that it’s a villain origin story).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Caitlin!! I agree with him. Flaws are everything and seeing those flaws explored is so mesmerizing. It’s like watching our dark side being allowed to do the wicked things it wants and it being…not okay? But kind of okay? This sounds so messed up 😂
      I never thought about it that way, but that makes a lot of sense. It’s so much better to see them know how to do the things and then implement it, rather than be learning it throughout the course of the book. Reminds me of Kelsier from Mistborn too. He had the most impossible revolutionary idea, but he knew how to go about it, rather than being the typical MC who is just learning how to pull a heist/con.

      I’m going to read The Poppy War next month so now I’m even more excited!!! I’m definitley checking out The Young Elites as well! Thank you for the recs ❤✨

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I really love morally grey characters, because they tend to be a lot more complex and well-developed than “just good” or “just bad” characters. So, yes, Kaz is DEFINITELY better as a morally grey character than as a villain. And part of the reason for that, besides the complexity thing I’ve mentioned, is that – like you said – morally grey characters can get better AND they tend to do some good in-between all the bad. For me, loving them or hating them comes down to what makes them morally grey – I love Kaz because he is not a horrible person; Inej even points out at the end of Crooked Kingdom that there are many things he wouldn’t do, he wouldn’t become just another crime boss. Great post, Rukky! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s that ability to do good yet they do bad, and then they do good instead of bad and the uncertainty of what they’re going to do next that I think I find most fascinating. Kaz is such a great example, and Inej is so right. There are so many things he would not do, so many things he would probably change about the Barrel, yet he’ll never just be the good guy. ✨❤

      Liked by 1 person

  4. “Imperfectly perfect” I love the way you phrased this! I adore morally grey characters. A lot of them are my favourite book boyfriends because they’re so complex. The scene with Kaz and Oomen oof. This was such a fun idea for a topic I think it was so fun to see who everyone’s favourite morally grey character was.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, yeah. That scene was the first time that I realized that Kaz isn’t just “bad”; he’s terrible and can be, if need be, completely cold and murderous. Yeah, I really loved this topic too!! I’m so so excited for next month!!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. the way i was just replying to your comment talking about morally grey characters and i come and see this 😎😎 but YES i love this topic so much! i’ve often thought about how much i love morally grey characters, because i think it is part of the larger topic of how a lot of times there are things in fiction (especially fantasy) that are becoming so written about that we are getting used to them (like murder lmao) but obviously things like that are condoned lmao. but i genuinely love them, i think they can be so complex and interesting to read. i just love exploring different sides of morality and i think it’s especially great to do so in fiction since it’s not necessarily a good thing to do that in real life lmao!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha 😂 Now that I think about it, yes, so many “bad” things are becoming so normal, and idk whether that should be alarming or not… Haha, exactly! It feels a whole lot more safer to love a morally grey character who does “wrong” things because we can enjoy it without actually doing the bad things IRL. It’s kind of why I love mysteries too, because reading about serial killers and other criminals and trying to understand their dark thoughts and actions is so fascinating!! I just love dark twisted characters ✨

      (I feel like I should be highly alarmed by this 😂🤦🏾‍♀️)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. GREAT POST!!! I will definitely write mine straight away! But for me, there’s a difference between anti-hero and morally grey characters, what about you? Because while I feel Kaz is a morally grey character, he’s no anti-hero to me because he is some kind of hero…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, I just searched the definition of anti-hero, and by Google’s definition, he technically is? Because he is a hero (sometimes lol) but he doesn’t fit the conventional definiton of a hero. He’s still the protagonist, the MC, the good guy even if he does questionable things, and by him doing those questionable things, he becomes an anti-hero and not your typical hero.
      At least, that’s how I see it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. To be honest, the first character I think about when talking about morally grey characters is always Kaz. 😂🖤 So, if anyone has some recs witg morally grey characters please let me know! I agree with everything you said, Rukky. Morally grey characters are just more complex and interesting than the classic “evil villain”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We should honestly add him to the dictionary definition of morally grey 😂😂 Hmm, Caitlin mentioned that there is a female morally grey character in The Poppy War, and I’d also suggest Vicious by V.E. Schwab. The MC, Victor, is more of an anti-hero? But he’s kind of similar. Hope you enjoy!!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Morally grey characters are so amazing! It’s so compelling for me to read about them, and never know what’s happening next, whether they’ll do the right thing or not. Kaz Brekker is so compelling and I swear he’s half the reason we all love Six of Crows so much I love reading about him, being low-key horrified at the things he does, but still seeing him have a soft side hidden deep (very, very deep) underneath and still care (even if he pretends he doesn’t lmao) about his found family.

    Also morally grey characters definitely can feel more real. I especially love when they have a tragic backstory that explains how they got to be that way, because honestly, it seems a bit unrealistic for someone who has been through so much pain and suffering to still be all happy and always doing the right thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s another reason why they are so appealing!! With normal heros, you know they’ll always do the right thing for the greater good, but morally grey characters are so unpredictable. Haha, he ismore like 90% the reason why! Yess exactly!! I miss him so much 😭

      Yeah, it is unrealistic. Not impossible, but more often than not, they don’t end up going to balls and having tea parties and doing all the “normal” stuff, especially if it’s trauma after trauma without anyone to be kind to them 💔


  9. I really enjoy morally grey characters! I think that Kaz is a really great example, but for me the first person that came to mind was Victor from Vicious by V. E. Schwab. It’s one of the things that made me love that book so much. In fact, I felt that in the sequel he was becoming less of a grey character and that made me really sad and impacted my enjoyment of the book!

    I can’t really think of morally grey female characters off-hand though. There are some I can think of that are unlikable and can be mean-spirited at times, but I don’t think any of them truly fall into the category of a morally grey character.

    And I had pesto pasta for lunch, since you asked!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes Victor! He and Kaz are the only ones that I can think of as morally grey characters off the top of my head. It’s kind of sad how I can’t think of any female ones. Hmm, I thought he was pretty grey in Vengeful too?


      My memory is not the best, but didn’t he let Dom die? Or something like that? I thought he did something particularly grey, if not downright cold somewhere there? Or maybe I’m mixing up him and Eli…
      *end of spoilers*

      Yeah, they usually are just outright mean and evil, or utterly forgettable, or “strong”, or just your average person. *sigh*

      Haha, I hope you enjoyed it!! I had cake for lunch 😂 Not the healthiest, but I just wanted cake lol

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I don’t know, to me I felt like Victor edged more into “evil” territory in Vengeful, and that he lost some of that greyness and just started caring less. I guess I thought he was more complex and had more complex reasoning in Vicious. But to be honest, I’ve forgotten a lot of that book as well, so I only remember my overall feelings, not specific details.

        Also, I have cake or cookies for breakfast almost every day, and sometimes breakfast ends up being more like brunch, so I’m not judging! 🍰

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Hmm, I think yeah. He was a lot more callous in that book, so I think it’s why I also think of him as more of an anti-hero? Because he’s technically still the hero in a way. But even then, I see what you mean. He fell more into the villain side rather than doing villainy things for complicated reasons.

          😂😂 Dessert is definitely the best kind of meal and suitable for any time of the day ❤

          Liked by 1 person

  10. I often say I love morally grey characters, but honestly… I’m not sure if I’ve read many books with those kinds of characters? In that case, I would love to see them more. (I still haven’t read Six of Crows yet so that’s a big part of the problem 🙈)

    I definitely understand that there’s a difference between supporting a character and agreeing with their actions. Nobody is perfect, and it’s okay for characters to not always be great people! It might even be boring, sometimes, to always read from the perspective of “morally good” characters. I have also read some books with characters who constantly did bad things and never really learned anything… and that’s different than morally grey characters to me. I like characters who are somewhere in the middle, I guess.

    Great discussion, Rukky! 💕

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, I actually haven’t read that many either? Like, I can think of only 2 books off the top of my head 😂 Six of Crows and Vicious by V.E. Schwab. Oh wow, I’m super surprised that you haven’t read SoC. I hope you enjoy it if and when you do read it!! I really really really hope the hype doesn’t ruin it for you ✨

      Yes, exactly! I’m a goody two shoes, but I also tire of reading about goody two shoes who always do things for the greater good lol. It’s nice to see character who act out all the “bad” things and not care what anyone thinks. Yeah, there’s totally a difference. I’d honestly really love to see more morally grey characters in books.

      Thank you 💖


  11. I love your post Rukky! I love, love, LOVE the way you defined morally gray characters: people who have been broken but who still retain some goodness within themselves, but don’t hesitate to do what’s necessary to get what they want.

    A female antihero I’ve read about is Lila Bard from the Shades of Magic trilogy, although I can’t really say I love her like I love my other morally gray children. 😂

    And now that you mention lunch, I’m hungry too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yay, I’m glad you did and thank you for participating!!

      Huh, Lila didn’t strike me as morally grey…but I’ve only read the first book so I can’t really say. And yeah, I totally did not love her at all either 😂

      Haha, hope you have something delicious!!


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