When I was 4 or 5, my parents took me to see Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty. I was terrified and fascinated by the evil fairy Maleficent, who that night took up residence in the dark of my closet. For most of my childhood, her eyes gleamed at me from the shadows, persuasive, hypnotic and dangerous. When Angelina Jolie starred in the live-action Maleficent, about the wicked fairy's backstory, I realized that all this time I had wanted more of the most complex character in Sleeping Beauty. And when the sequel, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, comes out October 18, we'll get even more magic!
Anti-heroines, bad girls, evil queens, wicked witches—in a good vs. bad world a girl can get a reputation just for being a little … morally grey. However, every evil queen has a backstory, every "bad" girl has her secrets and every heroine deserves to take control of her narrative. Here are some other complicated heroines to enjoy.
There are three Sawkill Girls, Zoey, Marion and Val, but it's Val who holds a century of dark secrets on an island where children tell stories of monsters in the shadows, and from time to time, girls just disappear. With her wealth, her family history and her mother right over her shoulder, queen bee Val is expected to carry on one of the island's oldest and most sinister traditions.
As I Descended is a contemporary retelling of Macbeth with a fully LGBTQ+ cast, so not only Lily, the representative Lady Macbeth character, but several other characters as well can be described as heroines with murky motivations. Which is fitting! If there were ever a story where it's hard to say if there's a knight (or a lady in this case) in shining armor, it's Macbeth.
In this reimagining of Snow White, the Girls Made of Snow and Glass are Snow (Princess Lynet) and her stepmother, Queen Mina. At 16, Mina married Lynet's father, the King, leaving her own loveless family behind, but when Lynet is 15, her father makes her queen of part of his empire. Although society is determined to pit them against each other, the Princess and the Queen have more in common than you'd think.
Forest of A Thousand Lanterns is the story of Xifeng, a beautiful girl destined to be the Empress of Feng Lu, but destiny doesn't just hand itself over to us. Xifeng must do dark and terrible things to achieve the throne, and she does them with ambition and conviction.
Jo Chastain has been on the streets for a year following the death of her mother, a con artist who taught Jo her trade. When she gets the chance to impersonate Vivienne Weir, a girl who went missing years ago from the family home of the Lovecrafts, she leaps at the opportunity for security and comfort, knowing she'll have to keep up the con for years to come. In the Lovecraft household she finds more questions than answers. In Her Skin is a story where nobody is quite who they seem.
Who's your favorite anti-heroine?