The skies are dark, hope is lost, corruption reigns, and those few bright lights willing to fight back are sure to be betrayed by their closest allies, or their own frail nature. Enter the anti-hero, a lone wolf just a shade better than the desperate souls that surround her, as contrary and complicated as your average champion is good and noble. If you like your stories grim and gritty, spend a few hours with these literary anti-heroes:
Jaime Lannister is tall, fair, handsome and unusually fond of his sister, which occasionally leads to the odd bit of child defenstration—all in the name of love, of course. Universally reviled in A Game of Thrones, Jaime evolves over the course of the series to become one of the most unexpected heroes of Westeros. By A Feast for Crows, you may even be rooting for a character you once loathed.
Stephen King's The Gunslinger introduces Roland Deschain, an implacable hero on a journey of vengeance that will span entire worlds. Single-minded and relentless, Roland refuses to let anything get in the way of his search for the mysterious Man in Black, even when Roland's own humanity is at stake. An uncommon blend of fantasy, western and horror, The Gunslinger is a unique, gripping read.
Sergei Lukyanenko's Nightwatch series is an urban fantasy where bright and brilliant heroes live in a bureaucratic twilight, with low-level cogs acting on the inscrutable commands of their higher-ups. In a world full of dueling were-creatures, vampires and magicians, Anton Gorodetsky is a bored IT tech with an idealistic streak that is perpetually at war with the harsh realities of Moscow's supernatural darkside. Anton's moral struggle is a contemplative and darkly humorous deconstruction of heroism that sets Nightwatch apart from most modern urban fantasy.
Lady Jessica of Dune is a cunning and manipulative iconoclast caught in a deadly game of galactic politics. Surrounded by uncompromising forces waiting to destroy her family, Jessica will stop at nothing to protect her legacy. In a work more known for its vision than its stunning characterization, Lady Jessica stands out as a brilliant and complex protagonist that sells Frank Herbert's sci-fi opus.
Know a brooding hero we missed? Add your favorites in the comments, and don't forget to join CPL and Revolution Brewery for Acting the Anti-Hero (and Brewed in Chicago!), part of One Book, One Chicago.