10 Exclusive Books With Morally Grey Characters

Ambiguous Books

Morally gray characters are the characters that flip between good and evil, situating themselves right in that grey area where they toe the line between hero and villain. They aren’t strictly good or evil, and their motives aren’t always clear, at least not at first. But heroes and villains make good on bad choices.

So, on one side, we have pure goodness, and on the other, we have pure evil. Everyone is going to fall somewhere in the spectrum. I love morally grey characters because they always keep you on your toes, keeping the tensions high in every scene. Follow me if you are waiting to read books on morally grey characters.

10 Books With Morally Grey Characters

Books with morally grey or ambiguous characters are always trending because of the complexity and plot twist. I read many grey character representative books, and most of them are page-turners. Readers feel their hormonal excitement as these books contain complexity, surprise, angst, and good and bad vibe.

As a reader and writer, I always try to read these books at least once per week because I need a kick to refresh myself. I have a list of these books, and I will review my top favorite 10 books with morally grey characters. Let’s begin!

NameKey FocusReview (Goodreads)
The Blade ItselfMany characters work their job in a war situation.4.1
Sawkill GirlsThree girls experience horror and romance on an island.3.6
Ninth HouseA girl passes through abuse and a horror situation.4.0
BlackwingA bounty hunter falls in love and war.4.1
ViciousTwo roommates discover love and solve a crime mystery.4.2
The Poppy WarA strong lady is doing military training in a rigid society.4.1
Red SisterIn a fantasy world, girls discover friendship and struggle for themselves.4.2
Gideon the NinthA funny queer character solves a murder mystery and does romance.4.2
Burn the DarkA punk Youtuber (witch hunter) is doing adventure in a fantasy world.3.7
To Kill a KingdomAn enemies-to-lovers and slow-burn romance with fairy tales.3.8
Books With Morally Grey Characters

1. The Blade Itself (The First Law)

It’s the darkest and most violent fantasy that I’ve read. The main thing is that none of the characters are heroes. There’s not some heroic goal or some quest to change things for the better. It has a more gritty, politically realistic feeling to it. The plot is slow. So if you’re looking for something fast-paced, action-packed, and plot-driven, this is not where you’ll find it.

The stronger characters than others much drive the book. I would say my favorite is Glokta, who is a funny and fascinating character. His job is to torture and interrogate people for the kingdom he now lives in and works for. So if you’re looking for darker, interesting grey characters, I would recommend checking it out.

The Blade Itself

Author: Joe Abercrombie
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Narrator: Steven Pacey
Average Customer Review: (4.5 out of 5, on Amazon)
Tropes: War & Military Fiction, Historical Fantasy, Adventure, Sci-fi, Horror
Number Of Pages: 515
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle | Audio CD

2. Sawkill Girls

The story of this book is between fantasy and horror. You will meet a scarier super feminist and very queer. The book follows three main characters who are girls on Sawkill Island, where something is kidnapping and killing teen girls. So, there are a lot of creepy things going on. Also, this one does include a female-female romance with an on-the-page asexual representation.

The characters are enjoyable to read about, but I didn’t find any cliffhanger moments. Moreover, I found part two is very simple and predictable. Overall, I enjoyed the atmosphere and the relationship between the characters, especially the ambiguous one. If you are looking for something that is very feminist and queer representation with morally grey characters, this is a good one to check out.

Sawkill Girls

Author: Claire Legrand
Publisher: HarperAudio
Narrator: Lauren Ezzo
Average Customer Review: (4.2 out of 5, on Amazon)
Tropes: Friendship, Horror, Dark Fantasy, Thriller, Queer, Feminism
Number Of Pages: 447
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle | Audio CD

3. Ninth House (Alex Stern)

This book is a slower-paced urban fantasy set at Yale’s secret societies and ghosts. So it is a very dark and heavy book that deals a lot with sexual abuse with a lot of explicit content. With that, there is a lot of violence toward female bodies. It is one that people seem to love or hate. Again, it is more description-heavy with ambiguous/grey characters.

You will like the way that it handles the issues of sexual abuse and the ways that powerful people get away with things. I enjoyed the beginning world, the school setting, and the magic, but it went downhill fast. So, I do plan on continuing with the series. If you listen to audiobooks, I would recommend trying this via audio.

Ninth House

Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Narrator: Lauren Fortgang, Michael David Axtell
Average Customer Review: (4.5 out of 5, on Amazon)
Tropes: Epic Fantasy, Mystery, Mental-health, Ghost
Number Of Pages: 459
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle

4. Blackwing (Raven’s Mark)

My next recommendation is another book that falls into the dark fantasy category. While it wasn’t an all-time favorite book for me, I plan on continuing in the series. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic fantasy world, and the main character is a bounty hunter. There are powerful godlike beings in this world at war, and humans are caught in the middle of that.

The author did a great job seamlessly weaving world-building into the narrative, which is not easy, especially as a debut author. If you’re looking for those morally grey characters or darker fantasy, this will give that to you.


Author: Ed McDonald
Narrator: Colin Mace
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Average Customer Review: (4.5 out of 5, on Amazon)
Tropes: Sword & Sorcery Fantasy, Dystopia, Romance
Number Of Pages: 360
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle

5. Vicious (Villains)

We follow two young men who were roommates and rivals in college. They discovered a way to develop these extraordinary abilities that come at the expense of your soul. Years later, their rivalry has come about anew, and people are being killed, and lots of things are happening.

So, It’s an exciting exploration of morality because you might root for one of these two characters over the other, but neither of them is moral. They’re both the hero of their own story. If you want something with fantastic elements to explore gray morality, this is a good one to pick up.


Author: V. E. Schwab
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Narrator: Jeremy Arthur
Average Customer Review: (4.5 out of 5, on Amazon)
Tropes: Superhero Fantasy, Alternate-universe, Crime-mystery
Number Of Pages: 366
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle | Audio CD

6. The Poppy War

The Poppy War is the first book in a historical military fantasy series that is dark but brilliant. Another one is a powerful debut. It follows a girl who wants to train to be part of the military. Some people didn’t love it because they thought it felt choppy. So it does have distinct parts. The first part of this is the girl getting into this military training school that ends because a war begins, and then it’s her going to war.

The book is inspired by real events in Chinese history, The Rape of Nanking. So there is a chapter later in the book that contains a lot of very difficult-to-read content based on things that truly happened in wartime. It is one of the most difficult to read passages that I have read. We’re getting morally grey characters, and it is phenomenal.

The Poppy War

Author: R. F. Kuang
Publisher: HarperAudio
Narrator: Emily Woo Zeller
Average Customer Review: (4.3 out of 5, on Amazon)
Tropes: World Literature, Cultural Heritage, War, Philosophy, Politics
Number Of Pages: 531
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle | Audio CD

7. Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor)

It is a fantastic adult fantasy series featuring assassin nuns as the main characters. I found the perfect balance between being character-driven and plot-driven. There’s a lot of action and plot, but such great characterization. The story has an almost entirely female cast of characters. They’re so well done. There are not that many male authors who do this job of writing female characters.

The author focuses on friendship and the importance of believing in others even when you’ve been hurt in the past. So, friendship is the constant theme of this story. The audiobook narrator, Heather O’Neil does a fantastic job, and I’ll continue to listen to the rest of the trilogy. The normal paperback quality is very poor, but the hardcover is fantastic to collect.

Red Sister

Author: Mark Lawrence
Publisher: Recorded Books
Narrator: Heather O’Neill
Average Customer Review: (4.5 out of 5, on Amazon)
Tropes: Action & Adventure, Sword & Sorcery, Disability-rep
Number Of Pages: 467
Available: Audiobook | Mass Market Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle | Audio CD

8. Gideon the Ninth (The Locked Tomb)

This book will not work for everyone, and it seems to be a polarizing book. So it has been pitched as lesbian necromancers in space, which is true, but it also contains a close circle of a murder mystery. Gideon, the main character, is queer and funny.

If you don’t like Gideon, you’re not going to enjoy this book necessarily. What makes this such a good time hinges on Gideon as the grey character driving the force of the book. I enjoyed all of its elements, and I’m very excited to continue in the series and learn more about the author’s dark world.

Gideon the Ninth

Author: Tamsyn Muir
Publisher: Recorded Books
Narrator: Moira Quirk
Average Customer Review: (4.5 out of 5, on Amazon)
Tropes: Humorous Fantasy, Female-lead, Sapphic
Number Of Pages: 448
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle | Audio CD

9. Burn the Dark (Malus Domestica)

The story follows a punk YouTuber who’s a witch hunter, and she films hunting witches, except that it’s real. It also has some stranger things vibes with a kid and his group of friends. I got some super creepy moments where there are real horror elements to it. But then, sometimes the horror is that this is set in the South, and there’s racism happening.

There’s a creepy scene in a public restroom in the middle of the night where no one else is around. It’s a whole lot of fun. So, I’m super excited to read book two because I got a cliffhanger at the end.

Burn the Dark

Author: S. A. Hunt
Narrator: Saskia Maarleveld
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Average Customer Review: (4.2 out of 5, on Amazon)
Tropes: Occult Horror, Action & Adventure, Witches
Number Of Pages: 384
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle

10. To Kill a Kingdom

This book is a dark Little Mermaid retelling. Instead of following a mermaid, we follow a siren who sings to lure men to their death. The story is a dual perspective, and the first perspective we have is that of Lyra, a princess of the sirens.

Among sirens, there is a tradition that they will steal the heart of a human in the month of their birth. By stealing a heart of a human, they reach into their chest and rip out their heart. Then the sirens keep those hearts because the hearts give them power.

As a princess of the sirens, Lyra has a tradition of only stealing the hearts of human princes. So she gets a reputation as the prince killer. The other perspective that we follow in this story is Prince Ellen, a prince among the humans known as the siren hunter.

Lyra does something in the story that angers her mother, the Sea Queen. So she is thrown out of the ocean into a human body among the humans, Lyra and Prince Ellen. The two of them have to go on an adventure together and determine where their loyalties lie in the world and setting.

We visited a couple of countries throughout the book but knew much about the world. The world-building was fairly simplistic. There are a lot of different countries in this world, but they were very much categorized into certain stereotypes, and they didn’t feel very fleshed out or have a lot of depth to them. While this was a simple world, it was fairly vast.

The way the actions played into the catalyst of the storyline didn’t make sense to me because there was enough world-building. I didn’t understand the context of those actions and why those actions would lead to those results. But I enjoyed the morally grey characters and the adventure. If you like sea fantasy with adventure, you must read it.

To Kill a Kingdom

Author: Alexandra Christo
Narrator: Jacob York, Stephanie Willis
Publisher: Audible Studios
Average Customer Review: (4.4 out of 5, on Amazon)
Award nominee: Goodreads Choice
Tropes: Mermaid, Pirates, Fairy Tale & Folklore Adaptations, Enemies-to-lovers, Slow-burn
Number Of Pages: 344
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle | Audio CD

Let me know your thoughts or feelings on the books I discussed in this article. What is one of your favorite grey characters and dark fantasy books? I would love to hear from you, and I’m always looking for recommendations.

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Pauline Jackson

I like to talk about popular books. My book review inspires you to read and save time. Also, I summarize the book and give you the best lessons or ideas that can change your life. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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