Books Like Half Bad
While not all protagonists in books are heroes, many of them tend to be altruistic or at the very least considerate towards others. There also tends to be a very definite line drawn between the heroes and villains in stories so that readers know exactly who to root for. However, some readers are drawn more toward characters where the lines are a little more blurred. These morally grey protagonists might not be outright evil, but they certainly won't hesitate to put their own needs ahead of others. For example, in Half Bad by Sally Green, the protagonist, Nathan, is persecuted for the sins of his father. The story is set in modern-day England, where witches, both good and evil, live alongside humans. However, since his mother was good and his father is evil, Nathan is hunted from all sides. For more novels with morally grey protagonists, check out the following books like Half Bad.
by Kameron Hurley
The protagonist of God's War by Kameron Hurley is a former government assassin named Nyx. She used to make a living cutting off heads for cash but now makes ends meet by working as a bounty hunter on an isolated planet ravaged by war. Nyx receives a special mission that could put an end to the war but has to make some ruthless decisions along the way.
by Pierce Brown
Red Rising by Pierce Brown follows the adventures of Darrow, a member of the red caste. Unfortunately, in his color-coded society, Reds are the lowest caste and have to spend their days performing back-breaking work in the hopes of making the surface of Mars liveable for future generations. Darrow tolerates this because he believes his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children. However, when he discovers that all of these were lies and that the surface of Mars has been terraformed generations ago, he sacrifices everything to bring down his enemies.
by Seth Dickinson
The Traitor Baru Cormorant is the first novel in the Masquerade series by Seth Dickinson. Baru Cormorant sees her culture overwritten and customs criminalized when the Empire of Masks conquers her island home. However, she believes that any price is worth paying to liberate her people, so she swallows her hate and joins the Empire's civil service. She plans to claw her way high enough to set her people free, but she discovers that the cost of doing so may be far greater than what she ever imagined.
by Kiersten White
Lada Dragwlya is the protagonist of And I Darken by Kiersten White. Lada was wrenched from her homeland of Wallachia along with her younger brother Radu to be raised in the Ottoman courts. Unfortunately, the pair are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, so Lada quickly learns that being ruthless is the key to survival. She is determined to return to Wallachia and claim her birthright, but then she and Radu befriend Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan.
by Shelley Parker-Chan
She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-CHan is set in 1345 when China lies under harsh Mongol rule. The story follows the clever and capable second daughter of the Zhu family. Their eight-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness while his sister receives one of nothingness. However, when Zhu Chongba dies, the girl assumes his identity and enters a monastery to escape her own fated death. Her burning desire to survive compels her to do whatever it takes to stay hidden from her fate, but when her sanctuary is destroyed, she embraces another future altogether.
by Charlotte McConaghy
Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy is set in the wild Scottish Highlands. It is here where Inti Flynn and her twin sister, Aggie, are tasked with leading a team of biologists. Their objective is to reintroduce fourteen gray wolves into the remote Highlands, but the local town is understandably not too happy about this. Inti's worse fears are realized when a farmer is found dead, and unable to accept that her wolves could be responsible, she decides to protect them at all cost.
by Marie Lu
Adelina Amouteru from The Young Elites by Marie Lu is not your typical protagonist. As a survivor of the blood fever, she has a jagged scar where her left eye once was and hair that has turned silver. While her father believes she's an abomination, some think the fever's survivors have mysterious and powerful gifts. Teren Santoro is the leader of the Inquisition Axis who is charged with seeking out these powerful survivors, or Young Elites, as they have come to be called. Then there's Enzo Valenciano, a member of the Young Elites seeking out others like them before the Inquisition Axis finds them. The lives of all three intersect as a vengeful Adelina desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.
by Jay Kristoff
Mia Corvere is the protagonist of Nevernight by Jay Kristoff. As the daughter of an executed traitor, Mia was barely able to escape with her life after her father's failed rebellion. Her father's treachery cost him his life and doomed Mia to a life on the run from the Senate and her father's former comrades. However, thanks to her special talents, Mia ends up apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic when she turns sixteen. Failing the initiation would mean death, but if Mia survives, she'll be one step closer to getting her revenge.