Okay let’s talk: when it comes to heroines, I like mine with shades of gray. Don’t get me wrong, bright and sparkly is fun too! But I love, love, love characters with a little more edge to them. You know, when they don’t mind dipping their toes in the dark side if the reason is right? If you feel the same way, check out this list of our favorite morally gray heroines.
Does murder make you morally gray? Okay, that might be little too much, but schemes and intentionally hiding a death omen are definitely fishy. (Though I can’t blame her.)
Emanuela Ragno always gets what she wants. With her daring mind and socialite schemes, she refuses to be the demure young lady everyone wants her to be. In her most ambitious move yet, she’s about to marry Alessandro Morandi, her childhood best friend and the heir to the wealthiest house in Occhia. Emanuela doesn’t care that she and her groom are both gay, because she doesn’t want a love match. She wants power, and through Ale, she’ll have it all. But Emanuela has a secret that could shatter her plans.
In the city of Occhia, the only source of water is the watercrea, a mysterious being who uses magic to make water from blood. When their first bruise-like omen appears on their skin, all Occhians must surrender themselves to the watercrea to be drained of life. Everyone throughout history has given themselves up for the greater good. Everyone except Emanuela. She’s kept the tiny omen on her hip out of sight for years.
When the watercrea exposes Emanuela during her wedding ceremony and takes her to be sacrificed, Emanuela fights back…and kills her. Now Occhia has no one to make their water and no idea how to get more. In a race against time, Emanuela and Ale must travel through the mysterious, blood-red veil that surrounds their city to uncover the secrets of the watercrea’s magic and find a way to save their people-no matter what it takes.
I mean, forbidden dark magic and siding with a literal prince of hell? HELLO! Although she does have a really good reason and I would totally do the same if I was going to avenge my sister’s death.
One brutal murder.
A quest for vengeance that will unleash Hell itself…
And an intoxicating romance.
Emilia and her twin sister Vittoria are streghe – witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Vittoria misses dinner service at the family’s renowned Sicilian restaurant. Emilia soon finds the body of her beloved twin…desecrated beyond belief. Devastated, Emilia sets out to find her sister’s killer and to seek vengeance at any cost-even if it means using dark magic that’s been long forbidden.
Then Emilia meets Wrath, one of the Wicked-princes of Hell she has been warned against in tales since she was a child. Wrath claims to be on Emilia’s side, tasked by his master with solving the series of women’s murders on the island. But when it comes to the Wicked, nothing is as it seems…
Secret identity, dark schemes, and a revenge plot = sign me up.
When Amaya rescues a mysterious stranger from drowning, she fears her rash actions have earned her a longer sentence on the debtor ship where she’s been held captive for years. Instead, the man she saved offers her unimaginable riches and a new identity, setting Amaya on a perilous course through the coastal city-state of Moray, where old-world opulence and desperate gamblers collide. Amaya wants one thing: revenge against the man who ruined her family and stole the life she once had. But the more entangled she becomes in this game of deception-and as her path intertwines with the son of the man she’s plotting to bring down-the more she uncovers about the truth of her past. And the more she realizes she must trust no one?
Ryn has SEEN some things and you just know it shaped the way she goes around. Good girls don’t go on dangerous adventures with boys they just met.
Seventeen-year-old Aderyn ("Ryn") only cares about two things: her family, and her family's graveyard. And right now, both are in dire straits. Since the death of their parents, Ryn and her siblings have been scraping together a meager existence as gravediggers in the remote village of Colbren, which sits at the foot of a harsh and deadly mountain range that was once home to fae creatures known as the Otherfolk. The problem with being a gravedigger in Colbren, though, is that the dead don't always stay dead.
The risen corpses are known as "bone houses," and legend says that they're the result of a recent curse. Ryn has always been quick to deal with this inconvenience whenever they wander too close to her graveyard, but when Ellis, an apprentice mapmaker, arrives in town, the bone houses attack with renewed purpose. What is it about Ellis that draws them near? And more importantly, how can they stop them for good?
Together, Ellis and Ryn embark on a journey that will bring them deep into the heart of the mountains, where they will have to face both the curse and long-hidden truths about themselves. Equal parts classic horror novel and original fairy-tale, The Bone Houses will have you spellbound from the very first page.
Kidnapped and forced to do evilish things for a king means things aren’t always black or white—sometimes gray is just a better fit.
Renata was only a child when she was kidnapped by the King’s Justice and brought to the luxurious palace of Andalucia. As a memory thief, the rarest and most feared of the magical Moria, Renata was used by the crown to carry out the King’s Wrath, a siege that resulted in the deaths of thousands of her own people.
Now Renata is one of the Whispers, rebel spies working against the crown. The Whispers may have rescued Renata years ago, but she cannot escape their mistrust and hatred-or the overpowering memories of the hundreds of souls she drained during her time in the palace.
When Dez, the commander of her unit-and the boy she’s grown to love-is taken captive by the notorious Principe Dorado, Renata must return to Andalucia and complete Dez’s top secret mission herself. Can she keep her cover, even as she burns for vengeance against the brutal, enigmatic prince? Her life and the fate of the Moria depend on it.
But returning to the palace stirs childhood memories long locked away. As Renata grows more deeply embedded in the politics of the royal court, she uncovers a secret in her past that could change the fate of the entire kingdom-and end the war that has cost her everything.
Hiding a deadly secret definitely screams that not everything is squeaky clean, but it does make things a little more exciting.
Lane Garrow has a secret—one that could get her killed.
In a world where female sailors are executed, sixteen-year-old Lane’s dream of being a ship’s captain seems impossible. Sea life is all she knows, and she wouldn’t give it up for anything, even if it means she has to hide as a captain’s boy to avoid being killed. But Lane’s carefully constructed world begins to crumble when an old pirate enemy comes after her father. And she begins hearing rumors that her father was once a pirate as well.
Lane doesn’t want to believe her father could have a dark past, but she can’t help questioning everything she’s known. After all, Lane’s life at sea is built on lies—why couldn’t her father’s be, too?
Then a mysterious prince shows up, and Lane finds her very survival tied to a boy who could destroy everything. With pirates, betrayal, and death threatening Lane and those she loves, she must now decide between the future she always expected and a prince with an unknown agenda who she finds herself falling for. Lane must either protect herself and find a way to live her dream, or risk everything for a world where her very existence is a death sentence.
Maybe there’s a third option. After all, she’s never played by the rules before. Why start now?
Jude is a little different from the rest of the list—growing up in the faerie world makes it harder to be nice. The whole world is nothing but shades of gray and madness! Jude is a human trying to survive in the place where humans aren’t welcomed with open arms. A girl has got to do what a girl has to do.
Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.
To win a place at the Court, she must defy him—and face the consequences. In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.