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Favorite Anti-Hero Fantasy Books

Updated on August 30, 2017

The Anti-Hero Rules the Epic Fantasy

Flawed, violent and pitted against unimaginable forces, the anti-hero of the epic-fantasy is morally dubious, often ruthless and sometimes inclined to do the wrong thing. Unlike other fantasy novels where the main character is a handsome, righteous hero, the anti-hero can be a killer, a torturer, disfigured, maimed, a traitor, a thief. So why do we love him? The fantastic elements of epic-fantasy allow us to slip off our civilized facade and revel in a character who is every bit as flawed as ourselves. We see in the anti-hero's redemption the hope that we too can achieve glory.

Image from King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin - The Best Anti-Hero Epic Fantasy

A Game of Thrones easily deserves the many kudos it has so far received. A huge yet surprisingly well-developed cast of characters interact in a story intricately told, weaving through plots and counter-plots in the deadly quest for power. Martin writes his story in a gripping style that pulls you quickly into this vivid world. Many think this is the best anti-hero epic fantasy of all time. Though initially A Game of Thrones wasn't a hit, the books in the series have now sold more than 15 million copies worldwide and have been translated into more than 20 languages. It has become even more popular with the airing of the HBO TV series Game of Thrones, and there is a comic book adaptation, and several card, board, and video games.

Medievel Inspiration for Epic Fantasy

Duerer, Albrecht: âEngravings on metal by Albrecht Duerer"
Duerer, Albrecht: âEngravings on metal by Albrecht Duerer"

The Knight, Death and the Devil by Albrecht Duerer, an engraving dated 1513, could have been the inspiration for many Epic Fantasies.

George R. R. Martin, author of "A Game of Thrones," took his inspiration from history instead of from mythology; he based his tale, loosely, on the Wars of the Roses, the bloody dynastic struggles in medieval England. He recalls telling himself, "I'm going to write a fantasy and it's going to be huge. I'm going to have all the characters I want and all the battles I want."

Vote for Your Favorite Classic Anti-Hero Fantasy

The first book of a series has to leave you hungry for the second and third. Which book do you like the best in these classic anti-hero epic fantasies?

My Favorite Anti-Hero Fantasy Book - Review of The Blade Itself

Anathros - Sword of the Earth. By Kit Rae

The Blade Itself is the first book of Joe Abercrombie's The First Law trilogy. What sets this series apart is how Abercrombie takes the conventions of the epic fantasy and filters them through the lens of Noir. In contrast to the typical fantasy, the drama is set in a world that is inherently corrupt and unsympathetic. Each character adapts to this cynical world in their own way so by the end of the book, none remain entirely likeable.

There are three main protagonists and what a great group of characters. The first is the cynical corrupt, Inquisitor Glotka, who works for the enforcers of the Union as a torturer. Grotesquely disfigured when captured and tortured in the last war, he is an angry bitter man left hollow, disillusioned and hopeless. Glotka is put at odds with the Nobleman, Jezal den Luthar. Jezal is a self indulgent, spoiled aristocrat, oblivious to anything but his own self interest. The third of the main characters is the barbarian Logen Ninefingers. He is a battle scared veteran from the North who's fighting reputation labels him as "The Bloody Nine."

In addition to excellent characterizations and fascinating world-building, Abercrombie also writes graphically with visual imagery that makes the fight scenes the best I have ever read. Everything taken together, makes the book great.

Portrait of the Anti-Hero

Sean Bean as Lord Eddard Stark in Game Of Thrones.

I read The Lord of the Rings when I was very young and have been hooked on the epic fantasy ever since. As a kid, escaping into another world was liberating. I couldn't get enough. These classic tales pitted good against evil, each side defined in extremes. But somewhere along the way the heroes became darker, the contrast less defined and the anti-hero emerged. The anti-hero has become the real hero of epic fantasy.

Exposing all the raw traits of mankind, the anti-hero makes bad choices and lots of mistakes, so when these characters overcome all their faults and weaknesses to emerge victorious, we admire them all the more.

But there are other darker reasons at work here that explain why we love them. These desperate characters allow us to live through them, venting our unleashed frustrations. Logan Ninfingers can do what we never can; shed the constraints of civilization and be very, very bad.

These are characters that are even more flawed than ourselves so seeing their redemption gives us hope.

Who is the greatest anti-hero?

Even when he is despicable you are still hoping he triumphs. He is a nasty piece of work who occasionally displays redeeming features that fascinate you.

Tyrion Lannister, the memorable dwarf in Game of Thrones, is selfish, rude, corrupt, bitter and ambitious. He will do anything to gain power.

or Logan Ninefingers, savage, brutal, cursed by the moon as "the Bloody-Nine" in The Blade Itself. He wants is to be a better man but death is part of him.

Or if you have a different favorite. Let me know.

Who is your favorite anti-hero among all the memorable characters?

Which Anti-Hero Fantasy Series Do You Like the Best?

Anti-Hero (Street Art)
Anti-Hero (Street Art)

Anti Hero Street Art

Which series is your favorite?

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Are You An Anti-Hero?

Let your Logan Ninefingers out and let everyone know you are an anti-hero.

Fantasy Art

To purchase this digital art image Game of Thrones Mother of Dragons by Steve Thorpe click on the image.

Artists use their imagination to create fantasy art.

Create Your Own Epic Fantasy Art

Add Your Comment Here If You Have the Courage

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    • Sharon Weaver profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharon Weaver 

      5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      @mcspocky lm: Thanks for leaving a comment.

    • mcspocky lm profile image

      mcspocky lm 

      5 years ago

      I very much enjoyed this lens.

    • Sharon Weaver profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharon Weaver 

      5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      @Rankography: Thank you for stopping by.

    • Rankography profile image


      5 years ago

      Excellent reviews and discussion. Blessed

    • Sharon Weaver profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharon Weaver 

      5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      @TolovajWordsmith: They are great reads and I am sure you will enjoy them. You know, I think there are times we all do.

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 

      5 years ago from Ljubljana

      Unfortunately I am out of reading practice at the moment but these books definitely go on my reading list. I feel like an anti hero sometimes too;)

    • Sharon Weaver profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharon Weaver 

      5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      @CuAllaidh: Thanks for your input. I agree that the photo you are talking about should be different but I haven't found one I like as much as this one. I'll keep looking though..

    • CuAllaidh profile image

      Jeff Johnston 

      5 years ago from Alberta Canada

      Great article, love game of thrones, read the books and watching the series (though found the second season went a little off target from the books but not terribly). One thing I have to say is your section labelled "Portrait of an Anti-Hero" has Eddard Stark, I don't think any of the Starks work as an anti hero. Tyrion Lannister is probably the best anti hero in the game of thrones, Eddard Stark never compromises his values.

    • Sharon Weaver profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharon Weaver 

      5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      @lionmom100: The characters are wonderfully portrayed in the series but I love the books.Thank you for stopping by and leaving your thoughts.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      We are avid watchers of Game of Thrones and can't wait until the next season. The books are good, very intricate, but a rather hard read I think because they are so intricate.

    • Sharon Weaver profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharon Weaver 

      5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      @Mr Criminology: I love the visuals of the HBO series. All the characters are so well done. As tough as it must have been to bring this trilogy to the screen I am thrilled with the results. Thank you for stopping by and I hope you like season three..

    • Mr Criminology profile image


      5 years ago from Philippines

      Games of Thrones is good to watch,I have watched season 1 and season 2.


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