I love protagonists who have a bit of monster in them, be it a literal demon or darker impulses they have to deal with on a daily basis. These ten monstrous protagonists show us what it means to be human and highlight the key role that those we love can play in keeping us in the light… or bringing us to the dark side.


Nick from The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan

This story of two brothers—one of whom struggles with emotion, morality, and caring

for anyone besides his brother—is heart-rending, jaw-dropping, and worth a re-read. The brothers are caught up in a supernatural world of magicians and demons, and the conclusion alone makes this the ultimate story of a monstrous protagonist and the humanizing effects of family and love.


Kaz from Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

This high fantasy Ocean’s Eleven-style heist story features the ultimate criminal

mastermind, driven by a need for revenge, a taste for challenge, and a desire for power

and wealth. He may think of himself as amoral. He’s dangerous—deadly, even—but not

as cold or hard as he may appear.


Adelina from The Young Elites series by Marie Lu

Game of Thrones meets X-Men in this YA fantasy series about the making of a villain.

Adelina is marked by a mystical plague that’s left her with silver hair, one eye, and a

strange and terrifying power. She has a taste for darkness, and as the series progresses,

her tenuous hold on her own humanity and morality begins to waver.


Katharine from Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

One of three sister-queens destined to fight each other to the death for the crown,

Katharine has been raised by poisoners. Her gift has yet to show itself, so her

training—constant dosage of various poisons in an attempt to help her develop

immunity—has left her frail and brittle. She was always the smallest of the three sisters,

the weakest—but as the rage inside her builds, she may end up being the most

dangerous of all.


Elena from Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

The only female werewolf in her world, Elena Michaels knows what it’s like to lose

control. She also knows what it’s like to consciously cross lines from which there is

no coming back. She begins the series running from who and what she is and ends it

stronger than her younger self could ever have imagined.


Kate Daniels from Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews

Now in its ninth book, the Kate Daniels series—set in an alternate Atlanta where magic

and technology battle it out in waves—features the single best portrayal of a character

struggling with her inner monster that I have ever seen. The more Kate knows about

herself—about her family, about her history, about her blood—the easier it is to

imagine that one wrong choice could turn her into the very thing she’s dead-set on



Cassel from White Cat by Holly Black

Cassel is a grifter from a family of grifters. He also killed the girl he loved. Or so he

believes. “We are,” he tells the readers, “largely who we remember ourselves to be.” So

begins a magical thrill-ride of epic and jaw-dropping proportions.


Cadence Sinclair Eastman from We Were Liars by Emily Lockhart

This twisting tale from master-writer Lockhart presents a world of extreme privilege and

a character who is falling apart. Like Cassel, she struggles with her memory—specifically, with remembering what happened the last summer she spent on her family’s private island. The shocking conclusion shows exactly what kind of darkness this protagonist has locked in her memory—and how it relates to family, privilege, and her fellow Liars.


Delilah from Menagerie by Rachel Vincent

In Delilah’s world, monsters are real, and supernatural creatures, no matter how human,

have no legal rights. She goes to visit the Menagerie, a traveling collection of inhuman

creatures, as a visitor… and ends up behind bars. What follows is a dark and twisted

exploration of identity, morality, and what it means to be human.


Jasper Dent from I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

Jazz is the son of a serial killer. He also finds it easier to think like a killer than he’d like to admit. He has dark thoughts, dark impulses, and a desire to use what his father has

instilled in him to prove that he’s not a monster at all.