Anti Hero / Literature

  • The Epic of Gilgamesh: Gilgamesh himself is arguably this - an impulsive, reckless bruiser who barely qualifies as a hero, making this one Older Than Dirt.
  • Harry Potter
    • Severus Snape is a bastard, a known former Death Eater...and Harry never quite knows which side he's on until the final chapters of the last book. J. K. Rowling, when asked if she thought Snape a hero, said:
    JK Rowling: Yes, I do; though a very flawed hero. An anti-hero, perhaps. He is not a particularly likeable man in many ways. He remains rather cruel, a bully, riddled with bitterness and insecurity — and yet he loved, and showed loyalty to that love and, ultimately, laid down his life because of it. That’s pretty heroic!
    • Sirius Black counts as well - a genuinely nice yet cynical man.
    • Harry Potter himself is this, since he commits some ambiguous, not-so-morally right things, like casting the torturing Cruciatus curse on enemies, as well as controlling some characters with the Imperio curse. He's also very decided and the idea of killing enemies in revenge doesn't seem to bother him much. However, he is a lesser example and only becomes this during the latter half of the series.
  • The outlaw protagonists of Water Margin, and especially Song Jiang.
  • All of the heroic combatants in A Harvest Of War are vicious and fight dirty when roused. Few think much of killing large numbers of enemies.
  • Wren 178 from Reboot Book Series is a definite example.
  • The Damned, from Hell's Children, by Andrew Boland, are Antiheroes for sure.
  • While Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus already displayed all the hallmarks of the Anti-Hero, the archetype was popularised in the heyday of Romanticism with characters like Edmond Dantes in The Count of Monte Cristo or Jean Valjean from Les Misérables... and the entire oeuvre of Lord Byron (see Real Life) and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
  • Takeshi Kovacs. He's certainly not a good character, although his motivations mostly are (take down major crimelord, solve murder case, protect his girlfriend from eternally being tortured to death and resurrected to be tortured more).
  • Edmund Pevensie from The Chronicles of Narnia, in the first book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, betrays his siblings to the Big Bad, acts like a downright Jerk with a Heart of Jerk, is a complete bully to his younger sister, Lucy, and alternates between Bad Liar and Consummate Liar, but he redeems himself later and becomes a total badass in the second book, although he keeps some of his old tendencies, remaining a Deadpan Snarker (especially in the movie adaptation), and he still appears as the darkest Pevensie kid. The movie version apparently likes to portray Edmund as this, since, in the third movie, while Caspian is supposed to act evil for a short period of time, the role is actually given to Edmund again, making him look like the Anti-Hero of the story for the second time.
  • Mina Davis from Hungover and Handcuffed and Asshole Yakuza Boyfriend is a mean-spirited judgmental problem drinker who hates almost everyone and thinks cops are useless. Doesn't stop her from saving the day, though.
  • Major Elim Rawne and his handpicked cronies from Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000: Gaunt's Ghosts are all coldblooded, merciless, deceitful, and coldly ambitious. Ironically, Rawne himself has perhaps the weakest claim to Antihero status, given that he's also highly respected by his troops and has once been saved by The Power of Friendship.
    • All the Ghosts are anti-heroes to some extent. These are not nice people, they are trained killers, and damn good at it. The few exceptions include Dorden, Curth (before Gereon anyway) and Kolea, to some extent.
  • The protagonist of William Barton's When Heaven Fell.
  • In Steven Brust's Dragaera novels, Vladimir Taltos, an assassin for a criminal outfit who has been known to destroy souls on accident. Lampshaded in Issola:
    Better watch out. These things are cold-blooded killers.
    I hate to say this, but so are you, boss.
    Yeah, but I'm a nice guy.
  • John Taylor of the Nightside novel series can accurately be described by this trope since in his world power and reputation are everything he won't hesitate to kill someone in a brutal or cruel way to uphold his reputation because the baddies are hesitant to attack if they're scared shitless. He's a nice guy but still not at all that nice and he isn't exactly Mr. Mercy and certainly not Too Good for This Sinful Earth and though he may be powerful he ain't Superman so he can't afford to have his enemies think he's weak.
  • In Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files, Harry Dresden is an Anti-Hero: Badass Longcoat, check; won't hesitate to kill someone who threatens him or someone he loves, check; bucketful of flaws, check; chivalry, check. He's also been known to murder and torture enemy captives, wantonly destroy property, and accidentally get Innocent Bystanders killed. Contrasted with straight up Hero Michael Carpenter. Still more of an Anti-Hero than anything else, though, as he will take incredible amounts of damage to try to protect other people. He got his left hand charred almost to a cinder giving a friend time to save some kids who were being held captive in a closet rigged with an antipersonnel mine and sheltered one of his oldest enemies for several days, despite the fact that this put three or four groups of rather dangerous people after him at once. Oh, and he's managed to resist almost every single temptation of power he's been given so far; even the fallen angel in his head for three years didn't do much more than make him grouchier, and in return he actually managed to redeem her into a Heroic Sacrifice.
    • Harry claims he's an anti-hero at best, but everyone and their faerie godmother knows different. While he isn't a shining paragon of morality, he is chivalrous, responsible, and most of the time does not think the ends justify the means. For example, you know that fallen angel example above? Harry got her in his head as a result of him protecting a child from its power.
    • He may have made the full on plunge in Changes seeing as he takes up Mab's offer of power (killing the old Winter Knight in the process) and sacrificing Susan on an altar as she turned into a full vampire. Granted, it was to save their daughter, and it wound up killing off all the Red Court, but still not something a straight up hero would do.
  • In Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, Ender Wiggin is not only the most talented boy in Battle School - he's also a killer. He isn't the gleeful sadist type; that would be his brother Peter. But, all the same, he gets away with killing two boys who bullied him, and doesn't find out that they really were dead until he saves the world by nearly wiping out an alien species in a war that he didn't know was real. Despite having acted in self-defense, he edges towards suicidal over their deaths:
    Well, I'm your man. I'm the bloody bastard you wanted when you had me spawned. I'm your tool, and what difference does it make if I hate the part of me that you most need? What difference does it make that when the little serpents killed me in the game, I agreed with them, and was glad.
    Ender, at the end of the book
  • Raymond Chandler's iconic private eye, Philip Marlowe.
  • Ferdinand Bardamu, from Louis-Ferdinand Celine's oeuvre. He is, among other things, an Audience Surrogate, and a real anti-hero.
  • Thomas Covenant from Stephen R. Donaldson's Chronicles of Thomas Covenant is an unusual anti-hero in that he has no redeeming qualities whatsoever — not just in a moral sense, but in a literary sense as well. He manages to mostly not do anything, but just catalyzes events by being present. In the first books the world falls apart around him while he stalwartly fails to intervene.

    Covenant grows over the course of the books. In the 3rd book he saves the life of a little girl, and in the second trilogy he's positively heroic, all the more so when you consider that he's been Dead All Along - or at least since early in volume one.
  • Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, the main character of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, who in the first part of a six-part novel, brutally murders an old lady and her meek, innocent sister. This example subverts the typical cynicism, though, since he is ultimately redeemed by The Power of Love
  • The Underground Man from Fyodor Dostoyevsky's "Notes from Underground"
  • William Gibson's drug-addicted burnout protagonist Case in the seminal Cyberpunk novel Neuromancer.
  • The Continental Op from the Dashiell Hammett books, wellspring of things Film Noir. He goes after criminals and usually gets them. More importantly he always makes money from the gig: money from crooks or good guys, it doesn't matter. Catching criminals is just a dangerous job, and any effective method is a good one, even making deals with criminals or inciting them to murder. He holds to a private code of honour, a tightly bound book his enemies never see and he himself suspects might be nothing but blank pages.
  • Also from Dashiell Hammett is The Maltese Falcon's Sam Spade, the ultimate Hardboiled Detective. He's rude to everyone, sleeps with every woman he speaks to, and steadfastly refuses to let the bad guy (or girl, as case may be) get away.
  • Yossarian from Joseph Heller's Catch-22.
  • Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian is strong and bold and performs heroic acts, but he also frequently steals and murders without remorse.
  • In George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, Arya Stark and Sandor Clegane are probably the best examples, in terms of their personalities. Their actual roles as protagonists or antagonists are debatable. Jaime might fall in this category too, at least once you progress to the passages written from his point of view and he undergoes some major Character Development.
    • There is also Jaime's younger brother, the Depraved Dwarf Tyrion Lannister. He is one of the nicer characters in the series but is still willing to do some quite nasty stuff and out of family loyalty fight on the side of a sadistic Royal Brat they know isn't the rightful King.
    • Stannis Baratheon is on a fine line between Anti-Hero and Anti-Villain. He claims the throne because by Westerosi law he is the rightful King and is a very honourable and just man. However he is quite ruthless in his aims, making an alliance with a Priestess from a religion that burns people alive and uses blood magic to try killing his rivals.
    • Daenerys gets Sympathetic POV chapters, but is still willing to be brutal in her aims and is willing to start a war to get what she regards as her rightful throne, despite her father getting overthrown because he was a psychotic monster.
  • Enemy Glory: The main character, Llewelyn.
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Ultramarines novel Dead Sky Black Sun, Ardaric Vaanes sharply points out that the Imperial soldiers in the hands of Chaos forces can't really be rescued, and leaves them to death; is hard to persuade to help Uriel because of the danger, though he knows it is the right thing; is willing to leave his companions behind when they are all prisoner but he is free to move; is so horrified by the appearance of the Unfleshed that he assumes they must be evil; and leaves Uriel to carry out his mission alone, taking his fellow renegade Space Marines with him and refusing Ventris' offer of redemption. At the end of the book, he accepts an offer to work for the Chaos forces, for Revenge on Uriel for persuading him to so dangerous and killing so many of his men — including those he was willing to leave behind. Vaanes returns in The Chapter's Due... As one of the Iron Warrior Honsou's chief Lieutenants. He takes part in the battle against the Ultramarines and Ultramar but is continuously shown to be uncomfortable with the traitors he is with and what he is doing. Later he is captured by the Ultramarines, though he claims he let them take him, and agrees to take them to Honsou if they promise to kill him before he can ruin himself, he has learned that he does not like being a Chaos Marine and he feels he isn't strong enough to walk the path of righteousness but he doesn't want to embrace damnation either. He saves the protagonist's life from another of Honsou's lieutenants, but dies in the next battle when he attempts to kill Honsou who bests him then turns his attention to Uriel Ventris, Vaanes again saves Ventris's life by attacking Honsou again, Honsou then tears off Vaanes' arm and crushes his chest by stomping on it. After he is dead the protagonists notice his restored Raven Guard chapter tattoo, that he gouged out with a knife years ago, causing the them to wonder if he redeemed himself through dying for them and note they don't feel hatred towards him anymore. At the novel's end Uriel sees a memory of the Newborn that prophesied that the Newborn would be present at a great hero's death, both Honsou and the Newborn believed this to be Uriel. Uriel realises that the great hero was actually Vaanes.
  • The nonhuman sorcerer-king Elric of Melnibone from the works of Michael Moorcock. Elric kills human beings regularly to stay healthy — their souls are fed to him by his sword Stormbringer. Elric kicks the stolen soul energy habit twice but events forced him take up the demonic runeblade again afterwards. If Stormbringer isn't "fed" sufficiently, the sadistic blade is entirely capable of jumping from Elric's hand and piercing the heart of one of Elric's allies, lovers or friends in front of his eyes.

    Elric's actions set into motion a course of events that destroys civilization and then kills off everyone in his world. Elric managed to kill the Dukes of Hell on his world during the final battle of Law vs Chaos. He managed to thrice blow the Horn of Fate to birth a new world from unformed chaos after his own is wiped out in a maelstrom of pure roiling Chaos energies, with him the only survivor. Elric is killed shortly afterwards by his own sword Stormbringer, because he had forgotten that the malicious demon inhabiting the blade Stormbringer was a creature of Chaos too. It was set free in the new world, laughing as it flew away.
  • Also from Michael Moorcock we have Colonel Pyatt — a cowardly, cocaine-addicted and cruel anti-hero, and a self-glorifying Unreliable Narrator. Pyatt claims to be a Cossack because he's an anti-Semite whose father was a Jew. He claims to have invented manned flight before the Wright brothers; and rapes a woman on a cocaine binge (he doesn't think it was rape, but it's pretty clear.) All the while decrying others for their "degeneracy".
  • Hawk from the Spenser series by Robert B. Parker is a great example of an anti-hero. Parker often writes the characters as being something dark, powerful and inhuman. Yet, Hawk often considers the main protagonist, Spenser, the closest thing he has to a friend and he treats him as such. Wherein Hawk has few if any rules with respect to violence and its' application, Spenser is his opposite. What makes the series fascinating is that the two work together well.
  • Terry Pratchett's Discworld:
    • Sam Vimes is a deconstruction of Anti-Hero image. He is portrayed as cynical, unshaven, anti-authoritarian and so on — but is one of the most noble heroes in the series. Vimes' dedication to justice and Law (not laws) is so great, that he has constructed a policeman inside his own head that keeps him from succumbing to the darkness and the rage of the Beast deep down in his soul. "The Watchman" as the personification of Vimes' quintessential nature takes on semi-mythical proportions in the novel Thud, when Vimes is "infected" with an ancient demonic spirit being from dwarven folklore, the Summoning Dark, and the Watchman repels it. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Vimes watches himself. Like a hawk.
    • Granny Weatherwax is a good witch in more ways than one. As an Insufferable Genius she'll be the first to tell you that. She has a bad attitude, is a bully and would excel, even delight, at being evil — if she wasn't too smart and too deeply decent to fall for it. As such she is ideal as the rough edge of justice — but often not a happy woman.
    • Discworld has a more traditional anti-hero in the form of Cohen the Barbarian, an Affectionate Parody of Conan (which see).
    • Rincewind the "wizzard" is cynical, cowardly and incompetent and frequently finds himself thrust into situations where he must save the day. He won't hesitate to betray his companions if it looks like he can save his own skin thereby and has made running away an art form.
  • Lestat, of Anne Rice's vampire novels, is an anti-hero who seeks to rationalize his feeding on humans for sustenance by only allowing those he considers "evil" to die, though his morality has been known to lapse at times. This could be considered an example of unreliable narrator, since Louis and Lestat disagree about so much, including who Lestat killed, it's really up to the reader if they believe Lestat only killed murderers.
  • Julien Sorel of Stendhal's The Red and the Black is an interesting case. He's the youngest, smartest, and most attractive of three brothers; he's The Unfavourite of his family; and he's subjected to the whims of so many stupid, boorish people it's easy to feel as the story wants you to feel sorry for him. However, he's hypocritical, pretentious and ruthlessly ambitious. What's more, his schemes almost always fail because his emotions get in the way of his machinations, but he never learns from this. Entire critical essays have been written about whether or not the reader is supposed to like Julien.
  • In Matthew Stover's The Acts of Caine, Caine of Garthan Hold, also known as Hari Khapur Michaelson, the Blade of Tyshalle, and a total bastard.
  • Raistlin Majere of the Dragonlance Chronicles is a textbook example. He's a sarcastic, ambitious, cold-hearted, ruthless bastard who never has a good word for anyone, particularly the twin brother who cares for him devotedly. When dogs need shooting, Raistlin is always the one who pulls out a shotgun. At the same time, he's brave, intelligent, never gives up, and has a soft spot for outcasts and rejects like himself (his friendship with the gully dwarf Bupu is heartbreaking). He later abandons his Anti-Hero role to become an outright villain in Dragonlance Legends.
  • Everyone from Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series.
  • Meursault, from Camus' The Stranger. Actually, any Existentialist hero, as noted on Anti-Hero.
  • Sherlock Holmes dabbles with cocaine (though this was not actually illegal at the time). He has also been known to let the perpetrators of crime escape if he feels that they were justified and commits a few minor crimes himself in pursuit of the truth. The cause is always excellent.
  • Jame in P.C. Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath has a strong sense of honor and a will to do the right thing, but it's not wrapped in the nicest of wrappings. She was raised among the bad guys for an ill purpose, but rebelled; she still has much of the "darkling" image and glamor, however, and a feline sadistic joy that she allows to come out against those she feels deserve it. She's a killer, a predator, an avatar of destruction, not safe to know or be anywhere near.
  • Kelsier from Mistborn is a brilliant revolutionary determined to bring down The Empire, but he has absolutely no mercy for the nobility, even those who seem to be good people, and those who know him best suspect that he's in this as much for personal glory as for freedom. His protege Vin starts off as one, though she becomes a more solid hero post Character Development. Vin's main anti-heroic trait is her rampant paranoia—in the author's words, "she's not a bad person; she just thinks everyone else is." She gets better.
  • Malachi Thorndyke in Christendom - an ugly smoking, alcoholic, former smuggler, arsehole, slob who goes out of his way to prevent people from getting to know him.
  • Haplo from The Death Gate Cycle is an unusual example in that he goes through various stages of Anti-hero-ness through Character Development. He starts out an outright Villain Protagonist, as he's essentially The Dragon to an Evil Overlord who wants to conquer the universe, and is going around destabilizing various governments to make this takeover easier. Both Haplo and his lord are given somewhat sympathetic backstories, but at this point that the character's actions are falling pretty clearly on the side of evil. After the first two books he becomes an Anti-Hero when he starts being pitted against people much more evil than he is, and begins to question his Lord's judgment in private. In the last two books he morphs into someone more purely heroic, as he dedicates himself to saving the universe from The Heartless after they corrupt his Lord to their cause.
  • Hester Shaw from the Mortal Engines quartet. She kills people ruthlessly, and at one point sells a city into slavery just to get rid of the second girl in a Love Triangle. She hovers between this and a Villain Protagonist, but her goals are usually those of the non-Antihero protagonists, and it's all for some kind of noble end.
  • The Whiskey Priest in Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory.
  • Lisbeth Salander in Stieg Larsson's The Millennium Trilogy.
  • Larry Niven's Beowulf Schaeffer and, to a lesser extent his stepson Louis Wu.
  • Murtagh of the Inheritance Cycle, who can be interpreted as an antihero, an antivillain, a True Neutral individual who constantly plays both sides and straddles the fence between the opposing sides, etc. Elva leans towards this as the series goes on, until she eventually divests herself of loyalty to any group and resolves that she'll do whatever she thinks is right.
  • Roland, the hero of Stephen King's The Dark Tower series, has a history of valuing his quest for the Dark Tower above the lives of his friends.
  • Repairman Jack. He'll help those in need but usually just for money. He may be The Chosen One but he sure doesn't like it and the only reason he wants to save the world is because he and very few loved ones happen to be in it. That and the bad guys keep coming after him anyway.
  • All the protagonists of Kelley Armstrong's Exit Strategy. They are after all, professional hitmen, although a couple of them are also of the Do Evil Unto Evil persuasion as well.
  • Elion is the clearest example in Maggie Furey's Shadowleague trilogy, though none of the many characters are conventional heroes.
  • Most of the major characters in William Gibson's Bridge Trilogy, but Rydell, Laney, and Zona Rosa deserve a special mention.
  • All the The Devil to Pay in the Backlands main characters. They can kill you for money or for any other reason - but mostly for money - and do your ladies, but they can also give you food, protection and — well — money.
  • Jakub Wędrowycz is an alcoholic, ditzy, behind-the-times bum with a penchant for being a Sociopathic Hero. He helps people with their supernatural problems, but does it for (a lot of) money as much as he does it for heroism.
  • Drake and Elliott from the Tunnels series could be considered anti heroes as they both fight outside the law and have almost no reservations about killing, though in Closer, Drake does not kill any Colonists while on his mission to destroy Styx virus production.
  • Victor Frankenstein, The Protagonist in Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein, demonstrates some antiheroic attributes. While on the surface he may appear to be a decent man, Frankenstein is driven by ambition rather than morality. Indulging in the literature of ancient magicians, he contrives to build and bring to life a human being, ignoring the consequences such a task, if executed successfully, may unleash upon the world. And when that task is executed successfully, he runs from his creation in fear, leaving it to fend for itself. He then goes on to whine about all his misfortunes without even considering the misfortunes of others. Victor Frankenstein is essentially a selfish douchebag. But oh, what a marvelous book!
  • Chili from Get Shorty, as mentioned in Film above.
  • Winston Smith from Nineteen Eighty-Four is an arguable Trope Codifier for Classical Anti-Hero. His only truly heroic quality is his ability to retain his identity and a sense of truth after enduring decades of propaganda. He is otherwise average in intelligence, below-average physically, and suffering from the guilt of his past mistakes.
  • Vanya Sedemona from Paul Kelly's The Lost Brigade definitely qualifies for this trope.
  • YMMV, but Richard of the Sword of Truth becomes this more and more as the series progresses. At the beginning? He'll kill in the heat of combat, sure, but he loves life and always seeks the third option. By the end? He's sent his elite soldiers down to the heart of his enemy's stronghold, and told them to lay waste to the land. Justified? Maybe. Probably. Anti-heroic? So much so.
  • In Sandman Slim, James Stark will maybe save your life from hordes of zombies, demons and assassins. But only if you pay in advance.
  • Asher in Someone Else's War. Sure, he'll help you escape the tyrannical child army and find your way home, but show even the slightest hint of treachery and he'll shoot you for it.
  • The Crusaders: Nocturne is a definite example of an anti-hero, and this causes a major conflict with the rest of the characters a bit into the story.
  • Middle-earth:
    • Boromir and Denethor are both Pragmatic Anti-Heroes. In Denethor's case, he was this until he jumps off the slippery slope.
    • Gollum becomes an Unscrupulous Hero in The Two Towers before slipping back to his old ways.
    • Frodo heavily slips into Classical Anti-Hero as The Return of the King progresses, as he fails to destroy the ring, is tormented by his physical and emotional scars and drifts into a more and more passive role, especially in "The Scouring of the Shire".
    • There are quite a few in The Hobbit. Thorin, Thranduil, Bard, and Beorn to name a few. Bilbo slips from Anti-Hero to The Hero.
    • Túrin from The Children of Húrin is a Pragmatic Anti-Hero/Nominal Hero.
    • Andróg, The Lancer to Túrin. He does many villainous actions, including Attempted Rape, but is loyal to Túrin and his last actions are to save Beleg.
    • Elu Thingol from The Silmarillion is Unscrupulous. He becomes nicer after "The Tale of Beren and Luthien", but still shows an unpleasant side.
    • Feänor. Oh, Feänor. Unscrupulous Hero Trope Maker in The Silmarillion. One of the best examples of a Broken Ace in Literature, his actions leave his tribe of Elves cursed for centuries and though he was an enemy of Morgoth he led the first killing of Elf by Elf over some ships he was trying to steal.
  • In The Changeover, Sorry Carlisle. He's essentially a good guy, and he helps Laura a lot, but there are times when he comes off as extremely sinister.
  • In the Marîd Audran series, Audran is a lazy, hard-drinking, pill-popping hustler whose best friends are mainly prostitutes and thieves. He does have an idealist streak, but he doesn't like to admit it (even though his friends all know), and covers it with cynicism.
  • Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter gives us Henry Sturges: "All of us deserve Hell, but some of us deserve it sooner." Lincoln himself becomes one at the end, although possibly not quite as dark as Sturges—yet.
  • Almost all protagonists in the historical novels by Mika Waltari. Most notably perhaps Sinuhe in The Egyptian; selling his parents' house and grave to get to sleep with a woman (who does warn him that that's pretty much what she will ask him to do and then ditch him), has no physical merits to speak of and is even somewhat cowardly except in some very distinct occasions. His slave, Kaptah, is one as well: he has even less physical merits, is something of a drunkard and would love nothing more than sit on his laurels enjoying an easy life. Unfortunately for him, his master gets into so much trouble he can barely sit down. Fortunately for Sinuhe, Kaptah is not at all dumb.
  • Both Mediochre and Joseph in the Mediochre Q Seth Series. Mediochre is trying to be an Ideal Hero, he's just bad at it. Joseph doesn't feel the need to try.
  • Adventure Hunters: All three adventurers are Disney Anti-Heroes (somewhat).
    • Artorius is marked with the Sigil of Disgrace, the highest punishment a palladin can receive, yet he is a Friend to All Children.
    • Lisa is a thief but prefers a slightly more legal profession; treasure hunting.
    • Regina is the Black Sheep of Info Mages because she's an Adventurer Archaeologist instead of a historian or book preserver; she is labeled a 'grave robber' by them.
  • In Theatrica, Arthur represents such a trope although he dips in and out of the Anti-Villain territory later.
  • The Apprentice Rogue: Falita isn't interested in 'kingdom's peace' ideas and aspires to be assigned to guard a noblelady because it would mean more creature comforts.
  • Most of the characters in Riesel Tales: Two Hunters. Understandable since the titular planet they're on is a Wretched Hive.
  • Nick Naylor from the book (and adaptive film) Thank You for Smoking. He's a fast talking lobbyist who's trying his best to raise his son and do his job. . . which happens to be defending big tobacco. This may not be so bad but for the fact that he truly revels in, and obviously understands the far-reaching consequences of his actions.
  • Eli and Charlie Sisters from the novel "The Sisters Brothers" both have shades of anti-hero. Narrator and main character Charlie is shown to have much more compassion than his brother Eli who will, on a whim, steal, exploit and murder anything and anyone that stands between himself and whatever his goals happens to be at the current time in the novel. A good example of this is when Charlie needs a tooth pulled, he visits a dentist at the town they happen to be in. The kind and courteous man tells his sob story about how he can't seem to hold a position for more than a couple weeks at a time, and gives Charlie a free toothbrush and "tooth powder" for his trouble. Eli promptly pulls a gun on the man, steals all his medical supplies, and both Eli and Charlie leave.
  • Jacob Reckless from The Mirrorworld Series, a questionably sympathetic professional treasure hunter satisfied with his grand total of one friend...who gets dragged into the middle of a war because he just wants his brother back.
  • Ricker, from Casey Fry's Death Speaker is one, as he wanders a post-apocalyptic Earth hunting down mutated humans that he deems are monsters. This often involves him murdering children. Including one point when he actually breaks the neck of a newborn baby. He actually becomes more sympathetic as the story moves on and you learn all of his dirty deeds from all of the nightmares he suffers.
  • Novak from Undead on Arrival is not a good guy, and spends the book regretting what a bastard he's been. Of course, he's dying of a zombie bite, so it's a little late.
  • Aly, protagonist of Daughter of the Lioness, stands out in the Tortall Universe for being this. At the start she's an Idle Rich student who enjoys toying with boys' affections because her parents won't let her be a spy. And as a spy, she's deceptive, ruthless, pragmatic, and naturally engages in Dirty Business with varying degrees of moral quandary.
  • Nero Wolfe can be - is usually - obnoxious about how much smarter he is than everyone else. On top of that, his reason for being a detective is entirely mercenary; he needs the money to support his opulent shut-in lifestyle. For all that he's perversely endearing and honourable.
  • The Weathergens are a series of ethereal characters who try to keep the Earth's weather and climate in order. However, some of them tend to abuse their powers for their own amusement. For example, Brellina, the WeatherGen of rain, seems to enjoy the prospect of terrifying humans with her "water torture."
  • Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games exemplifies the "good" kind of anti-hero(ine). Even though she's fervently against the Hunger Games tradition, she still participates in it (albeit with the intention of saving her little sister). And, while she generally avoids resorting to direct violence whenever possible, she still has moments where she resorts to some pretty atypical methods of fighting (albeit usually with the intention of saving a loved one from danger).
  • Selfish, snide, lazy and generally indifferent to others Duff from How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse counts as a milder version of this.
  • The Reynard Cycle: Both Reynard and Isengrim qualify. They both have a dark and troubled past, suffer from nightmares, and will not hesitate to kill anyone who threatens them or someone they love (though Reynard tends to wound his foes when practical.)
  • The titular character of the Skulduggery Pleasant series (ever since his family were murdered) and his partner, Valkyrie Cain. Both are violently protective of the people they care about and both have a psychotic alter-ego which needs to be constantly suppressed.
  • Dimitri from Vampire Academy is heroic; however, he is also rather brooding, intense and mysterious and therefore doesn't exactly exhibit the classic traits of the ideal hero.
  • Jules Verne's character Robur the Conqueror, from the novel of the same name, is either this or an Anti-Villain; it's surprisingly hard to tell which.
  • Wolf Hall makes an anti-hero of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's infamous right hand. His ambition is shown to arise largely from his desire to not be his abusive father and provide for his (extended) family all the comfort and security he didn't have as a child, and getting bored making a living of whose-property-is-this-fence-on legal work. He's also a good father and extremely loyal to his patron and mentor Cardinal Wolsey. However, he retains the dangerous qualities he acquired from being a mercenary as a young man and his willingness to carry out Henry VIII's deadly whims has a lot to do with Cromwell's unwillingness to ever forget an insult, no matter how long ago or how thoughtlessly it happened—Thomas More, Anne Boleyn, and her accused lovers all suffer in part because their loss of favor conveniently allows Cromwell to carry out his private vengeance, and there's really no excuse to be made for that.
  • Karsa Orlong from Malazan Book of the Fallen is a Nominal Hero, more or less, or an Unscrupulous Hero on a good day. He has a sense of justice, but with the way he grew up that doesn't mean it's a relatable one, nor does it bode well for civilization, wich he regards as the root of all evil.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/AntiHero/Literature