Top 5 Angsty Heroes

I love angsty heroes. You might have guessed that about me at some point. Ahem.

Anyway, my top five:

1. Any Laura Kinsale hero. I mean, how can you top the boy prostitute who becomes a ninja? Or the vertiginous highwayman? Go on, try. I dare you.

2. Any Carol Berg hero, despite them probably being dead from their injuries after she gets through with them. They suffer, yet also manage to kick butt, and get happy or semi-happy endings. Song of the Beast is a standalone and good to start with. The hero has just been released from seventeen years of being tortured. Not kidding.

3. Gerald Tarrant, from C.S. Friedman’s Coldfire trilogy: Black Sun Rising, When True Night Falls, and Crown of Shadows. His angst has to do with being immortal and powerful and killing his whole family to get that way, yet he is still strangely moving to me. His powerful emotional relationship with a straight-arrow priest might be part of it.

4. Bentley, in Liz Carlyle’s The Devil You Know, even though I guessed he’d been sexually abused long before any one in the book did. The hotness was him coming out the other side of trauma.

5. I can’t not mention Francis Crawford of Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles, which begin with The Game of Kings and continue in Queens’ Play and so on for six books total, of which the most supremely angsty is Pawn in Frankincense, but don’t bother trying to read them out of order, it is totally impossible. Francis is in an angst category all his own, making over-the-top into brilliance. I still can’t believe Dunnett got away with what she got away with in this series. She is the mistress to whom all writers of angstful historical epics should aspire.

How about you? Who are your favorite angsty heroes?

About Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen [she, her] currently writes cozy space opera for Kalikoi. The novella series A Place of Refuge begins with Finding Refuge: Telepathic warrior Talia Avi, genius engineer Miki Boudreaux, and augmented soldier Faigin Balfour fought the fascist Federated Colonies for ten years, following the charismatic dissenter Jon Churchill. Then Jon disappeared, Talia was thought dead, and Miki and Faigin struggled to take Jon’s place and stay alive. When the FC is unexpectedly upended, Talia is reunited with her friends and they are given sanctuary on the enigmatic planet Refuge. The trio of former guerillas strive to recover from lifetimes of trauma, build new lives on a planet with endless horizons, and forge tender new connections with each other.
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8 Responses to Top 5 Angsty Heroes

  1. Jennifer North says:

    Ohhh, thanks for this! I'm taking notes because I rarely delve into sf/f angst…

    Like you, I think Kinsale has a corner on angst in the romance market, but my most favorite is Samuel in The Shadow and the Star.

    Reggie in Mary Jo Putney's The Rake.

    Sebastian Verlaine in Gaffney's To Have and to Hold.

    Zsadist in JR Ward's Lover Awakened (just because he's so balls out messed up, lol)

    McCady Trelawny in Penelope Williamson's Once in a Blue Moon (I absolutely swooned for him when this book first came out…don't know if I'd still feel the same, but his angst definitely stayed with me)

    I don't know if he qualifies as being angsty so much as plain old lost, but I adore Will's struggles in LaVyrle Spencer's Morning Glory

  2. Victoria Janssen says:


    And ZOMG Zsadist! He is like an uber-angsty hero!

  3. aj chase says:

    Shockingly I haven't read a single book on here. All of my favorite heroes are angst ridden and so are almost all the heroes I write. Wounded soul is my archetype of choice. The idea of Batman and the Saint, not necessarily how they get portrayed, is fascinating to me. As is Val from Sherilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter series. I can't remember the name of his book. I like stoic and angsty. If they whine about I'm left feeling like I don't need to feel sorry for him, he's got that under control by himself.

  4. Victoria Janssen says:

    Batman totally counts!!! He is one of the top angsty comic book heroes. I count him as angry-angsty, along with Magneto and Prince Namor.

  5. Miranda Mctavish says:

    I'll Third the Zadist here! There's also Daegus from Karen Marie Moning's Highlander series. Um… Acheron from Sherilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter books, aaaaand… Lachlan from Kresley Cole's Paranormal Series. All the wounded hero.

  6. Victoria Janssen says:

    Somebody's got to have a giant list of "wounded heroes" somewhere. I wish there were more wounded heroines. Marjorie Liu had one, in THE FIRE KING.

  7. Tumperkin says:

    Oh god. Pawn in Frankincense.

    I love angsty heroes. Bentley is wonderful – he is a great favourite of mine too. Also Sebastian Verlaine from To Have and To Hold. And some of Mary Balogh's heroes are angsty in a beautifully understated way, like Sydnam Butler.

    A related type of hero – not precisely angsty but it's the same sort of attraction – is the out-of-step hero like Jennifer Ashley's Lord Ian McKenzie (Aspergers) and Pat Gaffney's Michael from Wild at Heart.

  8. Victoria Janssen says:

    TO HAVE & TO HOLD is in my TBR – I was finally convinced by all the blog posts about it. One of them might have been yours. Yay Sydnam!

    There should be more out-of-step heroes. I love those, two. Basically, anything but Perfect Rich Alpha.

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