Characters who walk the line between good and…less good. (Renegades)

Hello humans! Welcome to an incredibly exciting blog post! I’m delighted to be teaming up with the lovely folk at Macmillan Children’s publishing* and with my wonderful real-life bookish friend Asha (who blogs over at acatabookandacupoftea.wordpress.com) to bring you this post inspired by Marissa Meyer’s Renegades which you may recall me reviewing back in November of last year.

* This post is not sponsored, however, I was sent copies of Renegades and some promotional material. All opinions are our own.

Renegades Marissa Meyer

One of the key themes in Renegades is the conflict between those who favour justice and those on the side of anarchy. The Renegades are set up as the guardians of justice, who in other books would be the people to root for. However, the perspective of Nova, who for years has been allied with the ‘villains’, allows for a different perspective, it quickly becomes clear that the divide between justice and anarchy, between good and evil, is not as clean cut as one might think.

This got us thinking about other characters who start out book series seeming like perfect people to root for, and gradually your perception of them changes (whether that’s while you’re reading the book or long after you’ve finished. Here are just a few examples we found…

Asha’s Picks

Ink & Wonder Wondercrate tote bag harry potter

Dumbledore – Dumbledore is the quintessential mentor figure – a guiding hand against the dark, an adult with a plan and the best of intentions. He’s also a manipulative schemer who deliberately uses children as tools, keeping them in the dark and placing them in mortal danger to further his goals. The Renegades may well be a strong power needed to hold back the Anarchists, but they also have a Dumbledorean ability to use young people ‘for the greater good’.

The Hunger Games Suzanne Collins

President Coin – One of the strongest themes in Renegades is the question of what happens after a regime change. How do you change the world without becoming what you hated? Every society needs rules. Every wronged rebel wants revenge. Katniss’s struggle with Coin’s decisions in Mockingjay is an interesting parallel to Nova’s feelings about the Renegades – it’s all very well to overthrow someone evil, but who’s morality-checking the new guys?

Heroine Complex sarah Kuhn

Aveda Jupiter – About the only thing that Heroine Complex and Heroine Worship have in common with Renegades is the existence of superpowered individuals, but the character of Aveda Jupiter is a great example of the grey areas of power. At first appearance, she’s a stuck up, bossy, rule-obsessed glamazon who is the picture perfect superhero we all need (remind you of anyone?), but as her character develops, we can see how she is first and foremost, a human, with all the human messiness you would expect. Aveda’s perfect superhero image is a brittle, fragile mask, and she benefits from learning to consider friendship as important as justice. Perhaps Captain Chromium could borrow a leaf from Aveda’s book?

My Picks

Mortal engines Philip Reeve The Hungry City

Hester– For me, Hester flickered constantly between being my favourite character in The Hungry City chronicles and my absolute least favourite. On the one hand, she’s fighting for revenge, she’s an amazing powerful young female character and she has some of the best action sequences in the books. However, Hester isn’t a character you always want to root for. She makes choices that, at times, made me super frustrated! I’ve talked about this in reviews. Hester definitely reminds me a lot of Nova, particularly in the way she often makes choices that she sees as the better option or the most selfless option that appear selfish to everyone else.

And I Darken Kiersten White

Vlada– In The Conqueror’s Saga it’s impossible not to be rooting for Vlada, she’s the protagonist, of course, you’re going to be on her side. It’s only when you step away from her perspective, in the parts from Radu’s perspective for example, that you realise that it would only take a slight change of writing to make Vlada a terrible villain (she is based on Vlad the Impaler after all!). It’s one of the clever things about Renegades, that Marissa Meyer manages to keep you guessing as to who you should be supporting, you’re never forced to make a decision (at least not in book one) about which side is ‘in the right’.

seraphina Rachel Hartman

Seraphina – Don’t worry, I haven’t changed enough that I’ll say Seraphina is somehow a bad character. But the way Seraphina’s situation is explored in the recently published companion novel Tess of the Road (if you haven’t got Tess of the Road on your TBR then I HIGHLY recommend doing so) is such a great example of how to use a secondary character to bring out the flaws in your protagonist. So while Seraphina is an amazing character, Tess’ perspective on events pulls out how some of the isolation Seraphina felt in childhood wasn’t the fault of her stepsisters (at least not wholly). Tess also points out that the things Seraphina was and is able to achieve are largely as a result of her position of privilege and that isn’t the experience of all people in Goredd (and certainly not all women). Did I mention you should read Tess of the Road? Because you should. I’m looking forward to seeing how the Renegades sequel Archenemies builds on the themes explored in this first book.

What other characters can you think of that follow this kind of pattern? Let us know in the comments below!

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