[I’m trying to resurrect the habit of posting stuff over here, apologies it’s out of the blue and not the first in a series but baby steps.]
Hello lovely humans, today I’m doing part 2 of my Hogwarts House recommendations with Slytherin. If you’d prefer to read rather than watch the video the transcript is below!
Let’s face it, Slytherin is pretty notorious. It’s got a horrendous reputation of like lets sort all the kids into 4 characteristics smart, brave, kind and totally fucking evil. Basically people think if you’re slytherin you’re gonna be bad. Which is of course ridiculous because there’s so much more to the slytherin character – they’re creative, determined, ambitious, loyal, resourceful, cunning, all kinds of nice things. But, all anyone sees is snakes are evil. I feel like we’ve branding issue there.
But in the spirit of Slytherin I’m embracing that reputation to bring you a selection of books featuring morally dubious characters because sometimes it feels good to be bad.
Let me start as I mean to go on, babies, and introduce you to God’s War
by Kameron Hurley. I’ve chosen this because the lead character Nyx Nyssa is, to put it nicely, a piece of work. She’s a bounty hunter who kills off men who have run from the front line of a never ending and brutal religious war in a strange and alien bug-filled society of future humanity on another world.
I picked Nyx because she is an amazing bounty hunter, soldier, and survivor. Through the novel we see her use creativity and resourcefulness and cunning to survive the most awful situations. But she is also not nice. Not one little tiny bit. She cheats, she lies, she steals, she screws over anyone who gets in her way. But she’s also loyal to her team, to a point, loyal to the institutions of faith and government around her, as far as she believes in them, and will die protecting them, or not. Basically she’s a horrible person but you definitely want her on your side, just maybe a safe distance away.
You see the thing with Slytherins is that like Gryffindors they’re loyal. They’ll protect and support their chosen people or idea or cause but perhaps with a little less morality than the chosen people might appreciate.
I think we see this well in Six of Crows
and Crooked Kingdom
by Leigh Bardugo. Our protagonist, Kaz Brekker is a thief and a conman leading a gang of misfits on the heist of a lifetime in a fantastical version of 19th century Amsterdam. Kaz is your basic evil genius, he’s a pretty messed up character but as we learn more about him especially in Crooked Kingdom we come to see how he’s often motivated by the need to protect his crew. And his big overall masterplan, his raison d’être, is revenge for someone he lost. He is loyal and he’s not letting morality get in the way of that.
You could also include Artemis
by Andy Weir here. The main character Jazz is a thief and a con artist in the first colony on the moon. Her life of crime is for a purpose that isn’t revealed until the end. But that purpose, that loyalty to an ideal, drives her, drives all her actions.
Plus the pit your wits against evil and the danger of space adventure is always a good time.
Sometimes Slytherins aren’t quite so likeable. Like in the The Magicians
by Lev Grossman. This is the first book in a trilogy where basically everyone i’ve known who has read it, came out it hating the characters. Like, all of them. They’re all horrible people. Which is what makes it all the weirder that it’s actually a series that I, along with a lot of other people, love dearly.
At the start of the books our main character Quentin discovers that magic is real when he is accepted into a magical university. But that’s only the start of a much bigger, darker adventure. Quentin thinks he is the hero like Harry Potter but we soon learn that this is not the case. It’s a series about being privileged and powerful in the way that the rich clever kids of Slytherin are and then seeing them mess up and abuse that power and be self-centred and make mistakes. And then to have to figure out how to clean up after themselves because they don’t actually want to be evil. Basically it’s about growing up Slytherin and then learning how to be human.
I think some of the best morally dubious characters in science fiction and fantasy come from this very Slytherin combination of loyalty to an ideal with the ambition and cunning to carry out whatever is needed to achieve it. The end justifies the means and all that. Take for example Shuos Jedao in Ninefox Gambit
by Yoon Ha Lee. In the first book we see a young military captain have her body taken over by the spirit of an undead general who is kept alive only to serve as a weapon for his government. He was a man who used his every resource, every scrap of cunning to build his reputation, to become the greatest general, only to commit immense evil, to slaughter hundreds of thousands, even his own friends and comrades.
But as we learn in the books, maybe there’s more to it, a bigger picture that the rest of us just haven’t seen yet. Is he in fact not a madman but simply loyal to an idea whose end justifies these horrendous means?
But sometimes there’s a character who makes you question if the end really is worth the means. The Traitor Baru Cormarant
by Seth Dickinson is definitely one of those people.
Baru’s home, family and culture is destroyed with the arrival of a conquering empire. But Baru is patient. She’ll swallow her hate, prove her talent, and join the Masquerade. She will learn the secrets of empire. She’ll be exactly what they need. And she’ll claw her way high enough up the rungs of power to set her people free. And Baru is ruthless in her tactics and nothing and no-one, not loyalty or love, will stand in the way of her loyalty to the ideal of revenge.
You will sympathise with Baru, you will back her ideals and believe in them and her actions. And then you will find yourself screaming ‘Why are you doing this?’What is it acheiving? Stop it, you dark-hearted sociopath!’ It is a beautiful, dark, and painful book and you will love the pain that it brings you. Because that is the Slytherin way (you kinky bunch of snakes).
So there you go, a selection of morally dubious characters to suit any Slytherin’s heart. I hope you enjoy some of these books. Whether you identify as Slytherin or not, they are great novels. Bt it should also reveal to you some of that mixed bag of characteristics that give Slytherins there reputation of being a little bit on the dark side (whether that’s deserved or not).
I’ll be back soon with the next Hogwarts House Book Recommendations. But in the meantime happy reading!