The best adventure books with morally grey characters

Tamuna Tsertsvadze Author Of Galaxy Pirates
By Tamuna Tsertsvadze

Who am I?

I’ve been a passionate reader since my deep childhood. I wrote my first big adventure story (10 pages) when I was 7 after I read Thomas Mayne Reid’s The Giraffe Hunters - the book that made me fall in love with reading. Adventure novels have always been my absolute favourite, and classics, in general. I especially enjoy reading about morally grey characters - either a protagonist with darker motives or a chivalrous villain with soft spots in their heart. It's no wonder that my favourite topic to write about is exactly that - the inner and outer struggles of such characters, accompanied by deep philosophical and psychological discourses.

I wrote...

Galaxy Pirates

By Tamuna Tsertsvadze,

Book cover of Galaxy Pirates

What is my book about?

In the distant future, mankind discovers they're not alone in this universe. Aliens arrive, and the Earth gets engulfed in space wars, where humans turn out helpless and defenceless, regardless of their nuclear and biological weapons. One of the strongest and the most aggressive species of aliens - Reptiloids - turn Planet Earth into their slave-trading colony.

Violet Hawthorne is one of the few surviving humans, sold as a slave. The nineteen-year-old girl works in a pub on Planet Irahor of Radenoids. She's treated worse than an animal and laments about her cruel fate. Yet, unlike other humans, Violet has not given up on hope - she knows that somewhere across the stars roams a man who can reverse the course of fate - the Young Captain of the Galaxy Pirates.

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The books I picked & why

The Odyssey

By Homer, Emily Wilson (translator),

Book cover of The Odyssey

Why did I love this book?

When we are talking about adventure books with morally grey characters, there is simply no way to bypass this one. The Odyssey can be considered the book that started it all - the epic sea adventure genre, as well as the morally grey protagonist theme. And, my being a lover of classics, this book is one of my favourites along with the Iliad, for various reasons. 

One of the major reasons is, of course, the protagonist - Odysseus the King of Ithaca - a mischievous hero who prefers to use his intelligence and wits to get through any situation, unlike his war comrades who instead rely on their noble heroism. However, it doesn’t mean that Odysseus is weak - as seen in the Odyssey, he is quite a skilled fighter. What makes him morally grey is that he does not consider it immoral to trick others for his personal gain. That doesn’t make him repulsive, however - rather likeable and interesting. At least, he remains my favourite Greek mythical hero to this day.

By Homer, Emily Wilson (translator),

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Odyssey as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first great adventure story in the Western canon, The Odyssey is a poem about violence and the aftermath of war; about wealth, poverty and power; about marriage, family and identity; and about travellers, hospitality and the changing meanings of home in a strange world.

This vivid new translation-the first by a woman-matches the number of lines in the Greek original, striding at Homer's sprightly pace. Emily Wilson employs elemental, resonant language and an iambic pentameter to produce a translation with an enchanting "rhythm and rumble" that avoids proclaiming its own grandeur. An engrossing tale told in a compelling new…

Treasure Island

By Robert Louis Stevenson,

Book cover of Treasure Island

Why did I love this book?

By now, you might guess that I’m going to recommend only classics. Well, you’re right - that is my favourite genre, as I’ve mentioned many times, and, being the books that withstood the courses of time, it is certainly not unreasonable for me or anyone else, to recommend them.

Treasure Island is a pioneer in the Pirate Adventure genre, and, obviously, heavily inspired me on Galaxy Pirates, together with its Disney animated adaptation, Treasure Planet.

The character that catches the eye here is Long John Silver. He actually influenced the way pirates are depicted nowadays (with a wooden leg and a parrot on their shoulder). He is a cheerful man, although mischievous, who mostly acts for his personal gain. Nevertheless, the protagonist Jim Hawkins, who views him as a father figure, doesn’t cease to think well of him, even after the major conflict. For many of the readers too (including me), it is impossible not to love this character, for his complex personality and his beautiful mentor-and-apprentice relationship with Jim.

By Robert Louis Stevenson,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked Treasure Island as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Penguin presents the audio CD edition of Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Following the demise of bloodthirsty buccaneer Captain Flint, young Jim Hawkins finds himself with the key to a fortune. For he has discovered a map that will lead him to the fabled Treasure Island. But a host of villains, wild beasts and deadly savages stand between him and the stash of gold. Not to mention the most infamous pirate ever to sail the high seas . . .

The Black Corsair

By Emilio Salgari, Nico Lorenzutti (translator),

Book cover of The Black Corsair

Why did I love this book?

Now, you might not have heard of this one unless you’re Italian, and that’s really sad - The Black Corsair series is a Pirate Adventure masterpiece. In Italy, the Black Corsair is just as much of a pirate icon as Long John Silver in the English-speaking community, while Emilio Salgari is sometimes named “the Italian Jules Verne”.

The main character, Black Corsair Emilio Roccanera, is an Italian nobleman whose three brothers have been killed by the Duke of Wan Guld, now a governor in the Caribbean. So, the Black Corsair will stop at nothing until he’s gotten his revenge. Other than his vengeful nature, however, he is quite a noble spirit who preserves the lives of many of his captives and doesn’t spill needless blood. All of that makes him a character to fall in love with.

By Emilio Salgari, Nico Lorenzutti (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Black Corsair as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Caribbean, 17th century. A powerful man killed his family. The Black Corsair vows vengeance.... and he won't stop until he gets it. One of the world's first pirate classics. An Italian nobleman turns pirate to avenge the murder of his brothers. His foe: an old Flemish army officer named Van Guld, now the Governor of Maracaibo. The Black Corsair is relentless, vowing never to rest until he has killed the traitor and all those that bear his name. To help him in his quest, the Corsair enlists the greatest pirates of his time: L'Ollonais, Michael the Basque, and a…

Book cover of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Why did I love this book?

Since we mentioned Jules Verne, let’s discuss his book as well. When talking about adventure novels, one cannot miss out on him, after all, and discussing morally grey characters, the iconic Captain Nemo of the Nautilus is a perfect example.

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas is iconic in that it is a submarine adventure. Nautilus is a submarine built by Captain Nemo so that he can explore life under the seas and keep himself aloof from mankind at the same time. The major reason for this is that he grieves for the family he lost due to war, and the consequent grudge that he holds against all of humanity. He is shown to hate oppressors and tyrants and seek freedom at sea - the theme that happens to be one of my favourites even nowadays, and heavily inspired Galaxy Pirates.

The overall mystery that shrouds Captain Nemo throughout the story, accompanied by the wondrous under-the-sea adventures, makes this novel a true literary jewel.

By Jules Verne,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First serialized in a French magazine from 1869-1870, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is an incredible adventure story that popularized science fiction throughout the world.

Professor Aronnax, a marine biologist, joins harpoonist Ned Land in search of a mysterious sea creature in the open ocean, only to discover that the beast is actually a submarine piloted by the enigmatic Captain Nemo. They are taken captive, thus beginning a strange undersea voyage from Antarctic ice shelves to the subterranean city of Atlantis, hunting sharks along the way.

With its sprawling, exotic plot and vivid descriptions, Jules Verne's epic underwater adventure…

The Count of Monte Cristo

By Alexandre Dumas, Robin Buss (translator),

Book cover of The Count of Monte Cristo

Why did I love this book?

My top picks will end with The Count of Monte Cristo and its fascinating protagonist, Edmond Dantès - one of my favourite characters to this day. The young sailor who starts out naive and innocent, deeply in love with the girl of his dreams, is falsely accused of treason and gets shoved into a prison on a remote island, only to find out that it was his love rival and his crewmates who turned him in. Filled with the will for revenge, he escapes the prison, finds a treasure, and goes to Paris to destroy the people who have wronged him.

In the course of the story, however, we find out that, even though much more ruthless and cold, Edmond Dantès, now known as the Count of Monte Cristo, still retains some kindness in his heart, and remains noble in spirit. Just like the Black Corsair of Emilio Salgari, he shows the signs of remorse, and forgives the families of those who have wronged him, not executing his vengeance in the ways he vowed to. All of this makes it a heartfelt and emotional read.

By Alexandre Dumas, Robin Buss (translator),

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked The Count of Monte Cristo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The epic tale of wrongful imprisonment, adventure and revenge, in its definitive translation

Thrown in prison for a crime he has not committed, Edmond Dantes is confined to the grim fortress of If. There he learns of a great hoard of treasure hidden on the Isle of Monte Cristo and he becomes determined not only to escape, but also to use the treasure to plot the destruction of the three men responsible for his incarceration. Dumas' epic tale of suffering and retribution, inspired by a real-life case of wrongful imprisonment, was a huge popular success when it was first serialized…

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