The best book about morally gray woman in dark fantasy

Who am I?

I’ve always been a huge fan of fantasy books, especially ones that focus on women protagonists. Morally gray protagonists are the most interesting because they straddle the line between hero and villain, often making questionable choices to achieve a goal. I like to write characters who struggle with mental health issues because so often it can be overlooked in a fantasy story in favor of the bigger plot at hand. Women struggling with mental health, who are single mothers, those with disabilities, and those who have long been poorly represented in fiction are characters I like to read and write about.


I wrote...

The Assassin of Grins and Secrets

By K.E. Andrews,

Book cover of The Assassin of Grins and Secrets

What is my book about?

Once the infamous assassin who killed with a smile, Serein now waits for death in the fighting pits of the Harpy's Chest. She has fought tooth and nail to survive, but now her luck has run out. When the prince of Sarddon seeks her out with an offer of freedom if she serves as his guard, she must decide whether to work for those who ravaged her homeland or die.

In a land of hot sands and dying magic, old enemies stand between Serein and her freedom. She plays the game of secrets, knowing one wrong step could end her life. As the shadows of her past catch up with her, she has to choose between pursuing vengeance and protecting a secret only she knows. 

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is readers supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Seven Blades in Black

By Sam Sykes,

Book cover of Seven Blades in Black

Why this book?

The book is filled to the brim with powerful descriptions and enough sass to fill an ocean. You’ll fall in love with Sal, even though she’s rough around the edges and has revenge pulsing in her veins. Each page has lines that make you stop and sit with them in order for them to sink in, and when they do, they follow you around for days. Sykes brings Sal and her world alive with vivid writing that is just *chef’s kiss*. It holds its own against Game of Thrones, the works of Sanderson, and Robert Jordan. If you like morally gray characters and gritty fantasy, this is the book for you. 


This Here Flesh: Spirituality, Liberation, and the Stories That Make Us

By Cole Arthur Riley,

Book cover of This Here Flesh: Spirituality, Liberation, and the Stories That Make Us

Why this book?

I normally don’t read personal essays, but from the moment I cracked open this book, I was sucked in by the lyrical words. Each chapter had something I could personally relate to and brought me to tears. Riley weaves so much emotion into every sentence, highlighting very personal struggles and generational pain in such a poignant way that you have to slow down to savor every word. This is by far my favorite nonfiction book.


The Ones We're Meant to Find

By Joan He,

Book cover of The Ones We're Meant to Find

Why this book?

The cover drew me in with its soft yet powerful art that at first reminded me of a Studio Ghibli movie but was so much more than that. He beautifully captures the voices of two sisters trying to find each other in a world that is decaying and is pushing morally-sound science to ensure humanity’s survival. Mystery upon mystery is peeled back with each chapter and I had no idea what to expect until I got to the end. The plot twist was one of the best I’ve read in a long time. What drew me in the most was that this sci-fi book focuses on the relationship of sisters trying to get back to each other. 


The Cat Who Saved Books

By Sosuke Natsukawa, Louise Heal Kawai (translator),

Book cover of The Cat Who Saved Books

Why this book?

When I first saw this book, I was intrigued by the promise of magical cats and books. This story is light yet had some deep themes and poses questions about the true purpose of books and our relationship to them. It has all the hallmarks of a contemporary anime that is short and easy to read, especially if you’re used to diving into thick fantasy books. There were so many quirky moments in the book that felt like a mixture of Alice in Wonderland meets Howl’s Moving Castle. It’s the kind of book you can curl up with while you sip tea and pet a cat.


Iron Widow

By Xiran Jay Zhao,

Book cover of Iron Widow

Why this book?

I seem to have a thing for morally gray characters, especially women, in fantasy and sci-fi. Iron Widow combines Chinese mythology with giant mech technology in a powerful combination that makes you want to finish the book as quickly as possible so you can know how it ends. Fans of Pacific Rim will enjoy this book because it has giant monsters and form-changing mechs in a life and death war. 


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in robots, cats, and witches?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about robots, cats, and witches.

Robots Explore 56 books about robots
Cats Explore 120 books about cats
Witches Explore 81 books about witches

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like I Am a Witch's Cat, The Gift of Nothing, and The Wicked Deep if you like this list.