As both a mom to three sons and an author with a lot of “broody boys,” I spend a lot of time thinking about how the male brain works, both on and off the page. I think there’s something really intriguing about people who say a lot more with their actions instead of their words, and like a lot of readers, I always find myself drawn to the mysterious men with a shadowed past.
With that in mind, I’d love to introduce you to five of my favorite SFF novels with broody male characters.
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
From the first moment I met Elias Veturius, I knew I liked him. This series is set in the fictional Martial Empire, which is loosely based on ancient Rome, and Elias is a fighter in an elite training school. There he meets Laia, a slave with a secret mission. There’s a scene where Elias is talking about how he never smiles at the slaves, because a smile from a soldier is never good news. I love morally complex characters, and Elias definitely fit the bill.
Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
When I first read this book, I just… I loved it. In this dystopian fantasy world, Peregrin (“Perry”) is a bit of a wild young man who grew up outside the protected dome in the city of Reverie. Due to unfortunate circumstances, he is forced to work with a privileged young girl named Aria who’s in trouble. We get to see Perry’s struggles, his love for his younger brother, his “bromance” with his best friend Roar…it’s just an overall enjoyable read, and I simply loved it.
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
They just do not come more broody than Cardan! He’s a spoiled young prince who has zero you-know-whats to give. The book is told from the point of view of Jude, a young mortal woman trapped in the faerie realm, and she’s an incredibly morally complex character herself. But I loved Cardan from the moment I met him, and Holly Black is a master of making her readers love the most unlikeable protagonists.
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
This Russian-inspired fantasy series about the magic-wielding Grisha is amazing, and I’m sure you know someone who’s talking about it. I know everyone is obsessed with the Darkling, and I get it, but my heart was always for Mal. He’s the best friend, the boy next door, the guy who does what he has to do because he’s so clearly in love with the girl, but he’s going to sigh and mutter about it the whole time. He also has some really cool tracking powers. I was honestly more interested in Mal than I was in the Darkling. (Well, until Nikolai stole my heart. But I’d never call him brooding, so he doesn’t make this list.)
An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson
I think what I loved most about this book was how instead of being coolly distant and haughty about the presence of humanity, Margaret Rogerson’s fae seem almost charmed about the existence of humans, and her hero Rook was no different. From the instant the main character Isobel paints Rook with a troubled expression—which should only be reserved for mortals—they’re both in danger, but he grumbles and dutifully does his best to stay by her side and protect her from harm. It’s such a uniquely crafted look at a faerie world, and once I started reading, I simply couldn’t put it down.
Brigid Kemmerer is the New York Times bestselling author of dark and alluring Young Adult novels like A Curse So Dark and Lonely, More Than We Can Tell, and Letters to the Lost (Bloomsbury), as well as paranormal YA stories like The Elemental Series and Thicker Than Water (Kensington). A full time writer, Brigid lives in the Baltimore area with her husband, her boys, her dog, and her cat. When she’s not writing or being a mommy, you can usually find her with her hands wrapped around a barbell.