This week, the official, lengthy title of the theme is Where Have All The Anti-Heroes Gone, also known as The Return of the Anti-Hero. Classic literature has certainly had no dearth of anti-heroes, even as primary protagonists: from Humbert Humbert in Lolita to Anna Karenina herself, to Gatsby and pretty much every protagonist Dostoevsky has ever touched.

But then slowly and over time, the prominence of the anti-hero has trickled away until the trope became more of a diamond-in-the-rough than a common occurrence. But current, contemporary trends have seen a resurgence in the anti-hero phenomenon. Today, once again, there's plenty of villains-with-hearts-of-gold to celebrate, and so this week for our Top 10 Monday, we've compiled a list of our favorite morally ambiguous heroes and their oftentimes less-than-noble means of achieving their goals.

These are not your everyday good guys, so don't try their tricks at home, kids.

Severus Snape (Harry Potter)

From the most abused to one of the most beloved characters of a massive (and massively popular) series, Severus Snape will without a doubt always top our lists of anti-heroes. The depth, complexity and intricacies of Snape are such that precious few characters in modern, 21st century literature have had. And through his many ups and sadly even more downs, the one thing Snape has remained consistent in is doing all the right things in all the wrong ways. A quintessential anti-hero if ever we saw one.

Aaron Warner Anderson (Shatter Me)

In the span of just three books (and one very important novella), Warner's character development is one of the most radical, dramatic and wholly believable and called-for one-eighties we have ever read - least of all in dystopian fiction. From a sassy villain to a romantic heart-throb, Warner has taken us (and our emotions!) for quite a spin. And while Warner is hardly the only character in the series to undergo a dramatic change, he is the one who believes in the old adage that the end justifies the means - which is how he landed himself a spot on our list.

Samjeeza (Unearthly)

Like many anti-heroes on this list, Samjeza is fundamentally misunderstood - but also toeing the line between an anti-hero and an outright villain. The problem is that even when he's threatening the protagonist, stalking her as a crow and wreaking havoc and mayhem, he does it with so much style that you can't help but admire his villainous ways. In the end, it is Samjeza's heart and not his head that tugs him the way of anti-heroes rather than villains, and for this, he has earned his place on our list this week.

The Gray Man (The Raven Cycle)

Two things should be addressed where The Gray Man is concerned. The first is that he is one of a number of characters from Maggie Stiefvater's Raven Cycle who could have landed on this list - he is just the smoothest one of the lot, so he was our clear pick. The second thing to be addressed is that it should be more than mildly concerning that this professional hitman is easily the most benign-seeming character of the ten we've picked this week. Sure, he'll take care of whoever he feels needs taking care of. But he'll also recite poetry in Gaelic on request, and that's just a whole new level of anti-hero sophistication right there.

The Darkling (Shadow And Bone)

Heading into a more villainous territory, The Darkling certainly does come closer than most anyone on this list to being an outright villain. He doesn't deplore the idea of obliterating a village, and he is more intent on seizing power for himself than he is on protecting his loved ones. But what saves the Darkling from being considered a full-fledged antagonist is the method to the madness which borders on genius in this cold and forbidding fantasy world - and the fact that he can talk a good talk - better, in fact, than most anti-heroes out there.

Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Hannibal Lecter)

Now, Dr. Hannibal Lecter doesn't fit the core YA, NA, or adult fantasy focus of this blog, but it has become customary to cheat on at least one of our 10 picks, and this week, Dr. Lecter has the honor of being our guilty pleasure pick. Easily the most devious, the most brilliant and the sassiest character of the ten, Hannibal is the sort who will politely inform you about his imminent intentions of eating your loved one, spicing it up with a wink for good measure, then turning around and doing something remarkably similar - all the while making you root for him despite yourself. If ever there was a true measure of an anti-hero, Dr. Hannibal Lecter has got it down.

Arya Stark (A Song of Ice and Fire)

Arya Stark most certainly does not start out her story as an anti-hero. In the beginning, she is at most a slightly misunderstood tomboy, inherently idealistic and in many ways a child. But as the series progresses, Aria's actions become less morally pristine until she is less misunderstood, not at all idealistic and most certainly not a child any longer. And while it may be a bit of a stretch to deem Arya an anti-hero in her own right, we are proud to crown her one on this blog - especially since so few female characters ever get to be true anti-heroes, with all their complexity and moral ambiguity.

Victor (Vicious)

You know those novels where everyone is kind of insane and no one is a good person, but no one is really evil, either? This is what we like to call the Anti-Hero Antechamber (just because it sounds good, not because the book in any way resembles a small hallway). One way or another, Victoria Schwab's Vicious is the best embodiment of this sort of book (in our heavily biased opinion). There are no good guys in this chaos. But a thousand shades of evil genius abound at every (page)turn. And we can't help but love them all, just a little bit.

Damon Salvatore (The Vampire Diaries)

Usually not included in our list, primarily because the TV show overshadowed the events from the books, both for the general public and in our heads. Having said that, one way or another Damon Salvatore might as well have his picture accompany the anti-hero definition in dictionaries worldwide. His heart is in the right place. His sense of morality - not so much. Damon is choosy when it comes to the value of human life, and highly subjective when it comes to doing the right thing. Let's put it this way - if it came down to saving a loved one, or saving an entire country full of women, children and the elderly... he wouldn't even flinch as the country burned to the ground. He's ride off into the sunset with the loved one with a shrug for an afterthought.

Silas (Never Never)

As the protagonist in a series penned by two New Adult authors, one would certainly not expect Silas or anyone similar to surface on our list. And yet - here he is. In this recently-released novella series, Silas and his (apparent) girlfriend Charlie have proven themselves to be morally and ethically questionable in more ways than one. In many ways, they are not good people in the traditional sense of the word. But with regard to their heart being in the right place - Silas's especially - at the point where the novella cut off, it most certainly was. Is it May yet?

As we have warned in the intro, these are the characters we feel embody the ethical ambiguity the best - with the most depth, reason and appropriate exposition to back up the genius and the madness behind it all. These are not, however, traditionally-speaking good guys, least of all in the era plagued by Mary Sue protagonists, so we feel it worth repeating once again - don't idolize them at home. With anti-heroes, worship from afar is the healthiest kind of worship.

Who are your favorite anti-heroes? Are there any you agree with? Leave us a comment below, or find us on all manner of social media below: