I have had a problem over the past, oh, maybe ten years. It's a problem that seems to be centered around main characters in fantasy or urban fantasy stories, especially UF I feel, and sadly, it's particularly prevalent among female MCs. What is this problem, you ask?
The problem of the snarky main character.
Now I have nothing against some good, old-fashioned witty banter– The Thin Man is one of my favorite classic movies after all, mainly because Nick and Nora are so sharp– but let's take a moment to look at the whole concept, shall we? According to Mirriam-Webster.com, snark is an attitude or expression of mocking irreverence and sarcasm, but dictionary.com snark is defined as "to be critical in a rude or sarcastic way".
This second definition seems to be the one adhered to by most writers these days. What's the difference, you ask? The difference is between the word irreverent and the word rude. Irreverent tells me that a character isn't going to let seriousness or formality get in their way. Rude tells me that a character has no respect for the person or people they're talking to and that's what I see more often than not in novels lately.
Rather than popping off a clever comeback or a smart pun to gain a verbal upper hand, these writers have their characters being rude or flat-out cruel under the guise of being snarky. That's not someone I want to spend time with, real or imaginary, and I'll put a book down if a character leans too hard that way.
This brings me to this book. Halfblood Betrayed by Selene Kallan. Holy smokes, y'all. The snark (irreverence) in this book. I'll admit that I picked it up because the author posted in a few groups I belong to about the amnesia, enemies-to-lovers story prompt that inspired the book. I thought the excerpt she posted along with the prompt was really fun, and I do like to support my fellow indies.
Frankly, I stayed for the snark.
Both the main characters: Aylana and Sebastian are prone to knee-jerk sarcasm, and I am so there for it. Their banter back and forth, even before they start to get along, is sharp and clever and never veers into mean-spirited. Not even when they're arguing.
It's clear from the start that they're both trying to protect themselves while they're banding together against the greater evil, but at the same time, it's also clear as crystal that they each have respect for the other. Grudging at first, I grant, but still. Sebastian opens his door fully aware of Aylana's skills and deeply disturbed by the extent of her injuries. Aylana, meanwhile, has no memory at all of Sebastian but knows bone-deep that he is both powerful and someone who will keep his word.
Watching their attitudes and feelings evolve over the course of the book didn't feel forced at all, and I was rooting for them hard just a quart of the way in, and I've been recommending this book since hit chapter five. Seeing them fight– and fight hard, bloody battles– for each other despite their misgivings, while spouting more snark, was ugh. So good. Seriously, if you enjoy witty banter, enemies who respect the other despite opposing them, and you want a meaty plot with your love story, this is definitely a book for you.
All because they were sarcastic and irreverent without being mean about it. Funny how one little word can carry such weight.
Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links. Gotta keep the lights on somehow! But seriously. Read this book. So good.