Hi friends, and happy Wednesday!
A few months back, I reached out to some of my favorite bloggers and asked them the age old question, “why is your favorite book your favorite?” To date, that has been one of my favorite posts to work on, and you can read it here! From chatting with incredibly talented readers and writers to actually putting the post together, I had a blast through and through. Which brings us to here. I had to do it again.
This time though, I wanted to talk about the characters that we love to hate. The characters that bring turmoil everywhere they go. The characters that threaten every happy ending that has ever been promised. Of course, I’m talking about the villain.
Simply put, villains are inherently evil. They’re chaotic and horrible, morally corrupt people. We’re told to hate them, and we usually do, but they kind of make the story worth reading.
Villains, for all of the destruction that they cause, are a heck of a lot of fun. Villains add twists and turns into the story; they help make a plot nonlinear. There are detours because the protagonist’s plans are foiled, yet again.
Don’t get me wrong, a straight-forward story filled with happiness, glitter, and rainbows can be a great break from the gloom and despair that books often dish out, but wouldn’t perfect stories all the time be somewhat of a bore? Personally, I want that antagonist lurking in the shadows. I want to hate a character because they’re horrible and only bringing pain to the other characters. Villains are fantastic characters and, when they’re written well, we love to hate them.
For myself, I have quite a few favorite villains, but one of my favorites has got to be The Slip Kid from the Darkest Minds series. The Slip Kid is one of the most repugnant characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Long story short—and to avoid any spoilers—The Slip Kid promises to help children being hunted by the government but instead uses these kids to his own advantages and abandons ship when his plan no longer benefits himself. He constantly throws the protagonists off course, which (like I said) makes the plot more interesting.
But, before I go on yet another rant about why the Darkest Minds is such a great series, we have other fantastic villains to discuss!
And the hugest of Thank Yous and the biggest of hugs goes straight to these bloggers. They were each so kind, and I’m beyond thrilled that they were a part of this! Also, please accept my apologies about the delay of this post!
Sophie @ Me & Ink
One villain who has been memorable to me is ‘The Commandant’ in the An Ember in the Ashes series by Sabaa Tahir. This is a fantasy series based on an empire currently in deadly times from the obvious and cruel inequalities to the torturous training methods. It is a world which values fighting and winning. It features an elaborate plot with magic and a lot of pain honestly. Tahir definitely explores horrors and darkness in these books. So the villain in these books would have to reflect the darkness of the world. Enter ‘The Commandant’.
She is as dark and cruel as this world promises. She carries this fierce brutality alongside political sway and adaptable genius making her a strong foe who’s hard to overcome. I, personally, like the villain who is menacing and smart as it raises the stakes of the book as they feel high risk and you never know what is going to happen. I love the way she operates in these books and the different relationships she has with characters throughout the series, good and bad. These relationships add to the complexity of her character from the depths of her cruelty and the different sides and strengths she has. The ways she is seen by other characters add layers to her as well, the fact that her quotes can be remembered and help the characters preserve shows the influence she has and that she actually has a lot of wisdom to give despite her character’s purpose.
Another reason why I admire her as a villain is the way that Tahir is able to present a dangerously human side to her whilst not taking away any of her monstrousness. As the series go on you also gets to experience that monsters aren’t born, they’re made which was an aspect that made ‘The Commandant’ a really well written, complex villain who was worthy of being feared.
Sofii @ A Book. A Thought.
The Darkling from Shadow & Bone Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo
What I really like about this character is that he’s not only the typical villain, you know? The Darkling is an old soul that has many shades in his personality and that’s why he’s so interesting & compelling to follow. Not only he does own the best scenes, in my opinion, but he also has a brilliant and very intelligent mind. His ambitions are very high and he’s willing to do anything to achieve his goals, and I think that those ambitions and those ideals that he wants for his country and the Grisha world, made him become an extremely calculating person and begin to exceed hundreds of limits, even with their own powers & own self. I think it’s super unique because it’s obvious that a pretty much human part of him wants success and triumph for his kind but his obsession has led him to madness and exploring all those thoughts and different states of his personality is the most interesting thing ever. Undoubtedly, my favorite character of ALL these series of books.
Plus: her scenes with Alina are breathtaking and even if you don’t like him, you can’t deny that … They’re gold.
Madoc from The Cruel Prince trilogy by Holly Black
Madoc is one of those characters that you read and then you can’t stop thinking about, because it’s that good and intense. One of my favorite aspects of him is how polarized his personality is and how faithful he can be with his family but at the same time put his power over them all. It’s really very interesting to explore, this is another brilliant mind from my point of view, and when you find yourself with this kind of intelligence and cunning, it’s very difficult he not to end up being a character to stand out.
I remember being reading about him and being fascinated by his scenes with Jude, I love the dynamics between them and every time it becomes more twisted and captivating, I just loved it.
It’s also that kind of character you know is planning something even when it seems not to be and he always surprises you being one step ahead of everyone. It’s simply brilliant and deserves recognition for his role in this incredible trilogy and how much it has impacted on the plot.
Margaret @ Weird Zeal
I feel like I would be betraying my roots if I didn’t pick Selia from The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale as my favorite villain. (The villain reveal is a BIT of a spoiler, but to be fair the book has been out since 2003.)
What makes Selia a perfect villain is the sense that she always has control over a situation. While reading The Goose Girl, you feel helpless because Selia is always one step ahead, planning out her moves in advance, and manipulating people to get her way. She can talk herself out of any situation, and even though she’s not physically strong or powerful, she can convince other people to do the dirty work for her.
Not to get too ~high school literary devices~ on you, but Selia is also a perfect foil to Ani, the protagonist. Ani has been given everything in life and doesn’t want it because she’s scared she’s not good enough, while Selia has also been given (almost) everything in life but still wants more. What’s even more interesting is how much Ani admires Selia as they grow up together, trying to emulate her confidence. A huge part of her character growth is realizing that she doesn’t want to be like Selia – greedy, self-interested, vain. Ani’s growth, then, from too timid to stand up to her former best friend to strong enough to confront her, even more satisfying.
And let’s be real, Selia gives the best villain monologues. How can you beat, “I believe we are what we make ourselves, and as such, you, Crown Princess, are nothing”??? SUCH A BURN.
Charlotte @ Bewitching Books, Ravenous Read
Villains are something that I find myself constantly fascinated by within fiction. I always look forward to their scenes and love learning more about them so picking a favourite one should be pretty hard. Yet the villain that always comes to mind for me is Tom Riddle for a variety of reasons. Let’s be honest there are any number of villains that I could talk about within the wizarding world that J.K. Rowling has created; some who are traitorous, others who are fanatic, crazed or simply cruel. And then, of course, there’s the one that everybody seems to universally hate (Dolores Umbridge I’m looking at you). But the one that’s always fascinated me the most is Tom Riddle and yes, I mean back when he was going by that name and not known to the world as Lord Voldemort.
Why do I find him particularly fascinating during the flashbacks that we get to see of him during his younger years? Mainly because he strikes me as a true psychopath and I’m pretty sure that learning even more about him during this time would be both incredibly fascinating and infinitely chilling. The two things that strike me most about him during this time are his charisma – everybody, bar Dumbledore, seems to believe that Tom is a brilliant and charming student and he shows his ability to manipulate people with ease – and his lack of feeling for others. We learn that he’s cruel and enjoys causing harm to others; that he knows how to get away with these bad deeds and seems to have a certain level of control over those around him. Together I always find these traits particularly unnerving; villains shouldn’t be able to reel others in and charm them. As readers, once we know who Tom is, we’re well aware of how horrible an individual he is but if we’d started learning his story at a different point in time, from another point of view, would we have known to despise him? Almost nobody back at Hogwarts knew what he was truly like, after all. He’s also incredibly smart – learning about, and using, the sort of dark magic that is scarcely known even within the wizarding community – and that too makes him an incredibly dangerous foe. Charming, intelligent, manipulative, emotionless and evil; all the ingredients for a truly terrifying villain. And, in this case, they just seem to come together in an incredibly well developed manner. There’s so much history to Tom that we get – but yes I still want more! – and it’s all adds up fantastically. Simply put, I think J. K. Rowling’s created a believable and chilling psychopath within Tom Riddle and I’d seriously love to learn even more of his story.
Again, a HUGE thank you to these wonderful bloggers for taking the time to write something for this post! It seriously made me smile ear to ear each time I got to read why their favorite villains are their favorites.