Oh yes. I look forward to talking about my favorite book villains all the time. All. The. Time. There’s just something about villainy that, when written well, takes a character to the ranks of genuinely fantastic. Nowadays, it’s hard to tell the villain from the good guy, and while I appreciate this move from your typical batshit cray cray bad guy, when somebody is hardboiled to rule the world or, hell, is just setting out to make every protagonist’s life miserable, I appreciate that too.
And this is why this list exists.
Top Ten Book Villains
King Leck (Graceling, Fire, Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore) – You know you’re an ultimate baddie when you’ve been mentioned several times as being abusive to children and using your Grace to mind-rape an entire population. He was the main antagonist of Graceling and there’s an origin story of his actually touched upon in Fire. Ironically, we get a sense of his actual character when he’s already dead, because while his corporeal being is no longer present in Bitterblue, the actions he took to get to be ruler of a nation has far-reaching effects, ones that many people are still trying to–and almost failing to–recover from. In short, Leck’s just a friggin’ despicable person, and the shit he’d said in his diaries about liking how little girls bleed? I positively shivered with fear.
The Darkling (The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo) – Sometimes there’s a villain out there people just love to hate, and yet they’re just absolutely delicious. The Darkling is one of them (the other one I have in mind is a walking spoiler from Warcross so I won’t mention him *cough*). In any case, I don’t think I ever stopped liking how the Darkling was written, not even when he went from chaotic good to complete chaotic evil in three books, and then back to being, well, the Darkling with an actual name. It was really sad that I’d rooted for the bad guy, especially when he did horrible things. But there you have it. Leigh Bardugo is a goddess for making me eat the dark side’s cookies.
Astrid and Athos Dane (A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab) – Talk about mastery in villainy…Schwab was always a mistress about writing really crazy characters. I will go back to the first villains of hers that really got to me, and frankly that’s the Dane twins. By far, they’re not the worst that could have possibly happened in the Four Londons of the Shades of Magic series, but they’re certainly the kind of psychotic I would avoid at all costs. Astrid and Athos like to play with their food as they chew, and I’m pretty sure that’s not just a metaphor. Astrid particularly creeped me out, because her game was possession of soul over body, while her brother liked torturing the physicality of a being out of sadistic pleasure. The twins didn’t make it past book 1–except for slivers of Holland’s past in A Conjuring of Light–but they certainly made a lasting impression on me.
Kerrigor (Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen by Garth Nix) – Is it me or does the Kerrigor picture above remind anyone else of Corypheus from Dragon Age: Inquisition? In any case, I put Kerrigor here because he was an absolute monster. Chlorr of the Mask was a villain and quite possibly an interesting one–had Clariel been more interesting I suppose–but the threat of Kerrigor remained pretty damn strong throughout the first three books of the Abhorsen series. A former prince corrupted by the underworld, Kerrigor (whose princely name actually made me snort considering it’s the reverse of his monster-moniker) has merged with a dark shadow/death demon and wants nothing more than to climb out of his imprisonment to wreak havoc among the Old Kingdom.
Islington (Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman) – The angel Islington has got to be the craziest addition into the motley set of characters in Neverwhere. Because why not have a crazy angel as the antagonist of what is quite possibly my favorite Neil Gaiman book? Also, I am mostly amused that the picture I found of Islington that I really liked has a face remotely resembling Benedict Cumberbatch. Wishful thinking on my part? DEFINITELY NOT.
Voldemort (Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling) – If I didn’t add Voldemort in this list of villains, then I don’t know what the point of the list was! Seriously, y’all, the kid was a walking sociopath from the getgo, and it doesn’t help that his entire childhood was spent torturing kids and liking it.
Hattie (Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine) – Admit it. Hattie was kind of lovable in the movie Ella Enchanted, but I will say right now that reading the book made me want to climb into the story and yank out all of Hattie’s hair. She was just so deplorable in the book. I might just be biased to her in the movie because she’s being played by the best step-sister actress ever.
Emperor Ozorne (The Immortals series by Tamora Pierce) – Honestly, this was a toss-up between Duke Roger from Song of the Lioness, who pretty much spends three of the four SotL books being the main antagonist, and Ozorne, emperor and slave-owner of the grand country of Carthak. Needless to say Ozorne won, because he really was more megalomaniacal than anyone else in the stories. My head canon also won’t get rid of the fact that it thinks Roger and Ozorne were in cahoots somehow. Pierce has yet to prove it otherwise, but I totally know they’d formed an alliance or something!
Queen Levana (The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer) – I know, I know, the character of Queen Levana is kind of fashioned after Queen Beryl and the entire Chronicles is roughly inspired by Sailor Moon. That being said, a queen who’s got enough mind control to dupe an entire moon about her appearance is just wild. Fairest really showed Levana in her full, villainess glory, and honestly, there’s no redeeming the woman who’d tried–and failed–to kill off her sister’s only child.
The Joker (Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore) – There’s no denying the fact that the Joker is the ultimate psychotic bad guy, and the fact that he can do so much damage without superpowers is uncanny even and of itself. The Killing Joke shows Joker’s past and sheds some light to his madness, but at the end of it all, it’s another volume that tells us the Joker is crazy. And not in a good way. This volume was grueling, and Alan Moore pulled no punches showing a story that is still powerful enough now to be read (and watched, because a movie is out of this volume) even today.
Lawd, I can say so much more about villains, but I’ll stop there.