I've chosen villains as my Top Ten Tuesday topic because of how essential they are to a story. Part of what we feel about a hero is linked to how formidable the villain is. A good villain can fill two categories: either we love them because they are so misunderstood or we love to hate them. I can appreciate either type so long as they feel real and robust and so long as the author doesn't erect a redemption arc for them out of nowhere. These are a few of my favorites:
***Note: there may be spoilers for the following books - Shadow & Bone, Cinder, The Darkest Minds, Wuthering Heights, The Great Gatsby, Interview with a Vampire, Harry Potter. I have tried to keep it to a minimum.
My feelings towards the Darkling are so all over the place. Most times I totally get why everyone is so ga-ga over him. There's just something about his swagger, the way his movements are described, the way he phrases things that are just too good to be bad (or maybe too bad to be good?). And no matter where you fall on the love-hate spectrum, you always care about what happens to him.
Also, I just spent through Darkling fancast photos. For this bit of downright sexy, you're welcome :)
In the first three books, I simply hated Levana. She was oppressive and manipulative and unreasonable. I expected the story from her point of view would try to evoke sympathy for her. And while Fairest gave readers a much deeper insight into the character and the mistreatment she experienced, Marissa Meyer doesn't soften her. She doesn't break Levana into palatable pieces, explain away her evilness or create a hope for redemption. Meyer uses Fairest to delve deeper into the depravity of Levana's character, illustrating some of the more truly truly horrific things that she does and offering no excuses for them. And even though I hated her, I still wanted to know her story and I think that is genius writing.
Daisy Buchanan isn't your typical villain. In F. Scott Fitzgerald's masterpiece The Great Gatsby, she doesn't reek havoc for the sake of being evil and ruining lives. However, she ends up doing so all the same. She is a villain not because of her motivations but because in her carelessness, she does things that hurt people and doesn't face the consequences.
They were carless people ... they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.
No villain list is complete without mention of He Who Must Not Be Named. If I loved how Meyer makes no apologies for her villain, then I bow down to J.K. Rowling's brilliance. Rowling offers no sympathy for Voldemort. He is vile and despicable and completely unredeemable from the start. He's broken his soul into so many pieces that he's barely human. Then in books 6 and 7, when we get a deeper look into the character's past and present, he doesn't get any "better". His motivation aren't rooted in mistreatment or trauma, and I think his "evilness" is part of what makes us love Harry so much.
Sometimes villains simply remind us of life's harsh truths. The Raven in Edgar Allan Poe's poem is unrelenting. He doesn't care that the narrator is in mourning, he delivers his grim message all the same. He deepens the madness the grieving man experiences and terrorizes him with his repeated lament "Nevermore".
Another unusual choice for the villain, but in Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger, it seems to be the only real nemesis around. Holden's story is based on his attempts to both be part of and escape adulthood. He stays in the city for days to avoid the consequences of his expulsion from school. He spends the entire book trying to seem older and refined and engage in adult activity like smoking and drinking and paying for female company . However, he's not very good at any of these things because he's really just a child playing at the things he's terrified off.
- The Brat Prince Lestat de Lioncourt of Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles who outright rude and defiant nature is actually quite delightful;
- Clancy Gray in The Darkest Minds trilogy, whom I can't truly include on the list because I've only read the first book, but who thoroughly creeps me out yet makes me want to know more about him;
- Childhood favorite Captain Hook from Peter Pan, who's somewhat tame evil allows the reader to like him and desire being a part of his pirate crew