Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, in which we all talk about a bookish topic and have fun making lists. This week, we’re talking about villains.
Oh my. I love a morally ambiguous anti-hero and I adore a complicated antagonist who does all the wrong things for all the right reason. I’ll worship a proper villain, but I’m pretty picky. Read a few of my reviews and it’s not hard to spot that I love traitors and spies and a good vendetta over slavering Eeeeeevil. Give me smart, seductive, alluring Wicked every time, and then see if it bites your face off.
I did this last time and I like a good tradition, so I’m starting one right here, right now: character top tens start with a reptile.
Lien, Throne of Jade / Black Powder War
Lien is an albino dragon devoted to an asshat prince because he’s the only person in the world who isn’t an asshat to her. When his asshattery ends badly for him, she becomes a fabulous villainess: her deliberate baiting of Temeraire is delightful, as is her dedication to her new cause of making him miserable. I can’t hate her because she’s driven by loyalty and love (but then I liked the prince too). I admire her intelligence and drive.
Petyr Baelish, A Song of Ice and Fire
The thing about Littlefinger is that he’s ambiguous for much longer in the books, where you don’t get the venomous exchanges between him and Varys to clue you in. I loved that he repeatedly took me by surprise. I loved that I genuinely didn’t know whether to trust him. I loved that I didn’t know what he was after. Plus I’m a total push-over for intelligence and competence.
Melisande Shahrizai, Kushiel’s Dart / Kushiel’s Chosen
Glamorous lady with wits so sharp you can cut yourself? Check. Ruthless politician who can outmanoeuvre friend and foe? Check. Focused exclusively on her own ambitions, and prepared to do whatever it takes (acknowledge regrets, don’t succumb)? Check. I never ever judged Phedre for her inability to get over Melisande. Who could?
Shuos Jedao, Ninefox Gambit
Jedao is a traitor general who has been dead for centuries, executed for mass murder. His ghost’s advice is both very clever and utterly unconcerned with casualties. It’s all necessary; it doesn’t need to be right. But I really am a sucker for a smart monster, and the more you find out about him the more intriguing he becomes. Because Reasons.
Marc Remillard, The Galactic Milieu / The Saga of the Exiles
I’ve spoken about my love for Marc Remillard before. He firmly believes the ends justify the means, and his intentions are the hastening the evolution of mankind. He’s unbearably arrogant, but I’ve always liked him – his villainy (in the context of the setting) is both incredibly human and utterly exceptional.
Okay, let’s rewind the clock. Because when I start thinking about villains, I realise I’ve loved them for a very, very long time…
Duke Roger of Conté, Alanna
I may well like Melisande and Petyr Baelish so much because I met Duke Roger at an impressionable age. Traitors. Gotta love them. Roger’s charming, he’s handsome, he’s terribly talented, and he’s a two-faced bastard who’ll stop at nothing to seize the throne. And yes, probably because he’s called Roger, I think of him as Roger Moore. Chewing every bit of scenery in reach. That’s my boy.
Elu Thingol, The Silmarillion
A villain? He’s one of the 3 Elvenkings taken to Valinor. He marries a Maia. His daughter Lúthien saves the world. But she does it in spite of her creepily possessive father with the isolationist policies and the avaricious streak. He’s misguided, arrogant and unpleasant. Fuck yeah he advances the cause of darkness. Only in a world under threat from Morgoth is Thingol not a villain.
Queen Achren, The Chronicles of Prydain
Okay, speaking of villains who got to me young, let’s hear it for the former Queen of Annuvin. She is betrayed by her pupil Arawn and becomes his servant; she hatches plots to reclaim her seat from him; she is repeatedly defeated by our heroes, who reject her because she’s Evil (which she is – she murders and tortures and subjugates); and when she’s finally humbled, she sacrifices herself to get revenge on Arawn. She’s EPIC.
Jadis, The Magician’s Nephew
Religion aside, I have no idea how Lewis decided Jadis made sense as back story for the White Witch, but like Achren, she’s Properly Evil – convinced she should be the centre of the world and willing to stop at literally nothing to achieve it, including the destruction of her home world. She’s over the top, half Valkyrie and half Serpent, and I just enjoy watching her chew through scenery, really.
The Triffids, Day of the Triffids
Some of the joy of The Day of the Triffids is post-apocalyptic dissolution – London crumbling behind Bill’s half-track; the single-mindedly efficient nastiness of Torrence – but I always loved how creepy the plants were in their own right. Yes, humans are scary, but triffids are terrifying. The communication and organisation is properly unnerving, and I adore it. Goosebumps.
Who are your favourite villains?