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I have to admit, I love a good villain. The action seems more exciting, the stakes are higher, the plot is richer and the snark factor (in the best books) goes up by a factor of fifteen. All good things. This week’s list asked us to come up with our top ten, so here you go.
Best Creepy Villains (Male)
Kurt Barlow from ‘Salem’s Lot. Cultured, urbane, polite and utterly, completely ruthless. He leaves a nice bottle of wine and a viciously pointed note for the group of heroes who come to stake his nasty vampire self because he (of course) anticipated their every move. He’s nearly unbeatable, which makes the denouement that much more satisfying.
Randall Flagg from The Stand. Other villains exist to bring the fear. Flagg exists to bring chaos, power, destruction, control, pain, mutilation, and, if you’re lucky, death. “There was a dark hilarity in his face, and perhaps in his heart, too, you would think—and you would be right. It was the face of a hatefully happy man. . . “–The Stand, Stephen King.
Best Creepy Villains (Female)
The Other Mother from Coraline. Who wants to love you and keep you forever and ever? The Other Mother. She insists that you call her mother and love her, too. “I swear it,” said the other mother. “I swear it on my own mother’s grave.”
“Does she have a grave?” asked Coraline.
“Oh yes,” said the other mother. “I put her in there myself. And when I found her trying to crawl out, I put her back.”–Coraline, Neil Gaiman.
Dolores Umbridge from the Harry Potter series. The terrible thing about Umbridge is how mundanely evil she is. She’s the brains behind the muggle registry, the way to start legalizing her own bigotry. She’s insecurity wrapped up in a pink candy coating and dipped in bitter, bitter hate and then left to simmer for forty years until she’s nothing but a shriveled heart surrounded by kitten plates and inventive methods for torturing young children. In other words, JK should have let the centaurs get her at the end of book five. I’m just sayin. (#fuckumbridge)
The Baron Harkonen from Dune. Harkonen sees everything as a long running, complex, deadly chess game for power. He’s ready and willing to give up anything in his moves and counter-moves. Morality, money, resources, time, even his own family, all get thrown under the bus on his long ride to the top. And he’s so dang polite, ALL THE TIME. As he’s torturing and blackmailing, he maintains the utmost appearance of manners. It’s the worst part about him.
Cersei Lannister from the Game of Thrones series. We all know by now that in the game of thrones you win, or you die. And Cersei has no intention of dying. Like the Baron I already mentioned, she’s always moving. Anticipating, ready for anything, willing to suffer anything to get to her goals. She’s completely ruthless. And she’s the one who raised that little monster Joffrey, let’s not forget.
Theon Greyjoy from Game of Thrones. Okay so Theon betrays Robb Stark, helps his father invade the North, and captures Winterfell. Unfortunate choices, I’ll grant you. But do those choices merit all the bad things heaped on him afterwards? Does his betrayal really deserve that subhuman fiend Ramsay Bolton as punishment? No. No it does not. Bad George. No more shades of gray characters for you until you learn not to go overboard like that.
Gollum from The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Gollum is, like, the ultimate example when it comes to murky gray areas for antagonists. He’s good and bad and pathetic and vicious and sad and murderous, all at once. But he still has those tiny impulses for good, struggling to take root and bloom in the damp little mushroom of his soul. Which is pretty amazing, considering the human Kings who touch The Ring last, what, a whole five minutes before turning to evil? Gollum lasted more than 500 years under The Ring’s thrall, and still tried to save Frodo. He then subsequently tries to kill him, of course, but ends up accidentally saving the world by destroying The Ring. Let’s just call him the saddest villain ever, and leave it at that.
Tyrannus Basilton Grimm-Pitch from Carry On. Baz is only loosely the villain, but Simon damn sure believes he is one. It makes the plot twist near the middle of the book that much more delicious. I love Baz, and his super dry sense of humor. “I know fuck-all about vampires. It’s not like I got an instruction pamphlet when I was bitten.”–Carry On, Rainbow Rowell.
Kaz Brekker from Six of Crows. Kaz earned his nickname, Dirtyhands, by being willing and able to dirty his hands with the worst kinds of cruelty. Tick him off enough and he will remove an eye, before throwing you overboard for the sharks to finish off. Kaz is not a nice guy. And yet he’s the most compelling anti-hero, with the snarkiest mouth. “That’s where you’re wrong,” said Kaz. “I don’t hold a grudge. I cradle it. I coddle it. I feed it fine cuts of meat and send it to the best schools. I nurture my grudges, Rollins.”–Six of Crows, Leigh Bardugo.