This week’s topic, given to us from the Broke and the Bookish, is All About Villains. They had plenty of options, but I chose the most compelling villains. It’s not always necessary for a villain to be complex, but they should be interesting. More than that, I think, the force of their will should be inescapable to the protagonist and maybe the reader a little. At the same time, I’m not of the belief that a villain must be the antagonist. Sometimes there is more to having a villain than the one who opposes the protagonist, more than being a person. Sometimes there’s a villain to both protagonist and antagonist.
So, in no particular order, these are the villains that I found most compelling recently:
In The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, the villain is the Marquess. I’ll admit that I wasn’t sure what to make of her at first, but she is wonderful. I love everything about her from her motives, to the way she makes September do her will, to the way she is oh so sweet and feminine and girly. Something about her girliness makes her so much more terrifying. Like she’s all the mean girls you’ve ever met and with a pinch of true evil mixed in.
I’m not normally into horror, but I read this for the Read Harder challenge this year and it was a little crazy. I feel like I shouldn’t get into who the villain was because a part of the fun was that the book keeps you on your toes about it.
There are a few contenders for villain and it was definitely someone I thought it might be but there enough antagonists that McMahon made it intersting to find the true villain of the situation. (my review)
I have been loving the fairy tale re-imaginings. The Land of Stories series, in case you aren’t familiar with them, takes place after the fairy tales we know. Villains don’t become villains over night and happily ever after come that quickly either. There’s an idea that the Evil Queen, our villain, brings up in the prologue that I just love and that sums up what turns out to make her a much more complex villain than most of us give her credit for.
A villain is just a victim whose story hasn’t been told.
While this isn’t simply the telling of her story, the two protagonists do figure out her path to villainy along the way. The telling of her victim story is what makes her and the villains that come after her in this series so compelling, despite what you think you know about them. (my review)
As with The Winter People, Lumberjanes Vol.1 and 2 does not immediately disclose the villain. The girls spend a few issues figuring out what’s going on and who might be behind it before finding the right answers to their questions.
The villain that we do eventually find is amazing for several reasons. The first is the level of power they turn out to be dealing with, the second is the way that villain has been bending them to her will, and the third is the sheer absurdity of her behavior. (vol 1 and 2)
The first issue has a bit of a bait and switch when it comes to the protagonist but the villain stays the same. It’s not necessarily one person but a whole system of oppression that is only a thinly veiled poke at our own version of it.
It’s the patriarchy. Yep, I went all feminist on you. While it’s easy to ignore the milder version of the crap that women have to deal with in the real world, the intensification of all our problems in the world of Bitch Planet makes it all inescapable. It’s in everything down to the little advertisements throughout each issue and the “harmless” conversations that men have. It’s the way that so many conversations are so close to some of the things people say. They’re close, but a small change here or there makes them ridiculously offensive rather than mildly offensive. Like three girls sharing a single muffin in one issue for the sole purpose of staying thin. There are segments of society that are so close to that. The comic makes my skin crawl with all those little things. So yeah, the villain here is a full fledged patriarchy that isn’t even trying to disguise itself. It’s what makes me sure the series will be a feminist classic. (my review)
Monique de Pelouse never appears to have good intentions, even when she does. It makes her one of my favorites characters, despite how absolutely awful she is. Is she the antagonist or the main villain propelling the story along?
Well, it’s a spy series and I’d rather not answer that so pointedly and spoil the whole thing. I will say, however, that she is a villain in her heart of hearts, no matter what side she’s on or who she’s doing business for. She’s out for herself and never appears afraid to double cross another character. I love her villainy. (my review)
It would be easy to say that Frank Volkheimer was the true villain of this book, but that’s not the one I find particularly compelling. It’s the way that Werner gets trained to be one of the Hitler Youth. The training, his instructors, the team that is eventually created around his ability to find other radios draw him closer to becoming a villain himself. It’s not easy to slip into this role, but it’s better than fighting the system. He has seen what happens when you fight the system.
All the same, I feel like his little friend who did fight the training was the unsung hero of the book. Volkheimer was the antagonist who propelled the story forward, but the school and almost everyone in it was Werner’s villain and it creates an interesting dynamic within the story. (my review)
As in some of the other stories mentioned above, the villain is not so much a person as a set of circumstances or a system held in place, though there are people involved who create and maintain the system. This time we sit on the opposite side of a character like Doerr’s Werner. Held presents a set of characters who have become villains, and not completely of their own choosing. The book makes the point in itself with this line:
The perpetrators, Your Honor, were young and ambitious. They wanted to succeed at what they did. What it was didn’t matter. They acted like employees, hungry for praise and advancement. The sadists aren’t the most dangerous. The most dangerous are the normal people.
This was one of the lines of the book that made my head feel like it exploded. The villain is Auschwitz and the whole system that created it. While it was a torment to those who were prisoners within it, it also left a horrible impression on those who ran it. It also broke them in ways they did not understand at the time. The story doesn’t dwell on these characters because it is about the former prisoners, but it recognizes this. It recognizes that the war and the prison and then the men who were put in charge of it worked together to create this “playground of murder”. It’s a very compelling book. (my review)
They clearly run this matriarchal world that Monstress takes place in and it’s just so…. everything. I love this series for so many reasons but the Inquisitrixes are just awesome and villainous.
Queen Levana is the villain throughout this series, except Fairest where she is the protagonist. She’s deliciously evil in that single-minded sort of way, but there’s a lot going on and reasons for her actions. They just don’t appear incredibly complex. And then we get to her story and how she became that way and she becomes a much more complex and interesting character. I love how she rationalizes some of the awful things she had done in her youth and when the tide had completely turned and all of her little attempts to stem it. I love how she accepts her villainy and then just learns to revel in it by the beginning of the main series timeline. (my review)
Those are my Top Ten Most Compelling Villains, go to the Broke and Bookish to see what type of villainy everyone else has chosen to focus on this week!