The importance of a good villain

Before I start part 29 in my 26-Week Book Challenge I would like to say that it’s quite hard to keep on track with finishing your third book when you wake up at 5am because the characters from your previous book demand sex. Needless to say I’ve taken a little detour. On the plus side, this means I will have one more story for my erotic short story collection.

So, this week will be a post quite close to my heart, because I will be discussing my favourite side character, and from the title of the post you can probably guess that this one is a villain.

No, despite me saying this is close to my heart, I’m not discussing my own book here. There is one character in my second book who could quite happily be my favourite side character, but I promised myself that I would not pick my own books for this challenge, so I’m picking the next best thing. And to be fair, I love this particular character so much that he’s probably my favourite anyway.

Regular visitors to my blog should know by now that I am a good friend of H Anthe Davis, and probably also that we edit each other’s books. Because of this close professional and personal relationship we have avoided reviewing each other’s books and left it at a five-star rating on Goodreads. I find it highly annoying and unprofessional when people rate (and sometimes even review) their own books on Goodreads, and to review a book for which I am credited as an editor is something I would find equally unprofessional, so I haven’t.

But it’s hard. I want to tell the world how good this series is, not just because Hillary is my friend, but because it actually is. And one of the main reasons why it’s so fantastic is because Hillary writes fantastic villains. And my favourite villain of hers is Archmage Enkhaelen.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying her heroes are crap, but they’re just heroes. They’re not offensive (even if they can be a tad annoying sometimes), they’re even likeable, but they’re not the kind of hero you dream about marrying someday. They’re flawed, they’re stubborn, they’re… well, your average Joe, thrust into being heroes when they neither want it nor are equipped to do the job.

The villains, however… Ahh, Hillary’s villains make life worth living. They lift her books from good to awesome, and Enkhaelen often has me reading the book with a stupid grin on my face.

To me, there are three types of villains. Type One is the most common one: the bad guy who is there just because the hero(es) need(s) an antagonist. They’re often stupid, or just make stupid mistakes, and are often easily overcome. My villains are very much like that – partly because I don’t need anything more than that, but mostly because I’m just not very good at writing villains.

Type Two is the villain you love to hate, and if they’re written well you hate them with the passion of a thousand fiery suns. Every time they arrive on scene you find yourself wishing with all your heart that they will die, die soon, and die painfully. The best example of a Type Two villain whom most people will have heard of is Joffrey from Game of Thrones. Every time you see the little shit you hope he chokes on something, very slowly.

Now take Joffrey, multiply him by three, and you get Hillary’s Type Two villains. Yes, she has three. I hate all three of them, and I hate them so much that I’ve been shouting at Hillary every time she failed to kill them yet again. She’s been giggling at me for that as well, because she’s evil like that. Still, they make you incredibly invested in her books, because every time you see them you hope they get hurt. A lot.

And then there’s the Type Three: the villain who you know is a bad guy, but you love him anyway. You know he’s doing bad things, but deep down you’re rooting for him, because he’s just that awesome. That’s Enkhaelen. If you want a more well-known example, think Loki from the Thor/Avengers franchise. Yes, he’s evil, he’s horrible, but he’s also funny, charismatic, sometimes even vulnerable, and I personally just can’t help but love him.

Enkhaelen is, in his own words, a bit of an asshole. In everyone else’s words he’s probably a lot of an asshole, but that’s semantics really. He doesn’t care what people think of him, and he will tell anyone to their face what he thinks of them. Usually this isn’t complimentary, but generally it’s fucking funny. He’s sarcastic, clever, prone to temper tantrums, and I have no idea whether I’m selling him, but I just love him to bits. He’s one of these characters where it’s really hard to explain why you love him so much, and all you can do is just repeat that you do.

I know I keep telling everyone that Hillary is a genius, but she is, and everyone ought to read her books. I’m just lucky enough that I get to read them before everyone else does, and I get my favourite (or most hated) villains pure and undiluted.

What about you? Who’s your favourite villain? Tell me in the comments!

8 thoughts on “The importance of a good villain

  1. H. Anthe Davis

    Enkhaelen does indeed subscribe to the ‘Loki you little shit’ school of villainy, but he prefers to call it ‘Shaidaxi’s School of Completely Unnecessary Overkill’. I actually have a school crest sketched out…

    Also, I love you.

    Also, I’d say Nayev is up there in great side characters, but my heart belongs to Artemis Entreri.

      1. H. Anthe Davis

        Oh, and I forgot to mention my favorite villain. (Entreri doesn’t count. He is a villain some of the time, but I like him best as the side-character of the rest of the time.) In Clive Barker’s Abarat series, the initial main villain Christopher Carrion kind of exemplifies the type I like. He knows something’s wrong with him, but he doesn’t know what it is, or how to fix it — or even if he wants to. He’s the kind of villain you hope will find a better way, even though you know they probably won’t.

  2. storytimewithbuffy

    I quite like Moriarty and his henchman in Hound of the D’Urbervilles by Kim Newman. The henchman is particularly fun and we follow him through the entire story. I too love a good villain and I would like to write a story with one as a protagonist. I particularly like the types of villains who don’t mean to be wicked. They started out good and kind but circumstances turned them into monsters. (It’s 6.30am here so I’m struggling to find an example.) Those are the most interesting to me.

    1. Erica Dakin Post author

      Did you ever read the Incarnations of Immortality by Piers Anthony? The Devil in that one would probably fit your description. Personally I found it a little bit too contrived to sit well with me, so villains like that really have to be written very well for it to work.


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