Top 5 Wednesdays: Favourite Villains

I had a surprisingly hard time coming up with a list of my favourite villains, even though villains are often my favourite characters in a book. I especially love characters who are morally gray and I love to find out about a villain’s backstory and what made them the way they were. I guess I can blame a part of that on being a psychology major. One of my favourite assignments in school was being asked to research a famous serial killer and look at some of the factors that might have potentially led them to make the choices they made. It was for a class called Psychology and the Law, and it was a completely fascinating assignment. I find I often take the same approach to villains in books. I love stories like Wicked and The Phantom of the Opera (the musical, but also the book in both cases) that give some context to what led the person to become the way they are, although it is a perspective that you don’t seem to see too often.

Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.

1) Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

444327I know the intent of this post it to try and avoid Harry Potter villains as much as possible, but I couldn’t possibly make a list of favourite villains without including Umbridge. I was actually browsing through my old blog posts from the year I started blogging, and I came across this one which describes exactly why Umbridge is so memorable, and arguably even more terrifying than Voldemort. I still completely stand by everything that I said in that post. Umbridge is so scary because she is so real. Everyone in their life at some point has come across someone like her. The kind of villain who cares more about adhering to rules than showing compassion, that blindly follows a leader without question, and always tries to gain more power while working within the system. For me, it was the university professor who showed no compassion at all when I asked for an extension on an essay due the week after two family members passed away within days of each other. It was the boss who complained that I hadn’t applied for a promotion like other staff who had been there a long time, while simultaneously telling me they were unhappy with my performance, among many other ridiculous attempts to follow rules that made little sense. It was the college professor who inexplicably sided with the group member who completely screwed over the entire project, which of course was assigned a group mark, by failing to do the work properly and refusing to communicate with any of us, and left us only with “Well, you still have time, so why don’t you go to to the library and help her fix it?” None of those people were “villains” per se, but they definitely shared some of the traits that Umbridge had, and it is why that character resonates so strongly with so many of us.

2) Count Olaf from A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

65113I wouldn’t necessarily consider Count Olaf the scariest villain I’ve ever read, but he is definitely one of the most memorable. This series is absolutely hilarious because if you think about it, it is so cartoon-ish. Count Olaf spends the entire series coming up with ridiculously elaborate plots in attempt to steal the Baudelaire’s orphans’ fortune, but he is just creepy enough to be genuinely scary. This is a man who stalks the children everywhere they go, and they are constantly looking over their shoulders to figure out where he will turn up next, especially since the adults in their lives are intent on turning a blind eye to it. The children are left completely on their own to fend for themselves and keep themselves safe, while trying to make a new life for themselves. The series somehow manages to strike a very compelling balance between humour and real danger. It is the kind of story that seems both completely ludicrous, but there is also the slight underlying layer of doubt that this could actually happen. Count Olaf, realistically, is a regular person with no particular special powers, and that’s what makes him so creepy. He uses disguises and persuasion to get what he wants, and is somehow very effective at it. He was one of the first book villains that really caught my attention, and he remains one of the most memorable.

3) Queen Elara from the Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard

22328546Elara is not necessarily a villain I would have thought of if I hadn’t read the last three books in this series very recently. Elara is a power-hungry woman with the power to read and control other people’s minds. It is this ability which makes her so scary, since she uses it to her advantage to win over the King’s heart and position herself as Queen. Elara is cruel, using her powers to force other people to do horrific things to themselves (ie. Sara Skonos) and others (Cal), and controlling and even haunting her son Maven to the point where he can’t separate which thoughts are his own, and which come from her. She orchestrates an elaborate plot to hide Mare’s abilities by disguising her as a lost Silver princess, which was done to suit her own goals. The ability to force others to do what she wants is enough to be scary on its own, and there is good reason why people with this skill are treated with suspicion at least in the various territories in the series. It is not so much the ability itself that makes Elara so dangerous, but the fact that she chooses to use it to hurt others, and especially to control the mind of her own son.

4) Amarantha from A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

16096824You know a villain is bad when they have a lasting impact on the entire series, even when they are not physically present. Amarantha is a High Fae general who developed a hatred for mortals, and is known for cruelly torturing anyone who crosses her. Like Elara, she will stop at nothing to get what she wants and is not above tricking people into giving her the power she desires. Her cruelness is seen in her treatment of Lucien, Tamlin, and especially of Rhysand. It was Amarantha who cursed Tamlin and his court in the first place, forcing him to need to find a mortal with a hatred of faeries and earn her love to break the spell, otherwise he will be imprisoned along with all of his subjects. Amarantha is cruel and vengeful, and seems to enjoy ruthlessly torturing people. She also had very powerful magic that she used against enemies, along with the abilities that all High Fae have. She is a character whose impact on those around her resonates throughout the entire series, whether she is on the page or not. You can see her effects most strongly on Rhysand, and his explanation to Feyre about his life is absolutely heartbreaking.

5) Joe Goldberg in You by Caroline Kepnes

20821614It’s not very often where a book lets us fully get into the villain’s head, so this one was particularly creepy to read. You is narrated in second-person perspective by a man named Joe Goldberg, who becomes obsessed with Beck, a woman he meets at the bookstore where he works. Joe decides to look her up on social media, and learning that she has left her accounts public, begins to stalk her and slips his way into her life as a boyfriend, using what he discovers online as a way to ensure he can present himself as the perfect match for her. What makes this book so creepy is that we are reading it entirely from the villain’s perspective, along the same lines as something like Lolita. Joe is not a good person. He obsessively stalks Beck and will stop at nothing to remove any obstacles that might be in his way. It is also especially creepy because of the way it shows the dangers of social media. Joe Goldberg is another one of those villains who are so creepy because they are so realistic and possible. As much as no one likes to think that these kind of people exist, there is still that slight chance of someone like Joe could be real.



One thought on “Top 5 Wednesdays: Favourite Villains

  1. Pingback: Top 5 Wednesdays: Favourite Villains | Abyssal Librarian

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s