|"Top Ten Tuesday" is a weekly bookish meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl!|
Let's be real: who doesn't love a good villain? There's no story without an antagonist, and many of literature's great heroes are made all the more so, thanks to a strong offensive force. The glory of Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, was generated from his ties to You Know Who, and the brilliant deductive mind of Sherlock Holmes was at its best when up against Moriarty. Of course, those two sterling examples are far from the only Big Bads present in some of my favorite books.
From smooth and deadly, to angry and dangerous, be it in a solo act or as part of a larger force to be reckoned with, here are some of my favorite villains, straight from my shelves!
1. Long John Silver, Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island
If you were to argue that my love of this character was shaped by my childhood adoration for both Tim Curry in Jim Henson's Muppet Treasure Island, as well as the cyborg space-dad from Disney's Treasure Planet, both answers would be correct.
2. The Firm, John Grisham's The Firm
I haven't read this one since high school, but I think it's due for a reread... and what makes for a more formidable villain, than the entire company you work for, who controls every piece of your whole life?
3. Victor and Eli, Victoria Schwab's Vicious
There's nothing quite like a villain pursuing a singularly-minded goal, in a devastatingly deadly and effective way, to really get you to root for the good guy. The thing is, there isn't a good guy. The only person who's able to stop him... is another villain.
4. The House, Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves
In the realm of contemporary horror, there are quite a few evil houses to choose between. From The Amityville Horror's haunted halls, American Horror Story's Murder House, to Monster House's possessed foundation, what you usually find, is a house controlled by spirits. This one's got ever-expanding walls, a darkened hallway that appears overnight, and a minotaur... or does it?
5. Frankenstein's Monster, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
Can I be frank? (Pun intended.) We all know this guy's not really a villain. Sure, he murdered a few people, and typically, good guys aren't forced to jump ship and flee desperately across the ice after killing a dude, but Frankenstein's monster is not a villain. He's just a big, ol' murdery baby.
6. The Darkling, Leigh Bardugo's Grisha trilogy
While my brother's love of YA means there's quite a few things in the realm of books that we share, an appreciation for this guy's sense of style is one of the first ones we had in common. (Now, Leigh Bardugo is his favorite author, and I have to read Six of Crows soon, because he's zoomed through the rest of her novels without me. Sorry, Beau!)
7. The Doldrums, Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth
One of the most secretly insidious villains in children's literature. The colorless landscape that Milo finds himself trapped in shortly after the start of the book - a disorientingly gray, uninspiring place, difficult to escape on your own, filled with the cripplingly apathetic and lazy Lethargarians - became a familiar metaphor for me in middle school, when I started using it as a means of describing my depression.
8. Samuel Ratchett and The Murderer(s), Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express
No spoilers, for those who haven't read it. Then again, maybe you've seen the movie? I haven't, even though this truly jaw-dropping Christie finale is one of my favorites among her canon.
9. Insurrection and Harpies, and Literally Elliot's Own Terrible Ideas, Sarah Rees Brennan's In Other Lands
This is going to sound a little nonsensical, but here goes: I love books that actually don't have a villain. While there's something inescapably alluring about a Big Bad, there's also a lot to be gained from packing your narrative with not-so-obvious opposition forces, who are operating with justifiable motivation, in a realistic way. From the rebellion within their own ranks of the camp, to the various conversations with the murderous harpies, to Elliot grappling with his own sense of right and wrong, what makes In Other Lands such a remarkable coming-of-age novel is its commitment to the idea that becoming a mature, independent person, has a lot to do with better understanding yourself and others.
10. Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights
To every single person who has ever described this book to me as a sweeping, epic love story, or Heathcliff as the epitome of a brooding, sexy, bad boy love interest: better call a toy detective, because you have completely lost your marbles. Catherine and Heathcliff were terrible people, who made terrible choices, and had terrible effects on the people around them, and they are totally the villains of Wuthering Heights.
What's in your Top Ten? Let me know, in the comments below!