Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.
With Halloween just around the corner- favorite villains is a perfect topic for Top Ten Tuesday! Villains also happen to be one of my favorite things to talk about. Villains can make or break a book. A sympathetic villain might leave you questioning your own feelings about the grayer spaces of morality. Some villains bring unexpected charm and leave you delighted with their every move. And the evilest of villains will make you speed through a thousand page tome just to see justice served. Just a note about some of my villains- a few of them fall more into the realm of anti-hero, but I promise I can justify their place here! (Also – possible spoilers ahead!)
10. King Severn Argentine – The Queen’s Poisoner by Jeff Wheeler – I don’t see this series talked about much, and I really think it’s a shame. This book is my favorite in the series and it’s largely due to King Severn. This series imagines what might have happened if King Richard had never died on Bosworth field (and if he had some magical powers to help him along). What I loved about King Severn- is the way your opinion of him changes through out the book. He starts very clearly as the bad guy, and before it ends you’re not sure if he’s really a villain, or just a really unfortunate hero.
9. William Hamleigh – The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett – Lord Hamleigh is the second most evil villain on this list. He will absolutely make your skin crawl. Every time he thwarts our heroes plan you’ll want to scream and throw your book across the room. The guy is pure evil. He’s the villain you absolutely love to hate. If I recall correctly – the revenge was cold and the justice was poetic. The only villains that can compete with this guy- are other villains from Follett’s world.
8. Kaz Brekker and crew – Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – This duology is one example of YA done right. I don’t know why it took my reading sixty seven bad YA books last year to figure out that I don’t actually like them.. but Six of Crows is the exception. I love Kaz because he’s sort of a genius, he’s completely unreliable, and Bardugo never once handed him anything on a silver platter. Despite it all- he always comes out on top.
7. T-Rex – Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton – She’s a T-Rex! How could I not include her? My only regret is that Crichton didn’t write like eight more Jurassic Park novels.
6. Haesten – The Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell (First appearance: The Pale Horseman) – Full disclosure: the name I really, really wanted to put here was King Alfred and/or King Ecbert from Vikings. The problem was both kings were more frenemies than villains. So I went with Haesten. Haesten is a slippery little fellow. Uhtred finds him and sets him free. Haesten swears him an oath. Haesten betrays him. Uhtred spanks him. Haesten swears another oath. Haesten betrays him. And so it goes on. This goes on for like seven books. He’s the only enemy that I think has ever made Uhtred look stupid. So his place here is well deserved. (And he’s quite charming when he wants to be- hence his repeated oaths to Uhtred.)
5. Brady Hartsfield – Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King – So if I had to give an award to the most evil villain- it would probably be Brady Hartsfield. Much like Big Jim Rennie- he’s a walking cliche. He’s got mommy issues, he’s got daddy issues, he picks on innocent little animals, he’s an uber nerd with like 7 computer monitors. Reading Brady’s parts are a lot like what I imagine Heath Ledger went through when he played the Joker. He is straight up disturbing. Don’t let the label of “Mystery/Thriller” on Mr. Mercedes fool you- it’s definitely horror.
4. Mycroft Canner – Terra Ignota series by Ada Palmer – Mycroft Canner is more of an antihero than a villain, but I feel justified adding him to this list because (spoiler alert) he’s a homicidal maniac (now reformed). Of all the characters I have here- it’s Mycroft I love the most. You know he’s a little cuckoo. You know he’s sneaky and unreliable. You know he’s a murderer. And none of it stops you from wanting to tuck him under your wing like a tiny baby bird.
3. Big Jim Rennie – Under the Dome by Stephen King – You’re probably sick of reading this- but Under the Dome is one of my favorite books. And it wasn’t because of Lt. Baaarrrbie and his journalist girlfriend. It’s largely in thanks to: Used Car Salesman and City Council 2nd Selectman, Big Jim Rennie. I don’t care that the guy was probably one of the worst cliches out there. The first time I read that- I was in solid disbelief at just how evil the guy was. Those pages just kept turning to see how low he would go. (Also- the TV show was an abomination- skip it and read the book.)
2. Jörg Ancrath – Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence – I’m not entirely sure Jorg is the most evil villain on my list. I’m not even sure he’s really a villain. The thing that makes Jorg so very fascinating to read is that he is a sympathetic villain. The way he turned out, isn’t entirely his fault. Between witnessing his mother and brother’s murder, and being stuck with a crap father, it’s not surprising the kid can’t stop stabbing his friends.
1. Time – The Green Mile by Stephen King – Now before you go whining and telling me it was Wild Bill who was the villain- hear me out. The entire book is about time. The prisoner’s on death row have months, weeks, days before they run out of time to reconcile their sins with their higher power. John Coffey has the ability to grant people more time in the world by curing their sicknesses (in some cases, their deaths). Finally, when we get to the end of the novel, Paul Edgecomb is talking to his friend Elaine, and he says:
“And you, Elaine. You’ll die, too. And my curse… is knowing that I’ll be there to see it. It’s my torment, you see. It’s my punishment for lettin’ John Coffey ride the lightnin’… You’ll be gone like all the others, and I’ll have to stay. Oh, I’ll die eventually — of that I’m sure. I have no illusions of immortality. But I will have wished for death… long before death finds me.”
It was the first time I’d seen a book portray “immortality” as a bad thing. And not just a bad thing- but a really, horrible, terrible, no good, very bad thing. Usually we see it portrayed as eternal youth, stay young and beautiful, never die! But The Green Mile couldn’t imagine anything worse than an extraordinarily long life span.
The burning question I never could answer? What the hell happens to Paul when Mr. Jingles dies? Please- someone- imagine me a happy ending for Paul. I’m begging you. It still haunts me!