Some villains are truly terrible, awful people you wish would hurry up and be thwarted so that they can get off the page and you never have to see them again. But my favorite villains are the ones that command the stage; the ones who you can’t help but love even though they’re technically the bad guys. If you’re looking for a great villain, here are a few of my recent fantasy favorites!
Jacks from Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber
AKA the mythic Prince Of Hearts. Jacks often gives me major Damon Salvatore vibes, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. He’s chaotic, unpredictable, and downright murderous in some instances. He’s also ridiculously charming, and someone you can’t help but to root for despite all that he’s done. Jacks had my heart from the moment he walked on the page in Legendary, and I was thrilled to see that he was going to be heavily featured as one of the lead characters in Stephanie Garber’s newest series. After a recent heartbreak, Jacks has turned icy and cold (seriously, his hair is even blue in this book). Though he likes to present as cruel and unfeeling, the tiniest hint of his emotions is all it takes to unravel the reader and have you rooting for him.
Warner from Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
More than anyone on this list, I truly despised Warner for the longest time. He’s buttoned up and reserved, living by an intense code of ethics that… maybe aren’t the best. I won’t get into any spoilers, but Warner does some truly horrible and unforgivable things. Yet he’s also very much a product of his environment, with an abusive father and a life spent with very regimented training. I have to give it up to author Tahereh Mafi for this one—I never thought I would love Warner, and yet by the time the story is over, he was easily my favorite character. But just a heads up–Warner’s villainy stretches over the course of the full series and not just one book. So buckle in, readers. You’re in for some major twists and turns with this character!
Luc from The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
Luc is objectively terrible. He manipulates Addie by tricking her younger and naive self–he’ll save her from being burdened down by a marriage she doesn’t want in exchange for her soul. Unfortunately there are parts of the deal that Addie doesn’t anticipate, like an eternal life where she will never be remembered by anyone she meets. Luc continues to toy with her emotions, is possessive, and puts Addie in truly awful scenarios all to show off his power and to try and make her love him. He’s horrible, and yet Luc manages to steal the show every time he’s on the page. While he’s certainly the villain of the story, the chemistry between him and Addie is undeniable. He’s darkness and power, and the two are like magnets, pushed and pulled toward each other throughout the novel. Though Luc is dangerous and toxic, the unfolding of his character was one of my favorite parts of this book.
Wrath from Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco
I’m starting to notice a trend toward immortal men who operate under a different moral structure on this list, but hey, at least I’m consistent with my taste. Wrath is a literal prince of hell and brother to all the other deadly sins, which makes for a lot of terrible situations for our MC Emilia as she’s thrust into this world of the Wicket, but a whole lot of fun for us readers. When Emilia accidentally binds herself and Wrath together, the two must work together to solve the mystery of who is responsible for a series of murders on their island–including Emilia’s sister. Wrath isn’t the most honest guy around, and he’s certainly not the kindest, but his romance with Emilia is simmering and Wrath absolutely steals the show.
Nick and Aaron from Only a Monster by Vanessa Len
Here’s what I loved about this book—you never really know who is the monster and who is the hero. The story is told from the point of view of a “monster,” AKA someone who has the ability to jump through time by stealing time from another person’s life. Nick is the “hero” in this story. He’s the guy who hunts down the monsters, and of course he struggles when he realizes that the girl he loves is one of them. And so is Aaron, a reluctant ally to our heroine. He’s kind of a jerk on the surface, but his charm and tenderness emerge as the story unravels, peeling back different layers of his character. This series is setting up the love triangle of my dreams, and though both Nick and Aaron are great options, I definitely have my preference!
Adalyn Grace graduated from Arizona State University when she was nineteen years old. She spent four years working in live theater and acted as the managing editor of a nonprofit newspaper before studying storytelling as an intern on Nickelodeon Animation’s popular series The Legend of Korra. Adalyn splits time between San Diego and Arizona with her bossy cat and two dorky dogs, and spends her days writing full-time while trying to find the best burrito around. She is the author of All the Stars and Teeth and its sequel, All the Tides of Fate.