30 Day Book #17 – Favorite Villain

Most of the books that I read are genre fiction, and therefore have a definite plot where one character (usually the protagonist) is the hero and one character in the villain.  The strength of a good villain is in many ways what determines the overall success of the novel.  We’ve all seen stories (whether they be books or movies or whatever) where the villain is an absolute joke and never really poses a threat to the hero in any way.  So what is our reaction to these stories?  Usually you’re either bored with the book or you quit watching the movie.

This one was a really tough choice for me.  Since they’re opposing the protagonist, you’re really not supposed to like the villain.  However, I think I found one (two actually) that I really enjoyed reading and who came across as very realistic in their book.  Hrathen and Dilaf were the two main antagonists in the book Elantris by Brandon Sanderson, and they were wonderful.  A large part of the success of these two characters came from the juxtaposition of their current viewpoints.  They both are high ranking officials in the church of Shu Dereth and are trying to convert the people of Arelon to their religion.  (Shu Dereth is a political power as well as religious power a la the Catholic church in medieval England.)

Hrathen is calm, calculating, and thoughtful in his methods.  Dilaf on the other hand, is very passionate.  While they both are trying to achieve the same goal, they actually get in each other’s way at times because of their different approaches.  The villain is usually just in place for the hero to defeat, but these two do a very good job of making that extremely difficult to do.  Hrathen especially is a very effective villain because his rationality in approaching his goal makes you think he is right.  A villain who works not because of greed, but because he truly thinks he is right, is a very powerful and believable villain that you will remember for more than simply how they were defeated and not simply because of the hero they opposed.

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks. I have not come across these villains before, but I agree with your premise – the most memorable villains are up close and personal. Sauron is too remote; the Nazgul are much more chilling.

    My vote for most memorable villain would be Campbell Bradford, from Michael Kortya’s, “So Cold the River,” a book which isn’t easy to classify. If pressed I’d call it a paranormal mystery.

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