Heroes can be so drab. So boring. So painfully conscious of The Right Thing. Thankfully, this week’s Top Five Wednesday (Thursday) throws the good guys out the door and ushers in the people we all love to hate – villains, you are welcome here. And to get you in the mood, here’s a little video from the folks at How it Should Have Ended.
- The Producer | The Hike by Drew Magary
This is *mostly* accurate, which is all I can say without spoiling anything. To put it simply, Ben went for a hike and got caught up on a path that led him to another world. The Producer, who seems to be in charge of everything, informs him that if he leaves the path, he dies. Sounds like an easy proposition, except staying on the path means dealing with a giant killer cricket, nauseating demons and a very sassy crab. This book is completely bananas bizarre, but author Drew Magary manages to take the disparate fantastical elements and twist them to punch you in the gut and stab you in the heart. The cover perfectly encapsulates the tone and style with a pained brilliance that I can’t recall seeing before. Also, THE LAST PAGE OH MY LANTA and that’s all I will say.*
- The Red Queen | Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
A preface I have deemed necessary – this is not an Alice in Wonderland story, nor is it related to Victoria Aveyard’s book of the same name. To be perfectly frank, this Red Queen is far more vicious than anything from either of those references. She’s nameless, ageless and uses dark sorcery to keep the people of Mortmesne in fearful submission. Before Kelsea comes to the throne of the Tearling, the Red Queen enforced a monthly shipment of Tear citizens to serve as slave labor in exchange for not wiping the entire country out. You learn a lot about her troubled past in the sequel, Invasion of the Tearling, which helps mold her into more than just a flat villain. In either case, she is grade-A scary crazy.
- Lord Silver | The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
I didn’t talk much about Lord Silver in my full review except to describe him as “suave,” and I’m sure if he were a real person he’d feel greatly slighted at being relegated to such a minor description. The Fae in this series are fascinating in that they derive their chaos power from fulfilling stereotypical roles, which chips away at the forces of reality by ignoring the fact that people are unique. Lord Silver chooses to portray a roguish, debonair villain, and is constantly trying to seduce Irene into the roll of his wilting damsel. Irene, of course, will have none of it. We meet many more Fae in the sequel, “The Masked City,” and get to see stereotypes of power brokers, storytellers and romantics played out, but the mismatched duo of Lord Silver and Irene is by far the most entertaining to read.
- The Wood | Uprooted by Naomi Novik
I just did a full review of Uprooted here, and the Wood definitely deserves a spot on this list. Unlike a villainous human regime, the malevolent forest that plagues Agnieszka’s valley isn’t a problem that can be boiled down to a single evil spokesperson. Everything about it is tainted with contamination, and it’s not a mindless villain, either. The Wood actively desires to expand, and sows enough seeds (some literal, some metaphorical) to ensure that if one avenue of conquest fails there’s a backup plan or six in place. It’s patient, vengeful and saturated with corruption to the point where you’re pretty much asking to be put inside a heart tree if you so much as set foot within its borders.
- Achilles | The Shadow Saga by Orson Scott Card
I saved the best (and by that I totally mean the worst) for last. You know those villains that have the dark, sexy “love to hate” vibe? Achilles is not one of those. From the moment we meet him as an orphan with a bad leg in Ender’s Shadow, he’s a scheming, brilliant, calculating monster that only gets more foul with time. He eliminates anyone who sees him in a position of weakness, will dump his allies if a better offer comes along and has exactly zero moral scruples. The closest comparison I can think of is Moriarty, but where Moriarty sort of thrives off of competing with Sherlock, Achilles would be just fine if his opposition were wacked off and he were left as king of the world. He’s constantly playing the long game, and even Bean and Petra – certifiable geniuses in their own right – have a difficult time keeping up with him.
*Dear Mom, do not take this as permission to read the last page before you start. Don’t even try to deny that you do it.