10 Book Villains We Hate to Love

Last week the The Reading Date posted about villains we love to hate. It got us here at Squee thinking about villains that are hateful, but somehow “loveable” at the same time. Most of those antagonists make the hero’s life hard and make a story compelling. Generally we, the audience, despise that villain like we’re supposed to. But sometimes the bad guy is sympathetic, and we feel things other than resentment and loathing. Sure he’s evil, but maybe he’s also a little misunderstood. The best villains, says CDSquee, are people too, and often when you learn their whole story, you understand how they could be twisted to the dark side. And that’s when it gets interesting. Most caricatures aren’t interesting.

Here is a list of 10 villains, some classic, some not-so-much, we hate to love.


Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Yes, I know Voldemort was the true villian of the series, but Snape was a nasty sort most of the time too, and he got a great deal of pleasure out of harrassing H.P whenever he got the chance. Normally, my first reaction to Snape’s behavior would be to say, “Get over yourself.” But, this is what a genious J.K. Rowling is in creating characters: Snape illicits my pity. He wouldn’t want it though. He would throw my pity right back in my face with a sneer. There are few characters for whom I start out loathing and end up crying. Rarely do books make me cry, anyway, but Snape’s love for Harry’s mother, his devotion to Dumbledore, and his ultimate sacrifice in the end broke my literary heart.


Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Again, yes, Sauron was the big baddie of the series, but if you haven’t read LOTR, and you don’t know why Gollum is also a villain or why he is pitiable, don’t expect me to rehash it here. It’s a classic. You should go read it. All the way to the end, I rooted for this guy to redeem himself. In a way, he does, whether he intended it or not. Fate took Gollum, used him up, and then spat him into hell. Maybe the end justified the means, but I wonder if Gollum would have agreed.


Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith

I must admit that I only read the first book in the series, and I didn’t love it. I haven’t watched the TV show either, but I probably would if Amazon would put it on their Prime selection. Anyway, I knew by the end of thie first book that Damon was hateful and didn’t have many redeeming qualities. Pretty much his soul purpose was to harrass his brother, Stephan, and hurt him by making moves on Stephan’s main squeeze. Yet, even knowing all this, there is something alluring about Damon that is hard to deny.


Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

John Marcone is the most powerful crime boss in Chicago and an antagonist of the main character, wizard and P.I., Harry Dresden. The two, however, have worked together far more often than they have opposed each other. Marcone controls the majority of organized crime in Chicago and has developed considerable knowledge of the supernatural aspects of the city. His past and motives are, for the most part, a mystery. It’s obvious he’s a dirty scoundrel, and there’s no love lost between him and Dresden. In any other book or movie, he’d be the unquestionable bad guy, but in the Dresden files there’s always someone bigger and badder than Marcone to worry about. He has a strong code of honor and a soft spot when it comes to children. Any adult is fair game, but he won’t cross the line to hurt children and often goes out of his way (including cooperating with Dresden and the police) to protect them.

Harry Dresden has a lot of lovable villains in his life. His faerie godmother (in a very literal sense) Leanensidhe is a conniving, duplicitous, faerie bitch, who only helps Harry if he can do something for her in return, and what she wants in return is basically his heart and soul. He might not mind paying that cost, though, when it winds up saving his life.


Abhorsen Series by Garth Nix

Mogget takes the form of a white cat throughout most of the three novels he appears in. He is often cynical and bitter when speaking with others. For reasons eventually revealed in the story, he is bound in service to the Abhorsens (a familial line of powerful necromancers) forever. He is deeply resentful of this, and whenever his collar comes off (it’s a magical binding that keeps his powers contained) he attempts to kill the Abhorsen because as long as an Abhorsen lives they have the power to re-bind him. Saying too much about Moggett will give away integral parts of the plot, if you haven’t read the book, but let’s just say he has some crucial, redeeming characteristics. If you’re considering this series, I highly recommend the audio version. Tim Curry is the narrator and he’s brilliant!


Alphas: Origins by Ilona Andrews (A “short” story in the Angels of Darkness compilation)

Lucas is a strange character, something that can’t be classified under classic monster terms. “Were-beast” doesn’t quite get it because he’s not cursed or diseased; he’s not even technically from our world. What he is “A horrible meld of ape, dog, bear,” is the result of ages of scientific development. Lucas’s second nature causes him debilitating pain, and the only relief comes from a certain chemical available in the blood of only the rarest humans. He kidnaps the main character, Karina, ostensibly to save her from some other bad guys, but it’s a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire, because he’s no good guy himself. He keeps her locked up so he can feed off her (yes, she has that rare blood he needs) and ease his pain. It’s a pretty classic Beauty and the Beast story because although Lucas holds Karina and her daughter against their wills, his situation is sympathetic , and you start to feel for the guy. So does Karina, against her better judgment. This story disturbed me for a while because I couldn’t decide if rooting for Lucas was okay or not. I hope Andrews develops this in to a full novel at some point because I need more evidence before I fully make up my mind about Lucas.


Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

He is a romantic hero, due to his torturous love for Catherine. His adult years spent in spite and vengeance, however, make him a villain. His childhood misfortunes and abuses make him sympathetic, but kind of like Snape, I want to tell Heathcliff to get over it. I think it would take major doses of psychotropic drugs for Heathcliff to get over his angst, though. I believe his love for Catherine was true, although totally co-dependent and unhealthy. A well-adjusted, self-sufficient woman should be hesitant to want a relationship with someone of Heathcliff’s obsessive intensity. If you ever do him wrong, he’s going to make you pay.


Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

The literary Phantom is crueler than the one created by Andrew Lloyd Webber, but since my first introduction to Erik was on the Broadway stage when I was a junior in high school, my opinion of

him will be forever colored by the romantic swells of “All I Ask of You,” and “Past the Point of No Return.” He is a wretched creature, disfigured and deformed, used and abused as a freak show attraction in a gypsy circus. He’s a genius and teaches himself ventriloquism and illusionist magic. He leaves the gypsies to become a self-taught architect and a political assassin in Persia. He leaves there under threat of death and travels like a nomad for a while. He eventually gets a job helping to build the Paris Opera house and designs the playground of secrets within it (trapdoors and dungeons) and builds his house in the basement underneath, where he becomes a musical prodigy. He mentors Christine and falls in love (obsession) with her. He kidnaps Raoul near the end, but lets him go to make Christine happy. Erik also helps Madame Giry and her daughter Meg when Madame proves loyal to him. I want someone to love Erik, but I don’t know that anyone can (except maybe Christine); his heart is ultimately too rotten, and murder and torture comes too easily for him. Also, in the book, there’s no chance that there’s merely a slightly disfigured Gerard Butler hiding under the mask.

Maybe Erik and Heathcliff should get together and start a club for guys who love women they can’t have.


Blood Ties Series by Jennifer Armintrout

The main character is an ER doctor who is becomes a vampire after being bitten by an injured vampire, namely Cyrus. And Cyrus is evil. I mean EEEvil. He’s sadistic. He kills without mercy. He’s into torture and sexual

sadism and oh so many dastardly deeds. He’d rip Edward Cullen’s head off for a snack. You so want him to get his, BUT by the end of the series (four books in all), you feel for him. He’s put through hell so he does get his

but, like Snape, filling in the back story makes you go “OOOH! I get it.”


Breathers A Zombie’s Lament by S.G. Browne

Stolen from Amazon: Meet Andy Warner, a recently deceased everyman and newly minted zombie. Resented by his parents, abandoned by his friends, and reviled by a society that no longer considers him human, Andy is having a bit of trouble adjusting to his new existence. But all that changes when he goes to an Undead Anonymous meeting and finds kindred souls in Rita, an impossibly sexy recent suicide with a taste for the formaldehyde in cosmetic products, and Jerry, a twenty-one-year-old car-crash victim with an exposed brain and a penchant for Renaissance pornography. When the group meets a rogue zombie who teaches them the joys of human flesh, things start to get messy, and Andy embarks on a journey of self-discovery that will take him from his casket to the SPCA to a media-driven class-action lawsuit on behalf of the rights of zombies everywhere. He does eat humans, but somehow you don’t care. When it turns out human flesh gives him some of his humanity back, you care even less, especially when, in this story, the humans are more likely to be the ones acting like monsters.

There are a few great zombie books out there from the Zombie’s point of view, making them largely sympathetic, try: Dust, by Joan Frances Turner and Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lucy
    Oct 15, 2012 @ 05:57:16

    You’re so right that sometimes villains are sympathetic characters. Occasionally I like them better than the hero of the story. Snape and Damon are two that I can relate to in that category.
    I actually stopped watching The Vampire Diaries after the second season – I know it’s a hugely popular show among the book community but I just got bored with it. Damon is great though.
    You make me curious about the Blood Ties series! Cyrus sounds like a piece of work.
    This is an awesome list! Lots of great book suggestions too- thanks!


  2. Elizabeth
    Oct 15, 2012 @ 16:41:31

    I feel the same way about Snape… I always want to hug him, even though I know he would smell bad and would probably not like it at all. It’s interesting how a sad backstory makes us more willing to accept a character’s flaws and to love-hate him or her. I really like these sorts of villains!


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