Top Ten Tuesday: YA Villains

young adult villains top ten tuesday
Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Every other week I will post a list of ten favorites in a certain book-related category.

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Let's talk villains! Is there anything better? I mean, is there really? A good book can get a million times better if there's a good villain you love to hate. But creating such a character is not an easy accomplishment. It's challenging to get it right. Only think about all the times a book didn't get it right and you felt like tearing your hair out in frustration. A villain can make or break a book. They usually provide a great deal of action, terror, suspense and tons of fun

Choosing ten YA villains was not an easy job. I have a weakness for characters that are troubled. Characters that skim the line between anti-hero and villain. The ones that sometimes do terrible things, but can somehow be forgiven because you understand their reasoning and you kind of justify their villainous actions. You root for them. So there is a big difference between the true "big bad evil" and characters like Kaz Brekker, Draco Malfoy, Serverus Snape, Manon Blackbeak, Rhysand, Khalid Ibn Al-Rashid etc.. My heart would never forgive me for including the latter here, so here are the absolute worst of the worst in YA literature.

1. Voldemort - Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
The Dark Lord, You-Know-Who, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, Tom Riddle a.k.a. LORD VOLDEMORT. The king of all villains. He easily wins the top spot in this list. What isn't evil about him? I don't think he has a single good side. There is nothing that could possibly redeem him. He tortured and killed thousands, he brought Hogwarts to ruins, he killed his (assumed) most loyal servant to increase his own power, robbed wants and bones from graves, split his freaking soul in seven and he actually ROSE FROM THE DEAD. And man, do I love him for it. After all the evil he's done, I still feel like he is one of the most awesome and badass characters in the history of literature. A hundred years from now people will still be talking about him. DUH... He's freaking Voldemort.

2. The Darkling - The Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo
I can't begin to describe just how much I loved the Darkling. There were times I really couldn't tell if he was a true villain or more like a misunderstood victim trying too hard. In the end he was definitely the first, but I couldn't help love him. The tragedy of his life, the burden of eternity he felt... It was almost enough to forgive him for the bad. Almost, which makes him irredeemable and therefore one of the best villains I've encountered so far. Dark, mysterious, devious and sort of sexy. I mean - need I go on?

3. The Commandant - An Ember In The Ashes series by Sabaa Tahir
There are villains you love, there are villains you love to hate and then there's the commandant. I haven't felt the urge to strangle someone so badly in a long time. But I feel it every time I think about her. The way she treats everyone, the terrible regime based on loyalty and fear she establishes. *shiver* In A Torch Against The Night we learn she might not always have been as heartless, but as far as I'm concerned she deserves to be worst villain number 3.

4. Dolores Umbridge - Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
In the grand scheme of things, she's hardly one of the 'worst' villains, but ooh how she made my skin crawl. Time and time again she managed to get me really worked up and angry. She's truly evil, not because she killed thousands of people - but because she was unfair, unjust, in league with the wrong people and just plain stupid. SHE WAS JUST A TERRIBLE PERSON, OKAY? The way she talked, the way she dressed, her scary obsession with cats and pink fluff. She is living proof that not all villains are dark and black and yes, she HAD to be in this list. Then again, Harry Potter would not have been what it was without professor Umbridge, so I also sort of loved her for being insufferable.

5. Adelina Amouteru - The Young Elites trilogy by Marie Lu
It's not often the top villain in a book is also the main character, but Marie Lu really worked her magic when she introduced Adelina Amouteru to the world. She starts out as a broken, weak girl looking for love and a sense of belonging. But she gets corrupted by a need for violence and vengeance and eventually she becomes this dark creature who has lost all sense of good and bad. I love Adelina, since she is the main character it is hard not to feel sympathy for her. I'm still rooting for her redemption, but as she is now she is nothing short of evil. And thus one of my favourite villains. People should write books from the villain POV more often. It's really interesting to see how twisted and reverse your morals and expectations start to become.

6. Queen Levena - The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
I have all sorts of reservations when it comes to the Lunar Chronicles, but queen Levana is not one of them. She is brilliantly wicked and cruel. She is in fact a bad guy worthy of fairytales. She abuses people, turns them into vile inhuman creatures and tries to take over the world in her perfectly glamorous armor. Perhaps she doesn't always make the smartest moves (she does get overthrown in the end in the most outrageously disrespectful, wrong kind of way but let's not get into that) but she does make the choices of a true villain. And she's one of the most interesting characters in the series.

7. Bellatrix Lestrange - Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Another Harry Potter one. I'm sensing a pattern. But it's not my fault that so many great villains are part of the same story. It just proves once again that it will forever be impossible to write something 'greater' than HP. Bellatrix Lestrange.  I think Helena Bonham Carter has been a huge influence on the way I see this character. If anything, she has made her more evil. Just think about everything Bellatrix has done. She tortured the Longbottoms, Hermione and countless other people. She worshipped The Dark Lord and was constantly trying to impress him by doing horrible things and... and AND SHE KILLED SIRIUS FOR GODS SAKE. If that doesn't make her villainous then I don't know what does. I will never forgive her.

8. Sebastian/Jonathan Morgenstern - The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare
Not my favourite series by far and not the villain most people would have chosen from it. But while Valentine Morgenstern was a decent villain, he was too much of a rip-off. He was a miserable attempt at Voldemort 2.0 so I could never take him very seriously. Meanwhile Sebastian was his own person and I liked the complexity of his relationship with Clary and Jace. Yes, it's gross that he sort of wanted to hook up with his sister - but he IS the villain after all. I loved to hate him and he definitely creeped me out at times.

9. Maven - Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard
The best part about Maven is that for almost an entire book I was one hundred percent convinced he was the good guy. I loved him and I rooted for him. Then he betrayed me. My heart still aches when I think about it, but it makes him a really interesting villain. The things he's done in his evil reign aren't as bad as say Voldemort's, but his clever scheming and the fact that he completely surprised me earn him a spot in the worst of the worst list. I still find it hard to believe he will never come back to me.

10. President Snow - The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
Yes. Here he is. I've seen many list where he made the very top and maybe he deserves to come in second. I don't know. I always got the feeling that I didn't see him the way others did. The guy is a creep. He is horrible. The things he's done make me want to shoot another arrow straight through his heart. But I never got the 'OHMYGOD THIS IS WICKED' or the 'WHAT THE HELL SOMEONE SHOOT THAT GUY WHAT IS HE DOING TO MY BABIES' kinda feeling. Which is in complete contrast to what he actually did, because so many of my faves suffered by his hands. His cruelty and hunger for power is almost otherworldly. But while definitely part of the 'worst of the worst' he only made the bottom of my list.

I also sort of feel I should include Galbatorix from The Inheritance Cycle (Eragon) by Christopher Paolini because I first read those books when I was a lot younger and he actually scared the hell out of me. Which means I could never truly love him or appreciate him, while he definitely deserves to be in this list.

So tell me, who are YOUR favourite villains?

Note: Artwork found on Pinterest, impossible to credit.

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  1. Ugh, Maven totally broke my heart in Red Queen. I'm still upset about it. And I still need to read the second book.

    1. I know, right? I was just starting to decide maybe I liked Maven more than Cal when all of a sudden he was the bad guy. I was such a mess.


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