Sometimes it's Good to be Bad...

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It is hard, if not impossible, to consider the construction of a Fantasy realm without a powerful villain determined to thwart our plucky band of motley heroes in their efforts to reclaim a lost throne, or restore light to the world, or whatever. True, most artistic endeavors are incomplete without a villain of some sort (what would superheroes be without their nemeses, or star-going humans without their enemy bug species… and is it even possible to have a crime novel without a bad guy?), but in those oeuvres as well as in most others -- Romance, Western, Suspense, what have you -- the dastardly scoundrel upon whom our champions wage war is just as often some guy working out of his basement as he is a Lex Luthor-style captain of industry.

Not so in Fantasy.

Instead we are invariably confronted with BIG big bads: malevolent warlocks wielding dark magics; unbalanced gods determined to bring about misrule; mighty warlords who control vast armies of the undead, or inhuman; silver-tongued royal advisers who manipulate their charges to their own ominous ends. It’s never just some amoral, sociopathic dude in a costume: when a Fantasy villain dons a black cape, you better believe he deserves to wear that thing.

Here, we list those we consider the greatest of these twisted, megalomaniacal souls (if they even have souls, that is), from some of our favorite Fantasy series…

About the author

RACHEL HYLAND

Rachel Hyland is Editor-in-Chief of Geek Speak Magazine and, she is pretty sure, the one true queen of Fantastica, raised in obscurity to protect her from the dark lord Sinisterium. If you see her magic sword, get in touch via twitter: @rachyland or Instagram: @rachelseesdeadpeople. The fate of the many worlds may just depend upon it.

  • Another Kate

    To this most stellar list I would add Rakoth Maugrim from Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry. Turns the land to ice, unleashes hell across Fionavar, rapes one of the heroines, has “no love in his heart,” but most of all, as we are reminded not once, not twice, but over and over and over and over and over and over again, HE HATES THE LIOS ALFAR. You know, the ones who are “Most hated by the dark, for their name was light.” (I love those books, but Kay takes himself very, very seriously.)

    Also, in terms of sheer interesting-ness, there’s Brandin of Ygrath from Tigana, also by G.G. Kay. Does a whole bunch of nasty stuff but he’s given a believable motivation and a sort-of-but-not-really redemption arc, plus if Dianora likes him he can’t be all bad.

    Also, the Regents in Katherine Kurtz’s Camber series. There are parts of Camber the Heretic I still can’t read.