Sometimes you’re just not in the mood to read about the farm boy turned chosen one. Sometimes the idea of a Hero’s Journey bores you to tears. Thankfully, not all genre fiction is quite so black and white, with good triumphing over evil. If you’re in the mood for a book with more shades of gray, we have a list of villains you’ll absolutely love to root for:
Vicious by V. E. Schwab
Everybody loves a good supervillain, and Victor Vale certainly seems to fit the bill. Ten years after a terrible accident tore Victor and his best friend Eli apart, Victor is out of prison and out for revenge. But while the world sees Eli as a virtuous hero and Victor as his dangerous nemesis, the truth is that things might not be so clear cut. If you’re a fan of moral ambiguity and villains who just might be a little right, you’ll love Victor.
Not Your Villain by C.B. Lee
Bells Broussard always assumed he was going to be a hero…until he discovered a massive cover-up by the Heroes’ League of Heroes, and suddenly he and his friends are being framed as villains. Sometimes doing the right thing is just plain stupid, and Bells is the perfect example of that. He wants to save the world, but in the second book in C. B. Lee’s Sidekick Squad series, Bells realizes that the only way to do that might be to do some evil first. Can you do right by doing wrong? Bells and his friends will find out!
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
Was the Wicked Witch of the West really wicked, or was she just misunderstood? We all know Dorothy’s side of the story from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but now we know Elphaba’s story too. Maguire’s novel portrays the famous Wicked Witch of the West as a smart and prickly girl whose life is one of tragedy and horror. Every story has two sides, and now that we’ve read Elphaba’s, we kind of agree with the sentiment behind “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too!”
A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin
There are no men in all of Westeros who are as revered and reviled as Jaime Lannister. If history is told by the winners, you’d think the Lannisters’ publicity team would do a better job spinning Jaime’s much-maligned murder of the Mad King Aerys Targaryen as an act of heroism to protect King’s Landing from a wildfire explosion. But, alas, Jaime is forever known as The Kingslayer and few trust his vows, even when he tries to be good. The fact that readers still root for Jaime after he pushed an eight-year-old out of a window is a testament to Martin’s skill at creating complex, compelling characters. If Brienne believes in Jaime, then so do we.
Trouble on Triton by Samuel R. Delany
Okay, so Bron Helstrom isn’t exactly a villain. But in Delany’s 1976 meditation on utopia, Bron’s definitely not a good guy, either. In fact, he’s incredibly self-absorbed, with little care for the feelings or experiences of those around him. He’s constantly dissatisfied, even though he lives on a world where everything he wants is available to him. As Bron becomes involved in a disastrous relationship with the brilliant Spike, you can’t help rooting for things to turn out alright—even though you know there’s no way that’s going to happen.
I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells
Much like Dexter Morgan before him, teenage sociopath John Cleaver finds a different outlet for his disturbing homicidal urges: demon hunting. Is John delusional, or is he evil? Or is his neighbor really a supernatural creature of the worst kind? It’s a battle between inner demons and actual demons in this series from Dan Wells, and readers are forced to side with a character who would be a villain in any other book.
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
If it’s at all possible to love a demon, we love Crowley. Originally Crawly, the serpent who tempted Eve with the apple, the evolved Crowley knows how to mix and mingle with humanity—and how to tempt them to do evil. He’s an agent of evil, with one exception: he doesn’t actually want the world to end. As heaven and hell gear up for the end times in Pratchett and Gaiman’s masterful team-up Good Omens, Crowley proves that even villains can have depth. He and his counterpart, the angel Aziraphale, will do their damndest to keep the world running smoothly.