So today, Melissa wanted me to write something about villains in urban fantasy. My heroine Gin Blanco is getting ready to go toe-to-toe with her nemesis Mab Monroe in Spider’s Revenge, the fifth book in my Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series that will be released on Sept. 27.
For those of you who haven’t read the series, Mab used her Fire elemental magic to kill Gin’s mother and older sister when Gin was thirteen. Mab also tortured Gin and wanted to kill Gin’s younger sister Bria as well. So Mab is definitely not a nice person.
So what makes a good villain in urban fantasy? Here are some characteristics that I think make for entertaining villains in any genre:
1) They have to be, well, evil: Your villain doesn’t have to be bathing in blood on every single page, but she definitely has to be evil. Maybe she killed someone close to the heroine, or wants to take over the heroine’s business, or simply wants to crush everyone who dares to stand up to her. Whatever it is, your villain should be ready, willing, and able to do whatever she has to in order to achieve her goals – no matter how evil or underhanded it is.
2) They have to be a threat to your heroine: You want your villain to be more than a match for your heroine. In urban fantasy, that usually means that the villain has a magic/power that is the equal to or even greater than the heroine’s – like Mab’s Fire magic versus Gin’s Ice and Stone power. Not to mention all the folks who work for Mab and are trying to find out who Gin really is. Whether your villain is a single operator or has dozens of minions at her disposal, she has to threaten your heroine in some way – whether it’s physically, emotionally, or even financially.
3) They have to be cool and charismatic: To me, some of the most interesting and entertaining villains in urban fantasy (and beyond) are the ones who are the most charismatic – the ones you want to read about and watch just to see what they’ll do next, no matter how terrible it is or how much it hurts your heroine. One of the best examples that I can think of is Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He was such a cool character that you almost didn’t want Buffy to defeat him.
4) They have to be powerful: In urban fantasy, most of the villains have some sort of magic/power that makes them especially dangerous. But magic isn’t the only power out there. Maybe a villain is so wealthy that she can buy whatever and whomever she wants. Maybe she’s an exceptionally good liar who has everyone fooled but the heroine. No matter what it is, the villain has to have some sort of power that she uses for her own evil purposes – one that she relishes using to achieve her goals.
5) They have to take your heroine to the brink – and beyond: A good villain is one that could realistically win at the end of the story. No matter how strong your heroine is, you want her to have to give 110 percent to defeat the villain – and even then the outcome isn’t certain. When I’m reading a book or watching a movie or TV show, I know that the heroine will probably triumph in the end – but I want the journey to be as exciting as possible. Those are the kind of books that I like to read, and that’s what I try to write in my books as well.
So there you have it – some qualities that I think make a good villain.
What about you guys? Who are some of your favorite villains and books in urban fantasy and beyond?
USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Estep writes the Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series for Pocket Books. The books focus on Gin Blanco, an assassin codenamed the Spider who can control the elements of Ice and Stone. When she’s not busy killing people and righting wrongs, Gin runs a barbecue restaurant called the Pork Pit in the fictional Southern metropolis of Ashland. The city is also home to giants, dwarves, vampires, and elementals – Air, Fire, Ice, and Stone. Books in the series are Spider’s Bite, Web of Lies, Venom, and Tangled Threads.
Jennifer also writes the Mythos Academy young adult urban fantasy series for Kensington. Touch of Frost, the first book in the series, was released in August. First Frost, a prequel e-story to the series, is available as a 99-cent download. Kiss of Frost, the second book, will be released Nov. 29.
For more information, excerpts, and more, visit Jennifer’s website at www.jenniferestep.com.
Jennifer, thanks for coming by the blog! I love a good vilain. Makes the heroine so much more... well... heroic! :D So, would you like to have even more fun? Well...
Jennifer is giving away one signed book to a winner! Squee! All you have to do is fill out the rafflecopter form and leave a comment! Answer Jen's question or ask one. I will end the giveaway on the 29th. Giveaway is US only. Good luck!
Well, I have to go with Voldemort. A truly epic villain. I can't really come up with one for urban fantasy. I need to read some more!ReplyDelete
Vivien -- Voldemort is definitely a villain.ReplyDelete
Yes Voldermort, I will think about it now...lisapeters at yahoo dot com thanks Lisa bookhimdanno.blogspot.comReplyDelete
(not entering) as I have Finn on pre-order---what I love him :)ReplyDelete
Best Villain: There are some great ones in literature and to narrow it down would be hard. In UF, outside the Elemental Assassins series, I would go with "won't say" from Carolyn Crane's series. I won't say because it would be a spoiler. In PNR, I would go with the Witch Hunters in Regan Hasting's new series :) In general fiction, Randall Flag from The Stand by Stephen King. I love my villains.
My favorite from this series: Elektra LaFleur has been my favorite so far! She was a good yin/yang with Gin. I loved their back and forths!
I wouldn't say I have a favorite villain but I do love a book that has a lot of conflict in it. It makes me want to read it even late into the night.ReplyDelete
Thanks for the giveaway.
mary_reiss @ hotmail.com
I've heard great things about this series. I've been wanting to read it. I think a truly good bad villain is close to the persons who they are tormenting. Not UF, but the best and creative villain I've read was the guy in The Lost Symbol (I can't spell the name the character uses).ReplyDelete
Lisa -- I agree.ReplyDelete
Felicia -- Thanks! I appreciate all the nice words about my books. I had a lot of fun writing Elektra.
Mary -- Me too. I also like a lot of action/fight scenes to keep me turning the pages.
Julie -- Thanks! Hope you get a chance to check out the series.
Love your series!!!! I'm been following your blog tour, kinda feel a little stalkerish, but all for a good cause right? *ahem*ReplyDelete
I whole heartedly agree w/ Spike. He was such a fabulous villian, that I was almost disappointed when they made him an ally.
Another, new and recent villian that I've fallen in love w/ is Pope from Fallen Skies. he's equal parts cool and witty and he is very unpredictable :)
Thanks for the great post and giveaway!
GFC ~ erin
I love you Jennifer! You are an awesome writer!ReplyDelete
My favorite villain of all time is definitely sexy Spike from Buffy, although I do love the comment above naming Pope from Falling Skies!ReplyDelete
Yay Jennifer! I just adore her books:) Couldn't agree more on the villain being charismatic point, those are the ones I always love to hate the most. And Spike? Adored him:)ReplyDelete
Great guest post! Very insightful!ReplyDelete
Love Jennifer Estep's novels! Am I gushing?
I'd love to win this one!
I was recently chatting with Lisa Kessler about villains for a guestspot on my blog! Loves me some villainy.ReplyDelete
I dunno if I think the villain has to actually be evil so much as do evil things. I'm a fan of the villain that has the potential for redemption. Ya know... the Darth Vader types. *facepalm* I know that sounds ridiculous but I think a great villain has more than one dimension.
Spike is a great example Jennifer! One of my fave villains ever.
That said I really need to read your books damnit. I think I literally have most of this series just sitting here amidst a sea of TBR books. lol Ahh the life of a blogger. Too many books, so little time. ;)
Thanks for the great post and giveaway! And thanks for the invite Melissa!
Hmm not sure I truly have favorite villains. I do love some bad guy (or girl) action though - from the sneaky and slightly sinister to the all out dubious and heartless. Can't wait to see what happens with Mab.ReplyDelete
Have to say I am loving the Spider series. Gin is one of my fav UF heroines.
pams00 @ aol.com
Some of my favorite villains are voldermort, bellatrix, and Mab. There aren't that many other villians that really stick out in books besides those that I've mention.ReplyDelete
Can't wait to read Spider's Revenge!
Erin -- Thanks! I appreciate that. I haven't watched Falling Skies. I may have to check that out.ReplyDelete
Savannah -- Thanks! Glad you are enjoying my books.
Julie -- I like Spike too.
Jenny -- Thanks! I appreciate that, and I like Spike too.
MK -- Thanks! Glad you are enjoying the books.
Rhianna -- I like Spike a lot too, and he's one of those villains who was redeemed but is still a bit of a bad boy too.
Pam -- Thanks! I appreciate the nice words about the books.
Van -- Thanks! Hope you enjoy Spider's Revenge.
I'm so dying to read this series!!! I'm like the only chick ever that has yet to start!!!ReplyDelete
Bookish Brunette -- Cool. Hope you get a chance to check out the books.ReplyDelete
Hm, I do not know, there are so many awesome ones :DReplyDelete
Oh no my brain is totally empty too when it is late here..ohh I like the big bad guy in the Kate Daniel books :D
Blodeuedd -- There are a lot of great villains out there. It's hard to pick just a few.ReplyDelete
I love the Elemental Assassin series and I can't wait to read Spider's Revenge. I think one of the most frightening villains is Mab Monroe, and I also was freaked out by the fairies in Dead and Gone from the Sookie Stackhouse series, they were vicious and horribly evil. My favorite movie villain is Darth Vader.ReplyDelete
Barbara -- Thanks! I appreciate the nice words about the books, and I hope you enjoy Spider's Revenge. I agree that Darth Vader is a really great villain.ReplyDelete
I’ll go with Sauron – evil incarnate, seeming invincible, and the fact that he stays “off-screen” for so long heightens the reader’s fear of him. Nothing’s scarier than someone who’s seemingly everywhere yet never seen.ReplyDelete
And It by Stephen King – Pennywise. Clowns – John Wayne Gacy. **shudders**
My favorite villain right now is Trent Kallamack from the Hollows series. But someone wrote Voldamort up above and that's another good one. I love the Elemental Assassins series and Mab is a freaky villain, she seems impossible to kill, so I'm very excited to see her go down.ReplyDelete
Voldemort is a really scary villain. I remember cringing from several of his scenes (especially the ones with the horrible snake, Nagini) while I was reading the Harry Potter books when I was younger.ReplyDelete
Truly looking forward to reading Spider's Revenge! Go, Gin!!
I don't think I have a favorite villain. Hmm I guess I'll just say lord Voldermort. I seriously can't think of many others that stuck with me as much as he did.ReplyDelete
I can't wait to meet your villain!ReplyDelete
I like a villain you can truly hate, like one that yu thought was aa friend and then they betrayed you or one that is just so creepy and evil he/she sends shivers down your spine. One of my favorites in Urban Fantasy would be Sebastian from the Mortal Instruments series. (I know mos people would go with Valentine, but I think Sebastian is creepier.)
Thank you for the chance!
So many villains that I enjoy. In books I am fond of Belle Morte in the Anita Blake series. In TV I will always love Spike from Buffy.ReplyDelete
Yes! There is so much more to a good villain than meets the eye. I liked that point about how the villain will push the heroine to the brink and beyond. So true!
Thanks for the guest post and giveaway! :)
The phantom from phantom of the opera...I keep hoping they will rewrite him a happy ending.ReplyDelete
Ok best book full of villains that you just will love and love to hate = Villains Victorious. One of my favorite fantasy anthologies ever - if you haven't read it - do it! Chalk full of the best villains!! No way I can pick a favorite! They are such a huge part of what makes up each good story!ReplyDelete
Love the series. Congrats on the new release!!
Favorite villains are are hard, you really dislike most one that immediately comes to my mind is Belle Morte from the Anita Blake series - she just does not go away LOL I really enjoy a hart hitting, rough and tumble UF series and would love to read this one. Thank you for sharing with us today and for the awesome giveaway opportunity.ReplyDelete
Stephanie -- Being off-screen makes Sauron seem even scarier in some ways.ReplyDelete
Stephjx -- Thanks! Glad you are enjoying Mab as the villain. I think Trent from the Hollows is another good villain too.
Amy -- Thanks! Hope you enjoy Spider's Revenge.
Breezy1323 -- Voldemort is a good, creepy, evil villain.
Lieder -- Thanks! Hope you enjoy the book. I keep meaning to try the Mortal Instruments series.
Sablelexi -- I always liked Spike too.
Missie -- Thanks! I really like villains who can go toe-to-toe with the heroine.
Nikki -- I hadn't thought of him.
Pabkins -- That sounds like a really cool book. Another one to add to the TBR pile.
Donna -- Thanks! I appreciate that. Hope you enjoy the book.
Denise -- Thanks! Hope you get a chance to check out the series.
I think this series sounds great! I have not read it yet, but am looking forward to reading it when I have some time available. Going to school full time as well as taking care of 3 kids doesn't leave you a lot of time. I do love reading, and eventually I will get to reading this series. I would love to win a copy of this book. Good luck everyone! Thanks for having this contest@ReplyDelete
I havent read the series yet but I would like to. I heard good things about it. My favorite Villians are Spike from Buffy and the Voultouri from Twilight. Please enter me in contest. Tore923@aol.comReplyDelete
Jennifer -- Thanks! Hope you get a chance to check out the books. I know what you mean. Too many books, too little time.ReplyDelete
Tore -- Thanks! Hope you get a chance to check out the series.
This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyDelete
My favorite Antagonists are the ones trying to do the right thing. Such as Murphy from Fool Moon (book two of the Dresden Files) Also I love the villans from Fate/Stay Night (the visual novel) because they are all redeemed in the eyes of the reader (except for Shinji) right before they die.ReplyDelete
Gavin -- I like the Dresden Files series. I need to get caught up on the books.ReplyDelete
One of my favorite 'villains' is Dorian from Richelle Mead's Dark Swan series. He's a villain, now he's not, now he is again, now he's just being an ass... But he is written with such charisma that it frustrates me that I still love him even when I hate him. And that is an amazing accomplishment in writing in my humble opinion.ReplyDelete
Bethany -- He sounds like an interesting villain. Sometimes, the villains you love to hate -- or hate to love -- can be the most entertaining.ReplyDelete
I've got BDB on the brain right now so I'm going to say the omega and his lessers. Not a bunch I would want to run into.
I've always been fascinated by Trent from Kim Harrison's Hollows series. I can't decide whether I love him or hate him. One second he's awesome the next he does something reprehensible. It makes it hard to figure him out sometimes.ReplyDelete
whitewolfreads AT gmail DOT com
I'm at a loss to come up with a villian that I don't hate completely. But I haven't read your series yet. I do have the first book on my Kindle and it's first up as soon as I get through a few more review books because I hear how awesome it is everywhere I go in the blogosphere!ReplyDelete
I love this series! Gin is so great and I can't wait for her to kick Mab's butt!ReplyDelete
The villain that popped into my head is Voldemort. There was nothing redeemable about him and that made him pretty scary.
Voldemort is a great villain. Scary yet has his weakness too.ReplyDelete
My fav villian would be Trent from Kim Harrison series. Thanks for the chance.ReplyDelete
I love the Elemental Assassin's books! And after reading the Mab POV short story, it sounds like Gin is going to be in real trouble in this book. Can't wait to read it.ReplyDelete
Paranormal Haven -- The Omega is a good villain too.ReplyDelete
Whitewolf -- Trent is definitely an interesting villain.
Crystal -- Cool. Hope you get a chance to check out the books soon. And I know what you mean. Too many books, too little time.
Mare -- Thanks! Glad you are enjoying the series, and I hope you like SPIDER'S REVENGE.
Joyce -- Voldemort is a good villain.
Vanessa -- Trent is a good villain too.
Athlios -- Thanks! Glad you liked the short story, and I hope you enjoy SPIDER'S REVENGE too.
I love a good villian. It makes a story more exciting. I think some great villians are Lord Voldemort, Trent from Kim Harrison's the Hallows series, Belle Morte from Laurell K Hamilton's Anita Blake series, and Queen Anadis from Meredith Gentry series. I love to read and Jennifer is a new author for me and would love to win and read her book.ReplyDelete
Thanks for the giveaway and the chance to win.
Oh again a wonderful post! :) Thank you Jen. My favorite villian.... hmmm. I think I'd have to say Grandma from Jay Wells' Sabina Kane series. She is sooo the evil grandma and I love to hate her. lol. Thank you again!ReplyDelete
Voldemort, Malfoy & Bellatrix are awful. Saruman in Lord of the Rings. Buddy/Syndrome in The Incredibles.ReplyDelete
I like number three. To me, some of my favorite villains are the ones that you almost want to like but they are so evil that you can't. With Mab, she's not stupid, she's a genius and she's gorgeous, but she is like Satan in satin with pendant. It makes her more interesting. No one wants to fully understand their villain...I love me some complication.ReplyDelete
Chrisbails -- Thanks! Hope you get a chance to check out the series.ReplyDelete
Melissa -- Thanks! Glad you liked the post.
Wade -- I forgot about Buddy in The Incredibles, but he's a good villain too.
Jen -- Thanks! Glad you are enjoying Mab and her villainous ways.
Well one of my favorite villians recently would have to be Graeme from the Jane True Novels by Nicole Peeler. And when I say favorite I mean hate with a burning passion, that's what I want from my villians! He is so creepy and that fact that he looked so sweet and innocent makes it worst. Jarl and Morrigan from the same novels run a close second!ReplyDelete
great giveaway...looks like a great book and I would love to read it.ReplyDelete
Shannon S. --- calitigerlilly@yahoo.COM
Hi Jennifer. Thank you ever so much for this awesome guest-post. I would love the chance to read your book. It looks and sounds amazing. :) I guess I would say one of my fave villains is "The Eye" from the Hex Hall series.ReplyDelete
I love Cruce from the Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning, he walks that villain line, he's bad, it's unclear how bad he really is... Great guest post, great villains make for great stories! Thanks for the contest! Book Savvy BabeReplyDelete
Smiley Girlie -- Those sound like cool villains.ReplyDelete
Shannon -- Thanks! Hope you get a chance to check out the series.
Beckie -- Thanks! Hope you get a chance to check out the series.
Book Savvy Babe -- Thanks! Glad you liked the post.
Thanks for donating a book for this give away. I would have to say my all time favorite bad guy is a classic. Prof. Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes.
I love the series and am already enjoying the new one also.
NoraAdrienne (at) gmail (dot) com
I can't think of a favorite bad guy but I do know that I like one that has redeemable qualities. I've read stories where I hate a character because of the way he treats people then I read his story and learn more about him and love him.ReplyDelete