Villains can really make or break a novel – a believable villain builds upon the plot and the atmosphere, but an unbelievable or powerless villain makes the whole thing seem artificial or irrelevant or both. Based on That Artsy Reader Girl‘s Top 10 Tuesday prompt, here are 10 of the creepiest villains from some of my favorite books.
Spoiler Alert: I tried and really couldn’t write this article without a few spoilers. The things that are in here are vague and there isn’t anything from the very ending, but feel free to skip this one if you’d like.
1. The Outsider from The Outsider by Stephen King
The Outsider is a fantastic example of a character that manages to be inhuman and utterly repulsive and still manage to be frightening because of his humanity. The thing that makes the Outsider so scary is his ability to justify any means for his own survival – and his stubborn blindness to his own behavior.
2. Astrid and Athos Dane from A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Essentially a reversal of the Outsider, Astrid and Athos are so terrifying because they are human but because of their own abuses of magic they have almost entirely destroyed their humanity, in every way from their powers to their personal justifications to their ruthlessness.
3. Mother from Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace
I think Mother’s title and the role she plays has a good deal to do with her creepiness – rather than being a safe, loving figure, Mother’s hunger strips others of their life force. The fact that the cult calls her a mother just shows the dementedness of her actions and their own beliefs.
4. The god from The God in the Shed by J-F Dubeau
The god in The God in the Shed has a lot in common with the Outsider – a monster can be dismissed as monstrous and inhuman, but it is the god’s humanity, eloquence, and convictions that makes his actions so terrifying.
5. The Orphans from Fate of the Tierling by Erika Johansen
There is a reason why so many horror novels depend on children for their creep factor – children by nature are supposed to be helpless and innocent, and any perversion of that is disturbing. The orphans are creepy because they are the exact opposite of that – strong, ruthless, and bloodthirsty.
6. Ash from The Damned by Andrew Pyper
Ash made an incredible villain in The Damned because she was not only unstoppable, but her story was deeply tragic, and could even be considered a hero in some ways, but that heroism was not enough to save her from her fate.
7. Sadie from Little Girls by Ronald Malfi
Like Ash from The Damned, I loved Sadie so much as a villain mostly because I was sympathetic to her story, but still was able to hope she would fail because her actions were so evil. Sadie made an excellent ghost, hidden and often unpredictable.
8. The Sorceress from Everless by Sara Holland
I have to admit to some reservations about the sorceress as a villain at the start of Everless, but without spoiling too much, let me say that by the end, she easily became my favorite thing about the book. She is resourceful and clever and surprises you, and the things that make her amazing also make her so creepy – you can never quite trust what the book is telling you.
9. The House from The Shining by Stephen King
Any observations I make about The Shining won’t exactly be news – this book has been discussed again and again. The action that happens with the house also isn’t exactly surprising, but it is still effective and majorly creepy because the characters have so little control over the action – the house has all the power, isn’t afraid to use it, and so much of what happens throughout the book feels inevitable. It’s that lack of control that makes the book such a classic horror, still worth a read over forty years after its publication.
10. The Grayers from Slade House by David Mitchell
I love love love the Grayers because they are so inhuman in their powers but their desperation for life, regardless of who they have to sacrifice to remain alive, represents the worst that mankind can be. I think the thing that makes the Grayers so creepy is the way that their will to live speaks to me – I’d like to think that I would never sacrifice someone else to keep myself alive, but I do at least recognize that love of life within myself.