I have read YA fantasy for many years, and it is by far my favorite genre. The magic, the worldbuilding, the beautiful storylines—all of it has inspired and amazed me for much of my life. As with any story, though, all heroes must have a villain. There are certainly a lot of evil characters and jerks in fantasy. Some of these characters are jerks that can be redeemed; others are heartless and irredeemable.
As you read on, I’ve gathered a list of ten characters from different YA fantasies I have enjoyed. Now, this is by no means an exhaustive list. So be sure to tell us who you would have added!
Reader Alert: there will be spoilers.
10. Vidia, Tales From Pixie Hollow Series
There are 11 books in this series, most of which are sold separately or in several box sets. In many of these books, Vidia is an antagonist, as she also is in the first Tinkerbell movie. She would often mock other fairies and try to hit their insecurities, and in the movie, she purposely set Tinkerbell up for failure just because she could.
Vidia does redeem herself in Tinkerbell and the Great Fairy Rescue when she helps save Tinkerbell. There are no apparent reasons for her behavior other than that was just who she was. But she does express remorse and changes to a kinder person (though still with a sharp tongue). She is definitely more of a jerk than an evil character.
9. Edmund Pevensie, The Chronicles of Narnia Series
Okay, this is really only talking about Edmund in the first half of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Due to bad experiences at boarding school before the book started, his personality changed, and he became rude and demeaning. He mocked and ridiculed his little sister Lucy for believing in Narnia, lied that he never saw Narnia even after his first visit, and became angry after he was called out on his lie. This encouraged him to join the White Witch, whom he had met previously.
Edmund does come around later in the book. He realized his mistakes and apologized, working toward forgiveness. He does redeem himself in the end, and he changes for the better throughout the book. It is also important to note that he is a ten-year-old child. He didn’t understand the gravity of his actions. For these reasons, he is a jerk, but he is not evil.
8. Queen Camille, Three Dark Crowns Series
Queen Camille was only mentioned in Three Dark Crowns and had a section in Queens of Fennbirn. When her triplet daughters—Mirabella, Katharine, and Arsinoe—were born, she purposely told the wrong gifts for Katharine and Arsinoe. Katharine was born a naturalist and Arsinoe a poisoner; however, she sent Katharine to the poisoners and Arsinoe to the naturalists. Queen Camille did this because poisoner queens—like herself—got weaker over time. She also did it to get revenge on the Arrons, the leading family of poisoners who trained every poisoner queen. They treated her horribly when she was growing up, and she refused to give them another poisoner queen.
What makes Queen Camille a jerk was that she knew the abuse and terror Katharine would endure. The Arrons were horrible to her, a poisoner; they were worse to Katharine, who never could live up to expectations because she was not, in fact, a poisoner. The system was horrible to begin with—triplet sisters, each with their own gift, had to fight to the death to become queen. But Queen Camille gave Mirabaella, an Elementalist and the only one who was trained in her actual gift, an unfair advantage.
7. Queen Ivi, Fairest
Queen Ivi only cared about maintaining her beauty and being popular. When her husband, King Oscaro, was badly injured, all she worried about was that nobody would love her anymore. She was power-hungry and horrible to the protagonist Aza, whom she had already blackmailed to sing for her. She took over as ruler despite being queen consort. She forced unwanted changes and oppressed people who dared to go against her. Ivi was infuriated when Aza drank a beauty potion and became more beautiful than her, and she ordered Aza’s execution. When Aza escaped, Ivi followed her and gave her a poisoned apple while in disguise, nearly killing Aza.
Ivi got her beauty from Skulni, a being that lives in a mirror. He is destroyed in the end, which also takes away Ivi’s beauty, though she is still said to be pretty. Skulni manipulated Ivi for his own gain by preying on her insecurities and giving bad advice. However, Ivi was still a selfish, shallow, power-hungry person. She teeters the line between evil and jerk; perhaps calling her a jerk who committed many evil actions would be suitable.
6. King Haggard, The Last Unicorn
King Haggard kidnapped all the unicorns in the land save for one. He did this because unicorns’ beauty was the only thing that brought him any form of joy. Nothing else, even things that brought most people joy, worked for him. So, he used one of his minions to chase unicorns into the ocean near his castle. This way, he could look at them drifting in the ocean whenever he wanted. The unicorns managed to escape in the end, thanks to the last unicorn and her allies. Haggard and his castle fell into the ocean.
Haggard is a bit complicated in this regard because his actions were evil, and he is a horribly selfish, uncaring person—but does that make him an evil character? There is no doubt that he got what he deserved in the end, and kidnapping unicorns for his own pleasure is deplorable. He seems closer to evil than a jerk, but I can’t comfortably denounce him as evil. He is an evil-minded jerk with evil intentions.
5. Prince Humperdinck, The Princess Bride
Prince Humperdinck just wanted war. When looking for a bride—after breaking off his engagement with the princess of Guilder because she was bald—his sole criteria was that she had to be beautiful. Outside of vanity, it’s hard to imagine why that was his criteria since he was planning to kill her in the end. He wanted to kill Buttercup, his intended bride, and blame her death on Guilder so he could declare war. He was also shown to have little regard for life, both human and animal alike. When Westley got in his way, Prince Humperdinck tried to have him killed.
Humperdinck was no doubt a jerk and an evil person. He was unfit to rule, which he luckily didn’t get the chance to do. He wanted to use his position for his own selfish desires rather than for the betterment of his kingdom and people. Not to mention his selfish and conniving nature, his disrespect toward Buttercup, and his ease with lying and manipulation if it furthered his desires. All of these factors scream evil to me.
4. Lord Vernon Lochan, Throne of Glass Series
Lord Vernon Lochan was a messed up character who first appeared in Queen of Shadows. He gleefully took the title of Lord after his brother was murdered, and he enslaved Elide, his niece and the rightful heir. When Elide severely hurt her ankle, Vernon refused to bring in a healer. This caused permanent damage to the point where she could barely walk. He authorized crude and horrific experiments on the Yellowlegs and Blueblood Witch Clans and planned to do the same to the Blackbeak Clan. Oh, and he sided with the ancient evil that was going to destroy the world.
There is not a kind bone in that man’s body. He was ruthless and cruel to the end, and power was the only thing that earned his loyalty. He had no respect for women whatsoever, seeing them as objects and/or means to an end. Vernon is a jerk and a horrible, selfish, evil one at that.
3. King Saran Olúborí, Children of Blood and Bone
King Saran Olúborí hated and feared magic. His entire family was tortured and then murdered after a magi uprising stormed the palace. As a ruler, he led raids and killed many of the Maji, then sought to oppress them in any way he could. He also discovered a way to turn off magic so none of the maji could use magic anymore. He was also a horrible father and forced his two children to spar against each other. He later captured and tortured Zélie, the protagonist, to attempt to stop her and her allies from restoring magic.
Perhaps Saran was good before his family was killed, but he certainly was evil after the fact. That was a horrifically tragic and terrible event to live through, but he took his anger and fear out on people who were entirely unrelated to the incident. He also cared more for power than love, even with his own children. He disregarded what they wanted and was ruthless in teaching them how to defend themselves. While he isn’t the evilest character on this list or in YA fantasy, his actions were deplorable.
2. Queen Razel, The Storm Crow Series
Queen Razel, leader of the Illucian Empire, was a conquerer. She took over many nearby countries and killed the royal families, then drained the countries dry. She also sought to conquer Rhodaire by attacking during a festival and killing Rhodaire’s crows, and destroying all the eggs (though it was revealed at the end that she had taken the eggs). This meant Rhosdaire had to surrender. When Thia, the protagonist, came to Illucia, Razel was unkind to her. When Razel’s son, Prince Ericen, betrayed her, Razel had no qualms about killing him.
Razel had reasons to hate Rhodaire. The late Queen Alandra, Thia’s mother, ordered attacks on Razel’s family and other Illucian families. Many died as a result. This sparked Razel’s hatred, but she knew she couldn’t take on Rhodaire with Illucia alone, so she conquered other countries. While the event was terrible, she was responsible for thousands and thousands of deaths across many countries. These people had nothing to do with her family’s death, but she mercilessly and cold-heartedly ripped families apart and killed them. She took her grief, sadness, and anger out on those around her, and those actions earned her a place here. She is no doubt evil at heart.
1. Queen Levana Blackburn, The Lunar Chronicles Series
Queen Levana Blackburn was a cruel leader. She became queen after her older sister, Queen Channary, died. She then tried to kill Channary’s young daughter, Princess Selene, because she didn’t want Selene to take the crown later on. As a Lunar, Levana could manipulate bioelectrical energy and was a constant threat to Earth. She also created a plague called letumosis and exposed her people to it (most were immune). Humans, however, were not, and letumosis killed thousands of people after Lunars “escaped” to Earth—which Levana allowed. Levana used the plague as a tool for her ambitions. She alone had the cure, made from harvesting blood from shells or Lunars who could not manipulate bioelectrical energy.
Levana was disfigured after Channary pushed her into a fire when Levana was six. She used a glamour, another Lunar ability, to hide her disfigurement, but this started everything. She originally wanted to rule better than Channary, whom she believed to be an unfit queen. However, she became corrupted with power, and her obsession with beauty became oppressive to other Lunars. She was cruel and vindictive, and she would call for executions over even slight offenses. Levana was deeply insecure because of her facial disfigurement and Channary’s bullying. But she had no right, no reason, to become such a heartless, selfish, and tyrannical ruler.
And that’s it! Whew, that was intense. YA fantasy is fantastic, but it does have some bad characters—some of whom are bone-chilling villains. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me to reread these books.
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