Here Are Bookstr’s Favorite Powerful Bookish Female Villains

Female villains are great, but which are the best? I asked the Bookstr team, and they didn’t disappoint!

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Jeanine Matthews from 'Divergent' looking off camera with a smirk.

Female villains, when written well, are some of the best characters in all literature. They’re complex, compelling, and evil, but also understandable since there’s usually a reason why they are the way they are. They’ve been underutilized for so long, but they’re finally getting the attention they deserve.

But because there are so many, it’s hard to pick only a few! Luckily the Bookstr team helped me out. Here are their favorite bookish female villains!

Morgan Le Fay from King Arthur Retellings

'Morgan is My Name' by Sophie Keetch book cover showing a pair of hands gesturing to a sword.

It doesn’t matter what the retelling is; I absolutely love to read about Morgan Le Fay. Originally, she appeared as Arthur’s sister and was a powerful enchantress. I think I love her so much because, while I don’t believe King Arthur is a real person, I believe he was based on the ideals of a Celtic king(s) and that Morgana was the same. She would have been a powerful, outspoken woman of her time, and that overt diversion from the social norm is what crucified her throughout literature. The more hate she gets, the more I love her. If you want a feminist retelling from her perspective, try Morgan Is My Name by Sophie Keetch.

Kristi Eskew, Editorial

Clarisse La Rue from Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan

A copy of 'Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief'.

Clarisse is first introduced in The Lightning Thief as an antagonist, bullying Percy by shoving his head in the toilet. However, what I love about her is her character arc throughout the series. Though she never loses her hot-headed, combative nature, Clarisse becomes more of an ally to Percy, Annabeth, and Grover over time. Percy and Clarisse never become the best of friends, but he eventually learns to appreciate her impenetrable bravery and leadership skills; plus, Clarisse’s combat abilities get Percy out of trouble on more than one occasion. I love a good villain redemption arc, so Clarisse’s character evolution is super satisfying to me.

Lauren Nee, Editorial

Queen Levana from The Lunar Chronicles / Fairest by Marissa Meyer

'Fairest' by Marissa Meyer book cover showing a woman sitting in front of a mirror with her face covered by a veil, with another woman in the mirror.

I think what’s so fascinating about Levana is that it’s easy to sympathize with her. She was the spare to the heir and usually overlooked in contrast to her older sister, who often bullied her and reminded her of how ugly she was after the “accident.” And she saw how cruel and power-hungry her parents and sister had been towards their people and genuinely wanted to improve life for them. But her raising had embedded in her the idea that some cruelty was needed to get things done. She killed her niece to make sure her older sister wouldn’t live on and manipulated people to get things done. Was she the greatest woman? Nope. But her belief that this level of cruelty was justified for the greater cause is what makes her so fascinating.

Ashley Lewis, Editorial and Social

Queen Razel from The Storm Crow by Kalyn Josephson

'The Storm Crow' by Kalyn Josephson book cover showing Thia covered by crows.

Is she horrible, and was I glad when she died? Yes. But do I think she was a great villain, and she was written well — perhaps because she was written by a woman. Her motive for her cruelty and intense bloodshed was to avenge her family, who were brutally murdered in front of her when she was a child. I think she wanted to do right by her kingdom and her son, but she didn’t know how to be kind or to build relationships with others, so she resorted to her kingdom’s usual bloodshed and aggressiveness. None of this excuses the atrocities she committed, of course — she invaded and destroyed kingdoms, ripped families apart, and had a murder list a mile long. I would hate her in real life. But as a fictional villain, she’s wonderful.

Danielle Tomlinson, Editorial

Jeanine Matthews from Divergent by Veronica Roth

'Divergent' by Veronica Roth book cover showing what looks like a fire eyeball above a city.

When I think of a female villain, I think of Jeanine. She was a worthy adversary and most definitely cold-blooded. She started a war and killed off many innocent people just because she didn’t want the factions to change, and she wanted to be in charge. Not to mention, she pits Caleb against his own sister, Tris, and I think any villain who does something like that is horrible and a well-written character. I absolutely loathed her throughout the book series, and maybe that’s why she’s such a great character. I just wanted to reach into the pages and strangle her to death.

Alexandra Mellott, Editorial

That’s a wrap on our favorite bookish female evil-doers. Hopefully, we’ve inspired you to pick up a book with a powerful female villain!

For another article on female villains, click here.

Browse Bookstr Team’s Recommendations on Bookstr’s Bookshop page!