Are There Any Good Books Where The Role Of Protagonist Is Played By A Villain?
Posted on 12th of October, 2018


I can't believe that nobody has mentioned it yet, but the quintessential book written from the perspective of a villain is American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. I suppose that basically any book that is written from the perspective of a villain would qualify, but to me Patrick Bateman is one of the most chilling leads ever in a book. Just the cold blooded way in which he narrates the book and talks about moving in the wealthy circles of the New York elite during the day before indulging in some murder at night is extremely disturbing. As the book progresses, the crimes that Bateman commits also becomes worse. I would say that anyone who reads this book and sees the protagonist as anything but a villain is someone who you should watch closely around your sharp kitchen knives. The only other one that I can think of would be the old Frankenstein book by Mary Shelley. As far as I can remember the book is written from multiple viewpoints. Whether you consider Victor Frankenstein, or his creature to be the villain is up to you of course.
Now this is a really interesting question and honestly not the type of thing that I have ever actually given a thought when choosing a book. If the book sounds interesting, I would read it regardless of whether or not the protagonist is evil. In fact, now that I think about it, a villain protagonist could actually make the story better because of how unique it is. Since I haven't read that many books from this type of perspective, the only one that I can really think of is the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin. I don't think there are any one character in the books that could be highlighted as the protagonist as the author continually switches the viewpoint between characters. Some of these characters are good, some are neutral and some are downright villains. It is one of the things that has made the books, and now the television show, so good.
It is rather interesting how we have all been conditioned to think that the protagonist of a story is always a hero, and will in almost all cases prevail over whatever adversity it is that they are facing. It takes a brave hero to write stories about morally ambiguous heroes and even more so to make the protagonist of your tale an outright villain. It always comes with the risk of alienating or even outright disgusting your readers, which is why few authors risk straying off the well beaten path. If you would like to take a walk on the dark side, these are my recommendations for books that foregoes the typical lilly-white heroes for someone a little darker.

- Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov ~ This is perhaps one of the most well-known and controversial books ever written from the perspective of a villain. Not only is a middle-aged literature professor, but he also becomes interested in a 12-year old girl in a very unsavory manner. It progresses to the point where he even becomes the stepfather of the girl just so that he can become involved with her. The whole book is narrated by the villain and reading about his obsession is quite jarring. Nevertheless, it is a very good book even if the subject matter is rather uncomfortable.

- Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky ~ Some would call Rodion Raskolnikov, the protagonist of Crime and Punishment, an anti-hero, but in my eyes he is a total villain. While he may believe that his motives are "pure", he still ends up killing people for his own selfish needs. Even the fact that he shows remorse for his deeds and feels the urge to confess doesn't make him a hero.

- The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde ~ Dorian Gray is an interesting example of villain protagonist simply because the protagonist doesn't start out as evil. It's a very familiar story, but in recap, it's about a young man who trades his soul in return for a painting of him aging instead of his body. He then goes on to pursue a hedonistic lifestyle that results in him causing people to commit suicide, killing people in anger and blackmailing others. He does eventually repent for his crimes in a way, but he is still a villain for most of the book.

- The Broken Empire Trilogy by Mark Lawrence ~ Just to prove that I do read a couple of more recent books, I would include the Broken Empire Trilogy by Mark Lawrence. The protagonist, Jorg Ancrath, does a couple of things that would make even serious villains flinch. The fact that he is a very damaged individual due to some of the traumas that he faces explains a lot of his actions, but it is at times very hard to root for a character that sinks to the depths that he does. Due to the fact that he isn't completely irredeemable, he could be considered an anti-hero instead of outright villain, but I think the families and friends of the people who he has murdered in cold blood might be inclined to strongly disagree.

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Kate Avery Ellison - Adventure in a Frozen Fantasy World
FEATURED AUTHOR - Kate Avery Ellison loves rainy days, masquerade balls, and stories with unexpected and shocking twists. She is the author of more than 30 books, including the bestselling Frost Chronicles, the source material for Frost by Delight Games. She wishes she could live in a world of perpetual October, but for now, she makes her home in Atlanta with her husband, children, and cats.  As our Author of the Day, Ellison tells us all about Frost, the book that kick started the Frost Chronicles. Please give… Read more