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Through the Eyes of Villains, 25 Best Villain Protagonist Books

Unveiling the Complexity: Dive into the Minds of Villain Protagonists with These 25 Must-Read Books

By NovelNest BooksPublished 11 months ago 9 min read

In literature, we often find ourselves rooting for the heroes, the noble and virtuous characters who fight for justice and uphold moral values. But what if we shift our perspective and explore the world through the eyes of villains? These 25 books delve into the minds of complex and captivating villain protagonists, challenging traditional notions of heroism and morality. Join us on this journey as we explore the depths of their twisted motivations, explore their multifaceted personalities, and question the boundaries between good and evil.

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1. Vicious (Villains, #1) by V.E. Schwab:

Vicious introduces us to Victor and Eli, two brilliant college students turned bitter enemies. As they unlock extraordinary abilities and embark on a path of revenge, the line between hero and villain becomes blurred. V.E. Schwab crafts a thrilling narrative filled with morally ambiguous characters, exploring themes of power, ambition, and the consequences of playing with forces beyond human comprehension.

2. Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire, #1) by Mark Lawrence:

Mark Lawrence's Prince of Thorns thrusts readers into the mind of Jorg Ancrath, a ruthless and cunning prince seeking vengeance in a brutal world. Jorg's journey is one of darkness and manipulation as he navigates a post-apocalyptic landscape, questioning the true nature of power and the lengths one can go to achieve it. This gritty and atmospheric tale challenges readers to confront their own definitions of villainy.

3. The Young Elites (The Young Elites, #1) by Marie Lu:

In The Young Elites, Marie Lu introduces Adelina Amouteru, a girl with dark powers emerging from a society plagued by prejudice and fear. As Adelina grapples with her newfound abilities, she must confront the moral dilemmas of using her powers for justice or vengeance. The Young Elites is a riveting exploration of the blurred lines between heroism and villainy, set in a vividly imagined world.

4. Fairest (The Lunar Chronicles, #3.5) by Marissa Meyer:

Marissa Meyer's Fairest delves into the backstory of Levana, the enigmatic queen of Luna. This prequel novella explores Levana's descent into villainy, revealing the events and motivations that shaped her twisted character. Meyer's captivating storytelling offers a unique perspective, inviting readers to understand the complexities of a villain's psyche.

5. Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1) by Leigh Bardugo:

Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows follows a crew of skilled criminals as they undertake a dangerous heist in the bustling city of Ketterdam. Led by Kaz Brekker, a cunning and morally ambiguous mastermind, this band of misfits challenges readers' perceptions of right and wrong. With intricate world-building, compelling characters, and morally complex decisions, Six of Crows is a masterclass in villainous protagonists.

6. Heartless by Marissa Meyer:

Marissa Meyer's Heartless presents the origin story of the Queen of Hearts from Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. In this reimagining, readers witness Catherine's transformation from a young dreamer to the notorious queen known for her fiery temperament. Heartless explores the tragic journey of a character driven to villainy by circumstances and heartbreak, leaving readers with a bittersweet understanding of the Queen of Hearts.

7. Vengeful (Villains, #2) by V.E. Schwab:

V.E. Schwab's Vengeful continues the thrilling saga of extraordinary individuals with supernatural abilities. This gripping sequel delves deeper into the intricate web of morally ambiguous characters, exploring themes of power, revenge, and the consequences of playing god. Schwab's intricate character development and engrossing plot make Vengeful a standout addition to the world of villain protagonist books.

8. Nimona by N.D. Stevenson:

Nimona, written and illustrated by N.D. Stevenson, introduces us to the eponymous character, a shapeshifting young girl with a penchant for villainy. As Nimona becomes the sidekick to the supervillain Lord Ballister Blackheart, the lines between hero and villain blur in this heartwarming and whimsical graphic novel. Nimona challenges readers to question the nature of heroism and the complexities of friendship.

9. The Shadows Between Us (The Shadows Between Us, #1) by Tricia Levenseller:

In The Shadows Between Us, Tricia Levenseller presents Alessandra, a cunning and ambitious young woman determined to become the queen and seize power for herself. Through manipulations and calculated moves, Alessandra takes readers on a thrilling journey into a world of court intrigue, seduction, and moral compromises. Levenseller's intricate storytelling weaves a captivating tale of ambition and dark desires.

10. The Poppy War (The Poppy War, #1) by R.F. Kuang:

R.F. Kuang's The Poppy War introduces us to Rin, a war orphan determined to escape her humble beginnings and find power. As she enrolls in the prestigious military academy, Rin discovers her own latent abilities and becomes entangled in a war that challenges her morality. The Poppy War delves into themes of power, sacrifice, and the consequences of embracing one's darker impulses.

11. Malice (Malice Duology, #1) by Heather Walter:

Heather Walter's Malice takes readers on a journey into the dark and seductive world of the fairy tale villain. In this reimagining of Sleeping Beauty, the story revolves around Alyce, a young woman with dark powers feared by her community. Malice explores Alyce's struggle with her identity and the choices she must make when confronted with her own darkness. With its rich world-building and complex characters, Malice challenges readers to question the nature of villainy and the power of redemption.

12. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn:

Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl is a psychological thriller that explores the twisted relationship between Nick and Amy Dunne. As their marriage unravels and secrets come to light, both characters reveal their dark sides. Through alternating perspectives and unexpected plot twists, Flynn paints a chilling portrait of two morally complex characters, blurring the line between victim and perpetrator. Gone Girl is a gripping exploration of manipulation, revenge, and the depths of human depravity.

13. Renegades (Renegades, #1) by Marissa Meyer:

Marissa Meyer's Renegades presents a world where prodigious individuals with superhuman abilities, known as Renegades, maintain law and order. Nova, a young prodigy with a tragic past, joins the ranks of the Anarchists, a group of villains fighting against the Renegades' authority. As Nova navigates a treacherous path, readers are immersed in a morally gray world where the lines between heroism and villainy are blurred. Renegades is a captivating exploration of power, justice, and the complexities of choosing sides.

14. Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl, #1) by Eoin Colfer:

Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl introduces readers to the eponymous twelve-year-old genius and criminal mastermind. Armed with his intellect and aided by his cunning, Artemis sets out on a mission to restore his family's fortune by kidnapping a fairy and demanding a ransom. With its blend of fantasy, adventure, and a charismatic young anti-hero, Artemis Fowl presents readers with a fresh and engaging take on the villain protagonist.

15. Tampa by Alissa Nutting:

Tampa delves into the disturbing mind of Celeste Price, a beautiful and seductive middle school teacher with a dark secret. Nutting's provocative novel explores the taboo subject of a female sexual predator, challenging societal norms and pushing the boundaries of villainous characters. Tampa is a raw and unsettling examination of power dynamics, obsession, and the blurred lines between desire and morality.

16. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis:

Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho offers an unsettling portrayal of Patrick Bateman, a wealthy investment banker living a double life as a sadistic serial killer. Through Bateman's twisted and delusional perspective, readers are confronted with the dark underbelly of 1980s yuppie culture. American Psycho is a disturbing exploration of psychopathy, consumerism, and the depths of human depravity.

17. King of Thorns (The Broken Empire, #2) by Mark Lawrence:

Mark Lawrence's King of Thorns continues the journey of Jorg Ancrath, a ruthless and cunning prince seeking power and vengeance. As Jorg faces new challenges and confronts his own demons, readers witness the complexities of a villain protagonist torn between his dark desires and the remnants of his humanity. King of Thorns delves deeper into Jorg's psyche, offering a thought-provoking exploration of ambition, redemption, and the consequences of one's choices.

18. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind:

Perfume tells the story of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, an orphan with an extraordinary sense of smell but a complete lack of empathy. Grenouille becomes obsessed with capturing the essence of beauty by murdering young women and extracting their scents. Patrick Süskind's evocative and disturbing novel delves into the depths of obsession, alienation, and the sinister allure of the human senses.

19. The Midnight Star (The Young Elites, #3) by Marie Lu:

Marie Lu's The Midnight Star concludes the Young Elites trilogy with a captivating exploration of Adelina Amouteru's descent into darkness. As her powers grow and her thirst for power intensifies, Adelina becomes a force to be reckoned with. The Midnight Star delves into themes of power, redemption, and the complexities of navigating a world consumed by fear and prejudice.

20. Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba:

Death Note is a gripping psychological thriller that follows the cat-and-mouse game between a brilliant high school student, Light Yagami, and a mysterious detective known as L. With its complex characters, intense mind games, and moral dilemmas, this manga series keeps readers on the edge of their seats, exploring themes of justice, power, and the nature of good and evil. A thought-provoking and addictive read that will leave you questioning the limits of human morality.

21. The Rose Society (The Young Elites, #2) by Marie Lu:

In The Rose Society, Marie Lu continues to delve into the dark and complex world of Adelina Amouteru, the protagonist turned antiheroine. As Adelina embraces her role as the leader of the Young Elites, a society of individuals with extraordinary powers, she finds herself torn between seeking justice and succumbing to revenge. Lu's masterful storytelling explores the blurred lines between heroism and villainy, challenging readers to question the nature of power and the consequences of unchecked ambition.

22. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov:

Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita is a controversial and provocative novel that follows the disturbing relationship between Humbert Humbert, a middle-aged professor, and Dolores Haze, a young girl whom he nicknames Lolita. Through Humbert's unreliable narration, Nabokov delves into the depths of obsession, manipulation, and the darkest corners of the human psyche. Lolita challenges readers with its exploration of moral ambiguity and the capacity for villainy within the human heart.

23. The Dragon Republic (The Poppy War, #2) by R.F. Kuang:

R.F. Kuang's The Dragon Republic continues the epic journey of Rin, a flawed and morally complex protagonist shaped by war and vengeance. As Rin navigates the treacherous political landscape of Nikan, she must confront her own demons and make difficult choices that blur the line between hero and villain. The Dragon Republic delves into themes of power, sacrifice, and the consequences of war, offering a gritty and thought-provoking exploration of the human capacity for both good and evil.

24. Archenemies (Renegades, #2) by Marissa Meyer:

Marissa Meyer's Archenemies delves deeper into the battle between prodigious heroes and villains in a world where the lines between good and evil are blurred. As Nova continues her undercover mission, she grapples with her growing connection to Adrian, a Renegade she should consider her enemy. Archenemies explores themes of identity, loyalty, and the complexities of morality in a world of superhuman powers. Meyer's vivid storytelling keeps readers on the edge of their seats as they question who the real villains and heroes are.

25. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (The Hunger Games, #0) by Suzanne Collins:

In this prequel to The Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins takes readers back to the origins of the Hunger Games and introduces a young Coriolanus Snow, the future President of Panem. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes explores Snow's journey from ambitious and cunning teenager to the villainous leader readers know from the original series. Collins delves into the complexities of power, survival, and the corrupting influences of a dystopian society. Through Snow's perspective, readers are challenged to question the motivations and actions of even the most seemingly irredeemable characters.


Through the Eyes of Villains presents a collection of 25 remarkable books that explore the intricacies of villain protagonists. From morally ambiguous antiheroes to complex characters driven by dark desires, these novels offer readers a fresh perspective and challenge traditional notions of heroism and villainy. Each book on this list immerses readers in captivating worlds, delves into the depths of human psychology, and poses thought-provoking questions about morality, redemption, and the limits of empathy. Whether you're drawn to psychological thrillers, fantasy epics, or literary explorations of the human condition, these 25 books are sure to leave a lasting impression and keep you enthralled until the final page. So, embark on this journey through the eyes of villains and discover the intricate shades of gray that lie within us all.

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