Chillin’ Like a Villain

Lately, I’ve been reading a novel by Timothy Zahn about a Star Wars character—Grand Admiral Thrawn—and how he came to power.


Thrawn’s like Machiavelli and Sun Tzu—known for his ingenuity and military prowess. However, if you side with the rebel characters in season 3 of the animated series, Star Wars: Rebels, you’ll have only one word to describe this guy: villain.

I haven’t read many novels in which the antagonist is the main character. It’s interesting that a number of novels this year feature compelling villains or villains searching for redemption. Charles Yallowitz wrote one. A friend who had read other novels by Zahn encouraged me to read Zahn’s latest. And since I’ve written a novel in which one of the main characters is the primary antagonist, I wanted to see what made Thrawn tick.

Thrawn in Star Wars: Rebels

In an interview, which you can read here, Zahn, who created the character, discusses why he made Thrawn so compelling:

Readers like their villains to be a challenge to the heroes because that forces the heroes to bring their best game to the field. The more clever the opponent, and the more difficult the fight, the more satisfying the victory.

I’m down for that! An ingenious antagonist means the stakes will be high, especially when the hero is thwarted at just about every turn.

I’m enjoying the book so far. Thrawn is a fascinating character with a mind like that of a chess grand master. And how nice that this fan favorite is now canon in the Star Wars universe (hence this novel published by Del Rey/Random House).

What brilliant, but controversial characters have you read about (fictional or nonfictional) lately? While you think about that, I’ll move onto the giveaway, which I discuss here, if you missed that post. Thanks to the random number generator, the winner of the $25 Amazon gift card is






(Okay. I’ll stop.)

Laura Bruno Lilly!

Thank you to all who commented. Have a happy and safe Halloween! Are you planning to dress up? What is your costume?

Grand Admiral Thrawn image from Star Wars Rebels logo from Book jacket photos and eerie pumpkin luminary photo by L. Marie.

36 thoughts on “Chillin’ Like a Villain

  1. I’ve heard good things about that book, but I never really got into the extra Star Wars stuff. So, I’m fairly in the dark about the character. Since I’ve been reading a lot of manga, I keep thinking of characters like the Homonculi from Fullmetal Alchemist and Hizoka from Hunter x Hunter. That second one is fairly interesting because he’s a villain without an allegiance, so he can step into a neutral role at times.

    • I know what you mean about the “seven deadly sins” characters in FMA. Haven’t read Hunter x Hunter. Do you recommend?

      I hadn’t read Zahn’s first books featuring Thrawn (which my friend thinks I should read). So I’m trying to make up for that by reading this. I think this book is a good start for anyone wanting to learn about Thrawn.

      • I recommend it, especially since it’s back from a long hiatus. The creator was sick for a while, so it abruptly stopped and came back recently. It’s in the same vein as One Piece with the Shonen Jump adventure.

        I should ask one of my friends who is into those books. Think he told me what he thinks, but it was a long time ago.

  2. Years ago I wrote a novel in which one of the narrators was the antagonist. Readers said that he was more compelling than my protagonist! (Ouch.) I wondered about whether I could re-write the book with the antagonist as the main character. When I asked my carpool of middle and high school kids if a villain could be a main character, they said yes and cited Hamlet. But I wonder and still do if an unrepentant villain can be a main character. It seems that if the villain is the main character, he is – as you note above — seeking redemption. Or he dies.

    • I hope you will rewrite that book, Laura. Interesting question though. (I also think of Macbeth and stories like “The Tell-Tale Heart.”) The antagonist might be viewed as an unreliable narrator, which is interesting.

      When I wrote my antagonist point of view character, I had to keep taking breaks. Being in his head for too long was difficult for me emotionally. 😞 😔

      • Now I’m thinking it was MacBeth, not Hamlet!! And yes, I heard Kristin Cashore speak recently and she mentioned how difficult it was to write Bitterblue, which features a particularly heinous villain

  3. Holy Craziness – me????
    You do know, dear L.Marie, my commenting on your blog is not motivated by your fun give-aways….but when the mysterious ‘generator’ comes up with my name: it does make for a brighter Monday morning!
    Thank you, I’m looking forward to spending it on a few good reads.

  4. Congratulations to Laura Bruno!
    Thrawn. Sounds like an interesting character. I will keep this book in mind, L. Marie. 🙂
    I won’t be dressing up, not buying candy. Our house is so far back that kids never come here. Even the neighborhood kids don’t come here. I don’t blame them. They can treat six houses by the time they come to our door and back to the street. haha!

  5. I’m not good at writing villains. My antagonist in the novel Whit’s End is a manipulating in-law, but the kind of villains we read in books like you mention would be very difficult to write for me.

    There is a villain in my currant TV show obsession, Reign, that blows my mind. She is cunning and gets herself out of the murkiest of waters. Then there are times when she does something so loving it makes me cry! It gives me hope for her, and then she goes and does something evil again. Her acting is phenomenal.

    I think you are on the right track in reading about other villains to give you insight, and reminds me to do the same. Thanks.

    • Someone else mentioned that show. I hope to see it someday. The villain sounds well-rounded. 😀

      I also have trouble writing antagonists. I had to dig really deep as I wrote the scenes for my antagonist. Even with that, I couldn’t stay in his head for long. I had to take a break.

  6. Does Frankenstein’s monster count? Hmm… yes, I think so! And the boy who commits the murders in His Bloody Project is undoubtedly the central character. In both cases, though they commit some horrific acts, the author makes them complex enough for us to still care about what happens to them…

  7. My favorite villain as protagonist is Donald Westlake’s THE AX, the story of a man laid off from his job in a small industry, whose success at finding another job depends on his killing off all six of his rivals for the job.

  8. Chillin’ like a Villain-I always knew you was a poet!
    Congratulations to Laura. One controversial (but not brilliant) character that comes to mind is the father of the narrator in Pig Iron. If Atticus Finch is the ideal father, this guy is his antithesis.

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