CBR10Bingo – So Shiny!
How do you rehabilitate a charismatic villain, whose behavior should have put him beyond redemption, to the point that a reader wants him to have a Happily Ever After? The writing couple that is Ilona Andrews set that task for themselves when they posted that they were starting a Hugh D’Ambray series as an April Fool’s prank. The response was overwhelmingly positive, which horrified me, but I guess it shouldn’t have surprised me.
As Roland’s Warlord, Hugh has been one of the major antagonists of Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series. Hugh has not been an anti-hero, but a flat out villain. He has harassed, tortured, and kidnapped Kate and her friends. He has murdered characters we like and don’t like. He has taken actions which would have condemned many to death. We have been told about the violence her has committed on Roland’s behalf.
There are two key ways Andrews rehabilitates Hugh. One has to do with Hugh’s relationship with Roland, which I won’t get into, because it’s too spoilery. The other is his wife.
Turning a villain into a hero is a well trod path in the Romance genre. It’s not uncommon to find a “the love of a good sweet young thing/virgin/stunningly beautiful and virtuous woman makes a man want to be a better person” plot line. Sometimes I call this a Magic Vagina story. Fortunately, Andrews does not choose this path. Instead, Elara Harper is scary af, and contemplates murdering Hugh for a good portion of the book. We don’t know what Elara Harper is, but we do know she has some scary powers that are a match for Hugh. Their mutual concern for their people and their effort to build a safe community together does more to rehabilitate Hugh than any magical sex could.