Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Villains by Necessity

Author: Eve Forward
Genre: Fantasy
Original Pub. Date: 1995

A good contrasting companion piece for the partial-birth aborted monstrosity Mistborn, Villains by Necessity offers a slightly different twist on the forces of good vs. forces of darkness trope. In Mistborn, the forces of good have failed, and our bumbling moron heroes have to start all over again with the ultimate fight against the ultimate evil: a crappy plot device. Villains by Necessity, on the other hand, takes place in a generic fantasy world shortly after Good has triumphed over Evil, Light has conquered Darkness, and insert any other capitalized cliché you can think of.

Most of the evil people and creatures have been either exterminated or "whitewashed," leaving the world a gooey, cheerful place that almost anyone would find sickening. (Just imagine if Nicholas Sparks ruled the world with a fluffy pink fist, and you'll get the picture.) There are a few baddies still running around: our eponymous protagonists, who band together to find the crystal pieces that will open the Dark Something-or-Other and restore balance to the . . . you know what, it doesn't matter. It really doesn't matter at all.

Villains by Necessity is utterly ridiculous in every way. Our anti-Dungeons & Dragons party villains, the assassin, thief, dark sorceress, black knight, centaur, and druid, bumble around a map similar to those I used to draw when I was nine and thought I could improve on the maps in The Lord of the Rings. Doggerel verse leads them from one silly adventure to another, pursued all along by a band of hypocritical "heroes" with dumb names. The plot twists are, to say the least, a bit predictable.

And none of that matters either. I love the hell out of this book.

Cheesier than a stoner's pizza this book may be, but it has something both delightful and difficult to define; for lack of a better word, I'll call it charm. Sam, the assassin, is a character archetype I particularly enjoy: the stone-cold killer with a heart of, if not gold, then at least something warmer than stone.* Forward manages to make him both convincingly ruthless and also kind of sweet, like the dorky guy who couldn't get up the courage to ask you to prom, only a homicidal lunatic. His dwarven thief sidekick provides comic relief in much the same way that Gimli doesn't in The Lord of the Rings.** The sorceress is a pointy-toothed cannibal, the druid isn't really evil, and the black knight has a secret, while the centaur is just along for the ride. They are all such stereotypes.

And yet. Each of these characters grew on me in a way I might find shameful if I hadn't long ago given up decent human emotion, along with tequila shots, black nail polish, and a few other vices.*** There are some truly hilarious moments in this book, too.**** The denouement, while utterly expected, is also satisfying; the characters all find just the destinies they ought, based on their character classes characters.

Villains by Necessity might not be everyone's steaming potion of bat's wing, but I give it a +12 modifier. Er, four stars.

* Such as pizza. A killer with a heart of pizza would be just the ticket.

** In the books, I mean. Let's all pretend the dwarf jokes in that sickening travesty of a movie trilogy never happened, all right, along with everything else in them?

*** Although one might reasonably argue that I abandoned shame before drinking the tequila shots and wearing the black nail polish.

**** For any of the six other people who have read this book: Gnifty Gnomes, guys. I need say no more.


  1. Might be an old post, but I've got to say: I agree entirely with your summary of the book. Good D&D satire is surprisingly hard to find, and the characters in Villains by Necessity are downright loveable.

  2. Old post, but whole-heartedly agree. I've read tons of books. I can point out all the holes in this book. Loved it til the pages started falling out and had to buy an overpriced paperback off of ebay.