Longsword by David Pilling

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Heroes & Villains!

Welcome to the HEROES & VILLAINS Blog Hop! 

First, the rules. Please leave a comment below if you wish to enter to one of two FREE copies of The Best Weapon (link at the cover image below). At the foot of this post are links to the blogs and websites of the other authors taking part, all of whom are also offering free book prizes. So you, the lucky readers, are spoiled for choice.

‘Heroes and Villains’ is the theme, which leaves me with only one option: as everyone knows, villains are far more interesting. Where would Star Wars be without Darth Vader and the evil Emperor creeping about and strangling impertinent underlings with their magical Force fingers? The insufferable Luke Skywalker only acquires a slender appeal after - spoiler alert, for the three people on Earth who have never watched Star Wars - he gets his hand chopped off and starts dressing all in black, just like his dear old dad.

Heroes are, in a way, far more difficult to write. They have less interesting moral ambiguity, and their actions must always be more or less justified, otherwise they aren’t heroes. It is possible to turn a villain into a hero, or portray a man of dubious moral leanings doing something heroic (Winston Churchill might be a good example from history), but someone who starts clean-cut has to pretty much stay clean-cut, which is ever so dull. This leads to what I call the ‘Alan Rickman’ effect, where the audience ends up rooting for the villain because the good guy is so obnoxiously boring.

Archpriest Flambard plottin' and schemin', as per usual

With all that in mind, I have chosen to use this post as an opportunity to talk about the central villain of my fantasy novel, The Best Weapon, co-written with my good friend Martin Bolton. 

The character's name is Archpriest Flambard, which should give some clue as to his villainy: much like Grand Viziers, all fictional Archpriests are rotters. Something about the combination of absolute power allied to an arcane religious or secular title makes them bad. They just can’t help it. Their invariable fate is to be either spitted on the mighty hero’s magical broadsword, hurled into their own Fiery Pit of Doom, or devoured like a boiled sweet by the same demonic spirits they conjured up to help them CONQUER THE WORLD!!!

No such clichéd fate is likely to befall Flambard. For a start, he’s too clever to be outwitted by some two-bit Conan the Barbarian impersonator. Secondly, he doesn’t regard himself as a bad person doing bad things. As the regent of the Winter Realm during the minority of that frozen land’s infant monarch, he is a pragmatist, obliged to do harsh and unpopular things in order to keep his country afloat. Or that’s how he sees it. Like many modern-day politicians, his job is to labour all hours on behalf of a public that loathes and despises him.  

I imagined Flambard as a cross between Henry VIII’s advisor Cardinal Wolsey, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (the villain of the sci-fi novel ‘Dune’ by Frank Herbert) and Cardinal Richelieu, the nemesis of the Three Musketeers. To that end he is physically obese, mentally acute, and much given to backstairs politics and working all the hours the gods send. He clothes himself in rich robes and fine jewellery, as befits a man of his station and pomp, and runs mental rings around his peers.

Why is he particularly villainous, you may well ask? Well, he begins the story as a typically hard-nosed politician whom the term realpolitik might have been invented for, a man who believes the ends always justify the means. And then something happens that makes him even worse.

Much, much worse. Physically and mentally, terrible things start happening to Cardinal Flambard. Put it this way…he starts to rot.

Intrigued? Then leave a comment underneath this post, and a free copy of The Best Weapon could be hacking and swinging its way towards you very soon!

And don’t forget to check out the blogs and websites of the other lovely authors listed below:


  1. Flambard sounds like my type of villain! The book sounds really interesting, fun and exciting!

  2. Replies
    1. You're on the list, Katie! :)

  3. Would love to win this one! (Plus, I love the phrase "Alan Rickman effect".)

  4. Yes, those cardinal-politicians were a great bunch for "pragmatic" villainy - the royal seal within reach and God on their side, it's hardly surprising they did as they liked. Flambard sounds a great addition to the type.

    1. Absolutely - and he was great fun to write!