Hi guys! Today I am super excited to welcome the amazing Katey Hawthorne to the blog. As many of you know, I am a HUGE fan of Katey’s Superpowered Love series and she is here today to talk to us about her latest installment, Re-Entry Burn (which I reviewed earlier this week and totally loved). Katey is sharing her thoughts on redeeming a villain. She has also brought a fabulous two-book giveaway.
(This post contains minor spoilers for Riot Boy, but I’ll keep it to a minimum, promise.)
The line between excusing and explaining a character’s behavior is not all that fine.
This is not The Lord of the Rings where the orcs are bad because oh, you know, orcs, they’re all just like that.* It’s safe to say that most people who do horrible things have reasons for it. When they’re characters in a book, those reasons may me more or less relevant to the plot–they might get a mention but not an in-depth exploration–but they must exist. Or. You know. We end up with orcs.
Malory Claremont, the hero of Re-entry Burn, doesn’t really have much going for him the first time we meet him in Riot Boy–definitely not anything heroic. Brady does actually go out of his way to explain why his cousin Mal is such a pain in the ass–at least partly–and why he still loves him. Yeah, that’s the tough part, Brady actually loves his villain.
And Mal loves Brady. So much so that it defines his existence well after they’re cut off from one another. But the love is an explanation. It’s not an excuse.
To me, this is a key element of redeeming a villain. In the real world, excuses don’t cut it. People have to pay what they owe, own their mistakes, understand why what they did was wrong, and take full responsibility for hurting others. Anything else is a bit of a “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” scenario for the wronged party. Sure, people can forgive without all that, if that’s what they need and want to do–but forgetting is just plain silly, right? If they don’t even acknowledge how wrong they were, what’s to stop them doing it all over again?
Re-entry Burn starts with Malory just finishing up two-and-some-change years in federal prison, so he’s had plenty of time to reflect on just how much he’s hurt people and why. Enter the Tragic Flashback ™. Yeah, he’s a bit of a woobie at heart, it’s true–but again, that woobie-ness doesn’t excuse what he’s done. In general, and to the person he loves best in all the world, his cousin Brady. While he starts at a point where he understands that, there are a lot of things he’s not ready to admit to, and a lot of outside pressures that don’t really care about his special little personal journey of self-acceptance.
He needs some help, which is where Theo comes in. And Theo needs some help too. Oh god, does that boy ever need some help.
Redemption stories aren’t complete, to me, without the satisfaction of feeling like a character deserves that redemption. I want to cheer for the happy ending… but sometimes, I gotta admit, I like it even more when it’s a character who started out undeserving and made their way there. Trial by fire, right?
*Note: I am a huge Tolkien fan, like massive, I have a tattoo in Elvish and everything, please don’t flame me!
Today Katey has brought an awesome giveaway! One lucky reader will win a copy of BOTH Re-Entry Burn and its connected book, Riot Boy (and if you have read either she will swap them out for something else on her backlist). They are both excellent, so be sure to leave a comment below to enter. The contest closes on Tuesday, September 1oth, at 11:59 pm EST.
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- Void where prohibited by law.