I’ve just read Siege and Storm, Leigh Bardugo’s second book in the Grisha trilogy. Semi-spoiler here for anyone who hasn’t read the whole first book, Shadow and Bone: the Darkling is in the running for best villain of the decade. He’s cruel, wicked, scheming and entirely hot. Even if he ended up physically scarred as his soul, he’d still have the hotness factor. Bardugo knows it too. She said in an interview on Amazon that she’d love to meet him, “Because he's gorgeous and mysterious and dangerous and all those fun things.”
But he is entirely evil. He kills innocent people—a lot of them.
Bardugo’s character occasionally shows signs of humanity that make him appear less of a monster, but damn. Who knows? He might demonstrate vulnerability just to gain Alina’s sympathy. He is no good. Even his mother knows that. I can’t see him tamed and sweet, like many so-called villains. I could imagine him broken, perhaps, and even secretly grateful for having his control removed, but that’s not the same.
You got your characters who’re all about the power, like sometime bad-guy Johnny Marcone in Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden series. Yet Marcone doesn’t quite end up purely evil because he has a few humanizing quirks. He’ll never harm a child and goes out of his way to protect kids. That little softy touch gets him bumped off the list.
[Nice guys need not apply...]