Early on in the book, we learn that the villain has this thing for fire. He's practically invincible, slaughters anyone who stands against him battle (or sparring), is superhuman fast, and dang scary. And every time he sees fire, he has a moment of staring awe. The heroine is even aware of this--she has ample opportunity to observe it. So, from almost the beginning of the book, I'm excited for the final showdown which, will, of course, involve fire. Either he'll use it as a weapon or she'll use it to distract him--or both!--but fire really should be there, right? Right?
Instead, the villain dies in a moment of suicide-by-heroine. He's won the fight, heroine is down for the count... and he picks up her sword, hands it to her, reengages... and practically forces her to run him through. Nothing was on fire at the time.
And it really bothered me. It's not that I didn't appreciate the redemption angle--the villain's need for redemption was also a sort of weakness of his--but if he really wanted redemption, wouldn't he have been kinder? Less of a bloody tyrant? Maybe he would have been shown seeking a way to rule with fairness? To gain the love of his people instead of constant fear? A little? Instead of trying to force the heroine to endorse his continued reign of terror?
The other issue was that his moment of suicide robbed the heroine of her victory. Instead of earning it, it was handed to her. She was bested--well and truly beaten--and still "won." Worse, her subjects saw her bested. They know she's not as strong as the tyrant who ruled them for so long. If that's not a recipe for a coup, I don't know what is.
So, anyway, watch what weaknesses you give your villain--and use them to help your hero win. Like really win. And, also, a villain's redemption shouldn't take precedence over the hero's victory.
Who are your favorite villains? Did you love them because they secretly, in their deepest, darkest heart of hearts, really actually wanted to be good?