Review: Assistant to the Villain by Hannah Nicole Maehrer
Once Upon a Time meets The Office in Hannah Maehrer’s laugh-out-loud viral TikTok series turned novel, about the sunshine assistant to an Evil Villain…and their unexpected romance.
ASSISTANT WANTED: Notorious, high-ranking villain seeks loyal, levelheaded assistant for unspecified office duties, supporting staff for random mayhem, terror, and other Dark Things In General. Discretion a must. Excellent benefits.
With ailing family to support, Evie Sage’s employment status isn’t just important, it’s vital. So when a mishap with Rennedawn’s most infamous Villain results in a job offer—naturally, she says yes. No job is perfect, of course, but even less so when you develop a teeny crush on your terrifying, temperamental, and undeniably hot boss. Don’t find evil so attractive, Evie.
But just when she’s getting used to severed heads suspended from the ceiling and the odd squish of an errant eyeball beneath her heel, Evie suspects this dungeon has a huge rat…and not just the literal kind. Because something rotten is growing in the kingdom of Rennedawn, and someone wants to take the Villain—and his entire nefarious empire—out.
Now Evie must not only resist drooling over her boss but also figure out exactly who is sabotaging his work…and ensure he makes them pay.
After all, a good job is hard to find.
I GOT THIS BOOK FROM THE LIBRARY.
Dear Hannah Nicole Maehrer,
I first learned about this book when Amazon decided to recommend it to me and it sounded wonderful. I felt like I was due for some m/f romance, the book was classified as fantasy as well, and the blurb had all the promise of funny banter between the leads so I was all in. I *really* wanted to love it. Readers, I realize that I am very much an outlier here. There are tons of wonderful reviews and I think the book even made NY Times bestseller list, so please please check out those reviews before deciding whether the book is for you.
First and foremost, in one way the book definitely fulfilled my expectations – there was *plenty* of amusing, well written banter between the leads. In fact, I thought there was way so much of it at some point in the story, that the banter *became* the story for me and I became really really bored.
The story is 430 pages long on my kindle and overall it frustrated me so very much. Was it a pacing? A structure? All of the above? Basically after Evie starts working for The Villain, what we mostly observe are the days in the office and their back and forth as to various work functions.
As an aside, the world presumably is some kind of fairy tale/medieval one (some very few hints point me in that direction), but the Office indeed reminds us of a very modern Office (and yes, I know the blurb says Once Upon a Time meets The Office and that’s probably correct). The world could have been a really fun one, but I did want to see more of the actual world building.
So we get lots and lots of snappy dialogue for the most of the story, but as the narrative moves along we get to see that someone indeed tries to kill The Villain, but the characters do not seem to change their behavior in response to those events. I felt as if the story was there to support the mutual teasing between Evie and The Villain, instead of them actually truly doing something to investigate the problem.
“She’s in big trouble,” Evie said grumpily. “Go easy on her—she’s young,” The Villain said diplomatically. Evie turned toward him, planting her hands on her hips, a look of mock outrage on her face. “Aren’t you supposed to be evil?” “Encouraging children to neglect their education fits under that bracket, does it not?” He tilted his head as if considering it. Plucking a stray weed from the walkway and then another, Evie said, “Where did the name Trystan come from, anyway?” “My mother, I imagine.” Evie straightened like a rod, slowly dropping the weeds and coming to stand, staring at him with wide, unflinching eyes. “Are you saying… the name you just gave my younger sister… is your real name?” Disbelief overrode her senses even further when he squinted in confusion. “There’s no need to overreact, little tornado. It’s just a name.” “Like the deadlands it is!” she sputtered. Trystan. His name was Trystan Maverine.”
Also, in between of all that banter during the work day, we learn that both Evie and The Villain had some dramatic events in their past. To be more specific, we learned about Evie’s trauma much earlier than The Villain’s and once again the story merrily moves along. Please don’t get me wrong, I am not sure what I would have wanted to happen differently, I just felt that the main characters reactions often felt not real maybe? I am not talking about realism in the fantasy story, I am talking about characters reacting believably to some things.
Actually, there was one thing I would have liked to happen differently, I would have liked all this mutual banter to have a bigger payoff than what the writer gave the readers.
And when the traitor is discovered (I would argue by complete accident), I think nine or ten chapters before the end of the book then the story finally takes a darker turn and the events speed up somewhat and the 430 page book ends in a massive, massive cliffhanger. You know how sometimes you read a cliffhanger and think it is not that bad? This one is bad, as in one character’s life and sanity appears to be in a pretty immediate danger. I am sorry, I was so annoyed as in wanting to throw the book across the room if I would have reading a paper book. I am sure the second book has to come out eventually after such ending, but I won’t be reading it.