Book Review: Assistant to the Villain by Hannah Maehrer

Today’s review is about ASSISTANT TO THE VILLAIN by Hannah Maehrer. Published by the same publisher as FOURTH WING, it boasts a hilarious story about what it’s like to be the assistant to a villain. Though charming to some, I had some misgivings about whether it lives up to the hype.

Author: Hannah Nicole Maehrer
Series: Assistant to the Villain #1
Age Category: New Adult
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Publish Date: August 29, 2023
Print Length: 352

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Official Synopsis

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.

My Review

ASSISTANT TO THE VILLAIN is the story of how Evangelina Sage came into The Villain’s employ and subsequently discovered a mole in their midst moving to tear down his evil empire. It is a dual point of view between Evie and The Villain, with most chapters from Evie’s POV. The marketing advertises it as a funny, cozy, whimsical, grumpy/sunshine fantasy romance set in a workplace. To be fair, it is all of these things. But one must severely suspend disbelief to find a superficial sense of enjoyment.

Before I get into the issues I had with the book, I first want to say I thought it was an ok read. Once I decided to just go with the flow of the story, I found it entertaining enough to finish it. However, in my opinion, this book doesn’t live up to the hype.

The beginning of ASSISTANT TO THE VILLAIN is a bit rough. Odd sentence structures aside, it almost read like the author had a difficult time trying to find a way to get the two characters to meet. Then, once Evie agrees to work for The Villain, a time jump robs the reader of the development of their dynamic from first hire to several months later. A natural time progression would have been a perfect set up to show Evie’s reaction to The Villain’s business and her growing attraction to him. The writing style improves from there on out with the occasional strangely-assembled sentence. But the characters remain somewhat flat for the entirety of the story.

Although both main characters endured past trauma, they never felt fully explored, even after they revealed to each other their hardships. Evie constantly ruminates over how hot The Villain is. This and her rather ditzy countenance overwhelm any attempt at a much needed gravity counterbalance. Both the office and The Villain find her perplexing but also somewhat logical. I find the latter strange because there are many instances in which she is absolutely not logical. There are also several passages in which she acknowledges that she is surprised she feels no fear when it comes to The Villain’s killing and evil doing. But there is no further self reflection on it.

The Villain is single minded in his goal to bring down the king. He comes off as slightly better characterized, but he also has way less chapters, so it’s hard to tell. I also was not a fan of his explanation near the end of the book about why he wants to get rid of the king. What happened was awful, but on the other hand I expected something more climactic. Or, at the least, written with more backstory and emotion.

I also felt that the bulk of the mystery was just a bunch of plot ideas smooshed together. The magic system, if there is one, remained undefined. Thus, much of the action felt somewhat disjointed because of the randomness of the story. It felt like everyone was running around willy nilly to catch the mole. Additionally, there is basically no romance! When a synopsis informs me that the main character develops a crush on their boss, that implies to me there will be some sort of relationship development. Alas, not so after 350 pages. I expect their relationship will evolve in the next book, but I’m not sure I’ll partake in that adventure.

Unfortunately, ASSISTANT TO THE VILLAIN will not make it in my top reads of 2023. It will, however, resonate with some readers as made evident by its average star rating on Goodreads. This is definitely not a book to take seriously. And even if you know that going in, as I did, take it even less seriously than you expected to in the first place. With adjusted expectations for a haphazard and illogical romp, one might enjoy it. But, if you’re like me, this book might be a pass.

Rating: 2.5
Content warnings: mention of past attempted sexual assault, blood, death, death of a sibling (backstory), child abandonment (backstory)
Reading format: Paperback

18 thoughts on “Book Review: Assistant to the Villain by Hannah Maehrer

    1. Prior to reading or writing this review I hadn’t seen any reviews on the blogs I follow, much less reviews that expressed disappointment. Either I missed the reviews or many of those I follow haven’t yet read it.

  1. Oof! This is probably the only review I’ve read of this book where the reader didn’t enjoy it. Sorry that’s what happened for you! I received a physical ARC from the publisher, but haven’t had the time to pick it up yet. My plan is to read it in October and I’m crossing my fingers that I enjoy it just a wee bit more than you did ?

    1. As I just mentioned to Tammy above, I hadn’t seen a single review about this book before I picked it up. Based on the premise it sounded like a nice change of pace from the darker fantasy I tend to read. But the execution of the plot was just a mess. I’m curious to know what you think about it when you get around to reading it.

    1. Where is everyone seeing all of these reviews for this book? I seem to have missed them all around the blogosphere, lol!! Maybe I’m not the odd one out in my review who thinks this book wasn’t as strong as it could’ve been.

  2. As you know, I hated this book SO MUCH that I couldn’t finish it. Your review sums up pretty much all the reasons why I just couldn’t take it anymore. The only bright spot for me was Kingsley, and he wasn’t enough to outweigh the rest of the disjointed mess.

  3. It’s a shame this one didn’t live up to the hype. I think the premise sounds entertaining but from your review, it simply didn’t hit well. It’s a shame it lacks character development, as that’s a key component to good stories.

    1. Exactly–the premise sounded fun and I was looking forward to something a little different from my typical dark fantasy reads. But the execution of the plot was not the best, in my opinion. It kind of jumped all over the place and there were few quiet moments during which inter-character development could take place.

  4. Great review! I wish that I had seen more reviews like this before the book came out (and I pre-ordered it, lol) because then I would’ve tempered my expectations and probably waited a bit before purchasing the book. Good to know that I should probably really lower my expectations and take it very very lightly but I hope that I’ll end up loving this one although I’m starting to think I might not, lol. ?

    1. Thanks, Dini! I also preordered it, again (like Fourth Wing) before it had a lot of hype associated with it. Unfortunately, this time I didn’t really enjoy it. I hope you end up enjoying it, too, but just go in with lower expectations. In all honesty I sold my book after publishing this review. :-/

  5. Excellent review. I can tell from your examples that I don’t think I would enjoy this book as much as I’d hoped. What a bummer. I may still pick it up one day, but with expectations in check.

    1. Thanks, Kate! Yea, I was a bit bummed I didn’t like it as much as I wanted to. This was a preorder and everything. Now you know how to keep your expectations in check, but maybe you’ll enjoy it more than I did.

  6. I just finished this earlier today and most of what I was thinking about is how I’d rather be rewatching/ rereading Megamind or Nimona.

    1. Ha, well, I assume it was at least a relatively quick & easy read? For me it was fine…but I won’t be picking up the sequel.

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