I’ve been following Hannah Nicole Maehrer’s Assistant to the Villain series on TikTok since it began, so I was thrilled to see it made into a book series. I expected it to be on the cozy side of fantasy rather than the epic side (lighthearted vs. in-depth). And, while I don’t read a lot of cozy fantasy or rom-com books, I was ready to give this one a shot because I enjoy the TikTok series so much. I haven’t done a thorough review in ages. Usually, I just offer my overall thoughts on the book and leave it at that. But I feel the need to break this book down more in order to share my opinions accurately.
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.
- Published: August 29, 2023
- Page Count: 352 pages
- Genre: Fantasy
Review of Assistant to the Villain
Before I get into my thoughts on this book, I wanted to start out with answering two questions:
- Do you need to watch the Assistant to the Villain series on TikTok to enjoy this book? No.
- If you’ve watched the Assistant to the Villain series on TikTok is this book spoiled? No.
While there are many elements that call back to the original TikTok series, there’s a different plot. A lot of the TikTok series focus on the Heroes trying to use Evie against the Villain in various plots, or Evie accidently selling her soul to the King of the Underworld. That is not the plot of this book. Assistant to the Villain focuses on Evie helping the Villain determine who is undermining their operations. We also get a few of the Villain’s POV sprinkled throughout the book, which we did not have in TikTok as those were almost always from Evie’s POV. Also, we get to learn the Villain’s name, Trystan, early on whereas we never had that in the TikTok series.
Alright, now that comparison is done with the original source material, let’s get into my thoughts on Assistant to the Villain.
Thoughts on the Main Characters
- Evie: I knew her general personality from the TikTok series, so I wasn’t expecting her to be super smart or strong by any means. She’s clumsy, awkward, extremely bubbly, and naïve. She doesn’t struggle with the morality of working for the Villain in order to provide for her family. Maybe that happened between the prologue and the 5 month time jump to the first chapter. But we don’t see it. For the most part, Evie is just there.
- Trystan aka The Villain: For the most part we aren’t given any details of why he does the things he does. We know he has some vendetta against the King, but we aren’t told or shown what that is. Nor why anyone would want to oppose the King, we know nothing about that… I’ll get more into that during the world-building section. So, all we are shown are that he frequently tortures people and string up their heads in the rafters. He’s also supposed to be the grumpy half of the duo. But we don’t really know why he shut himself off from emotions, only that he is grumpy that he has them. It kind of makes his character fall flat, especially as we meet his estranged siblings but have no idea why they are estranged.
Thoughts on the Romance
I knew that the two were going to be clueless about the fact that they fell for each other. We get a sense from each of them extremely early that they are attracted to each other, but refuse to act on it. Meanwhile, the whole office is aware along with people who just see them together for a short period of time. The other characters give them knowing looks regarding the two falling for each other. Or mention that Evie puts Trystan in a better mood when she’s around. But we don’t see a lot of development between them. A lot of longing stares and one kiss. But other than that, there’s barely anything there.
Thoughts on the World-Building
The world is unfortunately extremely forgettable as we have no sense of the dynamic of the Kingdom. There are so many elements that are brought up, but never fully explained leaving me with a lot of questions. Some of those being:
- Why does Trystan hate King Benedict? We don’t learn about it until ten pages before the book ends. I won’t spoil it completely here but let’s just say it had to do with the magic that Trystan would eventually have.
- Why the Kingdom love the King? No idea, we only know he’s beloved. Though Evie does mention he made it so women were allowed jobs and wants magical education to be more accessible. Not that he has made any strides towards that.
- How does everyone know about the Villain, but don’t know what he looks like or anything about him? Never explained. Literally there’s a line when Evie asks another villager to describe what the Villain has done, and the villager replies, “His crimes are too horrendous to speak of.” Granted, the King clearly knows who Trystan is, but doesn’t share that information with the rest of the Kingdom even if it would makes things easier.
- Why did they start calling him The Villain? No clue.
- What’s going on with the magical creature trade? We know the Villain collects magical creatures so they don’t get traded like Kingsley the frog that communicates with a little chalkboard sign, and a dragon named Fluffy. But we don’t know what the Kingdom is doing to those creatures if they are traded.
- What is the magic system? We don’t get a lot of information about it. Which isn’t a bad thing, as not every fantasy book needs to go into detail about the system, but it still needs to make sense. From what I gathered from the book, magic randomly awakens and may have been thrown down by the gods.
- Who are those gods? No idea, we aren’t given any information about them.
- What even is the office structure? I didn’t think much of it when watching the series, but reading the book it makes no sense to me. I get Becky handles HR and she wants to be the assistant, Tatiana is the healer, and Blade is the dragon trainer. But I don’t understand the interns or any of the other positions. Almost every lives outside of the manor so they all travel there daily and someone no one in the surrounding area notices this. Also, what are they even all doing during the day? Because during the brief period Evie is gone, the whole place falls apart. It doesn’t make sense.
It’s a lot. I think this book had a lot of great potential, but it wasn’t fully fleshed out in those elements. I mean, we do get some explanation at the end of the book, but that doesn’t help the overall book. Some of that should’ve come sooner.
Thoughts on the Genre/Marketing
This book is marketed as New Adult and the author hinted that there would be spice. There is no spice. This is MG or YA at best. Maybe that changes in later books, since there’s obviously going to be more. But the humor, which I’d argue is awkward humor, is what I’d expect to find in a MG fantasy book. The Villain sleeps with a night light, really? Also, Evie slips on anything. Literally she could just look at something and she would fall over. She was standing on a piece of paper and fell off a desk because of it while barefooted. That’s the kind of thing that happens in MG/YA, when you want the MMC to catch the FMC.
I think if the book was marketed more accurately than my expectations would’ve been met better. Did I still enjoy the book? Yes. But if I compare it against other books of the same genre, it falls flat.
Also, this book is classified a humor. Most of the jokes are awkward or weird. Don’t get me wrong, a few of them made me laugh because it’s the kind of joke I would make when I’m uncomfortable. However, the book also points out any time a joke is made to the point where it’s cringy or over the top, as if it has its own laugh track.
There was a lot of potential with this book, but I don’t think it overall achieved that. Though I do think if this was marketed as MG or YA, and a few things taken out to reflect that then it would’ve been better. I also think it would’ve reached it’s demographic better then. Unfortunately, I’ve moved passed the days where those books interest me as I find myself needing more adult elements. That being said I still enjoyed this book. It just didn’t live up to the hype I had for this book.
So, I would give this book a 2.75 star rating on my rating scale.
With that being said even though I don’t think this book reached its full potential, I still think the elements are there. And considering this was the author’s first ever novel, so I’m willing to give the next one a chance. As I think the twist at the end was good. There were clues throughout the book that something was quite right, but was still easy to explain as something else. And it did tie the elements together without leaving too many open plot points. Of course there were some as it ended on a cliffhanger, but I don’t think it fell flat like other elements of the book did. But the way the office dramatic didn’t pan out the way the same way it did in the TikTok series. They’re two very different things, so the mixture just didn’t land right. Hopefully, it improves otherwise I’ll just stick to watching the TikTok series.
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