Assistant to the Villain by Hannah Nicole Maehrer

Assistant to the Villain by Hannah Nicole MaehrerAssistant to the Villain by Hannah Nicole Maehrer
Series: Assistant to the Villain #1
Published by Entangled Publishing: Red Tower Books
Published on 29 August 2023
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Humorous Stories
Pages: 342
Format: ARC
Source: Penguin Random House Australia
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RRP: $22.99
5 Stars

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 received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House Australia in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

So this was a hyped book. Allegedly.

OK truth be told, I didn’t see ANY hype for this book outside of the Australian publishers doing an ARC call out (thank you SO MUCH to Penguin Random House Australia for sending me a copy of the book for review!) and of course, the adorable author’s own Tiktok videos, which I am proud (and hipster) to say that I was watching BEFORE she wrote a book. I knew exactly what I was getting into with this, and I could only hope that its The Office meets The Nanny with a morally grey fantasy villain vibes would be halfway decently written.

I was wrong. This book was ADORABLE.

I just… word choices? DELIGHTFUL. Characters? CHARMING. Plot? TWISTY. I was so blown away by how utterly charming and delightful this entire book was. I was laughing out loud within the first few pages and the light-hearted comedy (even though it was about a villain who hung severed heads in his manor) kept its pace the entire journey. Evie was so adorable, with her sunshine personality. I wouldn’t necessarily call The Villain grumpy, but he was certainly much more serious and took a while to warm up to his utterly delightful assistant.

Warning: I will keep using the words ‘delightful’ and ‘charming’ all the way through this review because the book was indeed both.

Due to Evie being the biggest author self-insertion ever (and yes, sometimes it DOES work, especially when the character is based on your own physical appearance because it was your own skits that made you famous and gave you the plot for the book) but also having long black hair, pale skin, and bright red lips, as well as working in the house of a repressed man, in a subservient position whilst keeping her bubbly personality, I just kept thinking of Fran Drescher in the Nanny.

The relationship between bubbly Evie and her repressed boss who will do whatever it takes to succeed in his business was startlingly similar to Miss Fran Fine and Mr Maxwell Sheffield.

I just can’t rave about Maehrer’s word choices enough. The book was funny, yes, but it was also beautifully written and remained light hearted and comical the entire time. The writing itself kept using word choices that surprised me, but I found incredibly engaging. Sometimes authors just write stories about people without delighting in the way it’s told, and even though this was told in third person perspective from both Evie and The Villain, both of their voices were unique to themselves as well as fitting into the themes of the book. The worldbuilding was quite light, but I don’t feel that anything heavier was necessary. The book wasn’t about the world or the magic system, it was about two idiots fighting their attraction for Reasons.

I really loved watching Evie’s growth as someone recovering from trauma, feeling the weight of the world on her shoulders, to delivering that final line that showcased just how far she had come. She stayed true to herself while being able to work for someone the entire kingdom feared, she stayed witty and smart and her banter was adorable. Watching both her and The Villain’s character growth was lovely. I’m actually surprised by just how much backstory we got to both of the main characters, but I enjoyed it. Evie’s background was much more tragic than I thought it was going to be. I also really liked the characterisation of her being believably clumsy and constantly dismissed by everyone as foolish until she lands this job. She was never parading around threatening to murder people or claiming to be the smartest or most vicious in the room. She was just a sweet girl trying to do a good job, and accidentally falling in love with her villain boss along the way.

This was a cozy fantasy with no spice, but a bit of miscommunication on occasion, and plenty of pining. I’m still just really impressed by how a person famous on Tiktok was such a good writer, too. I understand that this voice and technique won’t be for everyone, but I’ve read a few books by social media stars and most of them have been rubbish. Maehrer actually has talent as a writer and has nailed this light hearted fantasy romcom voice so well.

I’ve never enjoyed ‘touch her and die’ vibes before but now? Now I almost get it.

As for Evie, well. There aren’t many characters I would gladly follow into hell. Evie is one them. I want to see her succeed, I want the world for her. She utterly deserves it.

I was also wholly unprepared for the plot twist. I was not expecting this in such a cozy lighthearted fantasy, but there ya go. It’s got me pretty excited for what Evie might be capable of in the sequel.

Nemo
Nemo

About Nemo

A lover of kittens and all things sparkly, Nemo has a degree in English Literature and specialises in reviewing contemporary, paranormal, mystery/thriller, historical, sci-fi and fantasy Young Adult fiction. She is especially drawn to novels about princesses, strong female friendships, magical powers, and assassins.

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