Bingo 14: On the Road
We’re going a bit metaphorical here; Assistant to the Villain is in a lot of ways about seeking out your place in the world, and as such meets the ‘searching’ option for this spot. Assistant to the Villain is also kind of lost in terms of what kind of story it really is; more on that in a sec.
Evie Sage needs a job to support her family because her father has a mysterious illness and can’t work, and her sister is only 10 or so. She’s recently lost her job at the blacksmith’s, and runs into a mysterious figure known as “the Villain” who is trying to escape from the king’s troops. They actually seem to understand each other, and the Villain offers Evie the job as his personal assistant. Hijinks ensue.
Evie is the sort who desperately wants to fit in; the Villain as we later learn became the Villain in part because of this same desire when he was about a decade younger (before he was a Villain). The story cant’ decide if it’s an office comedy, a romance, a fantasy, a meta-something, a coming of age (sort of, Evie’s in her early 20s), an adventure, or a mystery. Evie describes her job as “going to the office”, there’s interns, a sexy but grumpy boss who takes his coffee in a rather cliché manner, the nightmare HR lady, the fun guy who may have embellished his resume, random interns who get brought up an awful lot, the office pet (Kingsly the frog communicates with signage, and yes, he’s got a little crown), and the office gossip (the doctor in this case). The definition and title of Villain is also a little light on information since it seems to be like a more openly violent version of Robin Hood, but we don’t know for sure if the Villain is actually the bad guy (he does torture and kill people, and there’s a bunch of severed heads hanging in the office, so…?); there is an answer here, but not for most of the book.
Naturally, there’s a couple of potential love connections going on, most directly Evie and her boss, but they aren’t the only ones. They are the only ones who both know they like the other, refuse to admit it, and the entire office knows, and gets annoyed with the pair of them. The mystery bit? Who is the possible traitor among them who seems to be communicating the Villain’s plans to the king? The adventure includes dragon and guvre-catching and some training (mostly for Fluffy) and the occasional run away from the guards. The fantasy is vaguely in the world, but the magic system which does matter a bit to the plot does not get much development, neither does the geography, politics, or much of anything else.
Then there’s the style; there just enough little bits of sparkle (“Don’t find evil so attractive, Evie!”) that’s it gets annoying when certain kinds of interactions or descriptions get repeated, sometimes within a line or page. The incredibly stupid cliché of and ending “The End. Well…for now.” Would have been more effective if what was likely going to happen after the cliff hanger ending in which certain members of the group are taken away from the rest, and the remaining gang must now get their people back, was less obvious. Both Evie and Tristan naturally have somewhat tragic backstories although some details are yet to be revealed, but they do both seem to have found their places and people by the end; problem is now of course, that place and people is disrupted. Big question now: do I care enough to wait for hopefully a sequel? Probably, yes. Kind of dumb though the book is, its also sort of entertaining if you can ignore or overlook the inconsistencies and mild genre identity crisis.