Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots

Read January 2021
Recommended for fans of dark supers
 ★     ★     ★

I’m not saying I was looking for lifestyle alternatives. Just because I’ve left the path of self-sacrificing medical worker doesn’t mean I’m swinging another way. In fact, I might have shelved this on the Infinite TBR List if not for a group of enthusiastic friends. Interestingly, most of us were under the impression that this would be a somewhat humorous look at the hench role–a sort of re-imagination, perhaps a humanized Minions via Despicable Me. It most certainly was not. Instead, it was more a detailed examination of how one slides into the villain role over time. Think Bridget Jones meets Catwoman or some origin story. It’s a book that begs for comparisons, precisely because it is at once so familiar and yet takes a unique spin on a young woman’s professional development, or at least for those more familiar with NYT best-sellers over Marvel Comics.

Although it wasn’t what I expected, Walshots eventually looped me in for the ride.  Anna Tromedlov is the main character, and we meet her en route to a mass interview at a temp firm with her bestie, June. She’s a heartbeat away from being evicted, and she really needs this job. It’s a smart way to develop some empathy–experiencing her downs and ups as she works to change her circumstance. Anna and June have a sarcastic relationship that conceals a lot of affection and though their interactions occasionally feel harsh, they are also funny, and a good entrance for empathy.

“A moment later, Susan, Greg, and I each had a truffle in our mouths–mine was buttercream, Susan got a toffee, and Greg got the extremely cursed orange one, which I decided was an appropriate punishment. ‘They still letting you out today?’ Greg asked, searching for a new chocolate to get the taste out of his mouth.”

It’s well written, with quite believable characters, despite the ‘super’ trappings. In fact, it rather reminded me of George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards universe, with an array of people with ‘powers’ and the social problems that can ensue. It was funny; at a number of moments, I experimented with taking the ‘super’ out of the equation and replacing it with something like ‘Facebook,’ or ‘Lehman Brothers,’ and the story remains just as potent. The moral crises less extreme perhaps (“let’s try this new algorithm’ or ‘let’s make a few loans) but the slide into relativism no less true.

“I admired the clearheadedness with which he’d made these choices, how he’d had some kind of internal direction and followed it, knowing the consequences. When I compared it to m y own story, I saw just how much I had drifted and fallen, rudderless, in the beginning.”

Let that be a lesson.

A little slow at first, eventually there was a point where I did not want to stop reading and stayed up too late to finish. Well-written, seditious and unexpected. I went into it knowing the blurb and enjoyed the fact that at a couple of points, I had absolutely no idea what way the plot was going to go (evil? good? renunciation? redemption?). I’ve avoided more detail in this review because I don’t want to give any expectations. While there were times that I definitely did chuckle, it was not a funny book. You want more detail, you think? Then I highly recommend reviews from buddies jade and Nataliya.

Thank you to Barbara,  jade, Nataliya, and Stephen for the buddy-read! 

About thebookgator

avid reader and Goodreads reviewer looking for a home.
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1 Response to Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots

  1. Pingback: The Henchmen’s Book Club by Danny King | book reviews forevermore

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