Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots is a new take on the superhero genre. It does not focus on the heroes or the villains, but on Anna, a henchwoman. She starts out temping as a data analyst for villains. She quickly finds patterns in data and is an excellent planner – but not necessarily cut out for fieldwork. Things start there and get interesting really fast.
Hench is not an action movie made novel, like other, more typical superhero books you might have read. There is a lot of data analysis going on, but it is all done in the background. It is far from boring, though, and raises some fair points about superhero work. The suspense of the story gradually builds up as the stakes get higher. We all finished the Buddyread a week ahead of time.
The author takes her time to paint the superhero – supervillain world in wonderful shades of grey, giving them all a personality. The other henches working with Anna have their personal histories and motivations, and some of them can be quite surprising. Why would anyone work for a villain at all? They must be evil, right? Well, maybe the henches are just normal humans trying to get by.
Hench is a wonderful deconstruction of the superhero genre and a fantastic read. There are even some open questions that hint at a sequel. I wouldn’t mind that, but the book stands equally fine on its own.