Title: Villians Are Destined to Die
Creators: SUOL (artist), Gwon Gyeoeul (writer), David Odell (translator)
US Publisher: IZE Press / Tapas (Ongoing chapters)
Age Relevance: High School and Up
How Essential Is It?: Nice to Have
Curricular Connections?: Independent Reading
Reader’s Advisory Tags: Isekai, Romance, Reverse Harem, Otome Game, Villainess
Content Warnings: Child abuse, bullying, slavery, violence against women
Publisher Synopsis: In the Easy Mode of Daughter of the Duke Love Project!, you play as Ivonne, the duke’s long-lost daughter who quickly gains the affection of the various male characters to win the game. Very easy! In Hard Mode, you play as “villainess” Penelope Eckhart, the duke’s fake daughter who starts her adventure with negative affection points. Very hard…and filled with gruesome deaths?! Misunderstood and pining for love, one girl finds that she has much in common with Penelope and tries again and again to get her “good ending.” She is granted one more try…when she falls asleep and wakes up as Penelope herself in the hostile world of the game!
Villains Are Destined to Die is one of the darker takes on the isekai villainess subgenre of manhwa, and that’s actually something that really works in this series’ favor. The protagonist has to learn how to truly play a game of survival, which makes this romantic fantasy play out like a nail-biting thriller. The world Penelope navigates is cold and cruel, but the story itself is ultimately about building trust and love, and the twists and turns are fascinating. This was a truly interesting pick for IZE Press as they steadily build their brand because it’s a story that is ultimately built on tropes from past hits. That said, if this is your first time reading a villainess isekai, you should still enjoy it.
The main gist of this manhwa is that the protagonist has transmigrated in her sleep from modern-day South Korea to the world of an otome game. Otome games are essentially dating simulators wherein you play as a young woman with the option of romancing several potential suitors. She is stuck in the “Hard Mode” of the game, playing as the villainess. As the protagonist navigates game choices and mechanics, she is hoping that beating the game will allow her to eventually return home. This is complicated by the difficulty of the game, as everyone seems to despise and mistreat Penelope.
This series is a bit dark, and so it is probably best for high school and up. It may work for some middle school libraries but be advised that the story gets darker as it progresses. It definitely has readalikes in many YA fantasy novels wherein villains get to tell their side of the story.