Thursday, November 11, 2021

All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody and Christine Herman: review

5/5 stars on Goodreads

All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody and Christine Herman

All of Us Villains is YA fantasy set in a world like ours with cars and mobile phones, but with magic accessible to all through spell-stones that are sold in department stores for all purposes. But it’s common, lesser magic. High magic has disappearedor been used up.

The story takes place in a city of Ilvernath, which has stood there for sixteen centuries, unnoticed by the world. It has only one unique feature. It still has high magic, controlled by one family for twenty years at a time; a highly sought-after position. To make the choice fair, a tournament takes place every twenty years where seven leading families fight over the honour. It’s a tournament to death and the winner is the one still alive when it ends.

The tournament is a curse placed on the town and it’ll happen whether the families want it or not, with dire consequences if they try to ignore it. So they prepare their champions well in advance, rearing them to become the best spell-casters and killers, hoping they’ll come out alive. So far, it has been a secret, but now a book has been published that exposes the tournament to the world, and the town can’t handle it unnoticed anymore.

The book follows four of the seven champions, each with their own chapters. Alistair is the member of the family that currently holds the right to the high magic and will do anything to keep it. Isobel is the darling of the press, now that the world knows about the tournament. Bryony dreams of glory and being a hero. Gavin comes from the poorest of the seven families, and he’s determined to change his family’s luck by winning. The other three champions remained distant and stereotypical; a hero, a villain, and a pawn.

The story unfolds fairly slowly. We get to know each champion and their hopes and fears about the tournament. They all know that to win they have to kill their competitors, some of whom are their friends or ex-boyfriends, all of whom are the same age as they are. Their families think nothing of it, but the reader can’t help but sympathise with them. They’re all victims of a curse they have no say in.

The pace doesn’t really pick up when the tournament begins. The champions do what they must to survive for as long as possible. Alliances are formed and broken. No one wants to be the first to die or first to kill, but things happen. And then one of them learns that it might be possible to break the curse.

Characters are easily the best part of this book. The distant third person narrative took a moment to get used to, but once I did, it was easy to get immersed in their hopes and anxieties. I liked them all. They were all flawed and twisted, thanks to being raised as killers, but they tried to be better versions of themselves. They were the villains, whether they all realised it or not, but they were villains I could root for. They were capable of great selfless acts as well as selfishness. My absolute favourite was Alistair who saw himself as a monster, but who was really broken inside.

The story unfolded in a way that made it impossible to tell who was going to win or lose, or if any of them would survive. And then the book ended just when things were starting to become interesting. I hadn’t realised this wasn’t a standalone, so the ending felt abrupt. It left each character in a worse place than when they began, and I can’t wait to read where they end up.

I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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