A life no one will remember. A story you will never forget.
France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever – and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets. Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave a mark on the world. But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.
Thank you to NetGalley for providing an early reading copy in exchange for an honest review!
What an exquisite book this was. Surprisingly for such an avid fantasy reader, this was my first V.E. Schwab book (though I do own The Near Witch, and it has been patiently waiting on my shelf for the moment in which the stars align and I decree that its time has come), and I was not disappointed. The concept is so fresh, yet so achingly familiar, like something you were told as a child.
Adeline LaRue lives in a small village in France in the 1700s, and for the first 23 years of her life she is happy, and wishes to become like Estele, the old woman who has managed to live a life free of marriage, free to be wild. But her parents have other ideas, and on the night of her wedding, Adeline runs into the forest, pleading to whatever god can hear her to help, and it is the darkness itself that responds. She trades an eternity of freedom for her soul, whenever she is ready to give it up, and the darkness agrees. What she doesn’t realise until later are the terms he has set, the main one being that she has been erased from the memories of all who knew her, and anyone who meets her will forget her the moment she is out of their sight. The book then follows Addie through the three hundred years of her time on earth, jumping between the present (2014 New York City) and the past, starting in 1714 and moving forward to eventually collide with the present. Luc, the name she has given the darkness, haunts her on the anniversary of their deal, and their relationship plays out over the centuries, as Luc tries to push Addie to surrender her soul, and Addie tries to get Luc to release her. When Henry comes into the picture about halfway through the story, and he sees Addie and remembers, she is suddenly thrown into a semblance of normal life, and thinks that maybe, after all this time, she has found a flaw in Luc’s magic.
I don’t think any review I write could do justice to this book, because the way it is written shows such skill in storytelling and word use. Every sentence has a sort of poetry to it, and invokes clear images. I can clearly see the village Addie was born in, can see the long path that leads into the wider world, can see Paris in the days before the Revolution, Venice in sunlight, New York in its hundred’s of streets, corners, hidden shops, constant thrumming. V.E. Schwab really has a gift for words. And though the story itself, especially when the characters are in New York, feels very modern and has elements of urban fantasy, the book still has a fairytale quality, like it has been around a long time. As I said, achingly familiar.
There was a moment, about three quarters of the way through, where it felt like the book was dragging, since there was a lull in the action, but this may partly be due to the fact that I was reading it as an ebook and I couldn’t gage how far into the story I was, because soon after that things truly picked up and the tension – the growing threat of Luc’s presence – came crashing in and I could not put the book down until it was finished. The tension build up is done exquisitely through the use of short chapters, the shift between past and present, and the hints throughout Addie’s story that something happened between her and Luc that may still need to play out fully. This is the kind of book, though, that needs to be read without knowing too much of the plot to truly enjoy the unfolding of it, so I urge you to pick up the book, read it, and remember.