Book Reviews, Fantasy

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

After the publication of a salacious tell-all book, the remote city of Ilvernath is thrust into the spotlight. Tourists, protesters, and reporters alike flock to its spellshops and historic ruins to witness an ancient curse unfold: every generation, seven families name a champion among them to compete in a tournament to the death. The winner awards their family exclusive control over the city’s high magick supply, the most powerful resource in the world.

In the past, the villainous Lowes have won nearly every tournament, and their champion is prepared to continue his family’s reign. But this year, thanks to the influence of their newfound notoriety, each of the champions has a means to win. Or better yet–a chance to rewrite their story.

But this is a story that must be penned in blood.

Thank you to NetGalley and Gollancz for the eARC in exchange for an honest review.

The world of All of Us Villains is very similar to ours: they have modern technology and all the discoveries and inventions we do but they also have magic. Spells can be bought by anyone and used to ease daily tasks. Simple magick cannot do much and high magick is believed to have been used up, until an anonymous source publishes the story of the seven families of Ilvernath, who sacrifice one of their own every generation to try and gain control of the high magick that remains. I absolutely loved the concept of this Hunger Games-esque trial happening in a world with gossip columns, journalists, tourists, and the effects of the media. It’s such a refreshing twist to a story like this and I don’t think I ever stopped being surprised by the mention of magic and an airplane in the same sentence. I also loved the way the government gets involved in this centuries old curse, which is definitely not something I’ve seen done before.

The story begins a few weeks before the tournament is set to begin and we get to see the perspectives of four of the seven champions as their prepare for the Blood Veil to drop and the three-month long contest to begin, knowing only one of them will come out alive. Alistair Lowe is the champion for the current rulers of Ilvernath, and everyone expects him to win as most of his predecessors have done before him. He was raised by his family to be the monster in night, the villain and not the hero, and he is determined to win so he can get away from it all and be reunited with his brother, the only bright thing in his world. I loved Alistair, and would have happily read the entire book from his point of view – though I know it wouldn’t have worked for the type of story being told.

Unfortunately, I can’t really remember the names of any of the other champions, because their chapters all felt quite similar – each trying to use their new fame to gain the advantage, and having family drama. It took quite a while to build up to the tournament, and when it did finally happen I again found it all to be a bit repetitive and I admit to skimming certain chapters – I guessed a few of the twists and intentions of the characters so I just wanted to get to the reveals. I will admit there was one final twist I didn’t entirely anticipate which did have me interested, and I really enjoyed the idea of change that the book deals with. However, I also didn’t realise that this book was the first in a series, and so where I was expecting some sort of resolution the ending came as a bit of a shock, and left me feeling a bit disappointed.

Overall, I still really appreciate the concept and the convoluted character relationships that form throughout the narrative, but I didn’t quite feel like the book was saying anything much and it just seemed a little bland. I have seen a lot of people praise the book, and I’m sure many will enjoy it, so I do still think it’s worth picking up by anyone who is piqued by the blurb, but it just wasn’t a standout read for me.

Book Info

Published: 11th November 2021 by Gollancz
Genre: fantasy
Pages: 400
Series: All of Us Villains, book one
Narration style: third person, multiple points of view
Format read: eARC
Content Warnings: violence, blood, death, child mistreatment

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