Serena’s Review: “All of Us Villains”

Book: “All of Us Villains” by Amanda Foody and Chrstine Lynn Herman

Publishing Info: Tor Teen, November 2021

Where Did I Get this Book: NetGalley

Book Description: The Blood Moon rises. The Blood Veil falls. The Tournament begins.

Every generation, at the coming of the Blood Moon, seven families in the remote city of Ilvernath each name a champion to compete in a tournament to the death.

The prize? Exclusive control over a secret wellspring of high magick, the most powerful resource in the world–one thought long depleted.

This year, thanks to a salacious tell-all book, the seven champions are thrust into worldwide spotlight, granting each of them new information, new means to win, and most importantly: a choice – accept their fate or rewrite their story.

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

Review: I was late to the game requesting this book. For some reason I wasn’t feeling the cover. That, plus the title. In theory, the title should be good, but I’ve been burned too many times by these morally grey protagonists books where I go in expecting villainous characters and all I get are totally-justified-in-their-actions heroes. And, while this book did largely turn out to be that, I think the fact that I was resigned to that from the start helped. Plus, it was just super well-written and enjoyable!

The world is full of magic but its sources of high magic have all been tapped and drawn by their respective nations. All but one, a secret source that has been passed down to various families for generations. However, for the privilege of wielding this powerful supply, the families must all sacrifice a son or daughter to a battle royale where the only survivor wins access for their family for the next twenty years. But for the first time, this secretive competition has become known to the world and this year’s contestants face a level of scrutiny and pressure that none have known before. With all eyes on them, who will survive?

I really enjoyed this book! Like I said, I really wasn’t sure that I would when I started out. But, it turns out, after more than a decade, I was more than ready for a new “Hunger Games” style story! And really, that’s what this is. There are even powerful objects that drop periodically from the sky that help the contestants. That said, the rest of the set-up is incredibly unique and well thought out. The magic itself, created and directed through the use of spell-rings. The history of the various families who participate in this competition. The effect of the sudden revelation of a new source of high magic to a world that had thought it all run out. Very compelling stuff.

And, on top of all of that, all of the POV characters were interesting and unique. I’m a tough sell on multiple POV stories, as has been well-documented on this blog. All too often, they either all blend together with voices that sound all too similar, or there are one or two particularly strong characters who take over the story, leaving the remaining characters feeling bland in comparison. Here, however, I was equally intrigued by all four main characters. I may have still had a preferences, but I was never disappointed to start a new character’s chapter.

Each of the four had such distinct, personal arcs that had been so well laid out at the start of the book that I was equally invested in each of their stories. We have Briony, the girl who has prepared her entire life for this moment, but when it comes, discovers that her goals may have changed. Isobel, the young woman who has become the face of the competition to the public but whose struggles with her family and her magic leave her on the back foot when the competition begins. Gavin, the young man from a family who has never won and whom no one expects anything from but who push himself beyond the limits of magic to do what he must to survive. And Alistair, the young man from the family most known for its wins and for its villainy. Each were so, so interesting and had stories that seemed to naturally weave in and out of one another’s.

The story was also appropriately dark and graphic when it needed to be. As I mentioned earlier, none of the four were as villainous as the title would imply. But they each did have their moments, and the general set-up of the competition and the world was grim and bloody. There were a number of real surprises where the book “went there” when I didn’t expect it to.

This book was an excellent surprise! I went in expecting little and came out with a front-runner for my “Top 10” list. I definitely recommend this for all fantasy lovers, especially those looking for a book with a compelling cast of characters and a darker take on magic.

Rating 9: A magical “Hunger Games” that delivers on all fronts: excellent characters, a dark world, and exciting fantasy elements.

Reader’s Advisory:

“All of Us Villains” is on these Goodreads lists: Fantasy Frenemies and If You Like ‘Squid Game,’ You Should Read….

Find “All of Us Villains” at the library or at a local independent bookstore using IndieBound!

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