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Book: “All of Our Demise” by Amanda Foody & Christine Lynn Herman
Publishing Info: Tor Teen, August 2022
Where Did I Get this Book: Edelweiss+
Book Description: For the first time in this ancient, bloodstained story, the tournament is breaking. The boundaries between the city of Ilvernath and the arena have fallen. Reporters swarm the historic battlegrounds. A dead boy now lives again. And a new champion has entered the fray, one who seeks to break the curse for good… no matter how many lives are sacrificed in the process.
As the curse teeters closer and closer to collapse, the surviving champions each face a choice: dismantle the tournament piece by piece, or fight to the death as this story was always intended.
Long-held alliances will be severed. Hearts will break. Lives will end. Because a tale as wicked as this one was never destined for happily ever after.
Previously Reviewed: “All of Us Villains”
Review: “All of Us Villains” was one of those rare beasts for me last year where it was a very hyped book that I felt actually lived up to the hype. More surprising still, it was a multi-POV fantasy story that actually managed to create a cast of characters all of whom felt unique and whose stories I was interested in reading individually and collectively. All of this to say, I was very excited about this second half of this duology to release this year (especially given that my main gripe about the first book was the cliffhanger it all wrapped up on).
The stakes could not be more high. What once was a brutal, secretive battle royale has had all of its mysteries torn away with the fall of the veil that used to separate the city of Ilvernath and the harsh landscape where the contestants fought. But, while much may be different, many things are still the same, like the deathly importance of alliances and the fear that one never knows friend from foe. For some, however, the goal is no longer to win this most brutal of tournaments, but to destroy it once and for all.
Well, while there was a lot to like about this book, I feel a controversial review coming on! But first let’s get into the parts of my review that will probably line up nicely with everyone else’s reaction. For one thing, there’s no denying the general quality of this duology. The writing remains one of its strongest aspects, across both dialogue and descriptive portions. There were several pieces that I re-read and several moments where I knew that the high quality of the writing was helping assuage some of my annoyances at what I felt were missed opportunities, story-wise.
I also still like the overall concept of the story. Though, I do have to say that this was one of the places where this book began to fall short of the first. There was such a feeling of a breath of fresh air in that first book. Not only did I find all of the characters’ stories interesting, but in a world where I’ve read a million and one “magical competition” fantasy novels, this one managed to stand out from the crowd. But that being the case, this book had a higher task at hand since that initial good will based purely on a new world and concept had already been spent. And while I still enjoyed returning to this world, I did start to feel as if some of the alliances and character drama was beginning to overtake the enjoyment that could have been found in continued world-building.
And really, this is where I was really held up: the characters. While I enjoyed almost all of them in the first book, here I began to feel that several of their storylines began to fall apart, especially when you looked back over the two books together. There were character decisions and betrayals that began to feel more like they were driven by the authors wanting to create shock value than in any organic change in the characters themselves. More and more, I found myself feeling frustrated by some of the characters and the lack of consistency in their reactions to other characters and other plot points.
My biggest annoyance comes with a plot point that I can’t really talk about without some major spoilers. I wasn’t against this particular point in a vacuum, but specifically in the story we see here, it began to represent my overall frustration with the character arcs overall. I felt like the authors not only set the reader up in the first book in a way that was misleading (this second-book-switch could have worked if a bit more effort had been laid down to hint at this change of path, but I don’t feel that was the case), but I also felt like one of the biggest emotional cliffhangers from the first book was kind of wasted. In other words, I feel like I was really revved up to be invested in certain things and then…those things weren’t anything, ultimately. This will be the most unpopular opinion in this review, I’m sure, as I know that the outcome seen here is going to appeal to a lot of fans. And I feel like I could have been on this train too, but I was left frustrated by the feeling that the authors intentionally wound me up into an emotionally invested situation that they were using purely as misdirection. And, as a reader, this kind of thing at best, doesn’t work for me. And at worst, annoys me. And here it really annoyed me because I thought that the abandoned storyline had been set up in a really interesting way.
I also have to say I was a bit let down by the lack of brutality in this book. Maybe I’m just sadistic, but I didn’t feel like any of the big moments in this book really landed and that most of the decisions that would have felt like true gut punches were avoided. But, like I said, the writing was still excellent, and I know this will be seen as an excellent end to the story for many readers. Just not as much for me, sadly.
Rating 7: Unpopular opinion from me in that I felt like a lot of the build up of the first book was wasted here in the second.
“All of Our Demise” is on this Goodreads list: YA Releases August 2022