Title: All of Us Villains
Series: All of Us Villains #1
Author: Amanda Foody & Christine Lynn Herman
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: November 9th, 2021 (Tor Teen)
Synopsis: 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.
Thank you to the publisher, Tor Teen, and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
“Every twenty years, we send seven teenagers into a massacre and reward the one who comes out with the most blood on their hands”
In the remote city of Ilvernath, the seven leading families each name a champion to take part in a tournament to the death every twenty years when the Blood Moon Rises. Only one will survive and gain the prize for their family – exclusive access to a cache of high magick, powerful and extremely rare until the next tournament. The cursed cycle has continued, generation after generation for centuries, but this year, with a tell-all book leaking the secret tradition to the world being published right before the tournament is due to start, the champions are under a media spotlight as reporters and spellmakers have descended on Ilvernath en masse. This offers them new information and avenues to victory, but the stakes are also higher than ever. This tournament will be unlike any other before it.
I received a sample of this book earlier this year and I knew within the first couple of chapters that this needed to be on my TBR. Simply put, I would describe this as Hunger Games with magic, and a bit of Game of Thrones tossed in for good measure. The world building was really good and none of it felt like info dumps despite how much information was there. The magic system was a fascinating one, and along with a unique plot and some epic magical duels, this book was an engrossing read right from the beginning.
Curses and tournaments and magical battles aside, the cast of characters are undoubtedly what make this book. There are no heroes to be found among the champions of this tournament. Each has their own reasons and motivations to win, and it was strange to find that I didn’t have someone to root for until well beyond the halfway mark – because each is as bad as the next. Once I got past that very odd revelation however, it was so very easy to become invested in each of their storylines despite not really liking any of them.
Alastair Lowe has a reputation of being cold blooded, calculating and ruthless, traits that have assured the Lowes frequent victories in the past. Isobel never expected to be chosen as the Champion of the Macaslan family, but as she is the strongest, her family sees an opportunity to gain power through her victory – though Isobel herself is torn between family loyalty and the desire to flee and seek out a different life. Briony Thorburn, on the other hand, fully expects to be chosen to represent her family, until she’s not and must watch her younger sister take the honor she has trained for all her life. Gavin Grieve is widely considered to be the weakest champion, and his family is more or less a laughing stock in the city, having never won a tournament before, but this is his chance to change everything and prove his worth. Each of these four champions have their own POVs which gives us a very good idea of not only their mindset but glimpses into their past and what led them to this stage. While some of the champions have been raised with this sole aim in mind and are more than willing to do what it takes to win, others are reluctant participants with no other choice. It was also interesting that many of them knew each other from school and some were even friends before being forced to cut ties – and this also plays a significant role in the arena as the tournament proceeds. Alastair was definitely my favorite, with Gavin a close second, but I really couldn’t stand the others, especially Briony, who was nothing more than a glory hog despite all her claims of being selfless.
The pacing was initially quite steady, and the build up to the tournament actually starting was excellent, but once the tournament actually started, the pace began to feel a bit choppy. The passage of time was also a bit hard to grasp for me since one chapter is full of action, and in the next, weeks seem to pass with barely a mention of what happened it between. However, what really prevented this from being a 5 star read for me was the characters, who, while wonderful, were not nearly as villainous as I expected. I was hoping for ruthless antiheroes, but one way or another, they instead turned out to be just doing what their families told them to, essentially martyring themselves in hopes of winning the tournament. By the end of the book, I feel like only Alastair and Gavin even somewhat fit the description, thought I was certainly ready to scream with how long it took them to get there. As for the dynamic between the characters, well, suffice to say, I was expecting more Hunger Games and less ‘let’s team up to stop this and save everyone’, which ultimately didn’t work and devolved into what felt like an endlessly repetitive cycle of forming alliances and backstabbing each other.
Amanda Foody set a very high standard to match with the finale to The Shadow Game trilogy last year, but this book has definitely lived up to it and more, despite a few highly frustrating points. I can’t wait for the sequel, especially after that shocking twist at the end that I had only barely begun to suspect, no to mention the place at which each of the characters find themselves in at this pivotal point in the tournament. This was a brilliant start to a new series and it is one I would highly recommend!
All of Us Villains releases on November 9th, 2021.
Do you plan to read this book? Let me know in the comments below!
All quotes in this review were taken from an advance reader’s edition and may differ from the final version of the book.
Other reviews in this series: