BOOK REVIEW: All of Us Villains (All of Us Villains #1) by Amanda Foody

BOOK REVIEW: All of Us Villains (All of Us Villains #1) by Amanda FoodyAll of Us Villains by Amanda Foody
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Synopsis:

The blockbuster co-writing debut of Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman, All of Us Villains begins a dark tale of ambition and magick...

You Fell In Love With The Victors of The Hunger Games.
Now Prepare To Meet The Villains of The Blood Veil.

After the publication of a salacious tell-all book, the remote city of Ilvernath is thrust into worldwide spotlight. Tourists, protesters, and reporters flock to its spellshops and 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.

Review

**I’m being extremely honest here when I say that grammar took a SERIOUS hit in the name of purging my emotions- ALSO- ARC PROVIDED BY TORTEEN IN EXCHANGE FOR AN HONEST REVIEW**

Grins like goblins.
Pale as plague and silent as spirits.
They’ll tear your throat and drink your soul.

That feeling of dread slowly inching up your spine is not the emotion nor the feeling I had imagined I’d experience when I started this novel. The vague sensation of helplessness that comes with the realization that you are not in control of this novel, this novel will not bend to your will, and you WILL be in pain as you see yourself slowly maddening at the fact that you WILL have to wait more than a year to see these characters through to their gory end. The utter calm [and a bit unhinged] madness that inhabits you when you realize- You don’t like that you have to wait for a very long time to see what happens…but you do love this brutal love song written just for you and all the evil things your now favorite character is doing to write said song. You don’t just like it-you love it.

“Do you hear that?” The older one, Hendry Lowe, stood up, brushed the forest floor off his gray T-shirt, cracked each of his knuckles, one by one. “That’s the sound of rules breaking.”
“Do you hear that?” Alistair echoed, smirking as he rose to his feet. “That’s the sound of bones breaking.”

This story wasn’t what I expected. And, that being said, I don’t know what I expected. Did I think it would be akin to my favorite series of all time, THG? No. I didn’t. Did I really think it would be about actual villains? No. And did I think it would hold up to any of my macabre fantasies when I imagined reading it? Heck no. But…It was BETTER. It was MORE. No matter what my mind could have dreamed up, it wasn’t this-never this. And that’s just…it’s a breath of fresh air. Look, I like predictability a lotthere are certain formulas you just cannot beat, no matter what you do, in my opinion. That’s me. But the fact remains that when I go into a book with no idea what to expect and it delivers with such ferocity-I hardly know how to contain myself. And that is this. I am in shock. I am in awe. I am so grateful for TorTeen for thinking of me, for sending me what is now a prized possession in my treasure trove of my absolute favorite stories. Even though I can’t even quite pinpoint what clicked for me-it just did.

Monsters couldn’t harm you if you were a monster, too.

I think it goes without saying that characters are key, especially in a book with such a dark theme-Yeah…villains. Okay. But why. WHY are they villains? The answer is simple-they really aren’t. And herein lies my largest conundrum: Why I am so defensive of my precious book? Because people are so judgmental. I thought each and every character had something dark about them (even if it wasn’t on the surface, but lurking far beneath)-but most of these klds-which they are just kids, in the end-were just pawns in their family’s lineage to grasp high magick for them to horde until the next tournament…And the family that possesses the high magick runs the town.

Like I said-I’m here for it. These characters-to me-were, in fact, villains. Maybe not the twirling your mustache kind, but they all had deeply disturbing ideologies and would do anything and everything to reach what they deemed necessary in their own mind’s eye: to either make a name for themselves, to gain glory, to earn a spot in the tournament (ie, beat out the other contenders in the family), to prove their worth, or to avenge-I won’t expand on that. Avenge is plenty good. My point remains valid-villains are what we make them, not always by what they actually do. And that is this tournament – seven families putting forth someone in their name, the town always viewing these families as evil, corrupt souls (well…maybe mostly just one family), or bottom-dwellers, attention seekers, or soul-suckers. Fact is, heavy is the head that wears the crown-and everyone wants a piece of it.

The Lowes did not tell their children monster stories so that they could slay them.
The Lowes told them so their children would become monsters themselves.

Of the four point of views, there are two that always always made me happy, sigh in relief, and really immerse: Isobel and Alistair. And then there was just ONE that made my heart beat faster, my mouth dry up, and my insides clench in dread, anticipation, and hope…and anyone that knows me at all knows that would be Alistair Lowe. Predictable, anyone? I. Don’t. Care.

Alistair’s fear wasn’t for his life, but for his mind. Even the most villainous Lowe victors left the tournament changed, broken. But Alistair refused to accept such a fate. No matter how brutal, how terrible he’d need to be, he couldn’t let himself care. Not about the other champions. Not about his soul.
He needed to become the most villainous of them all.

Look, Alistair is the clear favored champion-the one everyone knows has the best chance of winning and the favorite of the tournament…but really that makes him enemy number one and everyone also hates him and wants to gang together and make him dead and cease to exist and wants to steal his family’s smarmy glory. But the fact is, though he is among the wickedest of the contenders, he is also cool, calculated, and able to see reason-which many of the champions fail to do because they trust only what they know and what they’ve been taught, they can’t read between the lines and dig deeper within themselves to see a bigger picture, a deeper picture. And what does Alistair have to lose? NOTHING. Which makes him DANGEROUS. Makes it easy for him to lean back, relax, and fight the predictable and inevitable tide of people allying against him-except one.

“Hello, rival,” he whispered.

Isobel was not only my other favorite because she was closely connected with Alistair (And I will admit I was like the Pavlov dog becoming immediately butterfly-induced by simple association, shut up), but because her chapters fit. They just fit with my mindset like Alistair’s did. Was this intentional? Were we meant to favor them? I’m sure. I wouldn’t call Al the most relatable, but he was someone you rooted for simply because others didn’t like him and obviously he was the misunderstood bad boy-obviously. But Isobel didn’t care to be a champion, she only did it to keep others out of the fray and because she is the best at magick-her cool demeanor pre-tournament and haughty confidence was enough to snare me even without the help of a certain dark, brooding bad boy. I have a type, and these two were it. I’m predictable, but in this, I’m also sane.

“You want to know something funny?” he asked. “In a choice between staying here or going home, I’d still choose here. With you.”

The other contenders were easy to read about, as well-Briony being my likely third favorite due to her positive outlook and loyalty to her optimistic cause….then there was Gavin. I see him being a fan favorite (for those who are not like me and did not fall easily for the widow-peeked, pale, genius prodigy) but I couldn’t get on board with his motives or the way he processed things. I like an underdog, which also, coincidentally, likely makes him a bad boy or tortured hero as well, but deep down he had a bit more rot, perhaps more decay, and that was harder for me to acceptThese characters are layered far more than I gave them credit for, so that makes this hard to say, but in the end I couldn’t root for him, no matter his life nor his choices. That being said, I didn’t hate his chapters nor did I skim them as I do in books where I don’t entirely cherish a character as I do my favorites-that has to be noted for these authors to understand how deeply they reached me. I am a flawed reader, but I can be won over.

Innes had called the tournament a pattern. Patterns could be disrupted.
Reid had called it a machine. Machines could be broken.
Briony had only ever thought of it as a fairy tale. But even the grandest stories eventually found their ending.

And now that I’ve rambled on for literal AGES I’ll get to the actual story-I just. For many moments in this book, I just couldn’t breathe. The heartache, the yearn, the fear, the not-knowing. And then there were so many moments, something I’m not accustomed to, where I frowned or furrowed my brow at the page, where I wondered just what I was reading and why it was assaulting my senses in such a manner. A certain blood bath, an inevitable, heinous act, the deaths, the…well…moment that may or may not have ripped my beating heart from my chest and incinerated it (and, for once, I wasn’t sure I liked it). Oh, who am I kidding-I LOVED IT, and the end, naturally. My smile-my smile couldn’t have been larger, my heart couldn’t have beat any faster, and my stomach couldn’t have been in more of a butterfly tornado. This story, it hurt me in all the best ways possible, which makes me wonder just what’s wrong with me that these are my favorite types of stories and I seek these horrendous plots out.

If he was truly a monster, then why was he so afraid?

I always say I want bad things to happen and my name even boasts peril-but I found that-when it comes down to it-I don’t actually like when terrible things happen to people. And I guess that’s not the same as ‘perilous situations’, because those rarely can always be so dire, but the actual gore of it…it gets to me. In fact, for the first time ever, my blood trigger appeared seemingly out of nowhere (this never happens when I read) and my hands went numb and I physically couldn’t hold my book and had to lay it down for a moment. I really and truly wish for the madness, then when the madness comes slowly crawling to me, I back away and cringe-I’d make a horrendous villain. Truly.

After they’d slain all the other champions-her ex-best friend among them-it would only be the two of them left. Maybe that would be months from now. Maybe it would be days. But that was what this alliance led up to. Not a kiss stolen in the dark, or a priceless gift given without being asked.
A duel.

I must say one last thing before I depart-if you’re even still here with me, reading my nonsensical rambling- I am so big on character driven books, which I think I’ve mentioned no less than five times in one way or another as I type out this review, and this is a perfect example- I don’t think this was the most action packed book, but I think where it lacked (and I say lacked for loss of a better word) in lots of action, it gained in connecting with the characters so when something happened or was mentioned, we felt instead of riding along beside it. I think this is the biggest execution flaw in some of these popular series that gain so much momentum-they win us in book one and two, then throw in so much action in book three that I personally lose interest and forget the whole series even existed when, before, my world centered around said series. So I think subtlety is key-every bad moment, every sacrifice, any betrayal, any shortcoming, they mean so much more when staring down the barrel of these characters’ wants, needs, plans, desires. We care so much MORE when the battle comes because we had time to immerse ourselves, and I think that is so important here, and perhaps why I am just so elated I had the opportunity to read this novel and go in blind before others start to talk about it (but also, what a curse).

I went on and on and on and for that I’m sorry, but these emotions have been brewing inside of me for over 24 hours and I needed to purge everything epic that is this book. These authors ensnared me with simple words and a brooding, tortured boy, but they kept me because of the choices they made, the way they shocked and surprised me at each and every turn, if only because they didn’t do the typical (and sometimes they did, further confusing me more), and the way they captured my heart and soul. That’s truly not an easy thing to do-I may bluster and boast that I love giving out 5 stars to books that make me happy, but a true five star is one that can capture my heart and wind it’s way into my daily routine, invading my thoughts even when I don’t want them to-that’s this book, and I’m so happy to be ordering a copy to support these authors as soon as I’m able-with a certain special personalization, of course ;).

*This is an uncorrected proof, so quotes are subject to change*

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1 Comment

  1. ShootingStarsMag

    Woah, you most definitely loved this one. I’m so fascinated now. I do love books that feature villains in all their shades of gray, and it sounds like this does a great job doing that.
    ShootingStarsMag recently posted…(August 2021 Show Us Your Books): The Secret Bridesmaid, That Weekend, and More!My Profile

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