I have been hyped up for over a year to read All of Us Villains. I’m not super familiar with Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman’s previous works, but I didn’t need a lot of convincing to pick up their joint project after I read the premise. If you’ve ever wanted a magical Hunger Games, look no further and pick your champion before the Blood Veil falls.
In the city of Ilvernath, a secret curse has been affecting seven magickal families for generations. Every 20 years, a champion from each family enters a tournament under the red tinge of the Blood Veil. The survivor grants their family control over the supply of a mysterious and powerful high magick. Except now, this violent game is no longer hiding in the shadows. Someone has written an expose on the families’ dastardly deeds, shocking violence, and selfish hold on high magick. The book sends the media into a frenzy and the once anonymous champions have been outed and thrown to the wolves. As four teenagers begin to prepare for the tournament, the government and people in town are making their own moves. But the choices these teens make will have everlasting effects on this bloody family curse.
Cheers to Foody and Herman who combined their writing powers to create an engaging, plot-driven story. The curse that encircles the families is brutal and unique, making it a great centerpiece. The magick in Villains is also intriguing because it’s so varied, and there’s a whole system to how it’s used and created. The spells and curses are created by collecting raw magick and combining it with the necessary ingredients on a septogram. The spell or curse is then housed in a jewelry piece called a cursering. A cursering can be as simple as a cosmetic spell or as dangerous as Dragon’s Breath. And everyone’s abilities with magic differ, too. One champion may be a powerful spellcaster, but can’t craft the high-level spells needed to win. It’s a dynamic magic system and it’s awesome to see which powers our characters lean towards.
The tournament is obviously the focal point of this story, but the build-up to the event is where Villains was strongest. This is where Foody and Herman set the stage, and they devote a lot of effort to setting up the world. Although we barely scratch the surface of the four characters, their backgrounds are interesting and we get a behind-the-scenes look at their family and tournament preparation. I enjoyed seeing the choices these characters made as the event approached. Their desperation led to many mistakes and horrible revelations, and it had me excited for what the tournament would bring. But once the game began, I feel like the story lost its steam. Those shocking moments I experienced earlier outshined the tournament’s play-by-play. I had a lot of anxiety leading up to the event, and ultimately the story unfolded in a different way that diffused my fear. However, I still really enjoyed this story and was interested in the new direction.
If there was anything I struggled with in Villains it was the characters because they don’t have much personality outside of their tournament goals. There was a moment ¾ into the book where I stopped and realized I didn’t know a thing about these people. The only knowledge I had was if a champion wanted to be in the tournament or not and what they were going to do about it. I can confidently describe to you one person out of seven, this person being Alistair, who is the only one that has another facet of their personality that isn’t “I’m in a death tournament and it sucks.” It should come as no surprise that Alistair is also my favorite character but given the shallow character builds, I can’t help but gravitate towards him even if he’s as deep as a puddle.
I was expecting a violent, ruthless story of survival and while All of Us Villains certainly had its moments, it was not the brutal book I hyped it up to be. Instead, I encountered an interesting curse and a group of teenagers looking to change the history that defines their family. It was certainly not the story I expected but it was one I found to be engrossing in its own way.
Rating: All of Us Villains – 7.0/10
I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. The thoughts on this story are my own.