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.
All of Us Villains is the first installment of a competition-centered duology that takes place in the city of Ilvernath. Every twenty years over the last eight centuries, seven magic-filled families choose their own champion to compete in a competition to the death to select who will control high magick until the next tournament. The families must compete with only one champion remaining or risk death if the clock runs out. This year the tournament is held under a microscope, as there was a tell-all book released revealing all of its dark secrets. While there are seven champions, there are four that are featured with the other three mentioned throughout the story. There are four narrators for the story: Allistair Lowe, Gavin Grieve, Briony Thornburn, and Isobel Macaslan.
The story opens with Allistair, who is the favorite to win the tournament. The people of Ilvernath hate him and his brother, Hendry, along with the rest of the Lowes. Gavin is the underdog of the tournament as they have been typically the first to die in the past. Isobel was forced to compete and unwillingly becomes the media face of the tournament. Briony knows that she is the best choice to represent her family and is determined to compete. I go back and forth between which of the four I like the best, but I think I would have to go with Allistair. There was something to love and dislike about each of them, but there is something that I cannot pinpoint that appeals to Allistair to me a little more.
It is difficult to write too much about any of the characters without spoiling their stories. Each has their own motivations and backstories that are explored and there are interesting interactions between them and the other three champions. While the word “villains” is in the title, the characters are not outright ruthless or heartless and there is a lot more to them than meets the eye. For me, I was expecting a little more darkness from them. As the events move forward, it is difficult to stick with a character to root for and who will come out on top or if changes are coming. One great element about the writing is that there is a character that will appeal more to different readers as each will favor their own choice. I greatly enjoy these types of stories as it provides variety for an audience and everyone ends up rooting for their own character instead of an extreme focus on only one.
Overall, this story was very unexpected compared to my original expectations. While the characters are not quite as villainous as I anticipated, there were still darker and complex. As there are four perspectives, the big picture does seem to be difficult to put together; however, I think the sequel can help. There is a cliffhanger ending after multiple twists and turns, so it will be interesting how the authors bring it all together. I cannot wait to read the final installment and see what happens to all of the characters next!
**I give a special thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, Macmillan-Tor/Forge, Tor Teen, for the opportunity to read this entertaining novel. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**