The remote city of Ilvernath is known for little more than being ordinary. With quaint shops, dense forests, and talented spellmakers, it’s little-known and little-noticed, unassuming, perhaps, to a fault.
But every generation, with the rise of the Blood Moon, each of Ilvernath’s seven most powerful families sends one of its children into a cursed duel to the death. The victor’s family controls the city’s high magic reserves until the next Tournament. The other children put forward as potential champions by their families are just more sacrifices to the brutal curse they put in place centuries ago.
For centuries, the tournament, along with Ilvernath’s high magic itself—a dangerous and incredibly powerful natural resource believed to be depleted from the world—has been a carefully kept secret. But ever since the publication of a tell-all book, A Tradition of Tragedy, which bears all Ilvernath’s secrets to the world, newspapers throughout the country have been plastered with headlines about this unassuming city that sends its children to their deaths. For the first time, as each family declares their champion, the world is watching with revolution and fascination as this centuries-old story unfolds, and the seven champions of Ilvernath battle for their families, survival, and glory.
Alistair Lowe has been raised on monster stories by his family, the undisputed villains of Ilvernath, but he wants to win not for them, but for his beloved brother. Isobel Macaslan was thrust accidentally into the spotlight as the first champion revealed, and a desperate attempt to survive might cost her her life. Briony Thorburn has wanted all her life to be her family’s champion, but the meddling of external powers might not give her that chance. And even though Gavin Greive’s family has never won the tournament—or perhaps because of it—he’s willing to sacrifice anything to survive, even the very force that keeps him alive.
But maybe this time, Ilvernath’s ancient story will end a little differently.
With the atmospheric writing of Where Dreams Descend and the emotional ambiguity and intensity of Six of Crows and An Ember in the Ashes, I knew as soon as I started reading that All of Us Villains was going to become an instant favorite. This is one of those brilliant books with an amazing premise that not only lived up to everything I was hoping it would be, but far surpassed it. Complex, intense, and sometimes brutally honest, the intertwined stories of Alistair, Isobel, Briony, and Gavin wove one of the most complicated and multifaceted stories I’ve had the pleasure to read, going far beyond subverting traditional notions of heroism and what makes a villain into a tale so morally ambiguous that the term moral ambiguity barely begins to cover it. Alistair was my favorite character—he’s a character for anyone who has ever loved a villain—but it was a narrow win; all four of the narrators are utterly spectacular, with such nuance and realism that each utterly leapt off the page into my mind. Their struggles and distinct personalities were so vibrant, and the conflicts both between them and inside themselves propelled the story forward at an electric pace. The worldbuilding was stunning; I’ve never read a book with a world quite like All of Us Villain’s, a modern-ish world where magic is carried in spellstones and bought and sold like any other every-day tool. Every inch of it felt fresh and different; even the tournament, a familiar trope in YA literature, was unlike any I’ve ever read. Fast-paced, twisty, intense, and spectacular, I highly recommend All of Us Villains (and the AMAZING sequel!) to readers ages fourteen and up.
Note: All of Us Villains is stunning on audio--highly recommended!