France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.
Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.
But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.
Synopsis source: Goodreads
Being forgotten, she thinks, is a bit like going mad. You begin to wonder what is real, if you are real. After all, how can a thing be real if it cannot be remembered? It’s like that Zen koan, the one about the tree falling in the woods.
Don’t shoot the messenger, I know that Schwab has almost a cult following and I can certainly concede that she can write a good story, but I have a hard time seeing what all the fuss is about. I really liked this book, but I don’t know if I think it is as amazing as everyone is saying it is.
If you’ve never read this book, the first thing you need to understand is that regardless of the fact that the main character is over 300 years old, this is NOT historical fiction. I only mention this because a few reviews I’ve read had hoped for more history in the book, but this is a fantasy, not historical fiction. While there are plenty of historical events and people mentioned throughout the book, it is purely background and not central to the story.
The sky outside is a static gray, a thin mist of rain blurring the buildings. It is the kind of day designed for wood fires, and mugs of tea, and well-loved books.
Well, THAT we can agree on at least! This is my first V.E. Schwab book, and while it’s obvious that she can set a stage and tell a story, I found myself undecided whether I liked the meandering style of her narrative. Sometimes I quite enjoyed it. She’s quite clever and has a way with words. Other times, I felt like it was a bit indulgent and parts could have been removed to make the story a bit shorter. It somehow both transported me and also had me checking to see how far along I was pretty frequently.
The story is told in two POVs, Addie (mostly) and Henry. I found Addie’s narrative to be far more interesting than Henry’s, probably for a couple of reasons. One, it was simply exposure. We got a more in-depth look into Addie’s backstory, struggles, and motivations. Second, her lifespan had this history fanatic consuming periods of her life like a kid binging popcorn during a slasher flick. Compared to that, Henry’s backstory lacked any emotional depth and connection that would have allowed me to care more about his character.
With all of that said, there was still a LOT that this book did right. I loved how well-plotted Addie’s bargain was. You could tell that Schwab spent a lot of time thinking about the nuance to the curse and finding a way to help Addie live between the lines of it. I do think that she hit us over the head a few too many times with the palimpsest thing, but it was still a cool story-layering technique. She just needs to give her readers a little more credit to be able to see it for themselves instead of repeating the word so much.
I was getting total The Taker vibes from this story. The entire time, I was trying to figure out if she was setting Luc up to be a dark romantic interest or not, and I have to say that she drew him VERY well. He’s a very interesting character, both subtly and overtly sinister, and the way she describes him as “unfolding” was creepy AF. Still, the vibes were so similar that it was hard for me not to compare the two, and honestly, I liked The Taker better, which is my primary reasoning behind my rating.
Pinning down the genre for this book is a bit tricky. Above, I compared it to The Taker, which is funny because Barnes & Noble has The Taker shelved in the horror section, and I would have thought it to be in fantasy, and I think the same could easily be said of this book, but it’s shelved in fantasy. Had there been more of Luc “working” I think this would definitely have tipped it closer to the horror mark, but I think it’s fair to say that this is definitely more fantasy.
All in all, while I had my problems with it, I really did enjoy the book and would be very interested in seeing more of what happens next in Addie’s story. Alas, at the time of this writing, there isn’t any sequel planned. But if you read this and liked it, you should definitely check out Alma Katsu’s The Taker, a full series of books that I think you’d enjoy.
Until next time, happy reading!
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