‘All of Us Villains’ – Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman

It’s thirteen years since The Hunger Games published, and I think there may be a new contender for the dystopian YA crown coming in November 2021.

All of Us Villains is set in the fictional world of Ilvernath, a place ruled by high magick and dark ambition. Every generation one of the seven families has to name a champion…someone who will step into The Blood Veil and fight to the death. The eventual winner will be awarded control of the supply of high magick and this is a powerful resource. To be a winner, you have to be prepared to be a villain.

The book began quite slowly, introducing us to each of the seven contenders and their families. We were given time to see the furore in Ilvernath after the publication of the salacious book – purportedly written by one of the families – telling all about the Blood Veil and the secrets of the contest. This book has caused an unprecedented interest in the competition, but nobody is willing to try and stop what has always happened.

It was, initially, a little confusing to keep track of who was who, but seeing events from each character’s viewpoint actually lent a depth to the book that was welcome. It felt as if we as readers were being given little clues as to the bigger picture throughout (even if we couldn’t always work out the relevance of what we were being told).

Once the tournament is about to start things picked up quite quickly. We had double-crosses, curses, alliances tested and a desperate attempt from each contestant to find a way to make themselves victorious. The increase in magic and the focus on the history of the Veil/contest stopped this from getting dull because not much happens for the first week of the trial.

People die, and there’s some scenes that may well have you taking a moment to recover from reading about them. As soon as it looks as if things are going well in terms of the competition we get something of a spanner in the works. The only way to win this is to be a villain. But what if you don’t want to be a villain?

Each of the characters is given time to reflect on the individual demands of this trial for them. Naturally, some characters are given more time than others. Our core cast of Briony, Isobel, Gavin and Alistair were very interesting. Each of them had their strengths, and I certainly felt like they were put through some tough situations in order to help us see the wider benefits of their choices.

We see there’s potential for upset here. Nothing ends in a way that makes it easy to call for the next book. Someone within the pages is shown to be more invested in the outcome than we might have believed, and I am excited to see exactly where this goes next.

Huge thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for allowing me to read this before publication. It was a joy!