All of Us Villains / Amanda Foody & Christine Lynn Herman / Book Review

All of Us Villains


The sky's gone red over Ilvernath. The Blood Moon has come again. Ilvernath is the last place left where high magick still exists, a long-forgotten well of magick protected by Ilvernath's seven great families. And every generation, the magick comes available again, ready for the next family to claim. Each family names a champion, someone to fight to the death for the right to control this high magick until the next Blood Moon falls. It is time once again to bring the champions forth. But this year is different. Something has changed. For generations, the high magick of Ilvernath has been a close-guarded secret, kept from the rest of the world by these seven warring families, but a scandalous book has brought scrutiny to Ilvernath now. This book has exposed everything: the secrets, the magick, the brutal championship. And this year's competition looks different: no longer completed in bloody secret, just a brutal duty to uphold. Gawkers have come. Paparazzi are skulking. And the government has a vested interest in which family gains control this time around. 

This book was so different than I thought it would be. It took me longer than I would have liked, but not in a bad way. I just realized, as soon as I started, that this book was going to take time and concentration--and be worth the effort in the end. And it was. It absolutely was. This book was on track to tie with the other near-perfect fantasy I reviewed this year (a rare honor). The only thing that knocked it down was it's terrible cliffhanger "end."



  • Horrific Sacrifice: The characters are, as the title claims, villains. They in fact revel in their villainy. The horror of this book is produced with surprising gusto. They, all seven of them, are like the "Career" tributes of Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games but much, much worse than that, in the extent that they go. Not only are they highly trained--in magic as well as physically--they also really go the distance. Their actions and reactions are truly horrific--as they are intended to be. These characters don't beat around the bush. Death and lifeblood, severed fingers, and brutal curses: nothing goes too far for this competition. 
  • High Magick Chasers: In a world of high magick, there are still annoying paparazzi. They hide in the bushes for scandalous pictures. They follow subjects of interest, ask invasive questions, spill secrets across the world. And that, a glimpse of our familiar modern world within this realm of high fantasy, is an interesting and unique twist. I love that the "cursechasers" who come to town to watch the upcoming duel are super annoying. I love that prying eyes are all scheming to get a glimpse of the kids, these newfound horrific celebrities. I love that this is a part of the twisted magic of this world as well. 
  • Whimsical Magic: As strange as this might sound after everything I've said so far, the magic here is as whimsical as it is deadly. Curses come with fun names like "dragon's breath" and "lamb's sacrifice." Defensive spells such as "roach's armor" are incredibly important. Fun names and twisted uses combine to form an off-kilter sense of whimsy, and the magic system here is inherently interesting. Some readers might be disappointed that all of the mechanics aren't entirely laid out, but the rules are clear enough that this ultimately isn't a problem. And it's all done in whimsically deadly fun. 


  • Needs Digestion: I said it earlier, but it bears repeating: this is a book that really needs to be digested. It's not light. The prose is intricate but also dense. It can't be sped through. It's a great read. The characters are interesting and well-rounded. The pacing is very good. The descriptions are wicked and beautiful. And with all of that said, it's a long book that needs to be waded through to be appreciated. It's not the quickest read in the world, and not everyone has the time to truly dig into it.
  • Slow Build: In addition to being dense, this book builds slowly. There are a lot of characters and character dynamics to set up--which is done very well. I wouldn't want this to be rushed in any way, but that also means that there is a lot of buildup in this book. It takes half the book before the morning of the competition is reached, and the last few days leading up to the competition really stretch out--broken into day before, night before, morning before, et cetera. It takes so, so long to jump between character experiences, and while the characters are set up beautifully, not everyone is going to be willing to invest this much into the characters. It's not a short book. It's intricated, detailed, and beautifully plotted, but it is a long read that requires a lot of commitment. 
  • No Ending: The real letdown of this book was the cliffhanger. It wasn't even a cliffhanger so much as a not-ending. It just doesn't wrap up. The lack of an ending here legitimately knocked this book down a whole star rating for me. I suspected the closer I drew to the last page that this book wouldn't wrap up, and it ultimately didn't even attempt to. Storylines weren't concluded. Characters weren't fulfilled. It was left wide, wide open for a sequel. I don't mind series. In fact, I love a good fantasy series, and this is gearing up to be a good one. But to have absolutely no resolution at the end of the first book is a bad, bad deal. I need something--anything--please!



Anyone who appreciated the hard choices of Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games will appreciate this new to-the-death competition. Those who fell in love with the whimsical magic of Stephanie Garber's Caraval will love the deadly magicks here as well. 


Publisher: Tor Teen
Date: November 9, 2021
Series: All of Us Villains

Note: I was provided with an ARC by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own.


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