How do you live when your most anticipated read of the year is crushed by the reality that it is simply not a good book?
Don’t yet know the answer but here we are.
I have a joke that I call my four favorite writers the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” and V.E. Schwab happens to be one of them. I have been a fan of her’s for a while now, and since early 2020 I was anticipating The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. One of the saddest things about the reading experience was my poor little brain holding on to hope that the book would get better (cross that, would be good) until I reached 80% and thought to myself “it’s almost done, and you didn’t enjoy any of it.”
It started out rough. Schwab has said that her books sometimes tend to be slow on the first hundred pages so I was prepared for that, but oh boy, it was already hard to get by. You see I had a problem with the writing from the very start. I see all these reviews mentioning beautiful poetic mesmerizing writing and I think to myself “wtf?”. Because I was annoyed, I was crawling with distaste from the writing. Not only the present tense verbs were so difficult to get acclimated to, but as I read it I felt like It was wrong. It didn’t suit the beauty and promise of the story I was getting to know. It felt compact and stale for something that should be amazing, I was not enthralled or captivated by the writing. I was bothered and I struggled through over four hundred pages with it. What annoyed me a lot where the moments she would get the repetitions going, with short sentences like “she is alone.” and then proceed to change alone for another word and similar things. It was endless pages of that, and to me this was not beautiful writing, but sloppy. It was tiresome whenever I saw a page like that coming up. Schwab has also mentioned that she always likes to try something she has never done before in her books but honestly she should’ve just kept the good writing from Vicious and A Darker Shade of Magic. Then a good portion of this novel would be better. It was not a work of writing that resonated with me and for that my expectations began to crumble.
Moving on you have the plot, or else, you don’t have the plot. Which would have worked fine if instead of being a plot driven novel this was a character driven one, but guess what, it is none! I wouldn’t mind reading a thousand pages about a character, deeply analyzing the person and their life, heck I’ve read A Little Life, and it was one of the greatest moments of my reading life. But sadly, this promising book had not the plot and nor the character aspect of it made strong. They were both less than they could be. For a character who lived three hundred years Addie feels… Hollow. I don’t really know what adjective to use. I feel like I don’t know her and I feel like there is so much potential there which is so frustrating. She is just a shell of a person, not really three dimensional. Combined with the blurb and the pitch for this novel it feels like when you read you are about to meet this astounding woman and you simply don’t. I thought I was going to read something like The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo which blurred the edges of reality to the point of making me believe Evelyn was actually real. I wanted Addie to feel real and she didn’t. I wanted to feel something for Addie but I don’t. In a way this doesn’t feel much like an adult novel both from the perspective of writing and of the main protagonist. For someone who lived three hundred years Addie just reads like a naive sixteen year old. It’s like her entire personality is constructed on her being “invisible” which I get it’s an important fact, but eventually I craved more. I craved deepness.
And coming back to the plot, for someone who lived three hundred years I thought I would read about this mesmerizing and incredible life she lived across countries and places, but she seemed to be always in either of two places, France or New York. Not only I was left waiting for something else to happen for her to see the world, in exotic places, travel through continents, but Addie it’s pretty much focused on the occident (which also is represented in how many languages Addie speak, seriously not a single oriental language? And she lived three hundred years?), which leads to another thing that bored the heck out of me, the repetition. For the entirety of the book we have Addie and Luc playing the same cat-and-mouse game which becomes incredibly dull after a while; we have her go back to her hometown of Villon which also becomes tiresome and in the present time of 2014 we have her and Henry doing the same things over and over again. I had to force myself to read it because I was not enjoying it, I was not loving it, I just wanted something to happen.
It is so frustrating almost to the point of it being infuriating to read a book about a girl who lived three hundred years and she simply does… nothing. What a boring life Addie LaRue.
In regards to the love triangle and the romance. Well. It wasn’t my main focus of displeasement, other things shadowed this because they exasperated me more. But thinking about it now, the romance aspect was also one that was bad. First because it is repetitive, in both every moment she has with Luc or Henry; in second because it doesn’t really builds like a love triangle, but I get that it was a certain plot artifice to make things walk, but then again it could’ve been done better; and in third because it’s weak, and yes I am talking about Henry and Addie. I feel nothing for them, they have no chemistry, no banther, no lust, no depth. I simply did not root for them. If this was a love story it was a very weak one. And as for Luc, you get the promising villain and it didn’t take much for me to like him, at his very first appearance I was taken, but even though I might argue that he was the best character of the book, unfortunately not only he suffered from the whole repetition and plot-less of the book, but he also suffered that he’s relationship with Addie was weak. There was potential there and I am unsure if it’s just a wasted one or if the author wanted things to end a certain way and just kinda ruined it.
WARNING MILD SPOILERS AHEAD
Now the ending. First of all this was a new experience for me in all my years of being a reader. Not a single time in my life I stopped so closed to the end and decided I would “finish tomorrow”. There was NINE percent left of the book and I was so tired of reading it that I stopped. I would be funny (it is) if it wasn’t tragic. If my math is right there was about 39 pages or something left and I STOPPED. How is that nothing but an indicative that I simply do not care for this story. [I understand that the metafiction aspect might be one for the emotional but as I particularly was coming off a “i want to leave I hate it here” thing it was just… meh. I mean I guessed it way back (as I also guessed Henry’s plot) and it was just…ok. Like it exists there but it does not have an effect on me (okay I summed up my feelings for the book in one sentence). It’s like I mentioned earlier I was waiting for the book to be good up until 80%. It’s not like an ending can support everything and turn this into a good book. What actually did the final cherry on the cake was Addie saying she is only with Luc as a game until she is free like… what. You literally had the best ship (a girl and the devil! a girl and the devil!!!) and you first throw it out for a weak-ass character like Henry and then you throw it out because of a pettiness? Like if they ended being a supreme couple (it gave me High Lord and Lady of the Night Court vibes) it would at least have been a better ending.
This experience was so weird. Never in a million years I would have guessed that one of my favourite four would write a book that I don’t like!!! I cannot give it three stars, I really thought about it but removing the authorship aspect (Roland Barthes hello) if it were an unknown author I wouldn’t feel so… conflicted to give this rating, and therefore just because it is one author I loved I can’t bring myself to do it. Not when the reality of it is that this is not a book that I would say I “liked” as the three stars represent. It is, unfortunately, a book that “it was okay” and that’s it. I think the whole process of reading was kind of a mourning for me because I was literally so sad that it didn’t live up to my expectations, but now that I have finished (I am free!!) it felt good to rant it out in my review and make peace with the fact that this time I’m not on the side that loved it and that is okay.
This book didn’t work for me, but maybe it can work for you. You can purchase this book via my affiliate link and I’ll receive a small comission, just click here.