The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
First Publication Date: 6th October 2020
I received an advance copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: 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.
Addie LaRue is a young woman with a free and stubborn spirit. She’s a dreamer and wants to see what’s beyond her little village and her little life, but when she’s forced to marry and leave her freedom behind, she despairs and call on the gods that only answer after dark. This is one of the most interesting premises on fantasy I’ve seen this year, and I was very excited to pick this up! So far I’ve only read Vicious by this author and I loved it, and was curious to see how she fared with this dark, lyrical fantasy.
I will probably be in the minority when I say I was disappointed by this book, although I generally did enjoy it. The romance and the writing style reminded me of Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones, just not as charming or magical, and it’s possible that I had misplaced expectations on The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. The writing style did not quite work for me: it tries to be poetic, fairy-tale-like, even timeless, but I just got exhausted by how it did not feel seamless at all. It just felt so overdone. The constant use of long, unnecessary metaphors got me impatient and the author uses repetition so often I found myself skipping a few lines.
“A dreamer,” scorns her mother.
“A dreamer,” mourns her father.
“A dreamer,” warns Estele.
I also did not connect with any of the characters except Addie – they all seemed so flat and a collection of stereotypes: Estele is a wise older woman who’s considered odd and eccentric and the only one who understands Addie; her father the gentle giant who teaches her things she shouldn’t know as a woman; her strict mother who disapproves of anything Addie does; and so on and so on. Addie also took a while for me to warm to, she felt so modern in the way she thinks and acts, and so dismissive of her friend’s love for family and motherhood.
However, the story is actually very interesting and it kept me turning pages – I read this book in one sitting, despite it being a hefty 450 pages. That, too, was a mixed experience for me because a lot of the story did not really go anywhere, it was just… things happening. But not necessarily driving the plot forward or bringing any sort of emotional impact for me. The ending, however, had me holding my breath – it was just really good. This is definitely one of V. E. Schwab’s strength, finishing the book with such a high note that you think “wow, this was an amazing read!”.
I also enjoyed the difficult and toxic relationship Addie developed with Luc, the dark entity who cursed her and the only one who remembers her. I am a bit biased here because I love a good story with dark, powerful entities and their difficult relationships with humans, so I was always going to enjoy that part of the story.
This was a mixed experience for me: the writing and characters mostly didn’t work for me but I eventually warmed up to Addie and even to Henry, a bit. The strongest part of this book for me was the plot and the ending, and V. E. Schwab’s imagination really impressed me! From what I’ve seen from other reviewers, I think if you’re a V. E. Schwab fan, you’ll love this, and for non-fans I’d say if you love character-centered stories and love the premise, you’ll probably like it. My issues seem to stem from my personal expectations and taste in books, and I’ve seen that most people really adored this book. However, if you’re nitty-picky about writing and generally tend towards literary fiction or emotionally devastating books, I don’t think it will work very well for you.