Reading format: Library hardback
Content warnings: sex, theft
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In Villon-sur-Sarthe, France, 1774, Adeline LaRue is a dreamer. She wants to live beyond her countryside village and explore the world. Forced into an engagement, she prays for anything, anyone, to set her free. Her pleas are answered by a stranger with whom she makes a deal: her soul to be able to live forever. But she hasn’t chosen her words carefully and she soon realizes her bargain has limits. Everyone she meets quickly forgets her, so she is forced to leave her small town and learn a new way to live. Only Luc, the beguiling stranger who bargained for her soul, remembers her. And every year on Addie’s birthday he returns to try and collect his due.
Cursed to a life of loneliness, Addie dons new identities for 300 years while she explores Europe and crosses oceans, trying to leave an imprint on the world. Then, one day, she steps into a New York City bookstore and meets someone who can remember her. Confused yet exhilarated by this change, Addie thinks maybe after all this time Luc finally made a mistake, that just maybe she’s not doomed to loneliness after all.
This is the first book I’ve read by V.E. Schwab and I absolutely loved it. Schwab wrote a beautiful novel. Reading it was like reading a dream or a fairy tale. It’s a struggle to describe the lyricism of this book, but suffice it to say I feel like each word in each sentence was perfectly constructed to convey the setting and emotions of Addie LaRue’s life. I could feel Addie’s sadness and pain when she visits her old village, decades later, and sees the passage of time. I could feel her confusion and hurt transform to hardness and weary acceptance each time someone forgot her.
Also, I like that the focus stays mostly on Addie, rather than giving bad boy Luc too much page time (though I wouldn’t have complained too much). This allows for plenty of character development over time, with Luc as the mildly dreaded yearly highlight show. Splashes of Luc here and there also hone the everpresent sexual tension between them. Luc is what I would call a morally grey character, so if that’s what you’re into, he’s your guy. This book pushed me back into the speculative fiction (fantasy) genre and I’m not mad about it.
My only teeny tiny critique is that the plot moves along just a little bit slowly at points. But overall I didn’t want this book to end. Again, I absolutely loved the writing style. It’s one of my 5 star reads of 2021.