Book Review: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Tor Books (October 6, 2020)
Length: 448 pages
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue isn’t just a novel—it’s a work of art. Over the years, I’ve read a number of books by Victoria (V.E.) Schwab, but I feel confident in saying this is, bar none, her best work EVER.
Once upon a time, there lived a young woman named Adeline LaRue. Born in a small French hamlet of Villon in the late 17th century, even as a little girl she has felt she that doesn’t quite belong, feeling trapped and stifled by the expectations foisted upon her by her village and her parents. So she prayed for something more. She prayed to the old gods and the new gods, but none would listen. And so, on the day of her wedding, in an act of hopelessness and desperation, she ran into the woods and prayed to the darkness…and something answered.
Addie thought what she wanted was simple. She didn’t want to be beholden to anyone or anything. She just wanted to be free. She just wanted to live. Hence, the darkness, in the form of a handsome green-eyed and dark-haired devil, gave her exactly that.
But everyone knows that deals with devils always have a price. Addie got to live and to be free, but now she is also cursed to wander the earth forever, to be forgotten by everyone she meets. Returning home from the bargain in her torn and muddied wedding dress, her mother and father looked upon her with mistrust and denied ever having a daughter. Similarly, there was no hint of warmth and only suspicion from her best friend who believed Addie to be a stranger. People she would meet on her travels forgot that they ever saw or spoke to her as soon as they turned their backs, because part of Addie’s curse is an inability to leave a single mark on the world, which means she can’t say her own name, tell her own story, or create anything of substance. Even her footprints would fade almost as soon as she makes them, like they were never there.
Three hundred years pass like this. In that time though, Addie has learned a lot about living with her curse. It hasn’t always been easy, but Addie has never given up, even when the darkness, whom she has dubbed Luc, returns again and again, promising to put an end to it all if she would just say the word and surrender her soul. Instead, Addie just finds new ways to goad him, taking joy in her experiences whenever she can. She also discovers the power of ideas, becoming a muse to artists throughout history so she can be immortalized in art. While it is not the same as being remembered, for Addie, it is enough. That is, until one fateful day in a small secondhand bookshop in New York City, she serendipitously meets a young man named Henry. And for some reason, Henry remembers her.
I swear, I still get chills just thinking about the story. I just want to revel in it. Like I said, I’ve read a number of Schwab’s books and I certainly consider myself a fan, but I’ve always thought of her work as more popularist and commercial. As much as I enjoyed her Villains series or her Shades of Magic trilogy, for example, I don’t know if I would ever call them literary masterpieces, but when it comes to The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, I wouldn’t hesitate. This novel is her tour de force, a step up from anything she’s ever done before, in my opinion. And to me it also feels very personal to the author, like the story and the characters were poured from her heart straight onto the page.
And the writing, oh my gracious, the writing. Before I got to know Addie, before the story had its chance to cast its spell on me, it was the writing that seized me and pushed this novel into the extraordinary. Every word felt perfectly placed, but Schwab made it all look effortless. With details and descriptions meant to whisk the reader across time and space, she crafts powerful and inspiring imagery to transport you to the eras and places she writes about.
The beautiful language also puts us into the head of our protagonist, a complex woman who has lived many lifetimes—and the writing makes you believe it. The story also introduces Henry and Luc and many other side characters, but it is Addie, always Addie, who has the reader’s full attention. With every stage of her journey, every encounter with the darkness, she learns and she adapts. We see this growth throughout the novel, and we come to sympathize with her pain but also respect her strength, intellect, and determination as she wakes up each morning to face another day of loneliness, watching those she has grown to love look at her without a trace of recognition in their eyes. But while there’s no doubt a lot of sadness and tragedy in The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, there’s a lot of hope too. When she eventually meets the mystery that is Henry, we know exactly what it means for her to be finally remembered, and like spectators drawn to an exhibition, you can’t tear yourself away from the intrigue or stop yourself from rooting for the couple.
Normally, I would roll my eyes at the blatant cheesiness of book taglines, but in this case, I daresay “A Story You Will Never Forget” describes The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue perfectly. It won me over completely, I loved it, and recommend it to all with my whole heart.