The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

Author: V.E. Schwab
Release date: October 6, 2020
Publisher:  Tor (US), Titan Books (UK)
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Paranormal, Romance
Goodreads: Here 

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.

A Faustian deal made in a fit of desperation? Check.

A story chock-full of consequence? Check.

Sudden curve-ball in 3 centuries? Check.

All these immediately hooked my attention, and even more so coming from V.E. Schwab. I utterly adored her Villains series, and a fantasy sprawling across 3 centuries sounded like a story I’d enjoy.

Now, how did The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue fare?

You reap what you sow

No-brainer, Schwab never fails to allure me with her prose. Addie LaRue had an eloquent, ethereal prose that also manages to seem whimsical – adding a charm to what reads as a pretty dark cautionary tale. This considerably worked with how art has been integral in Adeline/Addie LaRue’s journey to leave any mark in the world. After her reckless bargain with a being that answers after dark despite her aunt’s warnings, Addie is rendered utterly unable to leave her mark in the anyone’s memories – technically belonging to no one as she had wished for. In exchange for her freedom from her arranged marriage, she is left unable to put down any semblance of her being and carve her mark in the world. Thus, nothing she does leaves a permanent mark and this includes writings, carvings, anything physical. All she can do is take, take, and take until she flits out the door.

Out of sight, out of mind – quite literally.

And this leaves her very much available for the devil she has called—Luc—to take her soul for his belonging. Or at least it would’ve been if she doesn’t absolutely loath him for granting her wish quite literally and introducing all these problems for her. Only problem, he’s her only companion in her long, 3-decade journey so it’s not like she’s got any permanent options. This dynamic brimming tension from the emotional tug of war they engage in brings delightful tension to the story.

The other main lead, Henry, is an endearing character with desires that many will find relatable. Although he’s not as compelling as Luc is, his inclusion presents a second half to this strange sweet and spicy combo between him and Luc (I don’t know if that makes any sense).

The main allure of this book for me, though, is the in-depth exploration of the consequences Addie has to experience after her reckless decision. Schwab goes to detail in how Addie’s choice has cost her everything: her family, connection, and ability to normally operate in the society. Her invisibility renders her utterly forgettable from long-term memory and this brings about many unfortunate circumstances such (e.g. suspicion of theft, burglary). Love interests? Forget that, she can’t even hold on to any of them without making sure she’s always in the same room. I love the fact that we as readers get to see how Addie struggles to cope with her new condition at first and comes to learn the limitations, the loopholes to her curse. This centuries of training was an interesting contrast to the film The Age of Adaline. While the titular character of the film has to constantly root herself out of communities because of her potential to stand out in a crowd of normally-aging people, Addie has nothing to root out nor anything to root in so as long as she leaves the room she can return like nothing ever happened.

The cost of immortality and a curse unbroken(?)

Ultimately, however, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue had some problems befitting one burdened with immortality.

For starters, the middle part of the book dragged. I enjoyed the seven-part structure of the book, and for a slow-burner I thought it was an appropriate structure for the story Schwab wanted to tell. However, mid-way into the book I noticed that Addie LaRue was starting to feel repetitive in dynamic. I felt that it was rehashing similar plot points and character dynamics between past and present over and over within different settings. This left little room for the final third of the book, and it rushed to finally introduce the real conflict of the book (too late at this point) and resolve it in a manner fitting to culminate Addie’s arc. This ultimately took out some of my enjoyment as what felt exciting became mundane across multiple iterations, and potential opportunities to explore new layers to Luc’s character were squandered in favor of rehashing similar dynamics between him and Addie. I even felt that Addie’s character arc had stalled mid-way and the development integral to the book’s ending was not introduced nor foreshadowed early enough for it to seem organic.

Another problem I had was the romance that developed between Addie and Henry. Although Henry is a suitably endearing character, the space taken up by repetitive tellings of the past leave little space for their romance to develop organically and as a result comes somewhat rushed. I also found it a wickedly delicious irony that while Henry is able to provide what Addie needs, it’s ultimately a one-way street. Going as far as I can without giving massively spoilers, Addie’s fixation on Henry almost-exclusively concerning how he grants her wish to be memorable mirror Luc’s fixation on her solely from the fact that she has continually resisted his advances. On a flip side, however, I found it hard to care for the romance.

Concluding Thoughts

To be frank, I struggled to write this review because Addie LaRue had been an anticipated read for me this year. While there were aspects I loved (her prose never fails to deliver), some others fell short for me. This may be a trivial concern, but I also found the inclusion of certain historical figures in the story to be rather gratuitous at best. The charm I experienced and the stellar character development I witnessed reading Vicious or Vengeful were barely noticeable from this story.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, however, is a different story with a different formula from Shades of Magic and Villains series. Of course it was going to have some stumbles here and there regardless of how much time one spends on the story. I found Addie LaRue to excel more in its relationship-building (although some relationships here were given more focus than others for better or for worse) and how it explores consequences.

It is a pity that this story about the curse of immortality ultimately falls to the trappings of its subject matter and struggles to resolve its story in a deeply satisfying way. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, however, still manages to retain the captivating charm of Schwab’s signature prose and fans of her prose may enjoy reading this side of her storytelling despite its flaws.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is available for pre-order, set for official release on October 6, 2020.

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