Was it what I was expecting? No. Did it get me out of a months long reading slump? Yes.
The town of Ilvernath has a secret—it is the last town on earth that has access to high magick. Magick that is awarded to one of seven families through a deadly curse. Every 20 years, each family must choose a champion to fight, with the winner being the only one to leave with their life and access to the high magick. The time has come again for the curse to claim it’s victims, but these champions bring about unexpected twists that could change the tournament forever.
Wow, that was a ride! In the first chapters I was convinced that this would be nothing more than a younger feeling ripoff of the hunger games, but I was actually pleasantly surprised. Yes, the teens have to fight to the death still. But that’s about where the similarities end. There’s magic, there’s sabotage, there’s romance. I really couldn’t tell where things were going to end up in the end.
The characters were…okay. They were all interesting enough, but some of the romantic plots felt forced. I don’t think all of them were necessary to the story, and functioned more as a label draw than anything. I did enjoy how different all of the contestants were—none of them felt like caricatures or stereotypes of Typical Teens. The perspective shifts weren’t too confusing, although for some reason I couldn’t keep Isobel and Briony straight for the life of me.
My issue really came in with how it all fit together. You’re telling me in all of the years of this curse, none of the contestants have ever had a *complicated* relationship before? Somehow THIS is the only generation of, let me remind you, children that has second thoughts about murdering six people? I didn’t quite buy it. And as another reviewer pointed out, the title is pretty misleading. You can’t really call a bunch of kids who are cursed and all have tragic backstories and various degrees of trauma from said curse “Villains”. Not to mention most of them are actually pretty nice?
The magic system/ tournament rules were a little complex but not too difficult to keep up with. The story definitely ended abruptly. It almost felt like someone just grabbed the manuscript and said “okay time to publish!” Rather than it being an intentional cliffhanger.
Those issues aside, I did really enjoy the journey. It managed to get me out of a slump, was fast paced, and pretty entertaining. Overall would recommend if you like magic, twistiness, and romance.
happy reading (:
Intended audience: YA
Content warnings: murder, gore