Book Review : The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

Book Review : The Invisible Life of Addie LaRueThe Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
Published by Tor Books on October 6th 2020
Pages: 448
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three-half-stars

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.
In the vein of The Time Traveler's Wife and Life After Life, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is New York Times bestselling author V. E. Schwab's #1 New York Times Bestselling Author genre-defying tour de force.

The Invisible Life of Addie La Rue was one of my most anticipated reads of the year. I love everything about the idea of the story, a young girl making a Faustian bargain in order to be free from the restraints of marriage and societal expectations. If that isn’t relatable to your average female reader, I don’t know what is. Though I related a lot to Addie, and was immediately ensnared by her magical predicament, I found that the moment the story introduced her modern day love interest, I found myself not caring so much anymore. Despite this, I loved how the story was narrated and I really enjoyed the flowery prose.
 

“Being forgotten, she thinks, is a bit like going mad. You begin to wonder what is real, if you are real. After all, how can a thing be real if it cannot be remembered?”

 

When Adeline “Addie” La Rue is about to be forced into a loveless marriage with a widower in order to raise his kids, she desperately prays to the gods for divine intervention. Despite the local witch’s warnings not to pray to the things that come out at night, Addie, in her despair, doesn’t notice the sinking sun and continues her pleas. Unfortunately, she is not prepared when something answers. Without thinking, she sells her soul to this dark being for her freedom, and finds that no one can remember her, that she can make no mark, tell no one her name or story, or keep anything but the ring with which she swore the bargain. As centuries go by, Addie realizes the unique quirks of this “gift” and finds ways to work around it. Addie may become a thief, a liar, and a whore at different times over the centuries, but one thing is constant, she is always forgotten.

 

“You want an ending,” she says. “Then take my life when I am done with it. You can have my soul when I don’t want it anymore.”


Except by the dark God who owns the promise of her soul. Over the years, on the anniversary of her death, the dark being comes to see if she is ready to close the deal, and asks if she is tired of living yet. Addie stubbornly holds on, living through wars, plagues, rebellions, and all sorts of regrettable moments in history. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is told in two different narratives, one from Addie’s past, slowly moving forward, interposed with her time of 2014 in New York City. I really enjoyed this way of telling the story, as it simultaneously reckoned modern day Addie with French girl from a small town Adeline and showed how she became the confident, smart-talking woman she was today. Current century Addie knows the ins and outs of her bargain, knows that when someone leaves a room, they will instantly forget her.

 

That is until she meets Henry. Addie is floored when she meets a young bookseller, named Henry, in New York City who utters the three words she’s wanted to hear the most in the last three centuries she’s lived—“I remember you.” Though this very premise is what attracted me to the novel and made me so desperate to read it, I found its execution quite lacking. I figured out instantly why Henry was able to remember Addie, and found that I didn’t care much for Henry or even his development. I didn’t care about his friends and family members, who were honestly more archetypes than actual characters, or about what drove him to View Spoiler ». Quite frankly, the only reason I felt Addie put up with this bland type of man, after having her pick of both men and women of the centuries, was solely because he alone remembered her. Were it not for that, I don’t think she would’ve given a second thought to the man, except for his unlikely resemblance to the dark god’s human form. This fact that Addie was using him to meet her own needs did not make me feel too good about their relationship. I also felt that Addie’s relationship was a bit hypocritical. Why should she get to use this man when she didn’t want to be used as a mother to someone else’s children?

To my complete and utter shock, I was absolutely ensorcelled by her relationship with the dark being to which she sold her soul. Honestly, their dynamics gave me serious Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara vibes and I absolutely hate that it wasn’t the entire focus of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. What an utter missed opportunity! I can’t fathom why the author chose to have a dark god, modeled after Addie’s own artwork of her dream man, become completely obsessed and enchanted by her, only to have Addie choose to be with some drab mortal man when she herself is immortal.  Especially when Addie says words like this about the dark god, whom she calls Luc: 

 

“It has been four years without a visit. Four years of holding her breath, and though she will never admit it, the sight of him is like coming up for air. A terrible, chest-opening relief. As much as she hates this shadow, this god, this monster in his stolen flesh, he is still the only one who remembers her at all. It does not make her hate him any less.”


Yes, I realize this could be considered something close to Stockholm Syndrome. But do I care? No, because this love-hate relationship is the real magic or romance of the novel. Is it healthy? God, no. But is it enchanting and mesmerizing and the heart and soul of this book? Yes, without a doubt. And as Luc points out, Addie has not been human since the day he met her. She lives among them like a ghost. So why must she torture us readers by hanging out with Henry? Not once does she speak half as passionately of this poor tortured young man like she does about Luc. 

 

“Even if everyone you met remembered,” Luc says, “I would still know you best.” 

She searches his face. “Do I know you?” 

He bows his head over hers. “You are the only one who does.”

 

To me, it is much more unique and curious to ponder whether a dark god who owns someone’s soul can fall for the original owner of that soul. Can that entity really feel love? The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue arbitrarily asks that question, but sadly doesn’t fully explore it. Instead it focuses on Addie’s budding relationship with Henry, as if it surprises literally anyone that two humans can fall in love, View Spoiler »

 

Though I was dismayed by Henry and what felt like a waste of such an amazing idea, I did, however, love where the novel ended up. It felt fitting to me. I also really loved the journey of the novel, the experiences that Addie had throughout the ages, travelling the world, and seeing how it transformed her. I really liked the intricacies of Addie’s bargain and how it shaped her day-to-day life, even in our technologically advanced modern world. It really captured the imagination. I also really liked the prose of the novel, its decadence seemed quite magical and painted such a clear picture of Addie’s feelings and sensations. I especially loved her descriptions of Luc because they so effortlessly portray the mystery and power that lies beneath his human guise:

 

And then, suddenly, he is too close, the air between them snuffed like a candle. He smells of summer nights, of earth, and moss, and tall grass waving beneath stars. And of something darker. Of blood on rocks, and wolves loose in the woods.


I really liked The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, but I can’t help but feel that it missed the mark. Despite it’s ingenious idea, the novel seemed to have a different, better story to tell laced on every page. I felt that Addie really sold herself short by her actions with Henry, and that it betrayed the core ideals of freedom and remaining unattached. All I can hope for is a sequel, which I would undoubtedly buy, and that there is more of Luc and Addie, and a whole lot less of Henry. 

three-half-stars
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Book Review : The Invisible Life of Addie La Rue - Blogging with Dragons

Posted October 19, 2020 in Book Reviews, Fantasy

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2 responses to “Book Review : The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

  1. J Valdez

    I just finished this book and went searching for someone who shared my opinion and could capture it in writing more eloquently. This is exactly how I feel. I was absolutely smitten with the relationship between Addie and Luc. Henry was just there.

    • Thank you so much for commenting! I am relieved to hear that someone else felt the same way about this book and it’s relationships, because I thought I was the only one!

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