“Ideas are so much wilder than memories.”
A genre-bending fantasy sits atop the bestseller list this past year, the story of a woman who makes a deal with an ancient, dark god.
You know how these things tend to go.
Title: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
Author: V.E. Schwab
First Published: October 2020.
That is the madness of it. Every day is amber, and she is the fly trapped inside. No way to think in days or weeks when she lives in moments. Time begins to lose its meaning—and yet, she has not lost track of time. She cannot seem to misplace it (no matter how she tries) and so Addie knows what month it is, what day, what night, and so she knows it has been a year.
In the 1700s, a woman makes a deal with a dark god. She can live as long as she wants, but no one will ever remember her. For both Addie and her sinister benefactor, the devil proves to be in the details.
Schwab proves particularly adept at summoning places and times she has never seen and making them believable.
Despite a protagonist who has had three centuries of life, the novel spends a lot of time in contemporary New York City, before reaching a conclusion that you may well see coming. Schwab loves descriptive detail and foreshadowing.
Originality: 3/6 We’ve seen the basic premise before, back to antiquity. Schwab gives it her own touch.
Story: 5/6 The book features a strong plot, slow in some places, but effectively told.
Addie learns to function as someone who cannot be recalled. That is, if someone leaves her presence or she leaves theirs, they can no longer recall who she is. Her curse creates a number of challenges. Only the rather Goth god/demon (he appears to her in a form that will have you thinking of Gaiman’s Sandman) with whom she has struck a deal remembers—and, in 2014, a seemingly ordinary bookstore owner named Henry.
Just handling the plot complications created by someone who cannot be remembered must have taxed Schwab, but she proves equal to the task.
Characterization: 6/6 Writing a fully-realized three-hundred-year-old character is something at which many writers have experienced difficulties. Schwab succeeds.
Emotional Response: 5/6 I rather liked her visits to the place where she was born.
In total, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue receives 35/42
I’m fairly confident there will be a film adaptation. I’m less certain it will succeed. Some concepts work better on paper.