5 out of 5 stars
As Travars. To travel. To be transported, once again, by the genius of V. E. Schwab.
I could give this book seven stars, one for each of the iconic freckles spread across Addie LaRue’s face. What an achievement this book is: ageless, magical, gothic, romantic, heartbreaking, soul-searching, modern. A meditation set to a waltz in the comforting dark.
Addie LaRue, 23 years old in the early 1700s, makes a deal with a god. That’s a lowercase g – and how you know that he’s no good. In Addie’s case, the devil is in the desperation, and she escapes an arranged peasant marriage in the French countryside by asking for *time*. But as any good reader knows, be careful what you wish for. Addie’s lack of detailed attention to her specific requests results in an ageless, endless life, in which she cannot leave a trace. She is forgotten the moment someone leaves her presence. She cannot write, cannot call, cannot even speak her own name.
Over 300 years of countries and historical events later, still 23-year old Addie meets a boy. And he remembers.
V. E. Schwab’s writing is more than beautiful, it’s transporting. She did it in the Shades of Magic series, and has other sci-fi and fantasy work. But Addie LaRue, a standalone work of straight literary fiction, is stunning. It’s “Groundhog Day”, all day long, every day for three centuries but it never gets old. It’s figuring out how to live when you truly have nothing – no name, nothing beyond immediate interaction. The concept is deceptively simple, the problems it causes myriad, and Schwab’s navigation of a life set atop it is a masterpiece. Part love story, part historical tour, Addie LaRue cannot come of age, so instead she comes to be, right on the pages in your hand.
Luc, as Addie pseudo-affectionately refers to her devil, is a long, slow villain, dipped in chocolate and dragged across the story like he’s seducing all of time. Their relationship is a twisted mix of Stockholm Syndrome and defiance; they are evenly matched, worthy adversaries. Getting to know Addie satisfies Luc as much as the it does the audience.
I would never dare spoil a word of this book, so suffice to say that Henry, the boy who can remember her, is the counterpart Addie deserves. Together, they move this story toward an ending as indelible as their surprise beginning.
As if I didn’t love this book enough, I highly recommend listening the audiobook. Narrator Julia Whelan makes sure Addie never loses that petite peu of French-ness that makes her so beguiling.