Our ReviewsIf We Were Villains by M. L. Rio

If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio


A dark academia literary thriller, with characters and a context that utilise Shakespeare & Latin ad nauseam? Sign. Me. Up.

Delighted to at last have an excuse to use my Fogler carbon copy first folio in a #bookstagram shot, purchased in Washington as an obsessed 17 year old (spoiler alert it was a b**ch to schlep home via Florida as it weighs a ton but it’s one of the first things I would save in a fire & I’m still obsessed #worthit ).

I digress. If We Were Villains is a virulently popular book that I stayed away from because I remain deeply circumspect of titles that trend online with rapturous hype. However, when I saw an edition with @emilystjohnmandel (of Station Eleven renown) quoted on the cover, it was an immediate purchase.

I’m surprised by how clever this was, how gripping & well written. With an abundance of foreshadowing, an ever increasing atmosphere of claustrophobia, undertones of philosophy, morality, bacchanalian lust, obsession & betrayal, it kept me guessing until the last word & beyond. 

A group of actors at an exclusive conservatory are in a pressure cooker of competition as they fight for roles & attention. Violence spills from the bards timeless words into their reality. There were alot of references that possibly pushed this into the trying very hard to impress category (read unabashedly pretentious), but it didn’t detract from the character building & arc, which had a slower pace that ramped up to a crescendo. I loved the exploration of creativity, acting & art, which was woven into the plot.

If you are not a die hard fan of Shakey P, I think this would still be enjoyable as a thriller, the structure is clever in that you first meet a character serving time for murder, who is finally setting the record straight. As Miro has revealed a seemingly massive part of the story from the beginning, the prose has to work hard to keep your attention. I found myself racing to the end to see what happened mid storyline as the tension built masterfully. 

Touché #booktok – I get why so many people have loved this. Link to the paperback in stories. C 

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