Review: If We Were Villains

I was left quite disappointed by the pacing of this novel. The hype surrounding this book combined with its intriguing title naturally set the expectations high.

Whilst I appreciate the unique narration and dark academia vibe that pours out of the book…I found it overly pretentious and irritating having characters throw lines and lines of Shakespeare quotes at me. I ended up skimming through those chunks because it felt irrelevant to me and perhaps for a drama student it might have been more enticing, but for the wider audience, it’s questionable how many of us actually read the quoted extracts word for word…

However, I did love how the novel was mirroring the format of a play. It was divided into Acts and Scenes, and alternated between the perspectives of the seven culprits.

I really loved the motif of how those who immerse themselves into the acting world can loose their identity and get caught up and not be able to differentiate reality from make believe. There was potential for this to be crafted really well, but I think the over quoting of Shakespeare really killed whatever admiration I had for this theme. Each character in the novel seems to be playing an archetype – hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, innocent girl and extra. However, at times, the characters didn’t feel three dimensional to me, and the love (lust) triangles were stupid at times. It’s like the characters didn’t have a backbone or the writer was attempting to be diverse as a tickbox exercise and half succeeded. The reader never got enough quality time with one character which meant character chemistries never got fleshed out – it was either too cliché or just meh.

The murder took place at an early stage in the book, and then the remaining couple hundred of pages was a painful drag to the revelation. And boy, did it feel like such a let down to me. The plot was quite predictable and obvious due to Shakespeare’s quotes and techniques being mirrored and somewhat explained to us throughout. I would have been thrilled for an unpredictable shebang that would have been the read worthwhile; I felt the plot could have been more succinctly narrated if this was the path to be taken, or I would have felt more content if I was able to connect to the characters, or got attached to various bonds.

To conclude, it was a solid read, but it wouldn’t be a book I’d willingly buy and give a spot to on my bookcase. Am I being harsh? Is there anyone else who can’t idolise this book too?


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