Reviews

Todos somos villanos by M.L. Rio

corymackenziegray's review against another edition

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mysterious reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

3.25

meekoh's review against another edition

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2.0

2.5★

In school, my friends and I would constantly flip between languages. For a troupe that lives and breathes Shakespeare, I get that this would be a similar effect. However, it did not stop me from finding it endlessly annoying every time a character started spontaneously quoting Shakespeare in conversation. If you're a theatre kid, you probably found it delightful. I hated it.

SpoilerI liked the plot in theory but wish it had been executed differently. Having the real-world narrative parallel the on-stage performances is an age-old trope. But if you want to write a suspenseful novel, you need to find a way to subvert expectations.

When James is suddenly cast into the role of a villain instead of a hero... you guessed it! James is shortly after revealed to also be the villain off-stage. *gasp*

The author is way too heavy handed with her foreshadowing. I'm not even familiar with most of the referenced Shakespeare plays, but the inference is still glaringly obvious. It makes the big reveals less impactful.

From the get-go the protagonists are cast into their clearly defined archetypes (femme fatale, tragic hero, ruler, etc.), and from that moment on you can predict how the story will play out.

The characters have no nuance or depth. If you don't want to give us backstories (to keep the story centred on campus), maybe opt for a multi perspective narrative? At least inner dialogue would help flesh out the other students. It would also have been an easy way to build suspense. Omit key details while immersing the reader in their emotional turmoil.

I think the author is talented, but I feel we missed out on the full potential of her storytelling.

abronstein's review against another edition

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challenging dark emotional
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

The writing was amazing and I was hooked so fast to the story. When I first picked the book up a long time ago I was intimidated by the Shakespeare dialogue, so I waited to get the audiobook and it was worth the wait. 
Would definitely be thinking about this book in the next couple days and would want to read it again in the future.

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_ba_'s review against another edition

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5.0

5 stars of pure enjoyment

111222333's review against another edition

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dark emotional sad tense
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes

5.0


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diva's review against another edition

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4.0

someone quiz me on shakespeare rn

mollylouise's review against another edition

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dark mysterious tense

4.5

lauraantiquity's review against another edition

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3.0

If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio encapsulates the dark academia genre well, using a band of Shakespearean Thespians to create drama and mystery over the murder of their friend. Upon my first read, this novel feels heavily inspired by The Secret History by Donna Tart however does not execute themes of mental health, guilt, and anger in the same manner.

The first glaring problem with the novel is the motive of the friends to allow Richard to die. Whilst it is treated as a murder, can we really call it a murder? Was Richard a bully who needed to see justice? Sure? But to led him drown? I’m not sure even the most sadistic teenagers would immediately jump to that conclusion, particularly when they all seemed so close to begin with and had no indication of that kind of behaviour. Pointedly, I sat reading and wondered why on earth Richard had such a drastic character change with very little motivation; this sudden change and attempt to drown James seemed so out of character and perhaps a little forced – it seemed like the author was really pushing for a reason as to why a murder was committed.

Whilst Rio does address a series of mental health issues, such as alcohol and drug dependence, as well as an eating disorder, they seemed very forced themes, not well thought out for the narrative and just there for the drama rather than for genuinely addressing the issues or giving us greater character exposition. For example, Alexander’s drug overdose occurred randomly within the narrative and is forgotten about almost straight away. Clearly it is a repercussion of the guilt he was feeling about suggesting they let Richard drown but this was not shown in his characterisation before and after the incident. Similarly, the eating disorder seemed more like a plot point than the author attempting to provide social commentary or melancholy; given to a very minor character it was used as an excuse for Oliver to have to work at the university and find the burnt piece of shirt in the fire. But this piece of burnt shirt was never followed up with except for a quick mention when Meredith (?) found it in the locker, randomly? There was no reason for the shirt to be found except for Meredith to realise Oliver was innocent – personally there were better ways, that did not use an eating disorder as an excuse, for the author to reveal this.

In terms of the structure I thought the use of a five act structure was cleaver and enjoyed the prologues at the beginning of each act. It was clear the author was being very deliberate to create a narrative similar to that of a Shakespeare play and the creation of cliffhangers and exposition from the present vs the past generated momentum for the novel. However, whilst the first two prologues were brilliant expositions of the present, elaborating to the reader that Oliver had been arrested and what other characters were doing following the arrest (with a noticeable absence from James) the other prologues seemed redundant, an opportunity for Oliver to appear obnoxious and clever.

Personally, I was not a fan of the use of script-like dialogue with colons to show the quick succession of speech between the friends. Whilst this could have been a fantastic way to show the frantic nature of the friends’ conversations, the actual dialogue seemed rather fan-fiction like and pulled me out of the narrative. Oddly, for allowing their friend to die and to lie to the police, they were seemingly far too calm.

Thirdly, whilst I am well-read in Shakespeare I found myself getting lost at times due to the constant quoting of Shakespeare. Whilst the author intended for the friends to have their own sort of dialect it was at times a disservice to the narrative as the quotes did not completely line up with the scene. I thought the use of Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet were fantastic and a great way to characterise and expose the innerworkings of the characters however the use of other lesser-known plays such as Julius Caesar or King Lear were probably not the best suited for a novel. Whilst the choice of the plays suited the themes of the narrative, for an average reader much of the author’s intentions were probably lost. Considering the level of writing, the novel would be assumed to be for a more general audience rather than a niche one, so I would have considered using other, more commonly known Shakespeare plays. Personally, Hamlet could have been a great choice for James in particular, perhaps foreshadowing his suicide later in the novel.

Finally, the crescendo at the end of the book, following Oliver’s arrest, was very short; this disappointed me greatly as I had spent 400 pages getting up to this point just for all the exposition and revelation of the truth to happen in 20 pages. Similarly, whilst Rio had hinted at James and Olivers’ homosexuality it wasn’t as clear as it could have been and certainly not discussed in as full of depth as I would have liked at the end. I felt as though Oliver’s stream of consciousness around his realisation that he liked James was dancing around the actual point. However, that being said I really appreciate that Rio included homosexual relationships, despite how problematic Oliver and James’ relationship was. In particular, I loved that Alexander was sexually fluid (I am assuming Bisexual) and how tender Colin had treated him after the overdose, cradling his head was a nice touch without explicitly screaming that they were gay.

Overall, I gave this book three stars as I did enjoy the narrative and it was not a book that I felt it was a struggle to pick up and read. The narrative had momentum and the characters, especially Oliver, felt at least moderately fleshed out. However, some of their behaviour seemed odd, out of character and didn’t suit the narrative; for example, I would have liked to see perhaps a greater motivation for allowing Richard to drown. I would recommend this book to someone who is perhaps intimidated by dark academia and wants an easier entry into the genre.

noahhh_'s review against another edition

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adventurous dark emotional funny mysterious reflective sad tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

5.0


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rust3d_m0ss's review against another edition

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emotional inspiring fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.75