A review by jedbird
If We Were Villains, by M.L. Rio

dark mysterious medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


I'm not a theater person, never took a drama class, and my own experience of Shakespeare is that he is a pervasive cultural influence at least as much as he is a dramatist/writer. I'm not a person who can quote lines of Shakespeare for any occasion or reason.

The seven student actors in this story are definitely people who can quote Shakespeare, and they do, constantly. They're kind of insufferable. They are artists--drinking and drugging and sexing like creative people are said to do. One of them is murdered, and one or more of the others did it. 

You know at the beginning of the book that Oliver, the narrator, has just done 10 years for the murder, but you also know he didn't do it. So who's he covering for?

From the beginning, the relationship between Oliver and James, his roommate, is coded pretty queer and...they're artistic kids living in a castle in the woods and doing substances and quoting Shakespeare. Would anyone be surprised or care if they're queer? No. In fact, one of the other actors is a rather voracious and irresponsible bisexual. But for some reason, Oliver and James' relationship is a secret. You're not given enough information about either of them to know if there are deeper reasons than just the author wanting that tragic drama in her story. 

The parts about putting on a stage production were very interesting to me. The extensive quotes from various Shakespearean plays were in places quite beautiful, though I was quite annoyed by the idea of people having a fight in all Shakespeare quotes instead of just talking to each other.

It is easy to figure out who did the murder, but the how and why are less obvious. It's not a particularly clever mystery, but all the stagecraft and verse make for an interesting setting. I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it either.