Review: If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio

Review: If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio

On the day Oliver Marks is released from jail, the man who put him there is waiting at the door. Detective Colborne wants to know the truth, and after ten years, Oliver is finally ready to tell it.

Ten years ago: Oliver is one of seven young Shakespearean actors at Dellecher Classical Conservatory, a place of keen ambition and fierce competition. In this secluded world of firelight and leather-bound books, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingénue, extra. But in their fourth and final year, the balance of power begins to shift, good-natured rivalries turn ugly, and on opening night real violence invades the students’ world of make believe. In the morning, the fourth-years find themselves facing their very own tragedy, and their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, each other, and themselves that they are innocent.

Part coming-of-age story, part confession, If We Were Villains explores the magical and dangerous boundary between art and life. In this tale of loyalty and betrayal, madness and ecstasy, the players must choose what roles to play before the curtain falls.

If We Were Villains is hands down one of my new favorite books. It follows seven theater students attending the elite Dellecher Classical Conservatory, where they live and breathe Shakespeare. As tensions rise among the group of friends, relationships are strained, and ultimately, someone ends up dead. Our main character, Oliver, ends up in jail, but there are still so many questions, even years later.

The reader is along for the ride as Oliver tells the story of that fateful final year at Dellecher to the officer who arrested him, and I could not wait to find out what happened. I felt like I was at Dellecher with Oliver and James and Meredith and the rest. This is truly the perfect book for fans of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, but is unique in its inclusion of Shakespearean quotes to move the story along. At the very beginning, I found this grating and pretentious, but it didn’t last. You don’t need to love Shakespeare to love this book, but it does add an extra element to an already great book.

Ahh, I don’t know what else to say aside from I loved this book, and you should read it. It’s definitely a quick book that you can read by the pool in the heat of the summer, but also perfect for a cool fall night, with the old buildings and Shakespeare elements. If you think this is at all something you would like, I definitely recommend it, you will be surprised how much you love it!

If We Were Villains was M.L. Rio’s debut novel, and I know I will be running to the bookstore to pick up whatever she comes out with next!

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  1. Yay!! So glad you loved it! And I was annoyed with all the Shakespeare in the beginning as well…but things really picked up for me around 20%. I think I also realized I didn’t have to actually read the Shakespeare closely or understand it.