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Oliver Marks è in carcere da dieci anni, accusato dell'omicidio di Richard, suo compagno di college al prestigioso istituto Dellecher, una delle migliori scuole di arte drammatica d'America, dove si studia e si recita continuamente Shakespeare. Sono studenti-attori, destinati a diventare grandi protagonisti del teatro americano. Sono giovani, belli, ambiziosi, loro due e i Oliver Marks è in carcere da dieci anni, accusato dell'omicidio di Richard, suo compagno di college al prestigioso istituto Dellecher, una delle migliori scuole di arte drammatica d'America, dove si studia e si recita continuamente Shakespeare. Sono studenti-attori, destinati a diventare grandi protagonisti del teatro americano. Sono giovani, belli, ambiziosi, loro due e i loro cinque inseparabili amici, con cui dividono il tempo tra prove, performance, e feste in cui abbondano l'alcol, la droga e il sesso: James, Alexander, Wren, Filippa e Meredith. Sono ormai al quarto anno, l'ultimo. Sono i più grandi, le star della scuola. Ma qualcosa nel gruppo si incrina. I ruoli dei drammi che i giovani attori mettono in scena prendono sempre più spazio nella loro vita reale, ed emergono gelosie sopite, invidie, rancori. È Richard, più di tutti, a perdere il controllo: follemente geloso di Meredith, esasperatamente egocentrico, comincia a isolarsi e a diventare sempre più minaccioso e violento. Fino a quando, un freddo mattino di novembre, all'alba, dopo una delle tante feste, Richard non viene trovato morto, annegato nel lago del college, col volto sfigurato. Le indagini porteranno all'arresto e alla condanna di Oliver, anche se il primo a non essere del tutto convinto della colpevolezza del ragazzo è il detective Colborne, lo stesso che dieci anni dopo, quando Oliver esce con la condizionale, lo attende fuori dal carcere per sapere finalmente la verità.


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Oliver Marks è in carcere da dieci anni, accusato dell'omicidio di Richard, suo compagno di college al prestigioso istituto Dellecher, una delle migliori scuole di arte drammatica d'America, dove si studia e si recita continuamente Shakespeare. Sono studenti-attori, destinati a diventare grandi protagonisti del teatro americano. Sono giovani, belli, ambiziosi, loro due e i Oliver Marks è in carcere da dieci anni, accusato dell'omicidio di Richard, suo compagno di college al prestigioso istituto Dellecher, una delle migliori scuole di arte drammatica d'America, dove si studia e si recita continuamente Shakespeare. Sono studenti-attori, destinati a diventare grandi protagonisti del teatro americano. Sono giovani, belli, ambiziosi, loro due e i loro cinque inseparabili amici, con cui dividono il tempo tra prove, performance, e feste in cui abbondano l'alcol, la droga e il sesso: James, Alexander, Wren, Filippa e Meredith. Sono ormai al quarto anno, l'ultimo. Sono i più grandi, le star della scuola. Ma qualcosa nel gruppo si incrina. I ruoli dei drammi che i giovani attori mettono in scena prendono sempre più spazio nella loro vita reale, ed emergono gelosie sopite, invidie, rancori. È Richard, più di tutti, a perdere il controllo: follemente geloso di Meredith, esasperatamente egocentrico, comincia a isolarsi e a diventare sempre più minaccioso e violento. Fino a quando, un freddo mattino di novembre, all'alba, dopo una delle tante feste, Richard non viene trovato morto, annegato nel lago del college, col volto sfigurato. Le indagini porteranno all'arresto e alla condanna di Oliver, anche se il primo a non essere del tutto convinto della colpevolezza del ragazzo è il detective Colborne, lo stesso che dieci anni dopo, quando Oliver esce con la condizionale, lo attende fuori dal carcere per sapere finalmente la verità.

30 review for Non è colpa della luna

  1. 4 out of 5

    Em (RunawayWithDreamthieves)

    Kids, when you come across this book, you’ll hear a voice saying, “Oh, this sounds interesting! Do it.” That’s the devil talking. I hate this book so much I can't bear it. I tore through it, but I feel like it tore through me. That ending grabbed an invisible dagger and twisted it between my ribs. I didn’t want to talk for like...three years. I was exhausted. My heart felt like it was rammed by a semi-truck. Fuck you, book. You're a bound bundle of dead tree. How dare you. So, what’s this book abo Kids, when you come across this book, you’ll hear a voice saying, “Oh, this sounds interesting! Do it.” That’s the devil talking. I hate this book so much I can't bear it. I tore through it, but I feel like it tore through me. That ending grabbed an invisible dagger and twisted it between my ribs. I didn’t want to talk for like...three years. I was exhausted. My heart felt like it was rammed by a semi-truck. Fuck you, book. You're a bound bundle of dead tree. How dare you. So, what’s this book about? If We Were Villains spans multiple years and characters, but it zooms in on a tightly knit group of seven lyric-mad Shakespearean thespians who seemed to prefer each other’s company to anyone else’s, thereby offending the rest of the world. But at some point, something dark had sown hatred in them and wedged its way between them, and that friendship, once beautiful, later held something worth fearing. At some point, they’d become less friends and more things for each other to hit. Then, almost inevitably, a murder. Now, ten years later, detective Colborne feels every choice he’d made, every action he’d taken that fatal night, as a weight he carried with him. There were so many versions of the story everyone had made up—neat distillations of what had happened. Only one person can say which one was true. The secrets Oliver Marks had kept had sharp edges. Now, no longer prison-bound, with the realization that there was no darkness Colborne could send him to rival what he’d endured already, Oliver is ready to put the last spectre of the past where it belongs, his brain going there, dredging up those years again, churning them to the surface to be rewound and replayed, remembering… The truth surging back with a vengeance. “Do you blame Shakespeare for any of it?” The question is so unlikely, so nonsensical coming from such a sensible man, that I can’t suppress a smile. “I blame him for all of it,” I say. I am still so deeply struck by the elegance of a story that appealed to my dark academia loving heart on such a profound spiritual level. Shakespearian aesthetics, higher learning, homoeroticism, a secret society that exists vaguely where everyone communicates with pretentious quotes, characters doing morally grey things at odd hours, a devastating murder, and M.L. Rio has set the scene for an exhilarating, unsettling and invigoratingly taut thriller. It was almost inevitable for me to be hopelessly flummoxed well before the halfway point. The intricate plot turnings, the meticulous character work and the staggering revelations of the narration made this book a real page-turner. The kind of book you initially think you can read in quick bursts and clashes but which ends up sucking you in for hours at a time. I constantly fell into the lie that I’d read just one more page, and as a result, I missed class. I even missed lunch. And when I finally finished it, I was so obsessed I literally almost flipped back to the beginning to start again! I am still reeling with shocks. This book was shock upon shock and I couldn’t shake the horrible feeling all the players were stepping onto the stage, but no one had ever bothered to give me a script. Everything I'd wondered about the characters took on a much darker cast than I could ever have imagined. I was still grasping at the small things I hoped might tell a different story when the ending happened.And oh my god. There was a moment where I stopped everything, and my heart flew to my throat in disbelief at what Rio had just done. There was just no way to make my mind accept the possibility of it, because as terrible as imagining what happened might be, it has to be better than living in this current reality of not-knowing. Seriously. Who, with all due respect, the fuck allowed that ending? “But that is how a tragedy like ours or King Lear breaks your heart—by making you believe that the ending might still be happy, until the very last minute.” It’s also hard not to fall as instantly in love with each of these characters, with the encompassing attraction of a group of friends who have made ruins of each other, with the intoxicating chemistry between two lovers who held each other in plain sight of the world, though their bodies remained forever separate. It’s impossible not to feel caught up in the pull of everything—the thorny tangle of guilt, frustration, and longing, the rivalry, the blurred lines between love and hate, the fractured loyalties and determined single-minded violent obsessions that can never end well for most, but make a spellbinding story for the ones who survive to tell. I mean, sure, if you frame this book in the context of real life, it’s like, “wow, if I knew someone this pretentious in person, I wouldn’t hesitate to smack them upside the head.” But this is fiction and the way I feel about these characters is Steve Harrington going from a popular teenage boy to an extremely stressed-out single soccer mom with four kids in the span of a few days. They're literally all different shades of horrible and undoubtedly morally compromised but I'm still willing to lay down my kidneys for all of them. (Except Richard. He really did live up to the abbreviation of his name.) In conclusion, if reading If We Were Villains doesn’t make you want to get with a very tight-knit group of morally questionable Shakespeare devotees with an unhealthy obsession with aesthetics, and together you try to cover up a murder one of you committed, then who even are you? Actors are by nature volatile—alchemic creatures composed of incendiary elements, emotion and ego and envy. Heat them up, stir them together, and sometimes you get gold. Sometimes disaster. ❗️SPOILERY SECTION❗️ I know everyone who’s read this book is having a hard time right now and I’m here to say: what the FUCK. I hate open endings. I couldn’t believe that was it. I don’t have enough imagination to expand on any material. Please tell me what the hell actually happens. I seriously was about to combust because I love Oliver and James SO MUCH and they deserved so much more time together, more than a fleeting kiss shared on a shakespeare scene before one of them is whisked away to a ten-years prison sentence because he took the fall for the man he loves (the only romantic gesture). Oliver didn’t even get to realize that he was actually in love with James while they were together. It had to happen while they were apart. Also, imagine thinking for six fucking years that the love of your life has given up on you and moved on because they no longer visit you, when in reality they’ve… FAKED their death. Speaking of which, if anyone tries to pry away from me the fact that James is somewhere waiting for Oliver to find him, it could only be my cold, dead hands, and you’d catch these hands from the grave. I REFUSE to believe otherwise. Anyway, If We Were Villains takes a Shakespearean tragedy to a whole new level. Eat your heart out, Shakespeare. ALSO, please read this fanfic because it's the ending we all deserved. It might not be canon but it's canon in MY HEART: what is woven into the lives of others by helloearthlings. BLOG | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM | TUMBLR

  2. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    “You can justify anything if you do it poetically enough.” This book is so haunting, so atmospheric, so gripping, and so perfect. And If you, too, love The Secret History by Donna Tartt then I recommend this book with every single bone in my body. Also, this is such a love letter to Shakespeare and all his work, so if you appreciate that I think you’ll also fall so head over heels for this story. I’m honestly not sure what I expected going into If We Were Villains, but it is now one of my fav “You can justify anything if you do it poetically enough.” This book is so haunting, so atmospheric, so gripping, and so perfect. And If you, too, love The Secret History by Donna Tartt then I recommend this book with every single bone in my body. Also, this is such a love letter to Shakespeare and all his work, so if you appreciate that I think you’ll also fall so head over heels for this story. I’m honestly not sure what I expected going into If We Were Villains, but it is now one of my favorite books of all time. This story follows seven very pretentious theater students, going to a very prestigious and private college. They moved to Ohio to go to the university from all over the world, but they really made a found family with each other, while all living in what they call the Castle on campus. But one night their life completely changes when they all come together on a decision that alters their fate. “Nothing mattered much after that morning. Our two souls—if not all six—were forfeit.” ➽ Richard - has a bad temper and is the “mean” one. ➽ Meredith - Richard’s girlfriend, and the “sexy vixen” type. ➽ Filippa - The “cool” one, in my opinion. Mysterious home life. My second favorite. ➽ Alexander - Gay, grew up in foster care, and I believe is Latinx. Yet, is the “stoner” one. ➽ Wren - Richard’s cousin, and “the girl next-door” type. ➽ James - The best actor and our main protagonist’s roommate. I’d say the “popular” one. ➽ Oliver - Our main protagonist, who is nice, and who is sweet, and who just wants to keep the peace between his group of friends. Also, Oliver is totally pansexual and no one can change my mind on this. “My infatuation […] transcended any notion of gender.” Oliver is for sure the main character, and this book starts out with him getting out of prison ten years after the events of that frightful night. And he is finally telling the story of what actually happened. This book is also broken up in five acts, but we get to see the events of what really happened that night, a decade ago, and we get to see the ramifications of how that altered everyone’s lives in present day. “How tremendous the agony of unmade decisions.” And each act, to me, really highlights a different Shakespearean play, that really sets the tone for what is unfolding in that act. From A Midsummer Night's Dream, to Julius Caesar, to King Lear, to Romeo and Juliet, to so many more; the honoring, appreciation, and celebration are all there and it truly makes for a read like no other. This book is a love letter to theater. And this book is structured so perfectly, written so expertly, that I really think that R.L. Rio crafted something beyond genius. “It’s easier now to be Romeo, or Macbeth, or Brutus, or Edmund. Someone else.” Friends, I feel like this is a book that won’t be for everyone, but if it is for you then you will love it with the sum of your being. This was perfection for me, and completely made my October this year. If you’re looking for something haunting, and thrilling, and so very atmospheric, then please give If We Were Villains a try. And that last line? It is going to haunt me forever with its beautiful perfection. Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Youtube | Twitch Content and trigger warnings for: death, murder, physical abuse, slut shaming, a transphobic comment, a onetime use of the slur for Romani people, a homophobic comment, drug overdose, PTSD depiction, depression depiction, suicide, self-harm, and mention of an eating disorder (and a poor taste comment about it). Buddy read for #FridayFrightAThon which I co-hosted with Amy @ A Court of Crowns and Quills, Jen @ Pinot and Pages, & Chelsea @ Chelsea Palmer! 👻

  3. 4 out of 5

    Amalia Gavea

    ‘’’Tis now dead midnight.’’ Measure for Measure, Act 4, Scene 2 Why midnight?Midnight stands between light and darkness. The day that has been completed and the new one that slowly attempts to rise. During midnight, two key events take place in this glorious book, and like this haunting time of day, our characters are walking the thin line between good and evil. And for this, they make the best ‘’villains’’. This book is so exquisite,so darkly beautiful that I didn’t want it to end. What fascina ‘’’Tis now dead midnight.’’ Measure for Measure, Act 4, Scene 2 Why midnight?Midnight stands between light and darkness. The day that has been completed and the new one that slowly attempts to rise. During midnight, two key events take place in this glorious book, and like this haunting time of day, our characters are walking the thin line between good and evil. And for this, they make the best ‘’villains’’. This book is so exquisite,so darkly beautiful that I didn’t want it to end. What fascinated me more was the fact that it is not only an ode to the immortal genius that is Shakespeare, but a hymn to the significance and immense value of the Villain. Well-written villains are the crown jewels in Literature and a large majority of readers find them absolutely fascinating as they have shaped -and continue shaping- Literature and Theatre. Shakespeare’s villains, in particular, are the core of his greatest plays. Is Macbeth a villain? Or Shylock? What about Brutus or Edmund? Or Iago who seems to have absolutely no redeeming qualities? In M.L.Rio’s novel, we have seven four-year students that are about to graduate and become actors in the real world. A tragic event following a short period of intense feelings causes their world to tumble down. Passions and hidden animosity come forward and the villains become victims and the victims are turned to villains on their own freewill. ‘’By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.’’ Macbeth, Act 4 , Scene 1 M.L. Rio manages to use and refer to every play by the Bard and some of his sonnets, but there are four plays which shape the narrative.Macbeth, Julius Caesar, King Lear, Romeo and Juliet. Each one serves a different purpose and Rio works them in the story masterfully. Wicked deeds are set in motion when a member of this fellowship loses the sense of right and wrong, and as in Julius Caesar, the battle between friends and the acts that can be considered treasonous consist the essence of the entire story. The theme of problematic friendship is present in Macbeth as well, where Macbeth turns against his loyal friend, Banquo, guided by ambition and a misleading wish for power. Perhaps, Macbeth is the play most presented and quoted in the novel, something that contributes to its foreboding beauty. There is a sequence of a production of the Scottish Play, set during the night of Halloween, in the darkness, outdoors. It is among the most beautiful and most powerful depictions I've ever read or watched. Theatre directors should definitely consult Rio before they attempt to deal with Macbeth. I’d dare to say that the Bard himself would certainly embrace it. It is an eerie, haunting scene, an exaltation of Will’s masterpiece. ‘’Believe none of us.’’ Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1 Yes, the seven friends are among the most interesting characters you’ll come across. They are not to be trusted, or believed, but you must care for them. Richard is wild, possessive, the male star of the company.Wren is delicate and shy, the Ophelia of the group. Alexander doesn't really know what to do with his life, James knows what to do but is too afraid to do it. The three most interesting characters are Oliver, Meredith and Filipa.Meredith is my spirit animal. Fierce, demanding, questioning everything, but sensitive and always uncertain of herself and her abilities. I love her! Filipa is a beautiful soul, loyal, tender, the rock that keeps everyone solid, struggling for them to retain their sanity. Oliver is the heat of the story, he is kindness and innocence and the proof that there is still some good in this world that cannot be destroyed. Poor Oliver… The writing is exceptional! Oliver’s speech on the essence of Shakespeare is the best I’ve ever read. The whole spirit of the Bard enclosed in a short paragraph, better than any collection of academic essays. Modern language interacts with Shakespeare’s immortal lines in a brilliant flow of speech. There are so many incredible twists, so much insight into the human soul. What about lies? Lies that are used to protect loved ones? Lies that we have taken for granted for all our lives? Who is the villain?Shakespeare knew human nature better than any psychologist. He knew that there is no clear line between a villain and victim. Just as it often happens in real life. And this is so beautifully transferred in Rio’s marvelous novel that makes one wonder whether we actually know where our ‘’good’’ self end and the ‘’bad’’ begins. This duality is a never-ending battle… This is a beautiful, moving book, created with darkness, strife and sensitivity. Read it and see for yourselves… ''When shall we three meet again? In thunder, lightning, or in rain?'' ''When the hurlyburly’s done. When the battle’s lost and won.'' Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 1

  4. 5 out of 5

    karen

    until the ending, this was probably going to be a three star from me. a high three on the three-star spectrum, but a three nonetheless. it held my interest, but i think this one will resonate more with theater-kids than it did for me, because of how firmly entrenched it is in that world. rio makes it accessible to regular folk, but it probably helps to have a soft place in your heart for young actors and the things that drive them, and i’m someone impatient with affectation both in life and in m until the ending, this was probably going to be a three star from me. a high three on the three-star spectrum, but a three nonetheless. it held my interest, but i think this one will resonate more with theater-kids than it did for me, because of how firmly entrenched it is in that world. rio makes it accessible to regular folk, but it probably helps to have a soft place in your heart for young actors and the things that drive them, and i’m someone impatient with affectation both in life and in my reading, so the characters were frequently more grating than charming to me. they’re definitely convincing for who they are, but i never warmed to any of them or felt sympathetic towards them - i’ve certainly known people like this in my life, but it’s exhausting to be confronted with seven of them at once, all posturing and pretentious banter, where conversations are on-the-nose passages from shakespeare’s plays shot back-and-forth, displaying the characters' education, not necessarily their personality. i’m with the detective (the first speaker) in this scene: ”So,” he says. “How much of what you told me about that night was true?” “All of it,” I say, “in one way or another.” A pause. “Are we going to play this game?” ”Wherein I am false I am honest; not true, to be true,” I say. “I thought they would have beaten that bullshit out of you in prison.” “That bullshit is all that kept me going.” One thing I’m sure Colborne will never understand is that I need language to live, like food - lexemes and morphemes and morsels of meaning nourish me with the knowledge that, yes, there is a word for this. Someone else has felt this before. “Why don’t you just tell me what happened? No performance. No poetics.” “For us, everything was a performance.” A small, private smile catches me off guard and I glance down, hoping he won’t see it. “Everything poetic.” Colborne is quiet for a moment and then says, “You win. Tell it your way.” to backtrack, this book is a variant on The Secret History theme - it features seven theater students in their fourth year at a very elite arts college whose discipline is strictly shakespeare. they live together in an appropriately dramatic castle-like structure, slightly off the main campus - inseparable from each other, isolated from 'normal' people, and constantly immersed in tragedies filled with feuds, vengeance, and casual murders. further complications result from the particulars of the actor’s temperament: ”A good Shakespearian actor - a good actor of any stripe, really - doesn’t just say words, he feels them. We all felt the passions of the characters we played as if they were our own. But a character’s emotions don’t cancel out the actor’s - instead you feel both at once. Imagine having all your own thoughts and feelings tangled up with all the thoughts and feelings of a whole other person. It can be hard, sometimes, to sort out which is which.” considering this perfect storm of elements, it’s not surprising when life and art get blurred and one of them ends up dead. but is it the result of an accident or murrrrrderrrr? the events of that night are murky, but our verbiage-spouting narrator oliver marks confessed to the murder and has spent the past ten years in jail. his release coincides with the retirement of detective colborne, the lead investigator in the case, and oliver is ready to tell colborne exactly what happened that night. his way. the story is split between oliver ‘now,’ returning to the scene of the crime with colborne, and the story of everything that went on in this cult-like group ten years ago; of a group of people obsessed with shakespeare whose relationships with each other were as complicated as any tragedy - resentments and rivalries, sexual dalliances, unrequited longing, blood relatives and lovers, straight and gay, addictions and insecurities and the fine line between acting and lying, onstage combat and real-life consequences. it’s a debut, so there’s some first-timer clumsiness in terms of exposition - the first chapter, introducing all the players is kind of tedious, but it definitely picks up once it gets over the basic stage-setting. the scenery-chewing shakespeare stuff is a bit indulgent; shakespeare ends up doing a lot of the narrative work in what is often a pretty straightforward story, if you’ve read a lot of The Secret History type books, but there’s one interesting spin on the story: usually the narrator in these books takes the ‘outsider looking in’ role, typically separated from the group at large because of a lower socio-economic status, but in this case - yes, oliver is much less well-off than most of his peers, but i think each of the characters could claim outsider status for one reason or another, and the group is less cohesive than The Secret History norm (although it does mirror the character checklist of two (view spoiler)[possibly incestuous (hide spoiler)] relatives; cousins, not twins, one gay male, and one major asshole) it's a good read; if you're a The Secret History readalike addict like me, it's not going to blow your mind, but it's entertaining, and i did really like the little turn at the end. it opens up a lot of questions about what will happen next, but it was a nice little surprise in a story i thought had already ended. three and a half rounded up, and i will gladly read anything else she writes. come to my blog!

  5. 5 out of 5

    jessica

    this book! this book! my kingdom for this book! this was absolutely sensational, a true work of brilliance. i was so enamoured by this story and everything it had to offer. it was quite clever and beyond invigorating - the type of book that fully immerses you whilst reading it. the passion which radiated throughout this book made me feel so in love with shakespeare and his words (and i honestly never considered myself a fan). the way in which these students dedicated their lives to studying him w this book! this book! my kingdom for this book! this was absolutely sensational, a true work of brilliance. i was so enamoured by this story and everything it had to offer. it was quite clever and beyond invigorating - the type of book that fully immerses you whilst reading it. the passion which radiated throughout this book made me feel so in love with shakespeare and his words (and i honestly never considered myself a fan). the way in which these students dedicated their lives to studying him was almost romantic, in a way. how they integrated his language into their own interactions, making their own lives a work of poetry in the process, was very inspiring. and because of that, i would say the characters were the main focus for me in this book. yes, there was a mystery/thriller element that surrounded the students, but i felt like that took a backseat to what were phenomenal characters, the boys in particular. i became so enthralled with their lives, how they orbited one another, and just their day-to-day routines. and i should have known not to get so attached, as this story follows the form of a true shakespearean tragedy. so as i closed the final page, i found myself wistfully thinking that parting is such sweet sorrow. ↠ 5 stars

  6. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio is a 2017 Flatiron Books publication. This is a psychological thriller for deep thinkers. There is crime and there is punishment. There is mystery, suspense. There are intense characters, shallow ones too, those who are fatalistic and those who are tragic… just like a Shakespearean play. Ten years ago, Oliver Marks was one of seven Shakespearean actors at the prestigious Dellecher Classical Conservatory. Today he is about to walk out of a prison cell for the first If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio is a 2017 Flatiron Books publication. This is a psychological thriller for deep thinkers. There is crime and there is punishment. There is mystery, suspense. There are intense characters, shallow ones too, those who are fatalistic and those who are tragic… just like a Shakespearean play. Ten years ago, Oliver Marks was one of seven Shakespearean actors at the prestigious Dellecher Classical Conservatory. Today he is about to walk out of a prison cell for the first time in a decade. How did he end up behind bars? That’s something Detective Colbourne would also like to know. He may have put Oliver in prison, but he knows there is more to the story than he's been told. He can’t rest until he coaxes the entire story out of Oliver once and for all. With Colbourne retired, and with nothing else to lose, Oliver grants Colbourne his wish. ‘But that I am forbid/ To tell the secrets of my prison -house,/ I could a tale unfold whose lightest word/ Would horrow up thy soul.’ The story then flashes back ten years as Oliver walks us through the events that left him holding the bag for crimes he may or may not have been solely responsible for. When one of the seven elite actors’ dies, the remaining six thespians are the very picture of innocence. It was an accident after all… wasn’t it? But, Detective Colbourne’s senses they know more than they are telling. Are they as innocent as they appear or are they harboring a dark secret- one that is eating away at them more and more with each passing day? I tend to gravitate towards these types of stories, which are too few and far between, but I suppose that only makes me appreciate them even more when I stumble across one. The Shakespearean allegory is well done, as the stage is set for the ultimate tragedy. Our little acting coalition is as thick as thieves, too close, too driven, too immersed within their own little thespian world to cope with reality as most of us know it, which leads to grave consequences, when they begin to become the roles they often play on stage. Jealousy, competition, unrequited love, anger and resentment stir the bubbling pot until ‘exuent omnes’. I was so engrossed in Oliver’s tale, so mortified, so mesmerized and tantalized, and despite knowing most of the details of the crime in question, and that Oliver has obviously paid his debt, the suspense is still nearly unbearable, because I still didn't know WHY- or HOW things turned out this way. I was filled with such dread, I almost felt like I was back in Vermont at Hamden College listening to Richard Papen unfold a similarly horrifying tale of obsession. But, as morally questionable as those standing center stage may be, as superficial and self-absorbed, or in some cases, as honorable, or heroic- the classic “Villains VS Heroes”, if you will, the story is haunting and left a painful ache in my heart. “But that is how a tragedy like ours or King Lear breaks your heart- by making you believe that the ending might still be happy, until the very last minute.” The author did an amazing job with presentation and ‘staging’, as such, and created a vivid atmosphere, perfect for settling in for a modern Shakespearean tragedy. If you are a fan of the Bard, you will really appreciate the way the dialogue mirrors the events as they unfold and of course the bittersweet irony. This is not just a psychological thriller, it’s a literary novel filled with obsessions and angst, with beauty and horror, and a near pitch perfect delivery! This is a debut novel, incredibly, and I for one am pretty much blown away! Pulling out the stars for this one!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Eryn

    *Update - 2018* Because I still think about this book almost a year after reading it, I'm moving it to my favorite's shelf. I think it's deserving there, right alongside The Secret History and Vicious. ___________________________________ 4.25-4.5/5 Stars This was breathtakingly brilliant. Honestly, if this book isn't on your to-be-read list, it needs to be. It starts off shaky (at least it did to me), however, once it grabs your attention - it will not let go. Now, where do I even start? Should I s *Update - 2018* Because I still think about this book almost a year after reading it, I'm moving it to my favorite's shelf. I think it's deserving there, right alongside The Secret History and Vicious. ___________________________________ 4.25-4.5/5 Stars This was breathtakingly brilliant. Honestly, if this book isn't on your to-be-read list, it needs to be. It starts off shaky (at least it did to me), however, once it grabs your attention - it will not let go. Now, where do I even start? Should I start with how layered these characters are? (Though, I will say, I noticed the female characters could've used more depth). Should I begin with how flawlessly Rio tied in multiple Shakespearean plays into the actual plot? Or maybe, I should talk about the mystery/tension intertwined with everything that occurs throughout this novel? You know what? I'm going to ramble. So. This story revolves around 7 students who are majoring in Shakespearean Studies & Acting (something like that) - and from the beginning you realize that this degree and school is no joke. It's competitive. Serious. Cut throat. Which makes it all the more intriguing. It wouldn't be half as good of a story if it took place at a "nicer school." Getting right to it, I loved how every character had something going for them. Though, at first, it was difficult remembering who was who, and it sometimes bothered me that I couldn't picture anyone. However, those things hardly deterred me from continuing (surprisingly). The plot and depth of the characters made up for everything else. So don't be fooled and think that these characters are just your "shallow" sort of college students. In some ways, they might be. However, they're much more. Something else that I LOVED, was the strange/strong relationship between James and Oliver. When I was reading, I kept on wondering why the heck I wanted them to end up together. Quite badly, too. I mean, by all appearances they were just friends. Plus, Oliver was head-over-heals for Meredith. And yet, I couldn't help but feel that while he lusted after Meredith, he had a very real passion for James. Just like Oliver himself says (towards the end), he himself had no idea what he and James were. Whatever it was, it was bloody brilliant. Unfortunately, this book didn't end up in my "all time favorites." I thought it would have. Really. However, when I looked at everything, there were some dull spats throughout the story. Plus, I couldn't ignore how most of the male characters had layered personalities, whereas the female characters seemed bland. (Except perhaps Meredith, she played a big role - but in a stereotypical way). Overall, I feel like I've given away too much - and not enough. I wish I could ramble more, but I feel like I'm not doing the story justice. I'll probably comes back and re-review this. In the meantime, get this book!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Grace (BURTSBOOKS)

    4.5 stars I have no idea what to say - love doesn't seem like an accurate enough descriptor and nothing else comes to mind. This is 100% one of the most unique reading experiences I have ever had and now I have a headache. Full review to come.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    4.5. A small elite school, a theater program that is only about Shakespeare, seven friends, seniors, together from the beginning, strong, intense friendships formed. Oliver, our narrator, one of the seven, just released from spending tempers in prison. How did something so special, so promising, go so wrong? A novel of love, obsession, friendship passion and betrayal. Spending all their on and off time together, this little theater group becomes more important to each other than their real famili 4.5. A small elite school, a theater program that is only about Shakespeare, seven friends, seniors, together from the beginning, strong, intense friendships formed. Oliver, our narrator, one of the seven, just released from spending tempers in prison. How did something so special, so promising, go so wrong? A novel of love, obsession, friendship passion and betrayal. Spending all their on and off time together, this little theater group becomes more important to each other than their real families, than the real world. Shakespeare takes over their lives, the plays they perform, always having to be on, the intense study, rehearsals, they even speak to each other in Shakespearean quotes. The author, and this her first book, does a fantastic job incorporating these quotes, fitting them into the context of the plot, often providing clues and foreshadowing into what has happened. Their obsessions with each other, and Shakespeare lead to dangerous breaks in reality. The plays begin to mimic life and these young people begin to fall apart, deconstruct with horrifying results. We learn so much about these characters, not only from the roles they play but in how they treat each other, how they behave when their loyalty is tested. Not you typical thriller, more character studies but suspenseful nonetheless. It is not necessary to have a full understanding of Shakespeare's plays but necessary I think to be willing to read many quotes and speeches. I loved every minute of it, thought it was brilliantly done was thoroughly captivated by the players and curious to how it would end. A very special, well thought out, and executed debut novel. ARC from BookBrowse. Releases April 7th by Flatiron books.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    "Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player /That struts and frets his hour upon the stage /And then is heard no more: it is a tale /Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, /Signifying nothing" The five words or fewer pitch: The Secret History meets William Shakespeare. Let me start off by saying this is not a perfect book and it certainly won't work for everyone. In fact, I don't know anyone I would personally recommend it to. But I really, really enjoyed reading this, and even if it ultima "Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player /That struts and frets his hour upon the stage /And then is heard no more: it is a tale /Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, /Signifying nothing" The five words or fewer pitch: The Secret History meets William Shakespeare. Let me start off by saying this is not a perfect book and it certainly won't work for everyone. In fact, I don't know anyone I would personally recommend it to. But I really, really enjoyed reading this, and even if it ultimately boils down to being a fun, somewhat forgettable thriller with a different layer of intelligence and elitism, it was what I'd call a nerdy guilty pleasure and something that grabbed me unexpectedly. I enjoyed the characters and their descent into grief and guilt, and I loved the shifting lines between the actors the characters inhabited and their own personas (and loved all the Shakespeare). I'd say this is 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 stars for how much fun I ended up having (even if it's a dark tale). "All the world’s a stage,/And all the men and women merely players;/They have their exits and their entrances,/And one man in his time plays many parts" Oliver, James, Wren, Alexander, Richard, Meredith, and Filippa are in their senior year of an exclusive performing arts college, and the only fourth year students in the acting group, having survived years of attrition and thinning of the ranks, until only this core group were deemed worthy and remained. Each has their distinctive place and typecasting in the corps: Richard, the magnetic star and leader; Meredith, the siren and sexpot and dangerous woman; Wren, the ingenue; James, the good guy; Alexander, Filippa, and Oliver (our narrator) the flexible players moving across roles and the secondary stars. Rio doesn't linger long on what was, but gives a good overall sense of their camaraderie, familiarity, and comfort with each other and the various roles they occupy on stage and as friends in real life. "Between the acting of a dreadful thing/And the first motion, all the interim is/Like a phantasma or a hideous dream." Their directors/instructors begin to push the group to more fully articulate, share, and explore their strengths, weaknesses, and limitations, and for a group of theater actors used to wearing masks and inhabiting other characters at all times, this public revealing of one's true face and full honesty puts cracks and dents in the glass houses they've built that contain the basis of their friendship and conceal parts of themselves from each other. Then, in an effort to make them transcend their limitations, the Halloween production of Macbeth is cast against type, against their previously default roles and pecking order, which completely changes the nature of their relationships with each other, and alienates and estranges one (view spoiler)[ Richard (hide spoiler)] of the seven from the other six. “These violent delights have violent ends/And in their triumph die, like fire and powder/Which, as they kiss, consume” "False face must hide what the false heart doth know" Things escalate when (view spoiler)[Richard (hide spoiler)] begins to react angrily and violently to the upended order, and then the others begin to conspire to thwart those actions. Then, one pivotal night, the six make the fateful decision not to save the mortally wounded one from an apparent accident. What was action and inaction chosen and done to protect the six ends up becoming their undoing, as the six struggle to feel whole or at peace with their choice, and each ends up being consumed by their self-hate and fear and disgust in different ways. As the police begin to investigate the death, and Oliver too begins uncovering evidence of foul play, walls are erected and broken down between the remaining friends, and some secrets and hidden truths are revealed. From the outset, we know that Oliver has been incarcerated for 10 years, and time is split between the bulk of the narrative in the past, and the present where Oliver and the lead detective retrace steps and confront the truth head on. What we don't know is who was or wasn't the actual culprit and why. But again, the whodunit is less meaningful than the change, disintegration and renewal of these bonds of friendship between the remaining six, and how each processes their grief and guilt on stage and off. It will come/Humanity must perforce prey on itself/Like monsters of the deep." It's an ambitious novel, and the execution can be a bit unwieldy at times. It's high drama (as befitting a performing arts college and the actor class) and higher education, which could turn some readers off. But I liked this group of flawed performers, less pompous and snobby than their elite theater credentials would suggest, and definitely all with demons and sharp edges but also vulnerability, fear, anguish. And Oliver as the narrator may begin as a bit of a cipher, but as he moves out of his friend/sidekick bit player typecasting and into more important roles, he also uncovers more of his own confidence, his own true feelings, and the depths of his own violence and rage. The writing is quite fine on the whole: very good to weave together the actor-y bits and the thriller-y bits, though the lines created and composed by Rio are not memorable in and of themselves, especially since she's up against all the Shakespearean classic lines being bandied about. And the Shakespeare! Granted, it's probably better to see Shakespeare performed as opposed to reading about it, but M. L. Rio's background in theater really serves her well in bringing major Shakespearean plays to life, with the stagecraft and acting elements and also how the characters internalize and utilize Shakespeare in their every day lives (and how it ultimately informs their predicament). That's probably the biggest issue for Rio, in terms of Shakespeare's language being so much more powerful and important than her own, and though she uses it for her own ends to advance the plot and develop the characters, it still diminishes her own writing ultimately (versus say Margaret Atwood who in Hag-Seed managed to display her own genius and Shakespeare's simultaneously without his language diminishing her own, IMO and my review of that here). Overall, I liked this a lot and was surprised by my level of enjoyment and involvement while reading it. And while the characters and plot points may not stay with me, some of the larger ideas just might. If you don't enjoy Shakespeare, this is not the book for you. Steer clear! But if you're into thrillers of a different color and do enjoy The Bard, this could be the book you're looking for. And if you're anything like me, I now want to go re-read Macbeth, Richard III, Romeo and Juliet, King Lear and read for the first time Julius Caesar, and revel in more of Shakespeare's wondrous world. "And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover/To entertain these fair well-spoken days/I am determined to prove a villain/And hate the idle pleasures of these days"

  11. 5 out of 5

    JanB

    3.5 stars, rounded up I listened to this on a long drive and, despite being well-written, I nearly gave up on it. My initial reaction was I didn’t want to spend another minute with this group of pretentious theater students. Plus I was annoyed by the quotes from Shakespeare. But, since I was driving, I was a captive audience until my next stop. Soon, things took an interesting turn when one of the students is found dead, and another is accused of the murder. From there, I was fully invested in ho 3.5 stars, rounded up I listened to this on a long drive and, despite being well-written, I nearly gave up on it. My initial reaction was I didn’t want to spend another minute with this group of pretentious theater students. Plus I was annoyed by the quotes from Shakespeare. But, since I was driving, I was a captive audience until my next stop. Soon, things took an interesting turn when one of the students is found dead, and another is accused of the murder. From there, I was fully invested in how this story would play out. The person who was accused and convicted is released from prison and the detective who worked the case was never convinced of his guilt. The real story is now told to the detective in flashbacks to the events that took place 10 years prior. I’m not a student of Shakespeare and I still found this to be an addictive read that I enjoyed. Life often imitates art and that point is clearly brought home in this story. None of the characters are likable, so if you require that in your reading, its best to skip this one. I found the dynamics and self-delusions between the friends fascinating. Although I never grew to like this group of students, I did come to understand them, which is a must for me with unlikable characters. It's a interesting character study. Recommended for fans of campus novels and unlikable characters.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lia (a paper pigeon)

    Actors are by nature volatile—alchemic creatures composed of incendiary elements, emotion and ego and envy. Heat them up, stir them together, and sometimes you get gold. Sometimes disaster. This is like The Secret History 2.0 And I shamelessly loved every single line.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Maxwell

    At the beginning I thought this was going to be a 5-star read for me. I was immediately sucked in and didn't want to put it down. I loved getting to know the characters; I found the setting and atmosphere very palpable and moody (it mostly takes place on a college campus in the late 1990's); and the Shakespearean elements were fun because I'd studied his work quite a bit in school. However, as the story went on I found it to become quite predictable, and many of the elements from the beginning st At the beginning I thought this was going to be a 5-star read for me. I was immediately sucked in and didn't want to put it down. I loved getting to know the characters; I found the setting and atmosphere very palpable and moody (it mostly takes place on a college campus in the late 1990's); and the Shakespearean elements were fun because I'd studied his work quite a bit in school. However, as the story went on I found it to become quite predictable, and many of the elements from the beginning started to wear on me as a reader. The characters stayed pretty one note throughout. Everything was a bit redundant including the decision by the author to include so much of Shakespeare's text (literally whole passages were copied from his work and it became a drag to read, even when the texts were reflective of the characters' internal monologues—clever at first but the effect wears off). And by 50% of the way through the story I figured out the 'plot twist' which made reading the last half less exciting. All that to say, I would still recommend this book, especially if you are looking for something quick and thrilling to get you out of a reading slump. It's a fun read, even if at times it's a bit melodramatic (I think that's partially the point) and unrealistic. There are a few plot holes and the characters are not the most likeable, but it reads like a CW teen drama and is quite addictive. 3.5 stars

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Initial reaction: THE LAST PARAGRAPH OH MY GOD Review: Oh. My. God. I loved this I loved this I looooooved this! So beautifully written, rich in detail, with an amazing cast of characters, it kept me hooked from beginning to end. It’s a story about friendship, passion, betrayal, grief, obsession, and most of all, love for the theatre and for Shakespeare. From Goodreads: On the day Oliver Marks is released from jail, the man who put him there is waiting at the door. Detective Colborne wants to kno Initial reaction: THE LAST PARAGRAPH OH MY GOD Review: Oh. My. God. I loved this I loved this I looooooved this! So beautifully written, rich in detail, with an amazing cast of characters, it kept me hooked from beginning to end. It’s a story about friendship, passion, betrayal, grief, obsession, and most of all, love for the theatre and for Shakespeare. From Goodreads: 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. Let me get one thing clear from the get go: I am not a fan of Shakespeare. I had read a couple of his plays in high school (Romeo and Juliet, and Hamlet), but whether it was the translations or just the fact that it’s not for me, I wasn’t hooked on his works. But this did in no way impact my enjoyment of this book. It’s very Shakespeare centric, and probably a lot of things went over my head because of my lack of knowledge in The Bard’s works, but it was just too much fun to read for me to actually care about that. And I think this is one of the novel’s very strong points: it appeals to a more general audience than you’d think. Sure, those who love Shakespeare and have a background in theatre will probably enjoy it more. But it’s too good of a book for me not to recommend it to every human that crosses my path. I loved the shift from present to past and I loved how masterfully Rio crafted the entire plot. I had so many theories while reading, that I kept changing from one act to the next, and I kept second guessing myself about everything. The suspense keeps building and you’re sucked into a closeted, secluded world, that works according to laws of its own. These students talk to each other in verses, they get so in touch with the characters their performing, that at one point, it’s difficult to separate the individual from the role they’ve been given to perform. They all feel much more intensely than other people, the relationships they form are more acute, everything is amplified. And all this gives this story the feel of a tragedy, with the reader as a spectator, unable to intervene or change anything, but forced to watch the show until the end, when the curtain drops. The thing I probably loved the most was how well all the characters were fleshed out. It’s not an easy task to sufficiently elaborate on so many characters in what wasn’t a very long book, but all seven of them are clear in my mind. With their thoughts, their beliefs, their insecurities - they all managed to resonate with me in a way. And while they’re not necessarily likable characters, I nevertheless enjoyed reading about them all. I also really loved the writing. While it had its choppy parts at times, overall, it kept me at the edge of my seat and it delivered a wholly fun and intense experience. It’s also very elegant, it flows, it has an allure that really helped me get into the story. Special mention goes to the entire Halloween scene, which is probably one of the best pieces of writing I’ve ever read. (also, I really want to read Macbeth because of it, so there’s that). I wholeheartedly 100% recommend this book. It made me feel all the feelings and I had a blast reading it. If you’re a fan of thrillers, of theatre, of Shakespeare, of tragedies, pick this up. It’ll be right up your alley. Trigger warnings for: abuse, suicide. Favourite quotes: "There are things they don't tell you about magical places-- that they are as dangerous as they are beautiful." "Whatever we did-- or more crucially, did not do-- it seemed that so long as we did it together, our individual sins might be abated." Thank you for reading and have a wonderful day! Also, feel free to share your thoughts, comment or tell me anything :)

  15. 4 out of 5

    ❄️Nani❄️

    4.5⭐ I felt like I was reading the shorter, fast paced version of The Secret History. 4.5⭐️ I felt like I was reading the shorter, fast paced version of The Secret History.

  16. 4 out of 5

    KL (Cat)

    Oh god here's to hoping I don't get lynched for this. Personally, I find making book comparisons in reviews distasteful and frankly insulting to both writers. However there are times when a work comes up with startling similarities before you decide to roll your eyes, and say ok, Cassandra Clare, plagiarizing the Harry Potter series for The Iron Trial is not cool at all (and yes, it's been years but LET ME BE PETTY). I'm not claiming that IWWV is a copy of The Secret History. Certainly there is Oh god here's to hoping I don't get lynched for this. Personally, I find making book comparisons in reviews distasteful and frankly insulting to both writers. However there are times when a work comes up with startling similarities before you decide to roll your eyes, and say ok, Cassandra Clare, plagiarizing the Harry Potter series for The Iron Trial is not cool at all (and yes, it's been years but LET ME BE PETTY). I'm not claiming that IWWV is a copy of The Secret History. Certainly there is more to the novel and Rio brings her own brand of refreshing originality. Nevertheless a core part that makes up the bare-bones skeleton of the world the 7 main characters function in IS a mirror reflection of TSH. A list compiled in my reading notes: 1. IWWV: All 7 students are thespians // TSH: All 6 study classics. Both are commonly seen as 'elite' fields that are hard to 'break' into. 2. IWWV: Regards each other as "siblings" as repeatedly mentioned by Oliver, (to paraphrase a quote) the closeness of the group meant that there was nothing about each other could any longer affect them // TSH: Richard sees Julian's students (before he joined them) as 'otherworldly' in a way that only they shared - "sic oculos, sic ille manus, sic ore ferebat". 3. In both books the characters are specially chosen for their subject; no other students study the same courses as they do. Reinforces exclusivity and especially a 'me vs everyone else' attitude of superiority in the characters. Heavy inter-reliance within the groups. 4. Both protagonists (Oliver and Richard) are 'the odd man out'. They are less talented than their peers and both groups know this. Also personally I find them to be painfully bland; perhaps for them to better reflect the brighter & more beautiful like a mirror for the readers. And perhaps to reinforce their longing and precarious position in this elite world that they hunger for, which IMO is a easy way out of explaining their motivations w/ continuing their idiocy (shhh). 5. Mostly because both protagonists come from lower-middle class/middle-class (?) backgrounds with families and homes they would like to leave behind. 6. Both groups reenacts the course of (Shakespearian vs Greek) tragedy in their lives. 7. Both groups had a member that they murdered. 8. Said murdered person transforms into an increasingly erratic and uncontrollable character throughout the novel's progression, until they reach a place where both groups consider that murder is the only choice. 9. Both groups are taught by mentor(s) that are (at best) unconventional with teaching methods, giving lessons that in turn affect the characters. The university is badly structured with a ridiculous system that allows and in a way encourages these groups to be formed. 10. Arguably both books can be split into two parts: what led up to the murder and then focuses on the remaining characters (and their terrible coping methods) immediately afterwards // So! I'll leave this one for you to think about. Similarities aside, this kind of setting that both novels use is unrealistic at best. Personally I find that Donna Tartt makes it work. Her lush prose draws the readers into a place where time is made to seem longer than it actually is. Richard constantly narrates these long stream of consciousness / wallowing / whatever Greek Philosophical Of The Day to the readers. Other aspects build onto this feeling; Julian's lavishly decorated room, and the concepts he discusses (the Divine, beauty, terror), so different and far from 'mainstream' education. Isolation in its all encompassing variety, from Henry's intellectualism to purposely barring themselves from the outside world. Most of the novel takes place where they are alone: their rooms, the library, Julian's classrooms, the ravine, car rides. Whenever they are in a place with other people they are uncomfortable, restless, even to the point of being violent. Snow. The hyper-surrealist quality that saturates everything in the novel helps provide a plausible acceptance for the readers, in regards to the oddity of the characters, and the way they choose to behave in. And as for Rio... I don't know. Mostly her writing is so different from Tartt; If We Were Villains is fast paced, and in turn intriguing. Yet when the scantly detailed prose and lack of character exposition works perfectly for action, it fails to build a satisfying case for the characters that makes them understandable. When everything dramatically falls apart, and the characters choose to behave in their puzzling and overly dramatic ways, I was disenchanted with how their relatively reasonable conduct quickly gives away to unreasonable choices. If you are to be morally ambiguous and make bad decisions; fine. Give me a reason, give me motivations for your actions! To avoid spoilers, and badly paraphrase a mis-remembered quote - there is nothing beautiful or monstrous in being evil for evil's sake. This is not to say that If We Were Villains was not enjoyable to read; rather, it is that I found the first half of the novel that made the latter part captivating - to be quite frustrating. (Also: I loved the ending; it made me go all slow and syrupy inside, warm like molasses.) 3.5 stars

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sheila

    5 stars--I loved it. An amazing read that's exactly my genre. Three things about this book that might make you love it or hate it: 1. It's very similar to The Secret History, both in plot and theme. I love The Secret History, so this was right up my alley. 2. It contains an abundance of Shakespeare. There's a Shakespeare quote or play discussion on nearly every page. The characters speak to each other using phrases from Shakespeare. 3. The characters are pretentious, entitled, white college kids. I 5 stars--I loved it. An amazing read that's exactly my genre. Three things about this book that might make you love it or hate it: 1. It's very similar to The Secret History, both in plot and theme. I love The Secret History, so this was right up my alley. 2. It contains an abundance of Shakespeare. There's a Shakespeare quote or play discussion on nearly every page. The characters speak to each other using phrases from Shakespeare. 3. The characters are pretentious, entitled, white college kids. I found them all pretty unlikeable but that didn't hinder my enjoyment of the book; I was fascinated by them and their sheltered world. I came to have the same love-hate relationship with them that they had with each other. (And as an English major who used to communicate with my other English-major friends using scraps of poems, I can relate. I wince at the memory, but relate!) This book is a suspense novel in one of my favorite settings (college). I couldn't stop reading to see what happened, and overall, despite some minor quibbles, really loved this book. I received this review copy from the publisher on NetGalley. Thanks for the opportunity to read and review; I appreciate it!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Perry

    If I Were a Numskulled Nincompoop ... (I Shall Not Spoil It for You.) The book was heavy on histrionics for narrative fiction (as opposed to a play); too predictable for a mystery novel; definitely too hokey for literary fiction. For example, without warning, the characters in the midst of regular dialogue tend to break into pages of lines from Shakespeare. Nevertheless, the story should please Shakespearean "folly-fallen, foot-lickers," and those up for sudsy suspense.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Dannii Elle

    I think I just found a new favourite book. Oliver Marks has been released from prison and only two people are there to greet him. One is the newly retired Detective Colborne. And he wants to know the truth. The truth of what put Oliver behind bars. The truth behind the lie that has haunted his entire career. And now, finally, he might be able to get it. Oliver transports both the detective and the reader back in time to the early 1990’s. He is entering his fourth year of dramatic training at Delle I think I just found a new favourite book. Oliver Marks has been released from prison and only two people are there to greet him. One is the newly retired Detective Colborne. And he wants to know the truth. The truth of what put Oliver behind bars. The truth behind the lie that has haunted his entire career. And now, finally, he might be able to get it. Oliver transports both the detective and the reader back in time to the early 1990’s. He is entering his fourth year of dramatic training at Dellecher Classical Conservatory, an elite arts college. His discipline is strictly Shakespeare, as is that of the seven friends he has shared this exclusive university experience with. This close-knit friendship group are buoyed by the knowledge of their imminent departure to the real world of theatre but are also keenly aware of the safe nest of their university home. They live together in a dramatic structure of castle-like proportions, inseparable from each other but isolated from the rest of the university populace. As their final year progresses the group continue to perform scenes from a selection of the bard’s most infamous plays – including ‘Romeo and Juliet‘, ‘Julius Caesar‘, and ‘Macbeth‘ – and the events from within also begin to play out in their everyday lives. The fights and feuds of the stage are transported into their real lives and culminate into a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. Our eyes into this world of prestige and the extraordinary is through that of the average and the everyday. Oliver, himself, is perfectly willing to admit his default is that of the average guy, the supporting best friend, that allows others the much-sought limelight. But it is through his unique perspective that the glamour is de-cloaked and we begin to see everything for what it really is. The individual characters were immediately characterised by their acumen and strengths as actors. We were not introduced to those they pretended to embody or even the real-person behind their stage facade, as the individuals were too bound to their roles to ever imagine removing their masks. Too unaware, even, that they wore a mask at all. Each of the seven had a distinct role to play. They adhered to a strict set of stereotypes – the hero, the villain, the sultry seductress, the girl next door, the good guy – both on and off the stage. But when these roles began to merge, the structure of their friendship also began to also tilt. And with the backdrop removed, nothing was there to separate their veneer of pretence to what was going on behind the scenes. I adored how large a focal point the language and plot lines of Shakespearean plays had on this novel. The narrative itself borrowed facets from these infamous plays but so too did the character’s dialogue. Even in their every day conversations did they purge lines from a multitude of plays and continue to word-battle with each other, even when the conversational topic were on the most mundane of subjects. The dialogue is also often transformed into typical play format and the chapters were sequestered into acts and scenes, meaning Rio never lets the reader forget that they are audience to a performance and the characters are all simply acting their roles. The layers of deception run deep, but also Rio is completely honest about revealing this. Simply put: this is one clever novel. Reality is layered upon further realities and this offers a unique and thrilling twist on some of the most infamous of Shakespeare’s histories and tragedies.

  20. 4 out of 5

    ✨ jamieson ✨

    I have a very specific aesthetic and it's: dark books set in academic settings with people who are probably gays. eg: the secret history, vicious, kill your darlings, dead poets society SO WHEN I HEARD THIS BOOK IS THAT AND I SMASHED THAT ADD TO TBR BUTTON

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sabrina

    I am in tears and I think I won't be okay for a long time

  22. 4 out of 5

    Iulia

    Dark, twisted and exquisite. Full review to come.

  23. 4 out of 5

    lucky little cat

    "No, no, no, no." "Why are people handing this five stars?" "I don't know, maybe they're all in love with Richard. God knows all the rest of us are." Really? But then I remembered not everyone was in love with Richard. "But hasn't anyone noticed it's a lightweight Secret History wannabe, only with annoying theater majors?" "And perchance with only the most obvious quotes from the Bard?" "Sh! They'll hear you!" "And you entirely left out the frequent whiffs of Harry Potter-ishness." "I'm not sure I- "No, no, no, no." "Why are people handing this five stars?" "I don't know, maybe they're all in love with Richard. God knows all the rest of us are." Really? But then I remembered not everyone was in love with Richard. "But hasn't anyone noticed it's a lightweight Secret History wannabe, only with annoying theater majors?" "And perchance with only the most obvious quotes from the Bard?" "Sh! They'll hear you!" "And you entirely left out the frequent whiffs of Harry Potter-ishness." "I'm not sure I--" "You know, quirkily decorated exclusive classrooms in creaking historical buildings. 'Pull up a pouf! Have some tea!' Beaky-nosed wise professors with twinkly eyes behind wire frame glasses." "And I say, you've forgotten, that's to say, you've completely omitted any mention of the pretty bits of pretentious verbiage." "And people are reading this willingly?" "Seem to be, yes." "Why?" "Well, there's no accounting for taste." "No, there certainly isn't."

  24. 5 out of 5

    Olive (abookolive)

    EFF THAT WAS GOOD

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tammy

    This most assuredly has the feel of Donna Tartt's A Secret History which is high praise. Some of the characters are more likable than Tartt's and the Shakespearean focus is brilliant. This novel explores the depths of relationships and emotions using the bard as its conceit. I re-visited the intellectual intensity and pretentiousness of my undergraduate years and was surprised by how much of my college Shakespeare I remembered. This is a treat for those with a penchant for Shakespeare, an affini This most assuredly has the feel of Donna Tartt's A Secret History which is high praise. Some of the characters are more likable than Tartt's and the Shakespearean focus is brilliant. This novel explores the depths of relationships and emotions using the bard as its conceit. I re-visited the intellectual intensity and pretentiousness of my undergraduate years and was surprised by how much of my college Shakespeare I remembered. This is a treat for those with a penchant for Shakespeare, an affinity for A Secret History or a preference for literary thrillers.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lotte

    4.5/5.

  27. 4 out of 5

    ✨Brithanie Faith✨

    5/5 "You're going to suffer, but you're going to be happy about it" stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Favorite Quotes: "It was just us- the seven of us and the trees and the sky and the lake and the moon and, of course, Shakespeare. He lived with us like an eighth housemate, an older, wiser friend, perpetually out of sight but never out of mind, as if he had just left the room." "One thing I'm cure Colborne will never understand is that I need language to live, like food- lexemes and morphemes and morsels of meaning nou 5/5 "You're going to suffer, but you're going to be happy about it" stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Favorite Quotes: "It was just us- the seven of us and the trees and the sky and the lake and the moon and, of course, Shakespeare. He lived with us like an eighth housemate, an older, wiser friend, perpetually out of sight but never out of mind, as if he had just left the room." "One thing I'm cure Colborne will never understand is that I need language to live, like food- lexemes and morphemes and morsels of meaning nourish me with the knowledge that, yes, there is a word for this. Someone else has felt it before." "For someone who loved words as much as I did, it was amazing how often they failed me." Pros: ❇️Tragic as this story was, it was written so beautifully that I'll likely not forget it any time soon. This book has rekindled my love of Shakespeare, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I've since added several of Shakespeare's works to my cart on Amazon (as well as the complete works, because I'm trash, and I want the individual copies to annotate and highlight to my hearts content, but I also want the entire collection to display elsewhere in my house😂). Every minute of trying to piece together the mystery that takes place in this novel was an absolute joy, and I was completely absorbed-start to finish! ❤ Cons: ❇️Like all good things, this of course had to come to an end. 💔 Final Thoughts/Comments: ❇️I honestly can't believe more people haven't read this! You're missing out! Meantime I'll be here waiting for something new from this author! (God- I hope you're working on something new!) ❤

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sam (Clues and Reviews)

    I have a real warmth for Shakespeare; I majored in English Literature while I was in University and am an English teacher, so, I was over the moon when I discovered that this text explored a modern mystery with a Shakespearean twist. Let me just tell you, I was floored during my reading. I could not believe this was a debut novel. I truly cannot say enough amazing things about If We Were Villains by M.L Rio. Between the text’s originality, fast-paced plot, complex characters and smart dialogue, I have a real warmth for Shakespeare; I majored in English Literature while I was in University and am an English teacher, so, I was over the moon when I discovered that this text explored a modern mystery with a Shakespearean twist. Let me just tell you, I was floored during my reading. I could not believe this was a debut novel. I truly cannot say enough amazing things about If We Were Villains by M.L Rio. Between the text’s originality, fast-paced plot, complex characters and smart dialogue, I was captivated. The novel opens with Oliver’s release from prison; after spending ten years locked away, he wants nothing more than to move on, but the man who put him away is waiting for him. Detective Colborne wants the truth and he has waited ten years for it. Told in alternating perspectives from past and present, Oliver goes back in time to where he was one of seven Shakespearean actors in his final year at Dellecher Classical Conservatory. Where the lines between character and self blended and competition was fierce, the friends find their world of make believe shattered when real tragedy strikes and they meet their greatest acting challenge to date: convincing everyone of their innocence. Crazy right??!! Now, do not be deterred if you loathed Shakespeare in the past, Rio’s narrative style modernizes the text and although Shakespeare’s plays are quoted directly, the context of the dialogue makes everything extremely easy to understand. Something about this book was extremely magical, as it borrows some of Shakespeare’s strongest themes (revenge, murder and betrayal and madness) to create an incredible story. There were also small details that I grew to appreciate during my reading: the chapters are called scenes, the sections are Acts and even the dialogue is sometimes written as if you are reading a play. I will absolutely be reading more of this author’s work and consider this one a must read. It has been one my favourites, so far, this year! 5/5 stars!!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Dennis

    4.5/5 stars so I'm rounding up. If We Were Villains is an intoxicating, modern day tragedy that spectacularly shows the effects that loyalty, betrayal, jealousy, and rage can affect not only yourself, but everyone around you. Oliver Marks has been released from jail after serving a ten year sentence. Detective Joseph Colborne sits down with Oliver and simply just wants to know; "Why?" Flashback to the moment of truth, we are introduced to Oliver and his actor friends; Richard, Meredith, Wren, F 4.5/5 stars so I'm rounding up. If We Were Villains is an intoxicating, modern day tragedy that spectacularly shows the effects that loyalty, betrayal, jealousy, and rage can affect not only yourself, but everyone around you. Oliver Marks has been released from jail after serving a ten year sentence. Detective Joseph Colborne sits down with Oliver and simply just wants to know; "Why?" Flashback to the moment of truth, we are introduced to Oliver and his actor friends; Richard, Meredith, Wren, Filippa, Alexander, and lastly, James; attending an elite drama school for the gifted. These young adult students (think college age) are driven, obnoxious, privileged, and desperate to succeed at all costs. As their tenure at the school progresses, their roles on stage start to become their roles off stage. As competition begins to get more intense, inner demons and drastic measures are taken, leaving people to face their deepest and darkest secrets. If We Were Villains is a beautifully written and tragic masterpiece. M.L. Rio's debut novel miraculously intertwines Shakespeare, love, and betrayal so effortlessly that I could not put the book down. I was drawn in originally by the cover and the title of this novel, but I stayed because of the story. I can't wait to see what M.L. Rio comes up with next. I'm more fun on Instagram @scared_str8

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    I was really looking forward to reading this (having followed this author on various social media for a while now), and it did not disappoint. If We Were Villains is an intelligent and moving story about friendship, passion, guilt, and the role Shakespeare played in all of the above for a group of seven student actors in their final year at the fictional Dellecher Classical Conservatory. This group of friends has spent years playing the same roles over and over onstage and off, but when their in I was really looking forward to reading this (having followed this author on various social media for a while now), and it did not disappoint. If We Were Villains is an intelligent and moving story about friendship, passion, guilt, and the role Shakespeare played in all of the above for a group of seven student actors in their final year at the fictional Dellecher Classical Conservatory. This group of friends has spent years playing the same roles over and over onstage and off, but when their instructors decide to mix up their casting, cracks begin to form in their carefully constructed group dynamic, and in a few short months, one of them ends up dead. Oliver Marks is convicted and spends ten years in prison, but it's only after he's released that he's ready to tell the truth about what happened that night. If you've seen the comparisons to The Secret History, you'll know to expect plenty of character drama and academic geekery, and a bit of murder, but the comparisons stop there. Despite the fact that these characters have long conversations speaking only in Shakespeare quotes, If We Were Villains is actually a lot less pretentious than The Secret History (I say this with love - I adore The Secret History). The characters in If We Were Villains are much more likable, too, for the most part. I felt their youth much more acutely than I did with Donna Tartt's characters, who all seemed larger than life and at times much older than college-age. Rio creates a host of characters who are are each in their own way memorable, vulnerable, and sympathetic. This is every bit as much a coming of age story as it is a thriller - probably more so. The twists were mostly easy to guess a mile off, but it didn't matter, because I was so immersed in these characters that I found it gratifying to watch their story unfold. Rio's prose flows with a natural elegance, and although Shakespeare himself does a lot of the legwork (his quotes infusing this narrative with such frequency) Rio holds her own. One word I'd use to describe this book is 'concise': not a word is out of place; not a scene is extraneous. It's a relatively short novel, but it doesn't feel underdeveloped, because Rio succinctly shows us everything we need to see in order to form the full picture. And it's a gorgeous picture - the setting of Dellecher is so vivid that I truly felt transported straight into this world, straight into that castle-like dormitory by the lake, straight into that world of Shakespearean drama. People tend to be very polarized about Shakespeare. Love him or hate him, everyone has a rather strong opinion. I think I'm in the minority in falling somewhere in the middle: I've enjoyed the Shakespeare productions I've seen but I don't actively seek them out; I mostly like reading his work, but again, don't make it a priority. So I'm going to actually argue that you don't need to be a Shakespeare aficionado to enjoy If We Were Villains. Does having a love of Shakespeare enrich the overall experience of reading this novel? Undoubtedly. This is a book for Bardolators, first and foremost, and if you love Shakespeare, you should pick this up immediately. Rio's extensive knowledge shines through every inch of this narrative. But there is a sort of universality to the passion that these students display, and the Shakespeare is adequately contextualized, so that it's possible to get something from this book even if you aren't intimately familiar with the plays these students perform. This novel isn't without faults, of course. The descriptions of the performances themselves tend to be rather indulgent and don't do much to propel the narrative forward. The concept of each of these productions is gorgeous (and I'd love to see Rio direct them!) but for such a short novel, I'd rather have spent that time focusing on other things. I do have another complaint having to do with a sudden shift in a certain character's behavior, and not fully understanding the impetus behind that (keeping this deliberately vague for fear of spoilers). There was something about this characterization - and the way the rest of the group reacted to it - that felt a bit like a plot device designed to move the rest of the narrative forward. From that point on the story and characters resumed their believability, but I did have this one moment in particular where I found myself thinking 'I'm not buying this.' But ultimately there was enough that I liked about this novel to compensate for this one element. A solid 4.5 stars. This is a really stunning debut that forces the reader to think about guilt and culpability; about youth and passion; and about art and life and the way the two coexist so intensely. I loved reading this and I'd highly recommend it to anyone with a fierce love of the humanities - and in particular, of course, Shakespeare. I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Netgalley, Flatiron Books, and M. L. Rio.

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