The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

Image of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
Release Date: 
October 6, 2020
Tor Books
Reviewed by: 

“A gender-flip version of Faust, and also a haunting love story that will linger.”

In the year 1698 in Villon-sur-Sarthe, France and Adeline LaRue is on her way to her arranged marriage. Addie doesn’t want to get married. She wants her freedom to do as she pleases, even in the restricted society of 17th century France.

There’s only one way that will happen. Addie takes it. She runs away.

Her friend Estile isn’t a witch, but she’s told Addie the gods in the woods will grant wishes for a price. She’s warned about them, too. “Never pray to the gods that answer after dark.”

Addie prays anyway.

He’s the only one who answers. A handsome stranger, but one she’s seen many times in her imagination and her dreams. “‘I take only one coin.’ He leans closer, green eyes impossibly bright, voice soft as silk. ‘The deals I make, I make for souls.’”

She makes a bargain: Her life when she is done with it. Her soul when she doesn’t want it anymore. The shadow accepts. “A smile crosses his mouth and he pulls her to him. ‘Done,’ whispers the god against her lips.’”

Thus Addie goes through the centuries, seemingly immortal, ageless, with only one caveat to her agreement.

She isn’t remembered.

Each day she meets the same people. Each day, she is forgotten. It may only take the turning of a head, of being out of sight for a second, and she is forgotten. She spends the night with a lover, only to have him recoil at finding her in his bed the next morning. She meets a celebrity but his attention is diverted and when he looks back, he asks to be introduced to her. Again. And again. And again.

The only one who remembers her is the shadow who comes to her on the anniversary of their bargain, to see if she’s finally tired of her so-called life and is ready to relinquish her soul.

Sometimes he doesn’t come and though she won’t admit it, she misses him. They are familiar to each other. He is her one constant. She calls him “Luc,” thinking of him as the devil though he swears he’s not.

Now, it’s the 21st century. She steals from a book store, reads, then attempts to return it for another, but—the clerk says something unbelievable.

”I remember you.”

Three words, large enough to rip the world.

Addie lurches. “No you don’t,” she says.

His green eyes narrow. “Yes, I do.”

That is how Addie meets Henry Strauss, the only man in 300-plus years to remember her. She stays with Henry, tells him the truth of her life, and that is how Addie learns the truth about his.

Henry has also met Luc but unlike Addie, his time is almost up. “I made a deal with the devil and now whenever anyone looks at me, they see only what they want.” When Henry is gone, no one will remember Addie. There is only one thing to do. if she’s brave enough, unselfish enough.

Henry loves her but so does Luc. During their verbal jousts, the many meetings over the centuries, the many times she’s refused him, he’s fallen in love with Addie LaRue.

She will use that love to save Henry, and she will word the agreement in such a way he will never suspect he’s been tricked. In fact, he’ll think he’s won.

“Luc smiled, his green eyes emerald with victory. ‘I accept.’”

The plot may not be original, having been done many times before in various forms, but V. E. Schwab’s version is definitely a unique and inventive derivation.

It will be obvious after the first chapter that this is another version of Faust, but it is also a love story, as evidenced by the near-lyrical, sensual descriptions of Luc’s interactions with Addie. Soon it becomes apparent that both Luc and Addie look forward to their clashes through the centuries, that they enjoy their verbal sparring, and the moment the shadow-being actually admits how he feels about her comes as a surprise to no one but Addie herself.

In the second bargain she makes, Addie thinks that she has the upper hand, but that may not be so. “She has had three hundred years to study, and she will make a masterpiece of his regret. So Addie says nothing of the new game, the new rules, the new battle that’s begun.”

She and Luc are playing a game neither can win because they are too much alike. Each believes he has won, but they know each other too well and neither will ever outguess the other.

It is the ultimate irony that the shadow older than time and the girl from Villon are soulmates, meant for each other.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is a gender-flip version of Faust, and also a haunting love story that will linger.