We're so excited to announce V.E. Schwab's latest novel The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue as BuzzFeed Book Club's December selection. This poignant fantasy begins in 18th-century France, when Addie LaRue, desperate to get out of an arranged marriage, makes a deal with the devil, trading her soul for immortality. But there's a catch: For as long as she lives, everyone Addie meets will forget her after their first encounter. Centuries pass and Addie never has a second conversation with anyone — until 2014, when she meets a bookseller who miraculously remembers her.
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The sound, when it comes, is a low rumble, deep and distant as thunder.
Laughter, Adeline thinks, opening her eyes and noticing, finally, how the light has faded.
She looks up, but sees nothing. “Hello?”
The laughter draws itself into a voice, somewhere behind her.
“You need not kneel,” it says. “Let us see you on your feet.”
She scrambles up, and turns, but she is met only by darkness, surrounded by it, a moonless night after the summer sun has fled. And Adeline knows, then, that she has made a mistake. That this is one of the gods she was warned against.
“Adeline? Adeline?” call the voices from the town, as faint and faraway as the wind.
She squints into the shadows between the trees, but there is no shape, no god to be found — only that voice, close as a breath against her cheek.
“Adeline, Adeline,” it says, mocking, “. . . they are calling for you.”
She turns again, finding nothing but deep shadow. “Show yourself,” she orders, her own voice sharp and brittle as a stick.
Something brushes her shoulder, grazes her wrist, drapes itself around her like a lover. Adeline swallows. “What are you?”
The shadow’s touch withdraws. “What am I?” it asks, an edge of humor in that velvet tone. “That depends on what you believe.”
The voice splits, doubles, rattling through tree limbs and snaking over moss, folding over on itself until it is everywhere.
“So tell me — tell me — tell me,” it echoes. “Am I the devil — the devil — or the dark — dark — dark? Am I a monster — monster — or a god — god — god — or . . .”
The shadows in the woods begin to pull together, drawn like storm clouds. But when they settle, the edges are no longer wisps of smoke, but hard lines, the shape of a man, made firm by the light of the village lanterns at his back.
“Or am I this?”
The voice spills from a perfect pair of lips, a shadow revealing emerald eyes that dance below black brows, black hair that curls across his forehead, framing a face Adeline knows too well. One that she has conjured up a thousand times, in pencil and charcoal and dream.
It is the stranger.
She knows it is a trick, a shadow parading as a man, but the sight of him still robs her breath. The darkness looks down at his shape, seeing himself as if for the first time, and seems to approve. “Ah, so the girl believes in something after all.” Those green eyes lift. “Well now,” he says, “you have called, and I have come.”
Never pray to the gods that answer after dark.
Adeline knows — she knows — but this is the only one who answered. The only one who would help.
“Are you prepared to pay?”
Adeline drops to her knees, scours the ground until she finds the leathercord, and frees her father’s ring from the soil.
She holds it out to the god, its pale wood now stained with dirt, and he draws closer. He may look like flesh and blood, but he still moves like shadow. A single step, and he is there, filling her vision, folding one hand around the ring, and resting the other on Adeline’s cheek. His thumb brushes the freckle beneath her eye, the edge of her stars.
“My dear,” says the darkness, taking the ring, “I do not deal in trinkets.”
The wooden band crumbles in his hand, and falls away, nothing more than smoke. A strangled sound escapes her lips — it hurt enough to lose the ring, hurts more to see it wiped from the world like a smudge on skin. But if the ring is not enough, then what?
“Please,” she says, “I will give anything.”
The shadow’s other hand still rests against her cheek. “You assume I want anything,” he says, lifting her chin. “But I take only one coin.” He leans closer still, green eyes impossibly bright, his voice soft as silk. “The deals I make, I make for souls.”
Adeline’s heart lurches in her chest.
In her mind, she sees her mother on her knees in church, speaking of God and Heaven, hears her father talking, telling stories of wishes and riddles. She thinks of Estele, who believes in nothing but a tree over her bones. Who would say that a soul is nothing more than a seed returned to soil — though she’s the one who warned against the dark.
“Adeline,” says the darkness, her name sliding like moss between his teeth. “I am here. Now tell me why.”
She has waited so long to be met — to be answered, to be asked — that at first the words all fail her.
“I do not want to marry.”
She feels so small when she says it. Her whole life feels small, and she sees that judgment reflected in the god’s gaze, as if to say, Is that all?
And no, it is more than that. Of course it is more.
“I do not want to belong to someone else,” she says with sudden vehemence. The words are a door flung wide, and now the rest pour out of her. “I do not want to belong to anyone but myself. I want to be free. Free to live, and to find my own way, to love, or to be alone, but at least it is my choice, and I am so tired of not having choices, so scared of the years rushing past beneath my feet. I do not want to die as I’ve lived, which is no life at all. I—”
The shadow cuts her off, impatient. “What use is it, to tell me what you do not want?” His hand slides through her hair, comes to rest against the back of her neck, drawing her close. “Tell me instead what you want most.”
She looks up. “I want a chance to live. I want to be free.” She thinks of the years slipping by.
Blink, and half your life is gone.
“I want more time.”
He considers her, those green eyes changing shade, now spring grass, now summer leaf. “How long?”
Her mind spins. Fifty years. One hundred. Every number feels too small.
“Ah,” says the darkness, reading her silence. “You do not know.” Again, the green eyes shift, darken. “You ask for time without limit. You want freedom without rule. You want to be untethered. You want to live exactly as you please.”
“Yes,” says Adeline, breathless with want, but the shadow’s expression sours. His hand drops from her skin, and then he is no longer there, but leaning against a tree several strides away.
“I decline,” he says.
Adeline draws back as if struck. “What?” She has come this far, has given everything she has — she made her choice. She cannot go back to that world, that life, that present and past without a future. “You cannot decline.”
One dark brow lifts, but there is no amusement in that face.
“I am not some genie, bound to your whim.” He pushes off the tree. “Nor am I some petty forest spirit, content with granting favors for mortal trinkets. I am stronger than your god and older than your devil. I am the darkness between stars, and the roots beneath the earth. I am promise, and potential, and when it comes to playing games, I divine the rules, I set the pieces, and I choose when to play. And tonight, I say no.”
Adeline? Adeline? Adeline?
Beyond the edge of the woods, the village lights are closer now. There are torches in the field. They are coming for her.
The shadow looks over his shoulder. “Go home, Adeline. Back to your small life.”
“Why?” she pleads, grabbing his arm. “Why do you refuse me?”
He brushes his hand along her cheek, the gesture soft and warm as hearth-smoke. “I am not in the business of charity. You ask for too much. How many years until you’re sated? How many, until I get my due? No, I make deals with endings, and yours has none.”
She will come back to this moment a thousand times.
In frustration, and regret, in sorrow, and self-pity, and unbridled rage.
She will come to face the fact that she cursed herself before he ever did.
But here, and now, all she can see is the flickering torchlight of Villon, and the green eyes of the stranger she once dreamed of loving, and the chance to escape slipping away with his touch.
“You want an ending,” she says. “Then take my life when I am done with it. You can have my soul when I don’t want it anymore.”
The shadow tips his head, suddenly intrigued.
A smile — just like the smile in her drawings, askance, and full of secrets — crosses his mouth. And then he pulls her to him. A lover’s embrace. He is smoke and skin, air and bone, and when his mouth presses against hers, the first thing she tastes is the turning of the seasons, the moment when dusk gives way to night. And then his kiss deepens. His teeth skim her bottom lip, and there is pain in the pleasure, followed by the copper taste of blood on her tongue.
“Done,” whispers the god against her lips.
And then the world goes black, and she is falling. ●
Excerpt from THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF ADDIE LARUE by V. E. Schwab. Copyright © 2020 V. E. Schwab. Reprinted by permission of Tor/Forge Books, a division of Macmillan Publishing Group, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Victoria "V.E." Schwab is the No. 1 New York Times bestselling author of more than a dozen books, including the acclaimed Shades of Magic series, the Villains series, This Savage Song, and Our Dark Duet. Her work has received critical acclaim, been featured in the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, Washington Post, and more, been translated into more than a dozen languages, and has been optioned for television and film. When she’s not haunting Paris streets or trudging up English hillsides, she lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, and is usually tucked in the corner of a coffee shop, dreaming up monsters.