If We Were Villains Review: Et tu, Oliver?


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” – William Shakespeare, Macbeth

The debut novel by M.L. Rio is dark, beautiful, and exquisite. The novel follows seven theatre students in a prestigious technical college, including the narrator, Oliver. It opens with a glimpse into the life he leads after the events of the novel – a mysterious murder that tears his friend group apart.

Seven friends who have grown together in their four years at school are closing the curtains with their final two performances in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and Julius Caesar. Each play holds its own deeper meaning into the story woven by Oliver in his conversations with the man who helped put him away. Wren, Richard, Meredith, Alexander, James, Filipa, and of course, Oliver are all individuals in their own rights, and very strong characters. Tensions grow with disastrous consequences in the group’s final academic year.

M.L. Rio tactfully uses her knowledge of William Shakespeare and leaves a beautiful memoir to his works, woven in and out with enough intertextuality to make any English professor jump for joy. M.L. Rio is currently a PhD student of Shakespearian studies at King’s College in England.

This book will leave you breathless, hanging onto every word, and speechless as the very last words flutter across your eyelids. 

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.” – William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar


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