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Book Review: One for All by Lillie Lainoff

I first learn of this book through twitter, as lots of people were talking about how excited they were for it to come out, so I checked what it was about and I jumped on board with the hype. So, getting an audiobook copy—narrated by the wonderful Mara Wilson—was a very exciting moment. But let’s see what I actually thought of the book.

About the book

I received this book from NetGalley as an ALC in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Genre: Historical fiction, retelling, fantasy, LGBT+, YA

Representation: Chronically ill protagonist (POTS), queer secondary characters

Content warning: Ableism, internalized ableism

Summary: Tania de Batz is most herself with a sword in her hand. Everyone in town thinks her near-constant dizziness makes her weak, nothing but “a sick girl”; even her mother is desperate to marry her off for security. But Tania wants to be strong, independent, a fencer like her father—a former Musketeer and her greatest champion.

Then Papa is brutally, mysteriously murdered. His dying wish? For Tania to attend finishing school. But L’Académie des Mariées, Tania realizes, is no finishing school. It’s a secret training ground for a new kind of Musketeer: women who are socialites on the surface, but strap daggers under their skirts, seduce men into giving up dangerous secrets, and protect France from downfall. And they don’t shy away from a swordfight.

With her newfound sisters at her side, Tania feels for the first time like she has a purpose, like she belongs. But then she meets Étienne, her first target in uncovering a potential assassination plot. He’s kind, charming, and breathlessly attractive—and he might have information about what really happened to her father. Torn between duty and dizzying emotion, Tania will have to lean on her friends, listen to her own body, and decide where her loyalties lie…or risk losing everything she’s ever wanted.

Add it on Goodreads. Add it on Storygraph.

Review

A retelling of The Three Musketeers that focused on sisterhood and that had a chronically ill protagonist at the center of it sounded fantastic. However, despite it being an enjoyable enough read, it didn’t blow me away as I hoped it would.

One for All started very slow, which is not necessarily bad, but I felt it took a long time to get to the main part of the story. We first get introduced to Tania, her love of fencing, and also, very importantly, her disability and how that affects all aspects of her life. Although this is all fine, it dragged on a bit too long, which made me lose focus a few times while reading.

Once we actually got to the main plot, however, the same problem persisted. I just felt the pacing was off throughout the novel which led me to consider whether it was because the narration of the audiobook was indeed quite slow—which is not necessarily a problem for others, but I personally had to listen to it on 1.75x or 2x speed.

Despite my many issues with the pacing, I really loved Tania’s character development and her interactions with the other characters. Her scenes with Étienne were hands down my favourite part of the novel as you could truly sense their chemistry and it was gripping to read about. Additionally, while I did enjoy her character dynamics with the other Musketeers, I felt they lacked depth. I unfortunately couldn’t really feel that bond we were constantly referring to as strongly as it was intended. I know the author has mentioned she would like to write a sequel, and in the event that happens, I wish she’ll be able to develop these connections more deeply.

In terms of plot, although the stakes were high, it didn’t feel as such. This reverts back to the pacing issue. I felt that the book was repetitive in structure: training, going to a ball, conversation with Étienne, sharing information, and back to square one. All of this isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy reading about these things, only that sometimes it could get a bit monotonous.

All in all, despite One for All not meeting all of my expectations, I didn’t think this was bad by any means. I’m sure this is a book that many people will thoroughly enjoy. Furthermore, this was an important story to tell, and I’m certain it will resonate with many people. I’ll definitely look forward to Lillie Lainoff’s future works.

About the author

A former Div I NCAA fencer for Yale, Lillie Lainoff is the founder of Disabled Kidlit Writers and the winner of the 2019 LA Review Literary Award for Short Fiction. Her non-fiction has been featured in The Washington Post Outlook, amongst other places. She received her MA in Creative Writing Prose Fiction from the University of East Anglia. One for All, her debut novel, will be published by FSG in March 2022.

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Have you read One For All? What were your thoughts on it? If you haven’t, do you plan to?

7 thoughts on “Book Review: One for All by Lillie Lainoff

  1. This premise of the book sounds really interesting! I don’t think I’ve read a book where they’re interested in fencing so that is exciting! It is disappointing to hear that it didn’t meet your expectations though. I struggle with books where I cannot connect with the characters. Great review

    Liked by 1 person

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