Author: V. E. Schwab
Date: September 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Fantasy
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A masterful, twisted tale of ambition, jealousy, betrayal, and superpowers, set in a near-future world.
Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.
Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?
In Vicious, V. E. Schwab brings to life a gritty comic-book-style world in vivid prose: a world where gaining superpowers doesn’t automatically lead to heroism, and a time when allegiances are called into question.
This book was a phenomenal way to start off my reading year. Vicious, the debut adult novel from V.E. Schwab, lived up to all my expectations and more. It was a masterclass in pace, plotting and best of all, characters.
The story was wonderful—darkly funny, grim at times and with just the right amount of villainy. It starts off with a night at a graveyard and the book shifts back and forth between roommates Victor Vale and Eli Ever’s time at college and present day. As students fueled by alcohol, testosterone and scientific curiosity, Victor and Eli test and discover the catalyst for making someone ExtraOrdinary—a person with a gift. And yes, they have tested on themselves.
I loved the variety of the switching narrative and points in time. It highlights the book’s concept, that nothing is black and white—heroes and villains are labels that just depend on your point of view. The boys were wonderful examples of this. Victor has the misfortune of being labelled a criminal, and while his motives may be driven by revenge and selfishness, his goal is for the greater good. Eli is seen a public hero, a deliverer of justice and God’s will, but truly his acts and purpose are pure criminal.
In fact, all of the Schwab’s characters are absolutely brilliant. It’s perhaps the most well-crafted character-driven story I’ve had the pleasure of reading. No one was superfluous. I loved the care the author took in ensuring we would get to see the story through each point of view to understand motives, personalities, and history. Each character was interesting and important to the plot. Standouts for me were sisters Sydney and Serena, who got caught up in Victor and Eli’s respective quests, but made themselves integral to their success (and frankly, stole the show).
A friend I lent the book to almost immediately after I finished it said it best—she was in a dilemma about whether to read as quickly as she could to find out more, or to slow down and savour it. I felt the exact same way. Schwab’s writing has a way of immersing you completely in the story and hooking you in so you can’t bear to pull away from the book, but during the whole time I was reading I was checking to see how much of the book was left and found myself disappointed when I got closer to the end as I wanted to spend more time with this book.
The ending was phenomenally good and wrapped everything up perfectly. As glad as I am to read a standalone book however, I think what Schwab has created has so much potential that I would love to see more stories set in this ExtraOrdinary world. I am extremely satisfied with Eli and Victor’s story, but I’m sure Schwab would have no trouble dreaming up more wonderful, interesting characters for us to read about.