Author: VE Schwab
Vicious was my September #RockMyTBR book and I was super excited for it, because VE Schwab is one of my absolute favourite authors and I’ve heard nothing but amazing stuff about this book. I’ll admit, I didn’t love it quite as much as the Shades of Magic trilogy, but I wasn’t too surprised by that as I do prefer fantasy to sci-fi esque stories and Vicious definitely falls more into the latter category than the former. The non-linear format kind of confused me at first, but once everything started to come together, I totally understood why V chose to tell the story that way and thought it was really clever. I also loved all of the morally ambiguous characters and how you could still root for them even when they weren’t great people. Here is a short synopsis of the book:
A masterful tale of ambition, jealousy, desire, and superpowers.
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 very character driven story: the plot itself was quite simple, essentially Victor and Eli were friends once and after their experimentation into superpowers, Victor ends up in jail for ten years and when he gets out, he wants revenge on his former friend. Usually I do prefer plot driven stories, and I will admit that the pacing was a little off through this book despite it taking place over a short period of time, but fortunately, the characters in this story were strong enough that it wasn’t such a deal breaker that I wasn’t always compelled by the plot.
Eli and Victor were both very intriguing and complex characters and I loved reading about them. Their friendship/enmity was really interesting to read about and it was quite cool seeing both the parallels (and there are many) and differences between their characters. Victor comes off as the more sympathetic one, because we get to spend more time in his head, but even then, he certainly couldn’t be characterised as “good”. Eli was the more obviously psychopathic one, he didn’t really seem to have any redeeming qualities, but I still really enjoyed reading about him-it was quite interesting to see the differences in how they both viewed themselves, Eli sees himself as this saviour type figure whereas Victor is quite openly cruel and happy to be the villain. I found Victor quite refreshing because unlike Eli, he didn’t think he was being evil for the greater good, he was quite conscious of his cruel streak and was unapologetic about it, which I liked. It was very cool that their powers were essentially polar opposites, I think that just highlighted both the similarities and differences in their characters.
I also really loved the side characters, they were all really well thought out and generally well developed (aside from Serena, who I felt could have been developed a little more) and refreshingly complex-often side characters can feel a bit flat, this was not the case here. Sydney & Mitch were both great and I loved the little dysfunctional family that they formed with Victor. Mitch was definitely the most likeable character in the book, he just wanted to keep everyone safe and I just wanted to give him a big hug most of the time. Sydney starts off as an innocent little girl, but you can see that innocence slowly creeping away through the book which was definitely cool to see-I can’t wait to see what she does after some of the events of the climax of the book.
The A-linear storytelling was a bit confusing at first, since we were jumping around all these different time periods without all that much context, but once everything started to come together, I enjoyed the unusual narrative style, though I did feel like the pace somewhat lagged in places. I did like however that the chapters were very short, it made the book a lot easier to get into-I think had the book had the a-linear story and super long chapters, I probably would have given up! I also loved that the story, whilst being a-linear was also kind of circular, the story starts and ends with the characters in the same place-the graveyard, so it does give you a sense that the narrative has come full circle. I liked that the book was under 400 pages as well, it meant there was no unnecessary filler.
I loved the EO powers, I thought they were all really cool, and quite different from the powers that you often see in superheroes (or in this case supervillians!) and I thought the whole system of becoming an EO, through a Near Death Experience and then your power being whatever you desired at the point of your death, was so cool and really well thought out. That side of the world building was really well done, the only thing I would say is that I would have quite liked the setting and timing of the story to have been more embellished, all we get is that it takes place in a urban setting sometime in the near future and for an author who I know is extremely good at worldbuilding, the vagueness was a little disappointing.
There was a refreshing lack of romance in this book-that is none! I love that VE Schwab doesn’t always focus on the romantic storyline, this book had so many different types of relationships, friendships, sibling relationships, found families, and they were all platonic, it was wonderful. Romance definitely wouldn’t have fit in this novel, so I’m very glad that V didn’t shoehorn it in!
There was a dog! I love it when books have animal companions and Sydney’s dog Dol was a great addition to the motley crew of Victor, Mitch and Sydney.
The climax was really exciting, though I did feel like it was a little rushed and I didn’t love that there was a new EO introduced just for plot reasons because it felt like he didn’t have the time to get the same development as the other characters. Even though I was spoiled for the ending, I was still left with my mouth hanging open, it was that good. I can’t wait to see what happens in Vengeful!
Overall, this was a really cool, unique book and despite it taking me a while to get into the story due to the narrative style, I thought the characters were really great and I loved that VE Schwab did something completely different and unexpected-I don’t think I’ll ever read a book like this from anyone else, so that’s pretty awesome!
My Rating: 4/5
BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Sydney and Serena do have a few brief conversations that don’t revolve around men.
I don’t know what my next review will be, since I can’t really decide what I want to read at the moment, so I guess you guys will find out once I’ve read it!