Goodreads description: 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.
Villains! I had heard a few things about this book before it came out and was vaguely excited that someone was writing about the bad guys because bad guys are interesting! When it came out, I am pretty sure I only saw positive things about it. I know Eve at Paper Grey loved it, though I haven’t read her review (I can’t do that with highly anticipated books because I’m weird). All the glowing made me even more excited for it!
Victor has always been a bit of an outsider. When he meets Eli in college, he sees everything he wishes her could be. They become friends, but Victor is jealous. As Eli begins to research extra-ordinary abilities that appear in traumatized individuals, both friends get deeply invested, and things end badly. Ten years later, Victor has escaped from prison and is out for revenge.
Victor is such a compelling character. He’s got issues, but he knows he has issues. He isn’t worried about societal views of right and wrong, but he has his own code. He wasn’t exactly someone I sympathized with, but I understood his motivation. It was kind of a nice change as a reader not having to rundown if something is right or wrong, knowing that the character wasn’t aiming to be a good person anyway. His drive and the characterization of his malevolence is rather thrilling. Eli, his nemesis, is a contrast because he’s messed up and has his own issues, but he believes he is doing the right thing. Aren’t bad guys that believe wholeheartedly that they are doing the right thing extremely terrifying? Surprisingly, one of my favorite characters is 12-year-old Sydney, a girl Victor happens upon and recruits for his cause. She is dealing with her own demons while she joins two escaped prisoners. She’s smart and easy to sympathize with, and even though there were reasons to give her sympathy, she wasn’t a depressing character. She’s just awesome.
The story jumps in time, but I never felt lost or confused. The labeling helped with that, but I think the narration did, too. Everything felt like it was in place and timed just right. There were also some characters that were a part of the story early on, but didn’t actually get a point of view until later in the book, and usually I am kind of annoyed by that tactic because it tends to feel sloppy, but it felt so natural and right for the this story. The story is also centered around things that require suspension of belief, but unlike some books, it isn’t exhausting because the characters are realistic. Their actions and reactions feel like things that could actually happen when faced with abnormal situations, which really makes all the difference in stories with any sort of paranormal aspect. Plus, there was at least one time when a character brought up something like “why not just do this?” and it was so clever and the answer supplied was clever and fitting. There was one thing that was king of easy to predict early on, but for the rest of the story I figuring everything out, which is important for me.
I wasn’t hooked from the very beginning. I was interested, but I wasn’t in love. It took me a bit longer than I expected to read it, which was probably more my fault than anything else. Once I got into it, I started liking it more and more. I was pretty sure it would be a solid 4 stars, but the last 100 pages or so really jumped out and grabbed me.
Vicious is a wickedly delicious view into the lives of the not-so-virtuous. It’s intense and complex but easy to follow. The characters are realistic and easy to care about. I read and reviewed The Archived and I really enjoyed it, and this book is fantastic, so I will be interested in anything Schwab writes from now on! I recommend Vicious if you like lovely writing, great characters, questionable morals, and powers/abilities!