Vicious – V.E. Schwab
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.
Review: This book is insane. It takes almost everything that I love about fiction and crams it into 400 pages. It’s not a happy book, but I was so happy while reading it.
In Vicious, college roommates—Victor and Eli—discover how to turn regular humans into comic-book-style superheroes. Unfortunately, their research goes horribly wrong. Ten years later, Victor is out of prison and on a mission to murder Eli.
I enjoyed everything about this book: the wicked characters, the nonlinear structure, the fast pacing, the crazy plot, the way that the dead people didn’t always stay dead . . .
Victor and Eli are both so twisted. The reader can never be sure which character is more evil. Their motives are complex, and they are both very passionate about the murders they commit. Neither of them could ever be called “good” people, but I loved watching them become less human as their obsessions consumed their lives.
For me, the best part of this book is the nonlinear structure. Much of the story is told in short flashbacks. The little flashbacks prevent the pace from lagging while still giving the reader enough backstory to understand what is happening. It does take a while to figure out how all of the flashbacks relate to each other, but the story snaps together like a puzzle in the end. It’s brilliant. It takes a very talented author to make this type of structure work.
The plot is nuts. It reminds me of a comic book: fast-paced, totally unpredictable, and very violent. It’s easy to speed through this novel in a few hours.
Even though I love Vicious, I don’t think it’s quite as good as V.E. Schwab’s other well-known book, A Darker Shade of Magic. Vicious is more original than ADSOM, but the writing in ADSOM is much better, and the world building is more detailed. I also thought that the secondary characters in Vicious could have used more development. I didn’t feel like I got to know very much about them.
Vicious isn’t a work of literary genius, but it’s a thrilling read. V.E. Schwab is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.