Review: Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Title:  Vicious
Author:  V.E. Schwab
Series:  Vicious #1
Publisher:  Tor, an imprint of Macmillan
Publication Date:  September 24, 2013
Pages:  364
Format/Source:  ARC/From Publisher, via BEA
Age Group/Genre:  Adult/Science Fiction, Fantasy, Paranormal

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. (Cover and synopsis from Goodreads)

A Horse of a Different Color…

As I first started to read Vicious, I knew that I was in for a ride, and one that was very different from most books out there.  Schwab’s writing is so skillful that you just feel smarter while reading it.  And I love the fact that she has changed the way we think about superheroes, or people with superpowers, as well as expanded on my favorite part about villains:  that they’re human and have their own reasons for what they do.

Villains are the bad guys of stories, of course, but I love it when authors make them human, give them redeeming qualities or mundane hobbies, and explain their reasoning behind their actions.  Most villains actually believe that what they are doing is right, even though the rest of the world may disagree with them.  Of course, you have your villains who are evil just for the sake of being evil, but I enjoy the kinds of villains that have back stories that explain their actions and their rationale.  And in Vicious, we have two characters, Eli and Victor, who both have clearly defined reasons for their actions.  And I love how both of them, even though they are enemies, could and would be considered villains.  One might be more evil than the other, though, and the threads of humanity and empathy that Schwab weaves through this novel allow readers to side with one or the other, even if they don’t completely agree with his reasoning, methods, or actions.

I personally sided with Victor for the most part, although I did see how many of his actions could be considered evil or villainous.  And I really loved the characters of Sydney and Mitch.  I also enjoyed how the book went back and forth between Eli and Victor’s college days and ten years later, and then also went back in time to show some of the other characters’ back stories.  And I loved all the suspense, especially at the end!

I only had a couple of issues with Vicious. One was that early on, when all the death attempts were happening, I got pretty anxious.  But that’s just me and my particular brand of crazy anxiety.  The other issue was that some of the time, when chapters would focus on both Sydney and Serena, I would get confused as to which was which, and I had to keep reminding myself who they were.  This issue may have been corrected in the final copy, or maybe I was just unable to focus that day as I was reading.  Either way, these issues weren’t major for me, and I ended up really loving Vicious!

Bonus Points…

V.E. Schwab gets some of my bonus points for the following reasons:

  • Superman references = 15,000 points
  • Spider-Man references = 15,000 points
  • X-Men references = 15,000 points
  • The fact that Victor would use a Sharpie to black out words in his parents’ self-help books, and “rewrite” them = 1,000,000 points
Great Quotes…
I wrote down lots of great lines from Vicious, but here are just a few of my favorites*:


“But Victor didn’t want to run while Eli was busy trying to fly.”


“‘We could be dead,’ said Eli.
‘That’s a risk everyone takes by living.'”
“Everything looked the same, and that felt wrong, like the world should have registered the events of the last few days, should have changed the way she had changed.”
My rating for Vicious by V.E. Schwab:
Actually 4.5 stars.  I really loved this book and can’t wait to read more from Victoria Schwab!


Find it:  Goodreads │ Amazon │ Macmillan
Disclaimer:  I received this ARC from the publisher, via Book Expo America, in exchange for my honest review (Thanks, Tor!).  I was not compensated in any other way for this review.

*All quotes are from the ARC.  They may be different in the finalized version.


  1. Amber (Books of Amber)

    February 8, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    My friends and I are reading this for book club next month, and I cannot wait! I've been hearing so many great things about it, and your review has just made me even more anxious to pick it up. I'm a bit worried that I won't like it, but at the same time I'm pretty sure that I will. Victor sounds AWESOME, and I'm very much looking forward to meeting him and Eli!

  2. Bittner

    February 8, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    I remember you Kate and Kim all talking about this one and had yet to do any research as to what the book was about. But from the second I brought up your review and saw that cover for some reason something clicked in my brain and was like "YOU MUST OWN THAT BOOK!"
    Now I'm extra curious and I may have to read this one!

  3. Brandi Kosiner

    February 9, 2014 at 3:47 am

    This sounds really good with villians that are perfectly done

  4. Kate Midnight Book Girl

    February 9, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    I got to go the book signing for this book (I've now met Schwab twice and she just gets better and better!) and I loved this book! I thought it was very different, and I loved how Schwab spoke about it. Great review, Andrea!

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