Review: Vicious by V.E. Schwab
Author: V.E. Schwab
Series: Vicious #1
Publisher: Tor, an imprint of Macmillan
Publication Date: September 24, 2013
Format/Source: ARC/From Publisher, via BEA
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!
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
*All quotes are from the ARC. They may be different in the finalized version.