Release Date: September 24, 2013
Synopsis on Goodreads:
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?
Vicious by V.E. Schwab is a fresh take on the superhero subgenre. I loved trying to figure who was the villain and who was the hero. Victor Vale and Eli Cardale meet at university and it’s when Eli’s theoretical research into ExtraOrdinary (EO’s) people catches Victor’s interest that things go wrong. This is a case of an unreliable narrator because villains don’t believe they’re villains. Vicious is a new original classic that carries suspense to the very last page.
Time is an interesting concept here. Every other chapter would take place in the past, namely 10 years before the novel begins, but near the end, the ‘past’ could also be 10 hours before the present timeline. This present then past then present format helped carry the suspense of what exactly went down between Victor and Eli. The reader knows something really bad happened between the two, but Schwab leaves that valuable information right out of our reach. It’s up to us to follow the breadcrumbs.
Schwab’s take on the superhero genre is well done because I went into the novel trying to figure out who’s the bad guy, who’s the good guy and there’s really no ‘good guy’. In the beginning, I was confident that Victor himself was the villain. He somewhat admits this and the way his mind works just screams ‘super villain’, but then Schwab switches up the POV and BAM! self doubt settles in. The author is also good at creating these grey characters and you end up rooting for this villain to win, or that villain to lose. Her characters are cunning and manipulative, and the reader is not immune to that power. You learn to love it haha 😉
Vicious is made up of morally complex characters, but it’s up to the reader to decide which ones are ‘good’. A very hard task to do! This is a story of one great super villain versus another great super villain, but both wouldn’t be anywhere without their allies. I loved reading about Mitch, Sydney and Serena, and how they became involved with EO’s. Mitch is the only non-EO, but he’s very good with hacking computer systems, a talent that stood out to Victor.
Science plays a large and important role in Vicious. Schwab has a story to tell because two very intelligent students use science to achieve superhuman powers. This made the storyline all the more realistic to me. I enjoy superhero-type novels, but I love them even more when science plays a significant part in the plot. When you take the time to show how a person’s power exists, it helps the reader envision it in the real world. Schwab invents the term ‘ExtraOrdinary’ and I’d say in the world of Vicious, it’s a noun that carries the same meaning as superhero. Having the science there gives it added weight. I wouldn’t mind being an EO myself – hopefully I’d have some cool powers!
The writing is phenomenal! I was never bored with the dialogue or the plot. I somewhat expected the ending because of a certain character’s power, but it was still a page stopper. Vicious is a very entertaining read and I loved being in the heads of Schwab’s fantastically, dark characters. This is one super villain story you don’t want to miss out on!