Vicious (Villains, #1)
By: V.E. Schwab
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: September 24th, 2013
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?
My discovery of V.E. Schwab was relatively recent, as of last summer, but I still missed Vicious in my first sweep. I only learned about it when I started hearing about Vengeful, the soon-to-be-published sequel. Because I am a snob about covers, I waited until I could buy the fancy new re-release cover–and then I ended up going to an event at Parnassus Books and getting it signed. I had already read 200 pages by the time the event started (V.E. herself was impressed) and finished it the next morning.
Having heard V.E. talk about Vicious, it sounded as if this book was the one that kicked off her resolution to only write what she wanted to write–and also spawned a whole host of truly dark, magnificent, inventive stories. But Vicious is VERY different from anything I’d read before. It’s the story of two college roommates obsessed with the notion of superpowers, and their struggle ten years later on when one is a criminal and one is playing God. The story is told in their present cat-and-mouse game and with lots of flashbacks to when they were friends, which fleshes out who they are and why they’ve ended up on opposites sides.
Neither Victor nor Eli were particularly likeable characters–they were both possessed of their own kinds of god complexes, wrapped up in their own importance, desperate for something that neither one of them actually had the courage to claim. But there was enough to empathize with, or maybe pity, in both of them, that I found the story nevertheless compelling. The story is told primarily through Victor’s eyes, so he is by degrees the more sympathetic character. The reasons for his actions are somewhat clearer than Eli’s.
But the characters who grounded the story hovered at the sidelines–superpowered sisters Sydney and Serena, who are standing behind Victor and Eli respectively. I also adored Mitch, a fearsome-looking ex-con whose main issue was bad luck (he definitely reminded me of Shadow from American Gods, to the extent that I definitely pictured him as Ricky Whittle). Again, none of these characters are particularly good–although Sydney is only twelve, so she has more innocence than anyone else in the book. But their involvement in the duel between Eli and Victor made it far more interesting, with more twists and turns to it than I would have expected.
And as always, behind all of these quirky, morally grey characters V.E. wove a dark and fascinating world–a city of light and shadow, a world where the supernatural was only as far away as the other side of the veil. It was a setting and a world that felt familiar and strange at the same time, which is always the best feeling.
As much as I enjoyed Vicious, I absolutely can’t wait to dive into Vengeful. I’ve been following V.E. on Twitter since last summer, and her hints about the book–plus the first chapter teaser in my copy of Vicious–has me dying to meet Marcella and see how Victor and Eli are, however many years past their battle.
Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us.