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.
(Summary from GoodReads)
I’ve mentioned before that Victoria Schwab is one of my auto buy authors. Books and movies about superheroes aren’t typically thing, but a novel about super villains? I was totally intrigued and knew I would have to pick this one up. Vicious was a fast-paced, well written story that kept me entertained and did a nice job of touching on some heavier topics as well.
I have to say that I find the topic of super villains far more interesting than superheroes, if only because it isn’t done nearly as often. In Vicious, Schwab refers to people with powers as EOs, or extraordinarys. EOs can be the subject of academic research, and they are also something that the cops know about.
The fact that Schwab imagined a society where everyone acknowledged that EOs were real was inventive and refreshing. Her main characters—Victor and Eli—both dabble in areas and practices that fall under an ethical gray area. The result was that there were a lot of conversations about who can play God that felt like a bit of a nod to Frankenstein, but not enough so that Vicious ever read like a rip-off.
Schwab’s writing here is lovely as always. She has a way with words that is the perfect combination of eloquent and concise. Mitch and Sydney, the side characters, were extremely well developed and made the book so much better. In this case, though, what Schwab really nails is her ending. It’s creepy and open ended in a way that is absolutely perfect.
Vicious is Schwab’s first foray into adult books, and it’s a successful one. It’s a delightful combination of creepy, action packed, and thoughtful. This is a complete story that wrapped up nicely, but if at any point other books that exist in this universe are released, I will snap them right up.
Disclosure: I purchased a copy of this book.