Vicious - V.E. Schwab
About the Book
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?
Author: V.E. Schwab
Playing with classic comic book tropes and weaving them into a morally gray revenge thriller, Vicious is the type of novel that alights an obsessive nature in the reader, a fervor to see the story through akin to protagonist Victor Vale and his determined need for an end to his scheme for revenge. The story of a hero and a villain pitted against one another intersects neatly with the vengeance narrative, the two things complimenting each other in a unique way that brings new life to both genres.
V.E. Schwab’s first foray outside of young adult literature launches readers into a story that is instantly engaging and intriguing. The way that she plays with the timeline makes the pacing of the story an effortless combination of fast-paced action and slow moments of character development, without ever feeling jarring. Any confusion that the reader may feel in the first couple of chapters is quickly enveloped by curiosity. And that curiosity shifts easily to understanding of the protagonist, and exactly why he is so single-minded in his plan for revenge.
Schwab plays with the dichotomy of characters being morally questionable, but also intensely easy to root for. The way that relationships are explored through each individual’s unique lens of morality ensures that the cast is fully fleshed out and believable. Even when it is truly easy to hate characters, as a reader, it is undeniable that you have some understanding of who they are.
The two main characters willingly throw themselves into the roles of villain and hero, but that doesn’t mean that they are a particularly reliable pair of narrators. Schwab has the audience rooting for the villain, and Victor doesn’t do anything to make anyone really try to like him, but nonetheless it becomes impossible to not at least get wrapped up in his world. Between that and the motley crew he surrounds himself with, it is easy to get caught up.
No one in this novel represents the true lawful good of traditional comic book superheroes; neither do they fall in any category of pure evil. Everyone is the hero of their own story. But it is very clear, or at least it was to me, why the protagonist of the story is the one that would be cast in the role of villain. Better to be a villain with true intentions, aware of your own moral alignment, then to paint yourself as a hero.