Author: Victoria Schwab (writing as V.E. Schwab)
Release: September 24th 2013
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, New Adult
#1 in the Vicious duology
Sequel: Untitled (#2)
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.
I can never get enough of Schwab's beautiful writing style. Never.
I've had my eyes on Vicious for a while and had been craving it like crazy a little while before its release, but I kinda put off reading it, even as I got it a few days after its release. Why? Because I was afraid it wouldn't be as good as Schwab's other books, because it was meant for a whole other audience — this is (New) Adult, as opposed to her other books, which are Young Adult. My worries were unnecessary, though, and Schwab managed, once again, to blow me away.
I'll start off by saying this book has an extremely memorable and remarkable cast of characters. The two main characters, Eli and Vic, are essentially the same and at the same time as different as they could possibly be, and I liked that so much. This is no story of heroes and villains, because you could view both Eliot and Victor as both hero and villain at the same time. I especially liked Victor, because I could simply relate to him very much, I understood his determination not to be a sidekick. My jealousy and lack of being able to be happy for someone else's success is something I battle with every single day, and I feel so guilty and bad for it, so I could fully understand why Victor did everything he did. While I'm not approving of everything he did here, I can relate. Eli was simply such a charismatic and charming character, it was kind of like fascism to be honest, you can't not like him. At least, at first; when she showed his true colours and how batshit crazy the guy really was, he kind of lost whatever sympathy I had for him. But it's still remarkable how his character development is going.
The other characters, namely Serena, Sydney and Mitch, were literary gems as well. I loved Sydney's extreme development and how she changed within a few days, it made sense and I fully enjoyed her toughness and badassery. Also, her relationship with Victor felt so real and was very interesting to follow, because the idea that this 13-year-old and a 32-year-old could form such a strong friendship and co-dependence was amazing. And then we have Mitch, and what I liked best about him was his character-appearance dilemma. The fact that his character is so different from what his appearance says about him and his "bad luck" made him an intriguing guy, and, like every other character, very memorable and extraordinary. Serena was cool for the most part too, although I could never fully get behind her motifs. Did she just find Eli hot or why does she join his cause? We never really find out, but maybe that's for the best.
We switch from the present to the past every other chapter, and even while the chapters are kept extremely short, often clocking in at 2 and a half pages even, they never invited one to shut the book. I know that this was something that extremely hindered my progress with The Program, but the shortness of the chapters rather ensured the opposite with Vicious: that I'd keep turning pages and read on. And, unlike with The Program, the short chapters actually made sense here. The alternating perspectives might throw some people off, I can imagine, but I thought this was a brilliant idea, because as soon as I forgot what was going on in the other perspective, I'd get a short glimpse of what they're doing, and then I'd get sucked into the past, or wherever, again. I've seen this again before in a very similar fashion in Schwab's The Archived, but I think she handled that even better in this novel.
Finally, of course, we have Schwab's lovely writing. Not only is Vicious extremely well written, it's also so very inspiring. Even only 18 pages in, I was gripped by the sudden urge to do something creative, to just write or paint, even though I can do neither. These flashes would come on suddenly during the course of the book and I like when a book nudges me to work toward my own dreams and inspire me. And I guess that goes for a lot of other people as well, so if you're looking for your next muse, this is it. Aside from that, descriptions are to the point while also conveying a liveliness rarely seen, and the dialogue is simply precious. Basically, everything she writes is precious.
In conclusion, I should definitely not have waited so long to read Vicious, especially not after I was hungering after it for so long prior to its release. It is a gripping tale about the grey zone that is right or wrong, heroism or villainy and the philosophical questions of the use of a conscience, with some nice elements of fantasy thrown in, with an amazing cast of characters, an enticing plot and thought-provoking writing. Definitely worth reading.