Author: V.E. Schwab
Year Published: 2013
My Warm Up Review
Synopsis: 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.
Review: Oh my goodness, this book. I've heard such excellent things about it, but sometimes it's hard to judge a book by what other people say about it. This time, though? All of those rave reviews were spot on. I've read Victoria's YA books (The Near Witch and The Archived), and while I enjoyed those immensely, Vicious blows them completely out of the water. I didn't think it was possible, but there you have it.
Everything about Vicious is just ExtraOrdinary. I absolutely loved the world, and I think Victoria did an incredible job with the world building in this book. It feels like our world - Victor and Eli meet in college, they have to do a thesis project in order to graduate, they go to bars and parties to celebrate or blow off steam, they and their friends major in common things like pre-med, psychology, and engineering... At first, everything seems normal. But then, the idea of an EO - an ExtraOrdinary - is introduced and things just escalate from there. The world takes on a comic book feel, which is pretty remarkable in and of itself since there are no pictures in the book to create that idea. But when I pictured the settings and the events and the people in my head, that's just how it turned out.
I loved that there's a research bit to the idea of the EOs as well. Eli's thesis begins as purely theoretical, and we even get to see some of the science behind how EOs are "created" and why it's possible they exist. But then when his topic begins to cross with Victor's and things turn experimental, the intensity gets turned up to 11. It's interesting to see how their experiments change Eli and Victor, and how their paths diverge and eventually merge again. I think jumping around in time really helped with giving a fuller picture of Eli's character (since the present mostly focuses on Victor), and also helps us to see why Victor is the way he is now.
One of my favorite parts in this book was how the concepts of superheroes, villains, and arch-nemeses were defined and played with. Although Eli might appear as a hero to some, he's definitely still a villain to others. But if Eli is a hero and Victor is set on revenge, does that make him the villain? Or are Eli and Victor both villains? Or both heroes? It was really interesting to me how titles change but the characters and their missions don't. The ambiguity makes the story that much richer.
I thought all of the characters were exceptionally well developed, and I was so sad to have to leave them at the end. Although this book can definitely stand on its own and all the loose ends are definitley tied up, I really hope Victoria has a chance to revisit this incredible world and continue the story, or create a completely new one. I could go on and on and on about how much I loved everything about this book (I couldn't put it down and made the mistake of starting it before bed... needless to say, I was up until the wee hours of the morning finishing it), but you should really just go read it for yourself. I honestly think it has something for everyone in it, even though it is technically written for adults. Just go find a copy somewhere. You won't regret it. Definitely a 5/5 and one of my favorite books of all time.