A Review of Vicious, by V.E. Schwab

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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?

– – – – –

Rating: 3/5 Stars (more like 3.5 though I think)
Quick Reasons: interesting, unique take on super heroes/super villains; non-linear story line; circular plot; stomach-churning morals; complex, easily relatable characters

Those of you looking at my star rating for this read are probably skeptical. I mean, this book should be right up my alley, right? Super heroes/super villains; complex and emotional characters; a climactic and enthralling story. I should have eaten this book for breakfast and then mourned it’s closure! I should have LOVED it.

For some reason I can’t quite put into words, though…I didn’t? I’m not sure if maybe I’m in a bit of a book slump, or if this book just didn’t quite hit the mark for me. Regardless, the star rating stands at a solid 3/3.5 – because while I enjoyed the story, and the characters, and how it all ties so beautifully together in a climactic and emotional ending…there was just something I DIDN’T like about the read. And I guess that’s okay.

That being said:

I really loved this take on EO’s/super powers; I found it a unique and promising premise when beginning this book, and while the characters at the time sort of grated on my nerves (I felt like, at the beginning especially, Victor was staking a claim to Eli in more ways than he should have been…as if he felt he was OWED something, as if he felt he OWNED Eli in some way) I was looking forward to seeing how it all played out. But there were also some world-building issues, I discovered, as I continued reading. For instance…Eli and Victor had, supposedly, been a bit doubting of the existance of EOs. We’re led to believe that these super-powered super humans are rare….but just after Eli and Victor both successfully become super human themselves, Eli calls the cops on Victor, and the cops already KNOW about EOs? It just seemed vague and weird to me—how do the cops know they exist? Also, if ExtraOrdinaries are created with near death experiences….why don’t more people know about them? Why aren’t more people coming BACK as them? I mean, correct me if I’m wrong, but…there are a good number of near death experiences a day, right? So wouldn’t you think there’d be more of them, even factoring in the whole pain/trauma thing that Eli and Victor sorted out at the beginning?

There were a few other world-building issues that I found a bit…honky, in the end. As if the author, while editing the novel, realized she needed to throw in some explanation or other and so did that after the fact (and often times, in strange and awkward places). I felt like, despite the characters’ complexities and equally horrifying backstories, they fell a bit flat in the process of writing. Victor, for instance, was at the beginning both SUPER intriguing to me and sort of…possessively stalkerish. I loved his obsession with redacting his parent’s textbooks, making found poetry. But as the story went on, he sort of lost this drive—this need to make something boring into something beautiful—instead focusing on his obsession with hurting Eli. With revenge and vengeance for all the years he lost in prison. Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand his motives, but I wish that we’d been given a LITTLE bit more of the old Victor in the new years, you know?

I really appreciated the play on the idea of good versus evil throughout the read; I felt it was well-done, though at times perhaps a bit forced or TOO much overall. Eli’s superiority complex was both frustrating and needed, I think, for his character; his devolution into madness and obsessive killing was portrayed well, in a disturbing and stomach-churning way. Serena confused me overall; I could never understand what her real motives were, honestly, save that she believed her sister was the demon incarnate or something. She felt sort of like a character of convenience—she did her job, but wasn’t really given the chance to grow or show readers ALL of herself. She was like a placeholder.

Overall, I was intrigued by this read, but it took me much longer to finish because I just couldn’t connect with the story or the characters the way I WANTED to. The writing is good, the plot is climactic and surprising at times, but there’s something lacking for me. I’d still recommend to anyone looking for a new and inventive take on super heroes/super villains, as well as to lovers of X-Men or Heroes.

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