Vicious (Villains #1) by V.E. Schwab (2013)
Fiction | Paranormal
“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.”
pooled ink Review:
OH MY WORD WHY DID I NOT READ THIS BOOK SOONER????
After devouring Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo I looked around for something similar and came up empty and yet the whole time this book was just lurking in the shadows. I knew of Schwab’s fantasy trilogy but somehow this book never came up on my radar and I so wish it had because it was SPECTACULAR!
Where to begin???
This is a story about two opponents, each with a score to settle. Neither a hero, both rather villainous, and in the end only death can satiate their hunger.
Victor and Eli began as roommates, best friends even. Both brilliant minds and facing their senior year at University. It began with a thesis, evolved into an experiment, and shattered into vengeance.
Eli begins researching NDEs (near death experience survivors) and the potential link to EOs (ExtraOrdinaries a.k.a. people with heightened abilities). While intriguing, if not a touch laughable, Victor decides to embed himself in Eli’s thesis by suggesting an experiment. And of course, like any fantastic supernatural adventure, the impossible is triggered by science gone wrong, or in this case, right.
Honesty moment: I don’t really care much about superheros. Sure I’ll watch the movies, and sure it’s always fun to think about (I’d want to be able to teleport, I think), but overall it’s just not a genre I gravitate towards in general. But this book was focused on villains, and one thing I love is a villain’s story. And OH. MY. WORD. This book exceeded all expectations.
This was so unlike any superhero/supervillain story I’ve ever heard. Yes there were people with abilities, yes there were good guys and bad guys and confused police sprinkled in-between. But Vicious is so refreshing and original and exciting for many reasons but one factor that I think strongly aids its success is that it goes ahead and does away with the cliché moral dilemmas of newborn EOs. None of this ‘using powers responsibly’ or ‘I must save all innocents’ or ‘I must now rob a bank’ and such typical factors often beaten to death and, well, lame. These are all good things, of course, but it’s just that we’ve seen it done a million times over. It’s nothing new to explore. Instead, Vicious centers on two villains. There are no good men in this game.
So that’s the first pro: VILLAINS.
The second pro is: COMPLEXITY.
If you’ve read Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (which I hope you have because it’s fantastic) then you’ll understand when I say that Victor gave me Kaz vibes. The genius, the cunning, the twenty steps ahead and able to plot revenge like a Grand Chessmaster. Following Victor is fascinating. He strikes with such elegance and calm. From the beginning to the very last page I had my breath trapped in my throat wondering how it would all end.
And Eli poses an intriguing look into what makes a hero different from a villain. His ability is reflexive, it doesn’t lash out at others. But does this automatically put him on the “good” team? Is good intentions enough? Does the end justify the means? And his battle with Victor explores the realization that life is but a myriad of perspectives. Right? Wrong? Or just a matter of…perspective?
Victor’s gift is pain. Eli’s gift is healing. On the surface it seems obvious which team they each align with, but beneath the shield of their powers perhaps they’re both a bit twisted from their brush with death.
The book itself alternates perspectives and flashes back and forth between timelines. This works expertly to give you just enough information for the moment without revealing enough to let you get too far ahead. Schwab’s writing controls the narrative and your attention from the moment you pick up the book. The novel works on a total “need to know” basis. You might get a glimpse of a scene in one chapter and understand it, then several chapters later you’ll get to see the rest of that scene and your brain will have to scramble to reorganize what you thought you knew.
IT’S JUST SO BRILLIANT!
I had cramps from sitting all scrunched up for hours reading. It’s safe to say that this book definitely hit the nail on the head for me. And once I read the final line I wanted to scream, I was so, I dunno, overwhelmed with emotion(?). It gave me the same celebratory high that I got with the Six of Crows Duology. Vicious is officially on my “Favorites” list.
OH, quick note: Although this is listed as part of Schwab’s Villains series, this one can really be read as a standalone. The sequel, Vengeful, picks back up with Sydney’s tale because no life is ever finished while still breathing, but this book has its own beginning, middle, and end. No cliffhanger. So if you’re hesitant about investing in a series then no worries, but after reading this you’ll be glad there’s more to come.
Vicious is an exhilarating story of villains and vengeance. When neither player wears the white of a hero, how far will they be willing to go to win? Riveting, brilliant, and darkly original, this supernatural tale is a triumph amongst its kind.
P.S. If you’re into this non-mainstream hero/villain style (less capes, more thrill) then might I direct you to some non-mainstream movies aka The Unbreakable Film Series/Eastrail 177 Trilogy. It’s more of a dark thriller perhaps than Schwab’s Villains series but there’s still superpowers and a fresh take on what people do with them. I’ll leave links for the trailers below. Let me know if you have any other recommendations!
Purchase Here: Vicious
Similar Recommended Reads: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, V for Vendetta by Alan Moore, Red Rising by Pierce Brown, The Paper Swan by Leylah Attar, The Young Elites by Marie Lu
Meet V.E. Schwab!
I am the product of a British mother, a Beverly Hills father, and a southern upbringing. Because of this, I have been known to say “tom-ah-toes”, “like”, and “y’all”. I also suffer from a wicked case of wanderlust, made worse by the fact that wandering is a good way to stir up stories. When I’m not haunting Paris streets or trudging up English hillsides, I’m usually tucked in the corner of a coffee shop, dreaming up monsters.
Victoria has stated that books published under V.E. Schwab are adult releases and those under Victoria Schwab are YA.