Saturday, February 22, 2014

Review: Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Saturday, February 22, 2014 with 7 comments
Title: Vicious
Author: V.E. Schwab (pen name for Victoria Schwab)
Series: n/a
Publisher: Tor
Publication Date: September 24, 2013
Source: purchased
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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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.

So, I'm of the mind that Victoria Schwab is just bloody brilliant. True, I enjoyed this novel just a smidgeon less than I did The Archived series, but even so, I loved Vicious in ways I never expected to. I often cringe when I read that a protagonist envisions themselves climbing into another person and becoming one with them, but dammit if I wouldn't just love to climb into Victoria's brain and live there, pick it apart and see how it works. Okay, that sounds a little creepy when I see it in writing, but you know what I mean.

This is an adult book that follows two young men with special abilities over the course of a decade. Victor and Eli were not born with these abilities. They were scientists, playing God and endangering their own lives in the process. These two best friends quickly become enemies when their experiments go awry, and the results are detailed in this book. But they are not the only humans with these "superpowers", which is what piqued their interest in the matter to begin with.

There are some characters you are supposed to connect with, others you are supposed to loathe, and then there are the characters that you dissect. Vicious is made up entirely of the latter. In this story, there is no good or evil, no black and white...only shades of grey. And there is definitely no shortage of morally ambiguous characters here. I expected this book to be full of men leaping buildings in a single bound or people who could stop a speeding car with the flat of their palm. And there are different people -- called ExtraOrdinaries, or EOs, for short -- with different abilities in this book, but the people and their gifts are far superior to any comic book characters you already know.

Schwab's writing is dark and brilliant and utterly fascinating. The plotting is so intricate and though some aspects are easy to guess, it's just so compelling watching as the story unfolds. Vicious aides the reader in putting the pieces together by traveling from present to past and back again through alternating chapters. The past to present dynamic, reminiscent of the method used in All Our Yesterdays, really changes how a story unfolds and how you meet certain characters and in what circumstances, and I find it entirely captivating.

This is not your average superhero book. It is about power, obsession, jealousy, and yes, supernatural abilities. But what I loved best was how this story explored the fine line between good and evil, right and wrong, and how easy it is to blur the two when one's motives are in question. I also just really enjoyed cheering for the antihero. I'll be reading The Near Witch soon and then I don't know what I'll do with myself besides cry rivers because I won't have another Victoria Schwab novel to read for ages. =(

GIF it to me straight:
This novel would make a spectacular movie!

About the author:

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.

My first YA novel, THE NEAR WITCH, a dark original fairy tale, debuted with Disney*Hyperion in August 2011, and is now out in paperback.

My next YA novel, THE ARCHIVED, is the first book in a new supernatural series about a world where the dead are shelved like books, and it hits stores January 2013, also with Disney*Hyperion.

My first adult novel, VICIOUS, about two brilliant and highly disturbed pre-med students who set out to generate their own superpowers and end up mortal enemies, is out in hardcover from Tor September 2013.

I have more books coming out in 2014, but I’ll get to those later.

These days, when someone asks me what I do when I’m NOT writing, I just kind of laugh nervously. But in truth, on the odd occasion I’m not typing away, I’m probably baking cookies, or watching BBC shows, or wandering. (See how we came full circle, there?)

Find Victoria:

WebsiteTwitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest | Tumblr | YouTube


  1. Ah, I've been wanting to read this one for so long! I really need to buy it.

  2. I didn't have a great time reading The Archived by Ms. Schwab but I heard this one will not let me down! Great Review! I'm excited to read it ♥

  3. Yayyyy! I'm so glad you liked this. I absolutely adored this novel. So much so that I almost want to go back and read it again, like, right now after reading your review. I still need to read The Archived, so I'm happy that you enjoyed it even more. The writing really is just so brilliant. I loved that there wasn't "good" and "bad". I had my favorite side, of course, but it so wasn't your classic superhero story. The more I think about this story, the more I like it. Great review!

  4. I'm tempted, I am! I love the dark and the brilliant, although I don't really read very much Adult. Even if I am an adult. But whatever. YA and MG is fun.

  5. What a fantastic review, I cannot wait to pick this one up!

  6. Oh my god, yes! I really want to see this book as a movie- it would be freaking epic :D
    Isn't Victoria writing a fair few books at the moment? I seem to recall her Tweeting that she was writing two or three right now, and she has some books coming out later this year, I think. Not 100% sure though lol. My memory is pretty terrible :P

  7. I REALLY want to read this book because it sounds so interesting and I'm so happy that every review I read about it is a positive one.
    Aaaaahh and now I want to read The Archieved even more! I need to save up for Schwab goodness


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