Total Star Rating: 4 Stars
There are no good men in this game.“– V.E. Schwab, “Vicious”
I wish to someday sit down with Victoria (V.E.) Schwab and just talk to her and find out where the hell she gets all her ideas from… How does she think up the stories that pop into her head? Where does she draw her inspiration from? Is she actually in fact human, or is she some enchanted Poet Laureate that is gifted from the gods in creating amazing stories? I want her to publish a book on creative writing or on her process because her books are seriously just so breathtaking, so unique, so creative, and so inspiring!
I will admit I had no idea about this book’s existence until it’s sequel, Vengeful, arrived on bookshelves over the summer of 2018, and the gorgeous cover design immediately drew me in, and the blurb inside sounded like an amazing journey too! I go onto my bible, Goodreads, and saw that it was actually the sequel to another title, the very book this review is about.
Reading this was a refreshing and unique twist on the Superhero/Supervillain genre, and was so completely unpredictable and intensely dark toned that whenever I picked it up, I was dead set on whatever was occurring and easily blocked out everything going on around me. I can also say the two main characters and their dynamic is one of the most unique pairings I’ve read in any sort of story in recent memory.
The overall character work was one of the biggest highlights of this story for me, and not because they are super relatable or likeable…It’s actually quite the opposite. Victor Vale and Eli Evers, the two main characters, are actually pretty low on the totem pole when it comes to decent human beings, but for different reasons. Despite the darkness that they both have, what the author has expertly done with them is make us readers understand them; even though we don’t personally like them or relate to them in any sort of way, she was able to clearly show us the character’s moral integrity, their reasons behind what they do, what drove them, and how they justified even their more heinous acts.
It almost felt like a social commentary in way, similar to that of one of the messages that American Horror Story presents us with: that all monsters are human. We all have a dark side within us, and some are able to keep it dormant and suppress it from getting loose, but of course not everyone is like that. While on the topic of TV/Movie comparisons, I’d say this novel is also similar to M. Night Shyamalan’s Sci-Fi Thriller, Unbreakable, and Josh Trank’s Chronicle. Both films are about people who gain super abilities in some some odd sort of way, and have a darker/grittier vibe on superheroes and the supervillains that rise up and battle it out.
The story’s other themes are ambition, envy, betrayal and power, and two intelligent characters like Victor and Eli were doomed to be torn apart in their own selfish journeys to obtain their goals. They both have darkness in them and succumb to it’s siren call, but are also so good at hiding it from those around them. They both have sociopathic tendencies, and while some people may be turned off to it, I thought it made them more interesting to read about as the story progressed!
With Schwab’s addictive style of writing, an exciting plot, and a totally original set of characters; this book demands to be read!
What It’s About:
The Official Blurb:
Victor Vale and Eli Evers were college roommates and best friends; they were both brilliant, arrogant and both saw a fire within each other and wanted to play with it. They both secretly could see that there was something the other kept beneath the surface, something more sinister than what an ordinary person should have, and they both patiently waited for the other to bring it to the surface.
During their senior year, they work together on their senior thesis project and make a startling, miraculous discovery: some people can awaken special abilities when they suffer a near-death experience. They become obsessed with finding out more about this strange occurrence, but that’s when everything starts to go wrong…
10 Years later, Victor breaks out of prison in order to exact his revenge on his former friend, who’s now his greatest enemy. With him is his large, intimidating former cell-mate and a young girl with an unnerving ability of her own. Together, they all go out in search of Eli, who’s taken it upon himself to be a new kind of “Superhero” for the public eye, but his heroic stance may be less than genuine as he’s lead everyone to believe…
Vicious is a masterful, twisted tale of ambition, jealousy, betrayal, and superpowers, set in a near-future world.
What I Liked:
- Morally Grey Characters! No one is entirely evil, and no one is entirely good either. Victor is such a great example of the anti-hero, and his characterization is done so well. He is Ace (Asexual), and is actually supposed to be the hero of the story, even though his entire arc is out of jealousy and the thirst for revenge. Eli was another truly outstanding character to read; he’s the exact opposite of Victor in almost every way: he’s charming, he’s charismatic, and has a smile that could make anyone trust him. The problem with that is (and I know this comparison is cliché) but look at Ted Bundy… Wasn’t too hard on the eyes, but underneath that handsome exterior was a horrific monster with hardly any remorse. Lucifer himself was considered one of God’s most beautiful angels before becoming Satan.
- The Author’s Writing Style! The author certainly has a way with words; the only way I can describe Schwab’s style is simply addicting. There’s not a single excessive word, and it all flowed together so well, Schwab expertly knows how to reel in your attention and make you obsessed in guessing in what will happen next, because her work is so unpredictable; you truly are in the dark until the climax of it all.
Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.”– V.E. Schwab, “Vicious”
What I Didn’t Like:
- It Needed More Creepiness…While it’s excellent in terms of suspense and thrills, I had hoped for more creepiness to come out of this story? Like, I had hoped for more horror aspects of this story. The darkest part of this story is the exploration of both Eli and Victor’s inner darkness and the justification towards some of their more….questionable actions and decisions, but I don’t know…part of me just wanted to be unnerved a little more. I’m not asking for demon possession or floating girls in white nightdresses with terrible split ends coming out of TV’s, but let’s just say it wasn’t necessary to leave the hall light on every night I slept while reading this or afterwards, and for some reason that was an expectation of mine going in.
- The Timeline is Out of Order…The main story switches back from present day and 10 years in the past. We start the story with Victor as he had just broken out of prison and gains his new companions around him. We have no idea why him and Eli had such a big falling out or what exactly happened, all we know is there’s undeniable tension there. As you read on, it goes back to when they were back in college, and you slowly learn how it all came to play out and the horrible events that lead up to their eventual confrontation. To some, people can appreciate that parts of the story are revealed to us in such an interesting way, like Victor or someone will say something that obviously refers to something in the past, then the next scene goes back to that event to show you what they meant. For others, and even me to a point, it can slow down the pacing of this story and make it feel jarring and inconsistent.
Very distinguished, very distinctive and very disturbed characters…V. E. Schwab wrote a great novel with one of the more original storylines that I’ve read over the years. Her writing style is very smooth and exciting to read; her prose keeps you intrigued to find out what happens next in the story. I recommend it to anyone who were fans of either fans of the movies I listed earlier, or even the sequels to Unbreakable: Split and Glass. Hell, maybe even fans of X-Men would really get a kick out this title!
This book was especially interesting because not everything was in black and white; no character was completely good or completely evil. It was all about perspective and how light does not always equate to light such as darkness does not always equate to darkness. The two main characters were incredibly interesting to read and get to know; it was chilling to realize that I liked them despite the darkness they both perpetuate. It raised some societal commentary in which we all have a dark side and how we manage it, and answers a ‘what if’ about it manipulating us to do its bidding, which is interesting with one particular character doing “God’s” work in his name as their motivation.
Thanks For Reading!
— Nick Goodsell