I received this book for free from the Book Expo America in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Vicious by V.E. Schwabb
Published by Tor on 24 September 2013
Source: Book Expo America
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.
Vicious is a super-villain origin story. Kind of. Schwabb uses the story to challenge our assumptions of what makes someone a villain or a hero. Eli Ever is called a hero, but he uses his ExtraOrdinary ability to hunt down other EOs (people with special powers) and kill them. He had some really interesting justifications for his actions and he certainly thought he was doing the right thing, but he always remained a villain in my mind. Victor Vale is his former roommate and fellow EO. All Victor wants is to kill Eli and he is perfectly content to be the villain if Eli is a hero. The thing is, while I don’t think Victor is a hero, he also never felt like a villain. Personally, I always find superheroes to be a bit self-righteous, so Victor’s moral detachment and motivations felt refreshing and realistic.
Everyone else gets sucked into Eli and Victor’s fight. There are the two sisters–Serena and Sydney. They are both incredibly powerful EOs and they end up on opposite sides of the fight. Sydney is 12 and she added a lightness to a dark story that I appreciated. Serena is interesting because she is the most evil character in the book and yet, for me, she was also the one most easy to relate to. There are also two other characters vital to the outcome of Victor and Eli’s fight. One is a regular human and the other is an EO with a very awesome power. I loved that the non-super-powered character, Mitch, seems to have more agency and influence on the story than other characters with an extra ability. It really drove home that this story isn’t about being special. It’s about being human and what we do with the power we have.
One thing that I did not know going in, that I wish I had known is that this is a non-linear story. We get Victor and Eli over the course of a day as they come to their final standoff, but we also get the story of what brought them there: how they met, how they got super powers, and how they became enemies. I really couldn’t tell you which part of the story I liked most; it all fit together perfectly. While I think this is currently a standalone and it does work on its own, I hope that Schwabb will have the opportunity to write a sequel. It’s really nice to explore the darker side of humanity.
Favorite Moment: A person becomes an EO through a near death experience and at one point, young Victor is at a party attempting to kill himself with cocaine. It’s one of those scenes that you need to read to understand why it’s my favorite.
Overall: Vicious raises some great questions about how to define heroes and villains. It is a story that slowly builds to a satisfying ending and the kind of book that is made to reread.
**And I have a brand new signed hardcover that I will be giving away as part of Bloggers Dressed In Blood. My mini-challenge starts October 12.**
This post is part of Bloggers Dressed In Blood, where we celebrate the dark and twisted all through the month of October. I co-host with Kate akaMidnight Book Girl and Danielle from Mercurial Musings. This year we are giving away a $50 dollar gift card to Amazon or Barnes & Noble (or 3 books of choice up to US$50 from TBD for international readers).Check out the main page to get more information and join in the fun! And, for those of you entering the giveaway, the secret code is now… VILLAIN This code will be valid until Monday, when you can get a new secret code at Mercurial Musings.