“There are no good men in this game.”
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?
Look. I will be excited about VE Schwab until the end of time probably. Let’s just face it. She’s got some kind of magic going on, and it fills everything she writes in an unbelievably incredible way. If you haven’t picked up a Schwab novel yet, then it’s high time. Trust me; it’s worth it.
Anyways, VICIOUS. A very specific treasure from Schwab and honestly one of the best books I’ve read in a very, very long time. For starters, the prose and pacing is just phenomenal. I’m never bored because things are too dull or too purple, or the pace is too fast or slow when it should be otherwise. Schwab has this magical sense for pulling things together in just the right way, like every single word is placed as carefully as possible. I feel like writing her books must be like really intense reverse Jenga or something: there’s probably a lot of careful placement that keeps everything from tumbling down in a heap, and the time and care invested is sooooooo clear. My whole damn heart is in love with her skills, and that’s even before getting to the rest of the book.
And man, the rest of this book!! There are superpowers (I LOVE SUPERPOWERS), and how people obtain them is both alarming and surprisingly well-phrased, so well-phrased you might even believe it’s an actual thing. The types of superpowers and how specific ones come to manifest in specific people is also one of the coolest approaches to superpowers that I’ve ever seen. It’s not a hereditary system or choice system, like a lot of superpowers; the powers in this book are obtained through fear and desperation and final thoughts all cooked together in an adrenaline cocktail with a dash of chance. Nothing about them is predictable, and it’s fantastic.
The characters are also absolutely fantastic and I love them all, even the antagonists. They’re (for the most point) relatively terrible people, some more than others, and their flaws are crystal clear. If you knew these characters in real life, and the things they’ve done, you’d probably keep well clear of them. But somehow, Schwab works her magic again (as she always does; this is why I love love love her books!), and you root for them anyways. You completely understand they’re not angelic little cinnamon rolls or whatever good and pure thing you want to call them. They’re mostly real messed up and often it’s their own fault. But the conflicts they’re involved in and their goals and their choices are so incredibly individual and human that you love them nonetheless. You understand they’re not necessarily good, and you love them anyway.
Rich, coming from me, whose favorite character is arguably the most innocent one in the book, but still. It was hard to choose a favorite at all. A lot of not as innocent characters almost took top spot.
ALSO THERE’S A DOG. He is very big and black and sweet and arguably the best character save for the fact that he’s not human and the humans are the important part of the story. I hope you love the dog as much as I do, because he’s a very good dog. And he’s absolutely a Newfoundland, as pointed out by my wonderful friend and brain-twin, Áine. He’s so big and fluffy he couldn’t possibly be anything else.
The only thing that I took away that half star for was the violence. It’s well-written and not overdone given the subjects of the novel, but it is gratuitous and graphic, and there are explicit suicides, which I was not adequately prepared for going in. Really, that makes the half star off more of a personal deduction than anything taken away for poor craft, but do be aware if you want to read Vicious that it isn’t a gentle stroll in the park with fun superpowers. It is extremely grim, even when it is hopeful, and it gets very violent on more than one occasion.
Violence aside, though, I loved every minute of reading this book, and I can’t wait for Vengeful to hit shelves in September! Plus, the redesigned covers are absolutely stunning (as well as being a nice nod to Victor Vale’s little blackout poetry hobby/habit), so I may just have to buy a new copy of Vicious as well. Nothing like getting both excellent writing and an excellent aesthetic on your shelf, right?
Have you read Vicious before? What did you think? Whose superpower is your favorite? ARE YOU READY FOR VENGEFUL? I know that’s a lot of questions, but they’re all important, I promise.