“I don’t want to survive. I want to thrive.”
Eli Ever and Victor Vale were only medical students when their mutual discovery that near-death experiences can, under the right conditions, manifest extraordinary abilities.
They were best friends, and rivals, and then enemies. They were dead, then alive, and then—Eli killed Victor, once and for all.
Or so he thought—but Sydney Clarke felt otherwise, and used her own superpower to tip the scales. Now, a trio hides in the shadows, while another takes advantages of post-death life to take over the city of Merit.
If there can be life after death—will there be calm after vengeance, or will chaos rule?
TW: death (including animal death), violence (including gun violence), suicide, child abuse, implied sexual assault
Now that was a ride.
I’ve been looking forward to Vengeful from the moment I finished Vicious (wow I really love alliterative series titles dang just realized that), and I’m so glad I managed to be patient while waiting for my Magic and Mayhem Illumicrate box to arrive. The special edition cover is gorgeous (to be totally honest, I like the UK covers more than the US ones), and it even has one of those built in silk bookmarks! Easy way to make me happy because then I can’t possibly lose the bookmark AND it somehow makes the book look classier. Nice.
But getting into the book itself, ohhhh, that was a delight. It FLEW by, which is just amazing. I finished almost 600 pages in about four hours because the pacing moves at such a phenomenal clip, and that clip is totally warranted given the subject matter. We’re talking superheroes! Super villains! Super people who are neither! It has that vaguely dark comic book feeling to it that lends itself so well to a fast-paced narrative, and Schwab completely embraced that. I couldn’t put it down (if you don’t count when I stopped at page 254 to get some sleep before I fell asleep with my face in the book), and when it was over, I was looking for more, reading to keep moving forward.
True, the Illumicrate edition gave me a little extra in the form of a nice short story for Agent Rios, but IT WASN’T ENOUGH. I NEED MORE.
I also really loved the shift in focus. I liked seeing more of Sydney, of seeing the roles she shoulders or wants to shoulder. I loved June and had so many questions about her, so many things I wanted to know about who she was and why she became who she is. She might have really been my favorite character of the whole book. And Marcella. Oh my god. She’s here, and she’s pissed, and I thrived on that. There’s so much happening in the world right now that’s made me furious and made me feel powerless, and Marcella is the perfect vehicle for that. She’s the angriest character of all, and she’s ambitious. It’s dangerous and exciting and I enjoyed it.
And on top of that, Schwab made me pity Eli Ever, something I hadn’t expected to do. She’s just a master at taking villains and shaping them into something so incredibly human that you catch yourself rooting for them now and again before you remember that they’re the enemy. It’s truly impressive to be able to develop characters so fully that that happens, and she has all my respect for showing that skill.
ALSO, Victor Vale is confirmed asexual! I wish the word had been in the text, and I’d give anything for a character who’s ace but isn’t so logic driven and aloof, but Victor is asexual! Hell yeah!
So for the most part, I loved Vengeful! It grabbed me, refused to let go, and had an anger at its heart that resonated with me.
But the problem is that it’s over, and I keep thinking about Vicious in the end.
It was a good book! It was absolutely phenomenal! But because of these new characters, because of the shift of the plot away from the characters we already know, there was something of a shallowness to some of it. There were parts that made me wish there were more, parts that needed more development to feel like more than thinly veiled deus ex machina. The twists and turns didn’t leave me as stunned as Vicious did, and I had some disappointment left at the end. That’s it? That’s how this story ends? What about June? And why those choices for Eli and Marcella? What about Victor? What about Sydney and Mitch and Dol? Vengeful is self-contained, thank goodness, so there isn’t a cliffhanger, but there are threads waving loose that I kept grasping at, like there could be more, should be more. Everything flew by so fast that I don’t think there was quite enough time for it all.
I’m not going to forget this book any time soon, not by any means. Not when it held my attention so well, and for the most part, did things so right. But there will always be a little voice in the back of my head reminding me of all the things I loved about Vicious that felt perhaps a little pale here.
But there’s still a possibility (nothing confirmed yet) that there will be another book in the Villains universe. If there is, I’ll be lining up to go back to the city of Merit. This series won’t let me go, even if I wanted it to. It’s powerful. Super powerful.
Have you read Vicious and Vengeful? One of them? Neither? Tell me all about it, and while you’re at it, tell me what superpower you would want to have!