Tuesday, April 7, 2015

look at her go: reviewin' reviewin': vicious

Name: Vicious
Author: V.E. Schwab
find it on goodreads
barnes & noble

synopsis: 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.

full, non spoilery review under the cut!

“There are no good men in this game.” 

 I truly can't believe that I had never read a book by Victoria (or V.E) Schwab until a matter of weeks ago. In the last month, I have read, and subsequently been blown away by two of her novels. A Darker Shade of Magic was fun and bright and though the main characters sometimes made questionable choices, it was still clear that there were two sides– right and wrong. With Vicious, Schwab does something else entirely, especially with the concept of good and evil, and if there is even such a divide. I absolutely loved the novel, and I wish there were more books like it. 

One of the most impressive things about this book was Schwab's ability to leap back and forth in time without coming into any continuity issues. She gave the backstories of all the characters seamlessly, jumping from ten years ago to five years ago to one to mere days to the present moment, and I appreciated the detail that she put into every flashback and character backstory. I enjoyed the parts of the novel that described Eli and Victor's time at university pre-powers, as well as finding out more about Mitch and Sydney and how they came to meet Victor in the present day. 

Basically, this book is about Victor and Eli. They're best friends turned bitter enemies, which I think is way more interesting than opposing forces that have been enemies from the start. At first, I didn't know who I would like better. Eli seemed charismatic and charming in Victor's memories of him from when they went to Lockland University together, and I thought Victor was overreacting when he talked about the dark thing inside Eli. But as the story went on and things became more clear, I found myself really loving Victor, in the flashbacks and in the present day. After Victor and Eli "died" and came back with incredible powers, something went missing in them. Empathy, compassion, the ability to feel, to tell right and wrong maybe, but whatever it is, it renders them both into veritable sociopaths, unable to feel or reason on a human level. Perhaps because they aren't human, like Eli says over and over again. They are EOs, ExtraOrdinary individuals. But while Eli uses his status as an EO to excuse murder and manipulation, wearing it like a badge and believing himself to be blessed by God himself, Victor is much more pragmatic. Victor knows what he is, knows that he isn't good, but doesn't particularly mind the fact, and that is what makes him so, or at least, makes him better than Eli. 

The problems started for Victor and Eli at Lockland, when they were studying adrenaline and the possibilities of EOs, respectively. Victor's jealousy and Eli's zeal leads them down a road that neither one of them can turn away from, and while they both end up gaining powers, there are terrible accidents and losses, for both boys, that come with them. Victor ends up in jail for the next decade and Eli turns into a ghost. Until, in prison, Victor meets Mitch, a huge, cursed man with a sharp wit and the mind of a hacker, and Eli meets Serena, an EO with an extraordinarily terrifying power. Victor breaks out of jail, and he and Mitch run across Serena's little sister Sydney, who is mature for her 13 years and who has an enormous power of her own. When Victor, Mitch and Sydney meet Eli and Serena in a huge city, all hell breaks loose, and Victor, intent on his revenge against Eli, puts a plan, a decade in the making, in motion. 

It is incredible, the way that the story is crafted. All of the characters are morally ambiguous at best and downright psychopathic at worse, but they aren't really portrayed as bad people. I think this is important, real somehow, because in real life, there is no one who is all bad or all good. There are so many more shades of gray than, I think, most novels care to show. The only person I really wanted to get out of the story the whole time was Serena, and that was because she actually terrified me. Even with the knowledge that Victor had killed people and that he felt next to nothing, I still found myself liking him, even rooting for him, against Eli. I think my favorite character in the whole book was Mitch, though, even though he too had committed crimes and wasn't too squeamish about killing either. The characters are complex, which I think sets this novel apart even more. 

The lead up to the final showdown between Eli and Victor was intense, and several times I would be reading and catch myself thinking "I really have no idea how this is going to turn out, who is going to win." And that was what kept me so nervous, flipping rapid fire through pages until the very end. I thought everything in this novel was perfectly paced and executed, down to the very last sentence. I think this is a must read for superhero fans, as it provides a look into what could be sacrificed for the sake of powers, for the sake of being special. But I also think this could appeal to a much broader audience, because above all, I think Vicious is about humanity, and how nothing is how it seems, nothing is black and white. 

Favorite quotations (which don't have page numbers because I was listening to this):
- “Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.”
- “All Eli had to do was smile. All Victor had to do was lie. Both proved frighteningly effective.”
- “The absence of pain led to an absence of fear, and the absence of fear led to a disregard for consequence.”
-  “There are no good men in this game.”
- “If Eli really was a hero, and Victor meant to stop him, did that make him a villain? He took a long sip of his drink, tipped his head back against the couch, and decided he could live with that.”
- “If he'd had to judge based on the two of them, then ExtraOrdinaries were damaged, to say the least. But these words people threw around--humans, monsters, heroes, villains--to Victor it was all just a matter of semantics.”
- “Victor wondered about lots of things. He wondered about himself (whether he was broken, or special, or better, or worse) and about other people (whether they were all really as stupid as they seemed). He wondered about Angie - what would happen if he told her how he felt, what it would be like if she chose him. He wondered about life, and people, and science, and magic, and God, and whether he believed in any of them.”
- "for ever."




  1. I have yet to read this but I am so excited to! I remember you telling me how much you enjoyed it, and I can't wait to read more of Victoria Schwab's books after reading and enjoying The Near Witch!

    1. its AMAZING! I definitely need to read the near witch, because Victoria Schwab has yet to disappoint.


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