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?
This book review contains spoilers.
Holy hell. This book.
Vicious is the first book I’ve read by V.E (Victoria) Schwab, and honestly, I am absolutely in love. I’ve always heard great things about Victoria’s writing, and now I’m not sure why I didn’t read any of her books earlier. I was absolutely blown away by how beautifully this book was written. At times it almost seemed poetic, ngl. There are so many quotable lines that I’m pretty sure I have half the book highlighted, maybe more. And can I just scream about how absolutely genius this book is?! The story, the characters, the dialogues. Fucking brilliant.
The plot was so good and I am still mind-blown by it all. Am I the only one that kind of got Edmond Dantès vibes from Victor in the beginning? Anyway, the story is told in two parts, Water, Blood and Thicker Things, and An ExtraOrdinary Day. It’s also told in alternating timelines. The first part is told in timelines between the past, when Victor and Eli were in college, and the days leading up to the “present”. The second part is told in timelines of the past – ten years ago, last year, etc. – and the present day. What I loved about this was even though the story is told in alternating timelines, it’s not always told in chronological order of those specific timelines, so you never know what year or day the next chapter would be set in. This definitely adds to the overall suspense of the story because as a reader you have absolutely no idea what’s about to happen next. It definitely keeps your heart racing.
I immediately fell in love with Victor Vale, holy shit. His EO power is manipulating pain, so he can both make it go away but also really hurt and torture people with it. I love how calm and collected, and so absolutely patient he was throughout the book. You just know someone like that knows his shit, innit? With every turn of the page I kept wondering what he was going to do next. He’s a very dark character, and you definitely see just how much throughout the book. But I think what makes Victor even more terrifying is his patience and ability to stay calm. His biggest weapon is not his power, but his mind and how perspicacious he is. Pair that with his power and you get a very powerful man you absolutely do not want to cross. Although he doesn’t go out of his way to kill people like Eli, I think his power ensures that he doesn’t have to. I think this quote perfectly sums him up:
“There were some people you had to stay away from, people who poisoned everything in reach. Then there were people you wanted to stick with, the ones with silver tongues and golden touches. And then, there were people you stood beside, because it meant you weren’t in their way. And whoever Victor Vale was, whatever he was, and whatever he was up to, the only thing Mitch knew was that he did not want to be in his way.”
Cardale Ever is the hero of the story, at least in his version of it. I loved how complex he was, and throughout the book I found myself completely hating him at times, but also feeling sorry for him and even sympathizing with him at others. We don’t know too much of his backstory, and I hope in Vengeful we get a glimpse into his past. Eli is an EO whose power allows him to heal himself, and over the next ten years, while Victor is in prison, Eli goes on to find and kill other EOs. His reasoning is that because his power doesn’t hurt anyone, he is not abnormal like the other EOs are. Eli thinks that it is his God-given duty to find EOs and kill them – to remove their abnormality from the world. I found it very interesting that Eli genuinely believed that God wanted him to do what he was doing. He would cross himself often after killing an EO, and at one part in the book he even said that God wouldn’t want him to kill innocents, only EOs, so we know he’s not doing it just for the heck of it. I loved the confrontation between Eli and Victor in the ending, when Victor calls him out.
“Enough. You aren’t some avenging angel, Eli. You’re not blessed, or divine, or burdened. You’re a science experiment.”
Sydney and Mitchell were so adorable, and contrasted the darkness of Victor and Eli in the book. Sydney was such sweet little girl whose innocence was stolen from her at such a young age, and I just wanted to protect her from everything. Her banter with Mitch was also super cute too, and her relationship with Victor? Please, I love them so much. I loved how protective Victor was towards Sydney, it really showed the more human side of him. Something I was kind of disappointed about was how we didn’t get to see much of Mitchell’s backstory, which I wish this would change in Vengeful. Okay, ngl Mitch lowkey gave me Professor Hulk vibes from that scene in Endgame when kids come to ask for his autograph.
One character I didn’t like though was Serena. It’s not that I hated her or anything, she just seemed a bit lost to me. With all the characters, I could tell what they wanted, or what their purpose and/or goal was in the story. I couldn’t pinpoint that with Serena and I found myself getting irritated with her very often because I thought she kept switching back and forth between what she wanted.
Overall, I absolutely loved this book and the characters. The writing was brilliant and almost poetic at times, and I’m so glad I finally read a book by V.E Schwab because now I’m pretty sure I’m going to bingeread all her series. Anyway, I have many parts in Vicious that I love but one of my absolute favs is when Serena commands Sydney to go somewhere safe. Believe me when I say I sobbed for a good while after reading this quote.
“Serena hadn’t told Sydney to go home. She hadn’t told her to run away. She’d told her to go somewhere safe. And over the course of the last week, safe had ceased to be a place for Sydney, and had become a person. Specifically, safe had become Victor.”
All the stars. All the bloody stars.