Book Review – Vicious, by V.E. Schwab

Vicious is another book recommended to me by a friend. I’d never read anything by the author, V.E. Schwab, but the premise sounded good. I’ve always loved fictional moral ambiguity, and boy does this book have it.

Premise

The main character, Victor Vale, and his best school buddy, Eli (soon to be Eli Ever), give themselves superpowers as part of a school project –but at a great cost. It seems in the process, they lose part of what makes them human, and become colder. This change, and the unfortunate incident involving Victor’s gaining his power swiftly divides them.

Writing

V.E. Schwab’s writing style is just about perfect for me. I love the simplicity, the word choices, and the powerful, blunt sentences. Her characters feel believable and likeable –even the ones I shouldn’t have liked. I didn’t find myself rolling my eyes or becoming frustrated at any point, which is rare for me.

The pacing was good, though I will say, the chapters fall in a mixed timeline. Like, super mixed. There were a few times I wished we could just stick to one. It even got the tiniest bit confusing, but I feel mixing timelines for this story was certainly the right choice. It would have been perhaps too info-dumpy not to mix it up, and it kept me interested in several of the characters’ shenanigans at once.

There was one particularly annoying pause, taking me back to the backstory of one of the characters. While this character is among my favorites, knowing his backstory was less than riveting and pulled me out of the current action.

Characters

I pretty much liked everyone. Sydney might be my favorite. I ended up not hating her sister, Serena, as much as I initially thought I did.

It was impossible not to like Victor, though I couldn’t exactly sympathize with him at any point. I mean, the guy’s kind of a huge asshole. His hatred for Eli seemed almost left field in the beginning, and he definitely came across as the clear “bad guy.” Lucky for him, he’s later validated in this, but the fact this happens later makes it a little less meaningful.

Eli got annoying fast, but made for an excellent hero/villain for the story. He has the so very important advantage of being convinced he’s doing the world a favor, that he is a hero and not a killer. It makes him so much more believable. But he’s an asshole, too.

Mitch is great. I like Mitch.

Dominic comes in later, and I really, really like this character for some reason.

Dol is a good boy and I wuv him. I will say, however, it for some strange reason annoyed me how massive this dog is described as being. Behemoth black dogs don’t typically run around freely in cities (with the exception of areas where stray dogs are more common, but I don’t think they look like this one). It just seemed like the author made him into a huge dark beast for the sake of him looking badass. Which is okay sometimes, and sometimes isn’t. I don’t know. Shut up.

Believability

There were a few things I just didn’t buy. I know it’s fantastical and these people have superpowers, and if I accept that I should be able to accept anything, but I don’t. EOs (the book’s word for people with superpowers –stands for extraordinary) have apparently existed for some time. This is suggested by the fact everyone knows what Eli is talking about when he uses the acronym early in the book. And yet, there are no proven instances of an EO in the book’s world. But these people’s powers are completely badass and earth-shaking. Hard to hide. I mean, hell, one guy ends up robbing a bank, using a superpower I imagine is comparable to that of Boom Boom of Marvel’s X-Men. Kind of noticeable.

And the way EOs are created –it kind of made sense early on, but I felt there should be some added step involved. All it required was for a person to be “dead,” then brought back. And the person had to really want to live.

That could maybe sort of explain EOs being a recent thing, since with new technology, doctors are able to do more incredible things to revive badly traumatized (heart attack, drowning, coma, etc.) people. But still, I think that’s quite a few people, and EOs haven’t been a proven thing, yet? It seems they’re thought of more like UFOs or ghosts early on in the book. Seen by many, but never proven real.

Anyway, Victor and Eli are able to give themselves superpowers by basically committing suicide, then reviving one another. Keep in mind that a desire to live is needed.

Well how fucking much do these wankers really want to live if they’re risking their lives to get superpowers that aren’t guaranteed? And I mean, they risk the shit out of their lives. They’re lucky it works out.

On a much smaller note, I struggled to understand just how much was left in Victor, Eli, and Serena as far as compassion, conscience, love, etc. They were all three quite often hot and cold. The only EOs who seemed fully human were Sydney and Dominic. Mitch, a non-EO, was written quite normally, and experienced normal people feelings.

Overall

I liked this read. I was excited to find out what would happen, I liked the characters, and I liked the writing style. I recommend it if you like dark characters, if you don’t require a love story, and if you like superheroes.

Bear with the inconsistent format of my book reviews. I’m trying different things to figure out what I like.

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