“Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.”
TITLE & AUTHOR: Vicious by V.E. Schwab
SERIES: Villains, #1
GENRE: Fantasy/Science Fiction/Superheroes
PUBLISHED : September 24th 2013, by Tor Books
MY RATING: 4/5
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?
As a huge fan of Victoria Schwab, after reading and adoring her Shades of Magic series, and the first two novels of her middle-grade Cassidy Blake series, the next logical step was to dive into the Villains series. This woman is a writing machine. As I was kind of reluctant to dive into Vicious, because of the superheroes theme, I asked around if anyone would like to buddy-read it, and Meeghan answered! I’m so glad she did, otherwise I’m not sure if I’d ever have read this book. It’s not that I hate superheroes, it’s just that I’m kind of tired with the whole thing, given the amount of movies Marvel and DC alone put out each year. So Meeghan answered, and even though our buddy read took longer than expected (We both had stuff to deal with, and Meeghan even lost her copy of the book 😀 ), I’m so glad it happened because now I consider her a friend. 🙂
Now, don’t think Vicious is just about superheroes pointing laser eyes at each other, it’s much more than that. It’s about ambition, power, jealousy, and friends. Two friends, Victor Vale and Eli Cardale are at the center of this. They went to university together, studying medicine, and have always been extremely competitive and jealous of each other. As the time came for their thesis, Eli chose an unusual topic – EOs – Extra Ordinary people with superpowers, who’ve so far been thought of as a rumor. Eli’s professor is confused and disproving, and Victor becomes quite jealous because he hadn’t thought of it first.
While Eli decides to raise the stakes, and prove the existence of EOs by turning himself into one, Victor injects himself in this experiment out of jealousy and spite and decides to do the same. The rumor is that only a near-death experience can cause such a trauma, which gives the survivors a supernatural power, and forever changes their lives. After a few unsuccessful attempts, both of them succeed. But, Victor’s transformation goes horribly wrong and an innocent life is lost, and Eli turns that to his own gain and makes the ultimate betrayal.
Years later, Victor is in prison thinking only of revenge, and when he hears rumors of a hero, saving ‘normal’ people from the evil EOs, he knows exactly who that man is. So he breaks out of jail and goes hunting. Two former best friends are now mortal enemies, bent on each other’s destruction, no matter the cost.
I knew I’d love the writing, because I already know Schwab writes well, but I was a little concerned because this isn’t one of my favorite themes. Honestly, it it were written by another author, I’d never have read it. But I gave it a chance and Vicious didn’t disappoint me, but it didn’t exactly wow me either. It had all good elements: the writing, the interesting characters, the supernatural twists and turns, but at moments the plot felt a bit dry. Maybe it’s my dislike of the superhero story-line, maybe it really lacked something, I don’t know. I did like how perfectly the two story-lines flowed together – the past and the present.
I cared for Victor, and one or two of the side-characters, but not too much. Not like, for example, Kell and Lila in Schwab’s Shades of Magic series. Nevertheless, it was interesting to discover who has what kind of power and what they can do with it. That was the most interesting part, and why I gave Vicious 4 stars and not 3. In many ways, Vicious reminded me of X-men (Which I love, but comics and older movies.), or, to be precise, one part of them. A good question is raised – if you woke up with a superpower one day, how would you use it? For good or evil? Or for yourself? Do you take into consideration that all your actions will have consequences, or do you ultimately only care for yourself and your goals? Both Victor and Eli were corrupted before they got their powers. They were too ambitious, jealous, overconfident and malicious, or exactly like the title says -Vicious. And when they gained these god-like abilities it only got worse.
“I want to believe that there’s more. That we could be more. Hell, we could be heroes.”
Well, in Vicious they couldn’t. But there’s still hope for Victor, who did show a better side of himself, so hopefully we’ll see some of that in Vengeful, but the title doesn’t give me much hope. What does give me hope is that there’s much more left to explore in this subject, and that Schwab will do it justice. Overall, I did like this novel, and I will read the sequel, because it expertly explores the best part (For me.) of the superhero tale – the sense of moral which goes with powers that great, and what happens if you lose it, or if you lack morality in the first place. Are you a superhero, or a villain? Or something in between?
Victoria “V.E.” Schwab is the #1 NYT, USA, and Indie bestselling author of more than a dozen books, including Vicious, the Shades of Magic series, and This Savage Song. Her work has received critical acclaim, been featured by EW and The New York Times, been translated into more than a dozen languages, and been optioned for TV and Film. The Independent calls her the “natural successor to Diana Wynne Jones” and touts her “enviable, almost Gaimanesque ability to switch between styles, genres, and tones.”