A masterful tale of ambition, jealousy, desire, and superpowers.
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?
Superpowers? Villains? Old college roomies with a vendetta? I was sold the first time I read the blurb. Add to that the gorgeous cover, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this book. I’ve had more than enough time to reflect since I’ve read it now, so let’s dive straight in.
(tiiiiny spoilers ahead – consider yourself warned)
You’re smart enough to read the blurb, so I’m not going to repeat the details, but basically Victor and Eli only have eyes for each other and are locked in some sort of epic battle for no particular reason other than their personal vendetta against each other. Okay, there are also some murders, but neither of them really cares. There are no heroes here, but since we need someone to sympathize with, one of the two is slightly less messed up than the other one. I think. I love the premise, but I had some problems with the execution. Eli and Victor are fledling scientists, and they come up with a theory to trigger superpowers. So far so good, but something goes horribly, horribly wrong.
As you might have guessed if you’ve ever tried meditating to learn how to fly after watching Gohan teach Videl in Dragonball Z (don’t worry if that sentence just made no sense to you, we can’t all be wannabe superheroes), they soon try to gain superpowers themselves. ONLY IT MADE NO SENSE. They’re supposed to be scientists, yet none of the methods they used were scientific AT ALL. They just completely disregard adequate safety measures, protocol, control groups, ANYTHING THAT REMOTELY RESEMBLES SCIENCE. And don’t tell me it’s because they had to do it in secret either; they’re smart kids, they could have figured it out.
ANYWAYS, I liked the plot in general. It was a bit slow, and I feel like more could have happened, but I also feel like it might have just been the style of the book, if that makes sense.
YES. I loved them! And if I didn’t love them, I REALLY hated them, which speaks for the writing. I absolutely adored Victor’s little band of ragtag misfits. From the girl who’s on the run and hiding a very special superpower to the man who looks like the muscle of the group and IS the muscle of the group but ALSO a brilliant hacker. Oh, and there’s a dog. Just thought I’d throw that in there, because who doesn’t like dogs? They’re so much better than cats. THEY ARE, FIGHT ME. (I actually like cats too, but I feel like there are slightly more crazy cat people than crazy dog people, so I’ll stick with dogs.)
I didn’t care for Eli, but I wasn’t supposed to, so that’s perfect. He was sort of the main villain if that applies here, BUT I actually disliked Serena, his sort of girlfriend, much more. You’ll see why, trust me. However… I really liked Victor. Like, REALLY. He’s kind of a bad person who doesn’t particularly care about people being murdered though. I’M SORRY I DON’T KNOW WHAT HAPPENED. I think it was his badass power and blond hair and… I don’t know, I just imagine him looking really cool in the movie version of the book that played in my head while I was reading? I think my priorities might be slightly messed up. And I also sort of identified with him… oops? Not sure what that says about me. His ACTIONS aren’t really always so bad though, so… Clearly it’s fine and not at all problematic.
Basically, I read the first sentence, and decided I’ll like this book. Here it is, for your convenience.
Victor readjusted the shovel on his shoulder and stepped gingerly over an old, half-sunken grave.
It’s just such a badass way to start a story. Also funny, but that’s probably just my twisted mind. When a novel begins with a character planning to dig up a body while humming to himself, you wanna stay along for the ride.
V.E. Schwab also treats time in a very unique way – the book isn’t chronological at all, but all the time hops don’t really get confusing, because you do have a continuous golden thread that IS chronological. Technically, there are a lot of flashbacks, but they’re more like a parallel plot in the past than your regular snapshot flashbacks. Time is a fluid, slippery thing in Vicious, but it all leads up to something epic.
I generally liked the author’s writing style. It was slightly too slow for me in some parts, but overall it was really atmospheric, if not to say cinematic. I never really imagine books like movies in my head, but with this book I just had very clear scenes in mind while reading it. I hear the movie rights have been sold already, and I’m not surprised in the slightest. With the right people for the project, this is going to make one smashing movie. They just better cast a good Victor Vale.
I think I initially rated this three or three and a half stars on goodreads (which still means it was a solid book in my rating system), because I had to push myself to keep reading for a bit there, but I’ve since upped it to four. It’s one of those books that stays in your head, and the vivid images really deserve four stars. Also, Victor. Did I mention Victor? (Side note: This is, apparently, also an adult book, but it kind of felt YAish to me. Maybe because the characters are in college for a large chunk of the book. I feel like this is what New Adult would be if New Adult wasn’t being marketed as mainly romance.)