Vicious – V.E. Schwab
Review by Jamie Adams
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 hidden possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could actually gain extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis inevitably moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.
Ten years later, Victor is breaking 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. Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other superpowered person he can find – aside from his own sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, spurred onward by the memory of betrayal and desperate longings, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge – but who will be left alive at the end? – Jacket copy.
This is not going to be a strictly traditional review. In a traditional review, I would tell you a little bit about the book, some of what I liked and what I didn’t, and overall who I thought this book might appeal to. When it comes to Vicious, I’m less inclined to think about what group of people might like to read it, because it doesn’t matter. You NEED to read this book.
I don’t have much to say about what I liked and didn’t, because there was nothing I didn’t like. Vicious is an excellent work, filled with compelling characters, gripping story, enticing secrecy and consuming questions about morality, mortality, power, corruption, and humanity. It’s a story that will sweep you off your feet and keep you up into the wee hours (cough, two a.m. on a work night) and lingers inside you even when the words no longer go on.
So why such high praise? After all, I have read probably a thousand books between age eight and now. My favorite books list is lengthy, mostly because I like everything I read equally save for a very few books that are far above the rest. Vicious is one of those books, and here’s the reason: it asks questions that can’t be answered, and then asks you to be okay with the eternal mystery.
What makes the things we consider right, right? In what ways does trying to do what’s right cause us to do wrong to someone else? If all things are right, does that mean none of them are? But then again, doesn’t something being right automatically make something else wrong? Who gets to decide?
Wrapped in the veils of adventure, experiments, and betrayal are questions that dig into the very roots of who we are, who we want to be, and what we believe. Most of the time, we like to avoid these questions where possible, because they awaken us to the unsettling fact that we are flawed, and we are unsure, and we are afraid. Vicious won’t let you dodge these realities anymore.
Can you enjoy it just for its brilliant writing, spectacular plot and epic showdown? Definitely. But don’t be surprised if something a little deeper than that takes root in you. Read this book.