By: V.E. Schwab
Series: Villains #1
Published: September 24th, 2013
By: Tor Books
Genre: Adult – Paranormal – Sci Fi
Buy it: Book Depository
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?
In Vicious, V. E. Schwab brings to life a gritty comic-book-style world in vivid prose: a world where gaining superpowers doesn’t automatically lead to heroism, and a time when allegiances are called into question.
| Goodreads |
“Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.”
This was a super intriguing read from start to finish, I’m so glad I finally gave it a try, now I understand all the love the book receives. I adore the author so I knew that I would enjoy this story, it was kind of heavy at times, but still, I managed to enjoy the approach of the story, I adore the scientific elements, the characters are quite solid and complex & I love the dark atmosphere it has.
The book is about two college friends Victor & Eli. They’re brilliant young men united by ambition and their incredible minds. When the last year ar university arrives and they must present their thesis, Eli decides to focus on EOs or ExtraOrdinary, which are people who have special abilities. But what started as something theoretical ends up being something experimental and Victor, driven by his competitiveness, also decides to include himself in this dangerous project. The boys discover that an EO can be created by having a near-death experience, but by pushing themselves to the limit things end up going horribly wrong. In the present and 10 years after those events, Victor has just escaped from prison hungry for revenge, determined to find his old friend, and make him pay for what he has done to him. While Eli is on his own mission where he’s trying to eradicate all EOs from the face of the earth. Armed with incredible power from both sides they decide to finally have the battle they owe, but only one can come out of that alive.
The very plot of this book is brilliant to me, I really like how the author decides to play with a very intense dark academy style, full of morally gray characters that you can’t stop reading about. I think if I had to describe this book with a single word I would say INTENSE. It’s a plot with many strengths, I love that the chapters are short, that somehow makes it easier to read and feels more fluid, I mean, we need more short chapters in books, right? I also love jumps in time and how they’re handled, this is usually an aspect that I love to find in books, and this time it was excellently handled, it gives you a better perspective of what’s happening, how’s the relationship between the characters and the why of their actions. I love how the author gives us the information little by little, making us get more and more into the minds of each character even before knowing the whole truth, I really liked that! was a super-smart touch.
I really like how the superpower topic is handled in a quite realistic way, focused, and 100% scientifically. It’s a new face that can be given to the story of superheroes or supervillains and I liked it a lot. I think that makes the book unique, and shows you the cruelest and most ambitious side of the human being. I also love how atmospheric it is, we visit various urban places as the story progresses, but you always have that feeling of tension and almost uncomfortable, which shows how powerful the story is.
I was very interested in the relationship between Eli and Victor, I confess that I didn’t like Victor when I read about his younger self, I think he was too ambitious and competitive, almost selfish, and to see that side of him in such a raw way made me have a stronger empathy with Eli, but this certainly changes towards the ending when you know what’s happening in the present and what are the things that drive him to do so many cruel things. In this book there are no good characters, they all have a very large shadow over them, a terrible past that has molded them in darker ways, so they all fall into being “villainous”, which I like, it’s a book that portrays very well the cruelest side of the human being and what we’re capable of doing when we have that much power. Eli‘s driven by what he believes to be “divine principles”, and in his “madness” or “delirium” he believes that he’s the one chosen to end the EOs since he thinks that these people are no longer the same after going through a near-death experience, then he believes that he’s doing good, seeing himself as a hero, when in reality we can see that his actions are cruel and cold. Victor, on the other hand, I think it has always been the same way, and I think it continues to drive his hunger to want to be better than Eli, there’s a lot of competition happening between them, but this time he also feels a very heavy desire for revenge, also after going through his transition or “rebirth” he has lost the capacity for empathy and has become even colder. What I like about Victor’s character at the end is the relationship he establishes with Sydney & Mitch because I think that brings a lot of humanity to him.
Both characters, even with everything and their evil minds, are brilliantly constructed and very well thought out, despite the fact that this book has a great plot, I think the characters are what stands out the most due to their realism and intensity of personalities.
I personally love Sydney with all my heart, I feel very bad for her personal story, but I’m glad to see how she has become stronger over time and how despite having gone through traumatic moments that hasn’t changed her true self, and continues to be a super sweet and empathetic girl. Exploring his relationship with her sister Serena was incredible to me, it’s a very complex and toxic relationship, like all the relationships in this book lol, but so interesting to read and I was very intrigued to see what would happen to them towards the ending, and I must say that I’m pleased with the result. Mitch is another great character, I think he was meant to be secondary, but his personality is lovely, he has that rough man appearance but actually, I think he has a very sensitive side that puts feelings to the plot. Seeing the relationship between Serena and Eli was also very interesting, I think that Serena’s ability may be my favorite in the book because OMG, you can do everything with that power lol, but it also allows many things to happen.
I think that even though I really enjoyed the book and it has elements that make it highly intriguing and addicting, there were moments where it felt heavy, but that although it’s something I feel I should mention, it’s not something that has prevented me from enjoying its other incredible aspects. Personally, I enjoyed the second half and the ending of the book much more than the beginning, when you already understand everything that’s happening and it’s time for the confrontation you can feel a lot of tension and anticipation, which I love & I think after waiting so long for the grand finale, it was worth it, I think it could have been even more shocking and unpredictable, but I still liked it, I enjoyed it. Now I feel super excited to read the sequel, I don’t know what will happen, but I’m definitely intrigued.
I can recommend this book easily, I think it has graphic, bloody and intense content, so be very careful with that, above all, there are many situations of people losing their lives either wanting to do it or by murder, so if you’re sensitive regarding mutilations and that kind of thing I recommend discretion. Even so, leaving this aside, it’s a super-intelligent book that shows the dark side of the human being in an entertaining and unique way. I like that although this is a story that has supernatural elements, it’s not the main focus, but rather the minds and beliefs of the characters are explored and how they can be as powerful and dark as a superpower. There’s a lot of manipulation going on and there are no “good” characters, everyone in this story is a character that has been corrupted in some way and this will be reflected in their actions, and choices. Such brilliant work by the author, as usual, so I definitely recommend it.