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Vicious (Villains #1) by V.E. Schwab Review

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Vicious is a fantasy and science fiction novel written by V.E. Schwab and was published in 2013.  It's the first book in the Villains series.

A synopsis:


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.

What I Liked:

  • Strong character development. 
  • This isn't a good vs. evil kind of book.  At a point in the book one of the characters says "There are no good men in this game" and that sums up the characters.  I've heard other reviewers say they couldn't enjoy this book because none of the characters are "good".  That's true, but that's also what makes them interesting.  They may all be bad, but they all have their motivations and at one point or another they are all sympathetic.  You care about the characters and you understand their positions, because they have reasons to behave the way they do, whether you agree or not.  The classic good vs. evil stories are boring and uninspired.  The characters walk in this grey area, but it's closer to what people in these positions would do and that makes them relatable.
  • The bond between the two main characters was intriguing, I was picking up some series "Interview with the Vampire" vibes.
  • The writing is very... cinematic.  It jumps off the page and into your mind in bright colors.
  • The story unravels at a decent pace and there aren't really any slow points.  It is a bit of a slow burn at times but never uninteresting.

What I Didn't Like:

  • The story has a nice pace, but there aren't that many major story moments that are memorable.  I could probably spend 2 or 3 minutes telling you what the book was about, there aren't many major events.
  • One of the side characters has an ability that changes everything in story and you almost stop worrying about what will happen to everyone else.

Conclusion and rating:

I liked the characters and the positions they took were thought provoking.  Should people with these abilities even exist?  Who gets to decide?  The world they live in is enthralling and the characters are all strong with their own backstories.  The writing is bright and vivid.  I like anti-heroes and characters that aren't perfect, they live in the middle and struggle with being put in a category and that makes them relatable.  The abilities and how they are acquired was really neat.  The story unraveled at a nice pace, but I would have liked more major events to have taken place.  The climax makes sense but it was a little bit of a bummer, but the last line put a smile on my face.

Rating: 3.5 near death experiences out of 5


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