“Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.”
I discovered V. E. Schwab for the first time almost exactly a year ago, and completely fell in love with her work when her Shades of Magic trilogy became one of my all-time favourite book series. Since then, I’ve been catching up with Victoria Schwab’s other books, most recently, Vicious!
Vicious is a paranormal/science fiction story about what happens when two college roommates decide to investigate the relationship between near-death experiences and supernatural abilities. The main characters are Victor and Eli, both smart, arrogant, and ambitious, and when their research escalates to dangerous practical experimentation, their friendship is torn apart by a combination of jealousy, loss and betrayal, turning them into enemies who’ll stop at nothing to see each other fall. This is a story about what happens when superpowers don’t create superheroes, but instead, something closer to villains.
“All Eli had to do was smile. All Victor had to do was lie. Both proved frighteningly effective.”
A combination of the writing style, the characters and the pacing made this book a delight to read. The plot is so gripping that I finished the book in less than two days, and the story is filled with intrigue, surprise, and originality.
The best thing about this book is the morally grey nature of the main characters. V. E. Schwab subverts the trope of bright young men gaining superpowers to become heroes, and instead looks at the dark side of what can happen when ambition, power and intelligence meet.
Victor is interesting because he knows he’s not a hero. He’s an outsider from the start, and there’s a bitterness and jealousy to his character that he makes no effort to hide. Despite this, Victor doesn’t every feel like an unlikable character. He’s interesting, troubled, and definitely not a hero, but he’s intriguing, and in some ways, relatable.
Eli meanwhile, is a less likable character in my opinion, but is equally intriguing. Unlike Victor, Eli hides the dark side of his personality, manipulating those around him to appear heroic, leading something of a double life.
The writing, as ever when it comes to Victoria Schwab, is near-flawless. She knows when to set a scene, when to stage a reveal, and how to craft a complex and believable relationship between two characters. The writing is to-the-point, with poignant and snappy quotes where appropriate. The writing is never flowery or difficult, with descriptions kept to a minimum, making this an accessible, easy-to-read and refreshing science fiction novel.
This is a fantastic, gripping and original read, brought to life by intriguing characters who induce a whirlwind of emotions. I’d recommend this for any fans of Schwab’s work, and for anyone looking for a sci-fi/paranormal read that’s a little out-of-the-ordinary. If you like a book with flawed and complex characters, then this is the one for you. And the best news is that the sequel to Vicious is due to be released in late 2018: I can’t wait to see what these characters do next.