… Well, oh boy. Where to begin with this one? I’m not sure how it happened, but somehow I managed to get my hands on an advanced copy of my most anticipated book of the year and sequel to one of my all-time favourites. And I devoured it, because, as is the way with Victoria Schwab, Vengeful was impossible to put down.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. This has not affected my review in any way (because, let’s face it, I was always going to love this book).
Disclaimer #2: THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR VICIOUS. But will contain no spoilers for Vengeful itself.
But there was, it turned out, a crucial difference between destroying things and destroying people.
Vengeful is the second book in V. E. Schwab’s Villains series, which I sure as hell am hoping is going to become a trilogy, because I need more of these characters. Like Vicious, this is a story about people with ExtraOrdinary abilities (EOs), rivalry, revenge, and power.
The events of Vicious left Victor, an EO with the power to inflict pain, dead and buried, and Eli, his best-friend-turned-enemy with the power to heal himself, being arrested for Victor’s murder. Keeping us waiting just a little longer before we learn what’s happened to Victor and Eli, Vengeful begins by introducing us to a brand new character, and one who’s ready to give Victor and Eli a run for their money: Marcella Riggins, wife of Merit mob boss Marcus Riggins. Marcella is ruthless, bloodthirsty, and will stop at nothing to become more powerful. And when she dies and gains the ability to ruin things by touching them, the city of Merit is once again in danger.
“You’re nothing without me… I made you, Marcus… I will unmake you.”
The narrative in Vengeful jumps between several different time periods: while the main conflict of the story takes place five years on from the events of Vicious, the story also fills us in on what has happened to the characters in the years in between, while Eli has been detained at a special facility for EOs and Victor, on-the-run with Sydney and Mitch, has discovered that he’s not been quite right since Sydney brought him back from the dead. We’re also introduced to another new character, June, a mysterious EO with the ability to shapeshift, who is intrigued by Victor when she realises that he, like her, has an ability.
The characters are really the highlight of this book. Marcella is both terrifying and awe-inspiring, June is intriguing and nuanced, and Sydney is starting to grow up, and is still dealing with the death of her sister while learning to strengthen her powers. On the subject of Sydney, I’ll also mention that her arc is one of my favourite parts of this book. With the power to reincarnate the dead, Sydney has always been an interesting character, but this book sees her come into her own and gives her a chance to grow.
Another highlight of this book is the suspense and thriller-y vibe throughout. There are some fantastic scenes in this book, and some intense life-or-death situations that had me unable to put the book down for even a second. I actually thought there were some almost Hannibal-eque vibes in parts of the book, partly because of Victor and Eli’s antagonistic but in some twisted way, incredibly close relationship, and partly because of some of the scenes that I won’t describe in detail, because I don’t want to spoil it (although I’d love to hear if anyone else feels the same!).
Eli didn’t know how he was broken, but he wanted to be healed. He wanted to be saved.
Going into this book, I wondered where the story would go next. Clearly, Eli and Victor’s rivalry wasn’t over. But I didn’t realise just how much Schwab was going to build out the story and the characters, and how much more there was to explore, including Eli’s backstory, which, yes, actually managed to make me feel for Eli and made him a much more interesting, and frankly, damaged character. This book does a great job of drawing out how morally grey each of the characters are – while we may have spent the first book rooting for Victor, things are far less clear this time around.
The one challenge I had going into this book was the non-linear narrative (and I can bet that this was an even bigger challenge for Schwab writing it). At first, it was a little tricky to get a handle on exactly when a scene was occurring, meaning I spent a bit of time flicking back to check whether a scene happened two weeks ago or two years ago, and where the other characters would have been at this time. However, I quickly got used to this, and actually, it just added to the mystery and worked to the story’s advantage.
I could talk for days about all the reasons I loved this book, from the snappy dialogue, to the characters, to the way Schwab writes action. In short, if you liked Vicious, you’ll love what Vengeful adds to the story.
Please, please, Schwab, I need another book in this series!
“He doesn’t know how patient you are,’ he said, ‘Doesn’t know you like I do.'”
Eli cleaned the blood from his hand.
“No,” he said softly. “No one ever has.”