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.
ReviewBook Hangover Alert!
Although The Archived by Victoria Schwab has been on my radar since last year, Vicious is my very first Schwab novel.
She has earned her spot on my "Automatic-Read" list. The Automatic-Read list is a factious list inside my head, containing the names of authors I completely trust. This means, if they come out with a new book, even if it's about astrophysics with a side of quantum mechanics, I am going to read it. So what does VICIOUS have that landed it on this prestigious (It's not the Giller, or the Man Booker but it's the most important list to me) list?
Requirement Number One: You need a great cast of characters
I don't care if your plot has never been done before, or your book sends out a deep message; if your characters don't annoy me, you're off to a good start. A lot of times I have trouble reading about "smart" main characters because they come off as condescending, which leads me not wanting to hear the story they have to tell. But Victor, although smart, is one rung below his ex-best-friend, Eli, which makes his story much more engaging. I'm so tired of main characters written with the same formula: Kind, honest, average-Joe finds out he is the only person who can save the world because he has this abnormal power. Thankfully, Victor was Cinderella who ended up missing the ball, because he starts off the book with the short end of the stick. This makes his character worth reading, because he gets to display emotions that are often neglected in stories: jealousy, resentment, and regret. Never have I wanted a main character to get his happy ending, than I did with Victor.
Coming off reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane, I didn't think I was going to encounter an awesome kid character quite so soon. Although Sidney isn't as young as Lettie from Ocean, Sidney was just as mysterious, and equally fierce. She gave off a sense of mystique and calmness, but her calmness hides a storm, which means I was sitting on the edge of my seat, waiting for the moment she would unleash her wraith on her enemies. >:)
If you are looking for a great set of characters, I highly recommend X-Men: First Class (especially since the relationship between Eric and Charles is a mirror image of Eli and Victor's.) If you are looking to read about smart, actually-get-things-done kid characters, I highly recommend the manga series Detective Conan (Case Closed). Ai Habara (Sherry) is almost exactly how I pictured Sidney.
Requirement Number Two: A great mood/atmosphere.
Although set in the present, where everything is about being flashy and going at break-neck speed, Vicious managed to bring in elements of from the Victorian London era. The mood of the story can give Frankenstein a run for his money. I think setting the flashbacks in a grande Victorian-style university really gave the story for a vintage feel. Especially when the story deals with the ExtraOrdinaries, Vicious did a good job making the story feel historical, rather than urban fantasy. This gave this book major props because urban fantasy is not my cup of tea, but sophisticated historical fantasy is.
If people are looking to reading books with a similar feeling, I recommend The Madman's Daughter, or The Monstrumologist
I'm trying very hard not to start jabbering about all the plot points in this novel, because I have so many things I loved about this book. Although marketed as an Adult novel, I can see many YA fans reading this. Because of the flashbacks that bring readers back to good ol' university time, this book actually read more like a YA book to me.
P.S.: Click here to read about the VICIOUS' cover design process.