Vicious by V.E. Schwab
Published September 24th, 2013 by Tor
A masterful, twisted tale of ambition, jealousy, betrayal, and superpowers, set in a near-future world.
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?
**An ARC was provided by Tor Books in exchange for an honest review.**
Vicious truly was a book unlike any I've ever read before. This was my first experience with Victoria Schwab - despite having wanted to read The Archived since before it even came out - and I can say with complete certainty that I will be reading everything else this brilliant lady will ever write. Vicious was compelling, dark, addictive and beyond clever. The story stayed with me at all times when I wasn't reading it and once I was done, it just stayed with me for days and days afterwards. I'd find myself musing over certain twists and the truly unforgettable characters, which I consider to be quite the feat!
Vicious is a tale of revenge that is flawlessly woven within a ten year time span. The narrative goes back and forth between the present and the past in a way that is addictive and exciting, never confusing or labored. The way the story is put together is truly a feat of sheer genius on Schwab's part and I don't think anyone could have done it better. HUGE props to her for pulling it off anyway, it could have easily been disastrous but it was executed to perfection. I was honestly shaking my head when it was all over, just reeling over all of it.
The characters are another aspect of Vicious that made it stand out. There are no 'true' heroes in this tale - at least, not in the way you'd expect. The story is told in alternating POV's which mostly centers around Victor & Eli. Neither of these characters were especially relatable; or even sympathetic, I was surprised by how quickly I became immersed in their world. As the both become obsessed with EO's or extra-ordinaries - people who survive near-death experiences and somehow develop super-human abilities, their darkest ambitions and truest natures come to the surface in a way that is both chilling and engrossing. It was like witnessing the start of a horrible accident and not being able to turn away - not even for a second. And I mean that in the best possible way!
The delicious plot & intricate pacing had me glued to the pages right from the start and the more I read the more I needed to know the outcome. I was surprised at how much empathy I felt for one of the MC's and his entourage. With all of the horrible things that were done throughout this story: murders, betrayals, torture, violence and conniving, these characters still came off as entirely human in some way, shape or form. Sure they were despicable and scary at times, but their humanity remained. They all felt that they were doing the right thing and when you understood their pasts and their reasoning for doing the things they did, it was impossible not to feel invested in it all.
If I had to sum up Vicious in one word it would be: stirring. This is the kind of tale that lingers in your mind, both when you're not reading it and once all is said and done. Almost a week has gone by now and I still find myself going back to certain scenes in my head. The EO powers are certainly something very new which was refreshing. Despite some super-human abilities, this story reads more like realistic fiction than straight up paranormal story. Everything seemed so plausible throughout, and the way certain individuals ended up with their specific power was super eery! I'd recommend Vicious to adult readers looking for a delicious revenge story or fans of Victoria Schwab.