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?
Vicious is a book of many villains, many timelines, and many perspectives. It switches between POVs of multiple characters, but fortunately I never had any trouble following the plot or distinguishing between voices.
I complain all the time about fantasy that is too black and white, and Vicious is the exact opposite. There are no heroes here, only different kinds of villains. I think there's just about one of every type of villain on Sheena's list here. In some ways, I think that was something of the downfall of the book – it's not that there weren't any sympathetic characters, or that I was confused about who to root for… I guess maybe there was too much gray, and so much exploration of concept. Those flaws don't make it a bad book, but they do keep it from being something I want to read over and over.
I know that's not the most glowing review in the world, but I actually do recommend the book. It was a quick and engrossing read, and it gave me quite a lot to think about, as a reader and as an author. Plus, it was all sorts of fun. If there's a sequel, I'm so there. Definitely recommended to anyone who enjoys a nuanced portrayal of heroism and villains.
Besides, who can resist a book with these official amazing trading cards? Again, I highly recommend clicking to get the full-size version.
As a side note, V.E. Schwab has the most amazing blurbs for her books. I want to read these ones ASAP:
A Darker Shade of Magic
Kell is one of the last Travelers--magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes--as such, he can choose where he lands.
There's Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, ruled by a mad King George. Then there's Red London, where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne--a place where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London...but no one speaks of that now.Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they'll never see--a dangerous hobby, and one that has set him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations, first robs him, then saves him from a dangerous enemy, and then forces him to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.
But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive--and that is proving trickier than they hoped.
Archived (YA, as Victoria Schwab).
Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.
Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.
Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often—violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.
Being a Keeper isn’t just dangerous—it’s a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da’s death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.
Have you read anything by V.E./Victoria Schwab? What are your favorite books about villains?