What: Vicious (Vicious #1) by V.E. Schwab
When: September 24th 2013
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?
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.
Vicious is one of those books that really encompasses the art of storytelling. As most of you know, first person present tense is my favourite style of writing when it comes to reading books. I have actually, on occasion, found myself shying away from novels written in the third person. I feel as if that sometimes they are not as capable at capturing the emotions and motives behind a character and their actions. Well, Schwab must be the Queen of third person writing because the style in Vicious was superb.
One of the aspects of books that I critique and touch on in reviews, and that matters to me most as a reader is writing style. And whether or not that style engages me. There was no question of the opposite occurring when reading Vicious. I simply cannot describe to you how perfectly Schwab has told this story. Which brings me to my comment at the beginning of this review. Whilst reading Vicious I truly felt as if Schwab was a narrator in some old school comic book. And I could not be more in love with that. The way she weaved the story through this eccentric and unique writing was absolutely captivating, and left me wanting to read more, more, more of Vicious, and more of Schwab’s writing, as well. If you cannot tell already, the style in which Vicious was told was absolutely breathtaking.
As for the characters. VICTOR VALE. Uhm, someone please call the fiction-ambulance because I just lost my heart. All jokes aside, Victor is one of the most vivid and driven characters that I have had the pleasure of coming across in my fictional adventures. He is like a labyrinth; everything leads to his centre. And his centre is Eli Ever – who I will get to in a minute. The most surprising thing about Vicious is the way it really questions how we define ‘good’ and ‘evil’. And not only how we define it, but what constitutes each side of the coin, as well. Is it the reasons that the person in question has for doing the things they do; or is it how the greater population sees those reasons, and how they perceive them? What is essential good, and what is essential evil?
For example, is Victor a hero because he wants to rid the earth of Eli – who is killing innocent people with powers that could be used for evil? Or is Eli the hero of the story because he is ridding the earth of people with the capability of harming very ordinary humans? Or are they both evil because they both want the deaths of other beings? Or are they simply Victor and Eli, who have their own motivations for doing what they do? I think the latter is more accurate. I don’t think there is a clear definition of good and evil, or right and wrong, or hero and villain in Vicious. I think there are just people, and what they are willing to do to accomplish what they want. And that’s why this book is brilliant.
Back to the characters. Even though each character is only given a handful of chapters (besides Victor and Eli) which are only a handful of pages long, you really get to know them; understand them. I think there’s a kind of special style when an author can achieve that. Where you don’t need to know very last detail about a character to understand why they do what they do. To understand the lengths they will go to; or the things they care about. Every character in Vicious is as vivid as the next, and you are never left wondering what kind of person a character is; because Schwab has introduced you to their very depths.
I simply cannot implore you enough to read Vicious, if only for you to understand what I am talking about in this review. I know that it is one that I will think of often, and most definitely revisit.
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