Book Review: “Vicious”

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Courtesy of Tor Books

Reporter Eirini Schoinas reviews the 2013 book “Vicious.”

Eirini Schoinas

V.E. Schwab’s novel “Vicious” brings a comic-book-style world to life. However, in this world, gaining superpowers rarely leads to heroism.

“Vicious” is a story of ambition, power and revenge that unfolds between two highly competitive college friends, who eventually become archenemies. 

Eli and Victor started out as college roommates with a shared theory that near death experiences led to the development of supernatural abilities. When they put their thesis to the test and it turns out to be true, things go terribly wrong. Despite both Eli and Victor now having superpowers, Victor is forced to take the fall. 

Ten years later, Victor has broken out of prison and is determined to hunt Eli down, since he believes it was Eli’s fault that he was incarcerated. Meanwhile, Eli, believing every superpowered person is evil, is working to eradicate them. With both now having found and allied with other superpowered individuals, a deadly showdown is inevitable. 

The novel follows two main timelines and includes a number of other backstories throughout. The different timelines were definitely a strength; there was almost always something interesting going on in the book, even when the overarching storyline was moving more slowly. 

The powers that the characters possess, while not unique to comic books, felt fairly refreshing in this novel. One character, for example, is able to force anyone to bend to her will, seemingly with very little limitations. However, she can never turn this power off, which causes her much misery. This, along with other characters’ powers, seemed somewhat unhinged and had both immense possibility and personal consequence. 

Often, books with no romance bore me, but that was definitely not the case with this book. The characters were all well-developed and well fleshed out due to the fact that they each get a fairly in-depth backstory. None of the characters are necessarily good people, but the complexity and lack of a hero forces you to side with a villain. Personally, I think this makes the book even more compelling. The author does not present a moral lesson, but instead allows the reader to explore the individual moral conflicts of the characters. This character-focus and the depth of character development is a major part of what makes the novel so intriguing.

All in all, I really enjoyed reading this book. The characters kept me consistently interested, and the story felt unique compared to many of the other books I’ve read. If you’re ever looking for a book to read, I definitely recommend “Vicious.”