Vicious, by V.E. Schwab | Book Review

How I Found This Book:

There are few places that give me solace like a bookstore (especially during an ongoing pandemic). It is at the bookstore where I can navigate thousands of worlds and hundreds of planets. I can dive into the past, touch upon the future, and in a lot of moments, go to a world far beyond my own. The smell of paper wafts through my nose and it brings peace and tranquility. That is how it felt to me a few days after Christmas. I had just gotten a few gift cards that allowed me to go through the bookstore without any restrictions or financial responsibility. I had no intentions that day on buying any specific book; just go in and see what popped out at me (even though my ‘to-be-read’ list has gotten way out of control). I went through the bookstore feeling impulses with certain books, but none I felt certain would give me gratification. Until I stumbled near the Science Fiction/Fantasy section. This is not a particular section I go near, as I am usually not comfortable with it (with the exception of the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series). Something about fantasy has never stuck well with me. It isn’t that those books aren’t written well or don’t have interesting stories to tell, the fantasy genre has just never been my forte. But just for the hell of it, I figured, why not? As suspected, nothing was speaking to me. Not until the end. There was a book tucked in the corner with a red spine in bright letters: “Vicious.” I picked it up and skimmed it. The summary gives just a tiny detail of what the book is actually about. So I checked Goodreads to see what that summary said; it gave just enough:

“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?”

This summary alone left me hooked. I decided I would take a chance. And so I did. 


Allow me to just say upfront that this book blew me away. First, the idea of college roommates developing powers of some kind was intriguing to me, not just because I am a college student myself so I could relate to it, but because of how true it is. Schwab writes with such excellence and beautiful prose that the entire time you have this book open, you are at Lockland University or in Merit. The entire world around you is gone; you inherit the powers of our two main characters: Victor and Eli.

This book is heavily character driven. Victor develops the power to take away pain–both his own and others. Eli has the ability to regenerate himself. There are other characters that are, as Schwab calls them, ExtraOrdinary (EO). All the characters that are EO’s have powers that I probably wouldn’t have thought of–another beauty of this novel. The majority of the time, the battle of Good v. Evil was never determined because as a reader, you cared about both Victor and Eli. This created a difficult scenario, but is one that caused me to keep reading page after page. I fell in love with the characters and was so impressed with Schwab’s ability to make me love them and hate them at different points of this book (and trust me, you will). 

Another point that I want to drive home is how philosophical this book is. Don’t get scared. It doesn’t make it a hard read, but it makes you think about certain issues. Some of the central points in her book are Good v. Evil, free will, morality, and ethics. I’m not sure if this is an intentional strategy on her part, but regardless, it’s an important part of her book. She subjectively includes major themes that are vital to the understanding of our own existence, which is why this book is partly so relatable. It also makes us question whether we would want to have our own powers. This is a part of her book that is quite honestly only for the reader to digest and understand themselves. 

Thankfully, once you finish this book, there is another one waiting for you. One that I have already bought as of this writing titled “Vengeful.” There is also reportedly a third book in what looks to be a trilogy. Regardless of how many books there are though, I will be remembering this particular book for a long time. I absolutely love the way V.E. Schwab writes and cannot wait to read more of her books after I devour the second novel in the trilogy.

You can buy V.E. Schwab’s book here. 

Featured Image can be found here.

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