If you want the conventional good guy vs. bad guy, superhero vs. super-villain, this isn’t that story. But if you’re looking for a thrilling read with complex characters, by all means I urge you to proceed!
In Vicious, V.E. Schwab takes us on a crazy journey into the lives of Victor Vale and Eli Cardale, who start out as brilliant and gifted college roommates in Lockland University. Their research on the possibility of ordinary individuals attaining superhuman abilities – appropriately termed as EOs (ExtraOrdinary) – as a result of adrenaline and near death experiences puts their lives on a dangerous course when they decide to test out their thesis.
10 years later, Victor breaks out of prison and sets out to hunt and destroy Eli, with the help of his cellmate Mitch Turner and a shy, young girl with a remarkable gift. Meanwhile, Eli is on a self-appointed quest to eradicate super-powered humans, except for his sidekick, a young woman with a dangerous ability to bend people’s will. This is a story about jealousy, ambition, betrayal and revenge. If you’re looking for heroes, you won’t find any here.
Vicious was an easy book to get into, but a difficult one to put down. It takes you by the shoulders and drags you into a well-formulated plot with memorable characters that leave you wanting more. The frequent flashbacks weren’t tedious, which can sometimes be the case, but Schwab has merged it so well with the story.
From the get-go, Victor and Eli are not exactly good friends but they’re drawn to each other. They’re intelligent, sharp and ambitious. What sets Eli apart is his charm while Victor is unsociable. Victor, however, believes that there is something evil lurking underneath Eli’s charisma. Their “friendship”, fragile as it is, comes to an end when Victor’s attempt at becoming an EO goes horribly wrong, an event that lands him in prison and convinces Eli to destroy as many EOs as he can find.
What’s unsettling about Victor and Eli is that they reveal the ruthlessness that humanity is capable of and how easy it is for them to justify their cause. They are unapologetically villainous and yet they have their redeemable moments. The supporting characters add to the complexity of their motivations and in a story that gives you no one to root for, you’d be surprised to find that you might have a few things in common with them, such as:
A fear of being forgotten? A fear of being mediocre? A desire for approval from someone we look up to?
Make your pick.
Have you read Vicious? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below!