To begin, this is a good book. You should buy this book and subsequently read this book. But first, let’s talk about what it is and why this is a good book.
Background – Vicious is the story of two brilliant college roommates, Eli and Victor, who go on a quest to discover if super powers are real and if so, how to obtain them. The story takes place in two timelines: one 10 years in the past where the two work together to obtain their powers and the other in the present where Victor has just escaped jail (so you can probably guess how well the past section goes) and is ruthlessly planning the downfall of his once friend, Eli, with the help of his unlikely allies. The book slowly brings the two timelines together until the entire story moves into the present towards the end of the book.
What I love about this book – Vicious does an enormous number of things right. Both Eli and Victor are neither villains nor heroes as much as they are just boys trying to become something greater. Their stories have a gritty realism that takes the comic book style story and pulls it into the real world. Most characters are given love and attention (including the smaller side ones) and you get a really good look into most of the minds of the players in the game. Particular attention is given to Victor Vale, who I found was far from a normal protagonist. He is certainly an anti-hero but does not seem unnecessarily vehement or unpleasant given his circumstances.
The creative choices Schwab makes in the book stretched my imagination and fueled my curiosity to know more about her fantasy world. Most of the powers are unusual for superhero stories and the execution and versatility with which the characters use their powers would have kept me reading all by itself. In addition, the methods behind gaining powers are really well explored. There are some deep implications for how people get their powers and Schwab does an amazing job showing the change, for better or worse, that these people go through with their new found abilities.
Finally, the book as a whole is really well-written. The prose is excellent and the plot is well-paced. While short by fantasy standards, it is very fulfilling and fully written. I appreciated how contained and streamlined Victor and Eli’s story was. There is a ton of room for Schwab to continue the story and world, but Victor and Eli’s stories come to a satisfying close.
What I did not love about this book – Not much. As I said, I give this book a pretty positive recommendation. There were only two problems I had with the story. First, Schwab spends a good deal of time in the book telling us that Eli is a monster in a mask and not enough time showing us. That is not to say, ample evidence of Eli’s inner darkness wasn’t provided, but I would have liked to see a little less “he has something dark inside” and a little more of that darkness surfacing. Second, I would have liked to know slightly more about the reaction of the police in the story who were confronted with super powered humans. I was very curious about their thoughts on two demigods going to town on one another, but there is always room for it in future novels.
The Verdict – My verdict for Vicious is that upon finishing the book, I immediately purchased Victoria Schwab’s other series, A Darker Shade of Magic. She is an incredibly talented writer and I hope you all pick up a copy of this book when you have a chance.