Review: Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Vicious (Villains, #1)

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy/Science Fiction

Publisher: Tor Books

Length: 371 pages

Date(s) Read: April 10-12, 2019

Date Published: September 2013 (Reprint May 2018)

My rating: ★★★☆☆

Goodreads Synopsis: “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.”

Review: Vicious, for me, was a very quick read. Given that the book I read prior to this took me a whole week, that this took me only two days was a great refresher. It’s a fun and exciting read; one that would be great to pick up for getting out of a reading slump.

My only major complaint about Vicious is that there wasn’t enough. I wanted more. A lot of it felt very surface-level and while I don’t mind a fun, plot-driven story, after seeing so many 5-star reviews for this book I was hoping for something with a little more depth to it. There’s a lot of things that have potential, but aren’t dived into as much as they could have been, and I think if this book had been given an extra 50-100 pages, it could have been that much stronger. The only characters that really have any depth are Eli and Victor, and even they could have been more fleshed out in my opinion. That said, I immensely enjoyed them and their dynamic, and I loved Victor’s dynamic with Mitch and Sydney respectively (as well as the glimpses we got of the relationship between Sydney and Mitch) but I still wanted more because it wasn’t quite enough.

My secondary criticism is about the beginning where there’s a thesis seminar for all the science majors together. That would never happen. A biology professor wouldn’t have the expertise to authorize a chemistry major’s thesis on polymers or a physics major’s thesis on nanoparticles. Also, pre-med isn’t a major, it’s a professional track. Now, I may be a little too nitpicky about this, but as someone who has a degree in physics, it was a difficult detail for me to overlook. After freshman year my classes never overlapped with biology or chemistry or engineering majors except for in general education courses. But, again, I know I’m probably in the minority for this complaint and it doesn’t take up so much time so it was easy to get past it.

The idea of a superhero story in novel format worked really well here. I loved the anti-hero and anti-villain setups, and the fact that the background between Eli and Victor as roommates and close friends. The pace of the plot is pretty unforgiving for developing their relationship further than roommates and sort-of-friends. That said, the simplistic writing style— while occasionally guilty of superficiality— worked extremely well as far as keeping me turning the pages.

There were places in the story that I was so sure this was going to be a 5-star read for me. I mean that in a good way, of course. There are some examinations— perfunctory examinations but better than nothing— about what it means to be a hero or a villain. Do intentions matter, or only actions? The question is posed, but never really answered concretely. But I sort of like that it’s left a little vague. Regardless of whether Victor’s a hero or villain, I couldn’t help but find myself rooting for him.

This book was fun. It was essentially pure entertainment, it didn’t really make me think and it didn’t draw any strong emotions out of me, but I still found myself turning the pages and wanting to know what would happen next. It was exactly what I needed when I picked it up, and though I do have my criticisms of it, I enjoyed it immensely so it gets a solid 4.0 star rating from me.

2 thoughts on “Review: Vicious by V.E. Schwab

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