Review: Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Vicious by V.E. Schwab13638125

Published: September 24th 2013 by Tor
Format/Source: ARC from BookExpo America
Genre: Adult Science Fiction/Paranormal
Pages: 368


A masterful, twisted tale of ambition, jealousy, betrayal, and superpowers, set in a near-future world.

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.


Once upon a time there was a girl in shock over the ever-book-lovin’-goodness of Book Expo America in NYC. She managed to find herself in line for Holly Black’s signing of The Coldest Girl in Coldtown Advanced Reading Copies. As she’s standing in line, the person in front of her keeps having people coming up to her to take pictures and to chat. The girl begins to wonder, who is this person standing in line?

That girl was me and that person was Victoria Schwab, a few hours before her own signing of Vicious ARCs. I admit, I had never heard of her before or her books, but I was new to the whole being a lucid reader/educated bookie (the book-lovin’ kind, not the gambling kind). Let’s call it fate, as much as Victor would hate to say such a thing, because really, I found a great book that day.

Vicious is an adult super-villain tale. I feel like that alone makes it stand out. I have mentioned before that I am not a comic book person. I do not read comic books. In fact, I have not seen most of those incessant superhero movies that keep coming out. The only one I’ve watched is The Green Lantern (which I know isn’t even the best one). No Superman, Batman, Iron Man, Fantastic Four, X-Men, and whatever other freak movies there are out there for me. It’s strange, I know but I digress.

I want to make it clear that you do not have to be a comic book or superhero fan to enjoy this book. The first chapter is enough to make it the perfect autumn read.

“The shovel was almost as tall as she was. A few days shy of her thirteenth birthday, and even for twelve and eleven twelfths, Sydney Clarke was small. She had always been on the short side, but it certainly didn’t help that she had barely grown an inch since the day she’d died.” (Quote from an ARC to be checked against a finished copy.)

It is sentences like that one that are so matter-of-fact and yet so spooky it really makes the reader in me start jigging with happiness. In fact, perhaps I took longer with this book than I might have because I wanted to make sure I didn’t rush through it.

Vicious is written with short chapters that vary from third person point of views. Each chapter leads to the next easily though, as each chapter explains something from the past one that then lays the foundation for the next. It helps build a complete and fulfilling story without rushing through it.

So at quick glance, the reasons why I really liked Vicious:

  • The characters are multi-dimensional and not necessarily black and white. There’s a lot of gray and doubt that is created that makes it a solid read.
  • The ending was complete. There is no annoying cliffhanger for a sequel. I read it, I felt completely satisfied.
  • It is a book that stays with you for a while after reading it. I admit, I was going to award this book four stars for, “I really liked it,” but when I found myself still thinking about it while driving, then it got bumped to five, “It’s amazing.” I want a book to do that to me.
  • It has the right level of creepy without being over-dramatic.

I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who is looking for an entertaining, supernatural and perfect-for-Halloween-or-really-anytime book.

My rating: 5/5


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