“Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.”
I can’t remember the last time I had the pleasure of writing two consecutive five-star reviews. It’s been an exciting few days! I actually received an 100-page preview of Vicious a few months ago and picked it up with absolutely zero expectations. Then, suddenly, I was catapulted into a world that did more than keep the promises of the blurb – A masterful, twisted tale of ambition, jealousy, betrayal, and superpowers, set in a near-future world – but also introduced me to a memorable cast of characters, an exciting plot, and some of the most addictive writing I’ve ever read.
Schwab’s other books never appealed to me but I suddenly find myself wanting to see if all her writing is like this. Some books just have that spark. It’s a compulsive readability in the writing style; it demands to be read; it demands that you keep turning pages like a crazy person. You can’t really explain or define it, you can only point to examples of where it exists. And it exists here. Everything about this book draws you in: the characters, the plot, the way the book moves fluidly from past to present… everything. I can’t tell you how much Vicious surprised me, and I can’t find words to explain just how exciting, gripping and beautifully twisted it is. But I shall try.
Vicious falls into the adult/new adult category as opposed to young adult. To break it down simply, this is a story about superheroes and supervillains and how it isn’t always so easy to tell which is which. Victor questions at one point (paraphrased because I lost the quote): “people are calling Eli a hero. If he’s a hero and I want to destroy him, what does that make me?” It’s all about the ambitions, the betrayals and the jealousies of people who are far too clever for their own good. People who work together to obtain power but whose friendship is torn apart by said power. The characters – including the protagonist – all have dark sides hiding beneath their calm, collected exteriors. Perhaps this will put some readers off, but I was absolutely fascinated by the exploration of the fine line between the good guys and the bad guys.
The story is split between the present and ten years ago. The present tells of Victor, an escaped convict, who is determined to find his old friend-turned-enemy and deal out the revenge that is burning inside him. Flash back to ten years ago and Victor is a bright, young university student who is practically inseparable from his best friend – Eli. When Eli proposes a plan to discover whether EOs (Extra-Ordinaries) exist, he and Victor become partners in a scheme that will take them to hell and back and maybe, just maybe, grant them supernatural abilities. I adored the complex friendship between the two men that hovered somewhere between admiration and bitter jealousy and how this developed as they grew and became more obsessed with power and their own view of right and wrong.
I loved Vicious, I really did. I’d easily consider it one of my favourite novels of 2013 and probably the one that surprised me most. It’s just a wild and addictive story with no throwaway characters. Everyone in the book has their own problems to face, especially when it comes to some of the moral struggles that go with having godlike powers. I can’t wait for more people to read it.