Vicious by V. E. Schwab

viciousVicious by V. E. Schwab, published in 2014 by Titan Books.

Author. Twitter. Goodreads. Amazon. Book Depository. Barnes & Noble.

Source: purchased.

Genre: paranormal (?) fantasy/sci-fi (?) (I’m useless at these… I don’t know why I bother.)

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? (Goodreads)


My rating: 5/5.

This is a great book. Go read it now.

Ok, I just wanted to get that out of the way. Vicious easily made its way onto the list of top five books I’ve read in 2014. I’ve read and loved Schwab’s The Near Witch and The Archived (you can read my review here) and I admire her writing so, so much. Vicious just confirmed that she can write for adults as well. I have to get my hands on The Unbound and I can’t wait for A Darker Shade of Magic to be published in 2015. Did I mention she’s only 27 and is a student as well as a writer? No? Well… I’m kind of in awe. Go follow her Twitter account as well, she’s great.

* * *

It seems to me like I’m always whining about the pacing in books – I either find the story too slow (like in Half Bad) or too fast (like in Illusions of Fate – review to come soon). But here, it was bloody well perfect. The switching between the past, the recent past and the present is done so masterfully I couldn’t help but rush forward, eager to find out more, to get more clues, to see how the tension would unfold. And I can tell you, there’s tension aplenty, and by the final third of the novel, I was practically bouncing up and down – and yet afraid to fly through the text too fast for the fear of missing a lovely piece of writing (there are plenty of those as well).

I’ve read books with a similar structure before – Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora (and sequels) are done in a similar manner, but Lynch’s prose is slower and more lyrical despite the story that flows beautifully. Schwab, however, attacks her story with surgical precision and has a clean, no-nonsense style that I can’t help but adore. Both are marvellous, don’t get me wrong, but totally different.

I fell in love with Victor – the villain, the hero, the undefineable, complex person that he is – from the start. I love how Schwab plays around and questions the morality of his and Eli’s choices, how their world seems black-and-white but is really a very blurry shade of grey. Other characters are lovely as well, fleshed-out but not too flashy to distract the reader from the main conflict, that of two best friends (though I find myself questioning this friend label in their case…) turned mortal enemies.

Gah. Can I get more gushy about this book? Possibly not, but let me just finish up by saying that I was terrified that the whole pressure-building technique was going to whet my appetite and that I was going to finish off the book, disappointed (as one often is) by a lackluster ending. That did not happen, people. Schwab delivers a fantastic finale and I really do recommend this book. To… to everyone, basically!


Have you read Vicious? Or anything else by Schwab? 

I’d love to discuss her work so comment away! :)

  • I’ve heard so many amazing things about this book, and your review has refreshed my want to read it. I haven’t read anything by this author, but I know that I am truly missing out. I must read SOMETHING of hers very soon. Great review! :)

    • Kaja

      Hi, Emily, thanks! :) Yeah, I’ve been seeing great reviews for Vicious as well, so I was really afraid of reading it (I don’t like hyped-up books too much, they tend to disappoint…). But it’s really great. You should definitely give Schwab a chance!