Book Review | Vicious by V.E. Schwab

V.E. Schwab has been one of my favourite discoveries of 2022. I was first introduced to her work through TikTok. A brief summary of Gallant popped up on my FYI feed and I immediately added the book to my online basket; regular readers will already be aware of my lack of self-control when it comes to Waterstones and my weakness for a standalone fantasy recommendation. I adored the gothic aesthetic of the twisted fairytale and went on to purchase The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue soon after. Again, I absolutely loved how it blends historical fiction, romance and fantasy into one hauntingly beautiful story. Next, I decided to pick up Vicious, book 1 in Schwab’s Villian series…

“But these words people threw around – humans, monsters, heroes, villains – to Victor it was all just a matter of semantics. Someone could call themselves a hero and still walk around killing dozens. Someone else could be labeled a villain for trying to stop them. Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.”

Victor and Eli are roommates at a prestigious college for exceptional minds. They are both incredibly ambitious, naturally curious, highly intelligent and somewhat arrogant. While they have contradictory beliefs with regard to faith, they respect each other academically and challenge one another to push boundaries with the hopes of achieving greatness. The connection between the two characters is wonderfully complex. It’s passionate, yet not sexual. They want to be ‘seen’ by the other. To be admired, respected and even feared.

When Eli decides to research into the possible existence of EOs (ExtraOrdinary people) for his senior thesis, both students become obsessed with the idea of seemingly normal people with supernatural abilities. Their hypothesis soon becomes experimental with devastating results. 10 years later, both Victor and Eli are embroiled in a dangerous game of cat and mouse; but who is the villain and who is the hero of our story?

Vicious flicks back and forth between timelines in short concise chapters which really made this book incredibly hard to put down. Schwab gives nods to traditional superhero tropes whilst pulling them apart to create something new and unexpected. I have always found the origin and motives of the villain more interesting than the hero’s crusade for justice (side note: if you do too, I highly recommend that you check out The Boys on Amazon Prime). Especially when their motives have some kind of warped logic. Vicious is a story fueled by revenge from the perspective of two killers. It’s fast-paced, thought-proving, dark and witty. I’m looking forward to picking up book two; Vengeful at the weekend and reading the conclusion of Victor and Eli’s twisted rivalry.

Vicious by V. E. Schwab is available here. (Affiliate link)