Second Review for the day. Let’s go.
Customary warning: This is a reminder that these are my personal opinions. My thoughts and feelings are not your thoughts and feelings. I may not always be the target audience for a book; sometimes I am. If I do not like a book, that doesn’t mean you’ll dislike it. If I love a book or simply like a book, you may hate it. Take everything I say with this knowledge. If it sounds interesting to you despite what I’ve said, then go ahead and read it. You’ll only know you like something if you read it yourself.
That being said… Spoilers ahead.
Vicious by V.E. Schwab
Synopsis From The Book
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.
Fantasy – Heroes | A – A|Mass Murder, Abuse, Manipulation | Heroes and Villains, Psychopath and Sociopathy, Lies, Revenge
Initial Thoughts Before Reading:
After reading my first V.E. Schwab book last month, I knew there was no way I was going to sit back and not read any further books. My book club this month picked this book and I have heard so many good things about this novel.
All I know is that this book is dark. Like twisted dark. And I’m here for it. Super here for it.
I also know it’s a villain origin story, so that will be interesting. Let’s go!
Initial Thoughts After Reading:
OH MY LORD. This book had me so hype. Welcome to the first 5 of the year for me. I was sitting at the edge of my seat needing to talk to someone, anyone about this book, for the entire time I was reading it. I wanted to scream and cheer and yell and shout and I could not.
What happens in the second book? What can go wrong? What can go right? I have no clue but I need to know, need to see, need to keep going. AHHH
For a villain origin story, I don’t know what I expected. In a way I think, I thought there would be a lot less grey. But this book is all sorts of shades of grey and now I need to read all her other books. What has been stopping me? Goodness.
The novel is told in two parts with multiple timelines for each. The part has the present, the past, and Sydney. The second has Eli, Victor, Mitch, and Eli’s part. They are interwoven and to keep myself sane, I am going to separate them.
PART 1: Water, Blood, and Thicker Things
Ten Years ago:
Victor and Eli have been roommates since sophomore year when Victor was forced to get a new one. His first one had conveniently dropped out of school, and Eli replaced him. They had been inseparable ever since. Victor was a genius with the body and a pre-med student. Eli was an all american boy with something darker underneath. In Eli, Victor saw the same darkness that he had in his heart. Eli was dating Angie, Victors closest friend before Eli.
Their science seminar senior year tasks them with a senior thesis. Victor wants to study adrenaline responses and Eli decides to investigate EOs or ExtraOrdinary people.Eli takes his study to the point of realizing that NDEs (Near Death Experiences) are needed and Victor tries to test it. Victor goes first and ODs on booze and sleeping pills. He doesn’t flatline, and wakes in a hospital iritated that Eli didn’t wait. Eli is second. Eli freezes himself to death in a tub of ice water and Victor brings him back with three Epipens and chest compressions. Eli gets the power to heal himself. Victor immediately wants to try again and when Eli won’t help him, he turns to Angie.
Angie and Victor had a code that they abided by, where no questions were asked. Angie helps Victor to her lab and he convinces her to electrocute him until he dies. What happens is Victor gets an ability. It is the ability to give and take pain. Angie dies. Eli calls the police, and Victor escapes the police to confront Eli. he and Eli talk, and Victor stabs him. Eli shoots Victor and then calls for help, feigning panic with a straight face.
When Sydney was going to turn twelve, she and her sister, Serena, went out to have a picnic on the frozen lake. Only the lake collapsed beneath them and they died. They both also came back, and Serena never grew again. (Or rather not much, its very slowly). Sydney learns that she can raise the dead and a year after the accident she meets with her sister and her sist’er new boyfriend Eli. Sydney shows the two her power and then Eli tries to kill her saying its unnatural and against God. Sydney escaped and later found Victor.
The novel opens with Victor and a thirteen year old girl named Sydney, digging up a grave. Victor had recently escaped from jail, where he had been imprisoned for ten years. Five of those years were in solitary, four with other inmates, one with him finalizing his plan to escape. Two days before the grave digging, Victor and fellow escapee Mitch, found Sydney who had almost been killed. Sydney has a relationship with Eli, and Victor is trying to hunt down Eli to kill him. He has learned how to control his powers, and when he sees a newspaper article, he sees that Eli hasn’t aged a day. While sleeping, Victor accidentally shocks Sydney. The next day they talk and Sydney tells Victor how she knows Eli. She helps Mitch and Victor go to her sister’s apartment, to find her sister gone. Mitch goes to study up on Eli hunting EOs and Sydney reveals her power to Victor. They dig up one of Eli’s kills, Barry, and decide to use him to send a message to Eli, who will hunt them.
PART 2: An ExtraOrdinary Day
After nearly killing Victor, Eli gets through his police questioning. He goes to his professor and tells his professor to drop his project, killing his professor in the process. Officer Stell, a EO specialist, finds him and Eli manages to get out of it unnoticed. He kills the janitor a week later in a hit-and-run, to tie up loose ends. For the next ten years Eli hunts EOs killing them because they are a danger to the world. This is when he finds Serena, but her power over compulsion stops him from killing her and in time she warps him to keep her alive. She uses her power to control the police for him, so that he can keep killing without being hunted by the police. She helps him hunt other people instead of herself.
Note: We get a look at the night after Eli came back, before Victor went to his NDE try two, when Eli admits he never wants to be forgotten. Hence the last name, Ever.
We get a chapter dedicated to Mitch who is a large man and highly intelligent. His looks get him into situations, which he calls his curse. Bad luck follows him and after serving two terms in normal jail, he decides to rob a bank. His hacking succeeds but the armed robbers fail. He lands himself in the high security prison and that is where he meets Victor. Mitch’s roommates died one after another, and when Victor came, he was dead set on keeping Victor alive. He noticed the way people leaned away from Victor but it was only much later that he realized that Victor was a predator.
Victor sets Barry loose with a message. To tell Eli he is alive. He waits for Barry to die and then goes searching for Eli in other ways. They see Eli’s killing habits and how he has been tracking EOs, through the police database. Mitch narrows them down to an officer Dane. Victor tortures the man and discovers Serena’s power. He kills him, and then has Sydney bring him back, to see that Serena’s power was not severed. He kills the officer again and when the officer’s phone calls, he talks to Eli for the first time in ten years. Victor gives Eli an ultimatum of midnight and then sends the others to the hotel, as he gets take out. He narrowly misses Eli when he returns to the hotel. At Sydney’s insistence, Eli decides to try to hunt down another EO. He goes to a bar to find a man named Dominic.
Eli kills a girl named Beth, before returning to Serena and finding out that Barry was alive, when he should have been dead. Eli goes to kill him again but meets with Officer Stell, who tells Eli that Barry is double dead but left a message. Eli knows it’s Victor. Eli and Serena try to figure out how they are going to hunt Victor and Serena says to use the police to their advantage. He calls Stell to make a full meeting, and then calls Dane to try to find the man, only to get Victor on the other line instead. Eli meets with the police and tells them about the ultimatum. He and Serena go and kill one of the two EOs left on his list. Serena gets angry at his actions of quick killing, and goes back to the hotel. He goes to a bar to get the last kill.
Ending: Where all timelines collide.
Victor sends Mitch into the bar. Mitch goes in and tells Dominic, the target, that someone is going to kill him. Dominic goes to the bathroom and disappears. Eli sees this and then stalks Mitch. He shoots Mitch in the chest. Victor finds Dominic and offers him the chance to lose all pain, if he helps them. They wait for Mitch but when Mitch does not arrive, they go in and find Mitch shot. Victor wakes him up, because Mitch was wearing a bullet proof vest. They head to the meeting spot for midnight.
Sydney burns documents as Victor told her, and she posts his profile to the police file as he told her. Serena sees the smoke and finds her sister. She tries to kill her but can not and tells Sydney to go somewhere safe, which for Sydney is to Victor. Sydney runs to the location of the showdown as Serena drives there herself, unknowing of what is happening. Mitch confronts Serena at the construction site and she tells him to kill himself. When he pulls the gun with an empty chamber it gives Victor enough time to slit her throat. Mitch burns the body. Sydney, who finds Eli, is shot at. Her dog dies (again) and Dominic and Victor spin her away. Dominic goes back to get her dog and they get to Mitch. As Victor and Eli fight, the three go away.
Victor shoots Eli like Eli shot him ten years ago and then kills him in a myriad of ways before Eli kills him. As Eli kills Victor, the police arrive and with Serena’s brain control broken, they arrest him. His body count jumps to double digits, as he did not erase any evidence as Victor did. Dominic, Mitch, and Sydney dig victor from his grave, and Sydney brings him back.
What I Liked:
Victor; AHHHH Victor. Oh my lord. This man is devious, scary, and completely lethal. He did not hesitate to kill people, but unlike Eli he did actually care about people. He cared for Mitch and Sydney. He was dark, horrible, and twisted, but he cared. His obsession with eli had my heart pounding. I wanted Eli dead and oh my lord was Victor’s revenge sweet.
Eli; This monster that masquerades as good. It reminds me of the Wicked quote [INSERT GOODNESS QUOTE, about how those who say they’re good etc.]. He killed so many innocent people for his own twisted morals and beliefs. At the same time, I do feel for Eli. He’s has so many tendencies for psychopathy, and Angies’ death broke him. Is he going to get out of jail? What comes next? For someone who can not die, how will he die?
Story Telling; The split between past and present, as well as between characters, was what ramped up the hype and really got me. I do love split perspectives, and while I wish we got more of Eli’s, I’m happy with what we got.
Mitch; This sweet man. Oh my lord. How did you get mixed up in all of this. I hope you find a way to avoid your curse and live a long happy life. You deserve it.
Sydney; This sweet girl. PROTECT HER AT ALL COSTS. Oh my god. She needs to go home and not be caught up with these villains. Please, someone let her go home. Let her live a normal childhood. Please.
Serena; I really adored her. I think her actions started off as self preservation but as eli twisted her, and she saw what her power could do, she twisted herself. I wanted a happy ending for her, I did. Please rest in peace, my dear.
Others; All of the other characters were fun and interesting. I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.
Villains; I knew this was a villain origin story BUT I WAS NOT READY. Both Eli and Victor are evil in their own right, villains. Which one is worse, I’m not entirely sure. Eli kills because he thinks it’s right, and he likes it. Victor uses people because they are tools to be used. In a way they are both villains to the other hero, and I find this amazing. I wanted darkness and I got it. This book was everything and more and I love it.
Themes: The Frankenstein parallels. The fact that everyone is someone else’s villain. The Psychopath vs Sociopath parallels. These made the book and like I really like how they were addressed, specifically the villain mindset.
Powers: People got their powers based on their final thoughts before death, rather than how they died and I think that’s interesting. Also how the powers manifested from that was interesting.
What I Would Have Liked or Changed:
I NEED THE SECOND BOOK NOW
“Everything starts with a belief.” – pg 30
“Well, when you wonder something doesn’t that mean part of you wants to believe in it? I think we want to prove things, in life, more than we want to disprove them. We want to believe.” – pg 31
“We’re all monsters.” – pg 239
“Let’s hope that’s not the worst crime I commit tonight.”- pg 330
“Call me a cat. I’m still working through my own nine lives.” – pg 345
“All that charm outside, all that evil inside. There was a monster under there, long before you died.”- pg 353