Vicious by V.E Schwab: My Review
Rating: 4/5 stars
Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.
After hearing nothing but fantastic things about V.E Schwab's books for months, I decided it was finally time to pick up Vicious. I must admit, it took me around 100 pages or so to really become invested in the story - I spent a fair few chapters feeling quite confused - but once things began making sense I was HOOKED.
The story is split between two timelines: the present and 10 years ago. In the present we follow Victor, an escaped convict who is determined to find his old friend-turned-enemy and deal out the revenge burning inside him. Ten years ago, Victor is a bright young university student who is inseparable from his best friend Eli. When Eli proposes a plan for his thesis to discover whether EOs exist, he and Victor become partners in a scheme that involves multiple near-death experiences and ends up granting them supernatural abilities.
Vicious really delves into the ambitions and jealousies of people who are too clever for their own good, and how power can tear people apart. What I loved was that there is no morally good main character; both the protagonist and antagonist do ruthless things and leave a trail of death behind them. Victor and Eli's friendship completely fascinated me with its complexity and I loved seeing the bitter jealousy that is always simmering beneath the surface erupt as they become more obsessed with immortality and power and develop their own views of what's right or wrong. Victor couldn't have been a better antihero - even at his worst I couldn't help but root for him (alongside Sydney and Mitch). Eli was just an overall disgusting character who matches the likes of Dolores Umbridge with how self-righteous and arrogant he is. Basically, everything you could want in a villain. Serena was also an amazing kickass female partner-in-crime.
I don't believe there is a single character in the story that doesn't have a dark side hiding beneath their calm, collected exterior, or their own take on morality. All of them were psychopathic and messed up but so compelling that it's almost impossible to lose interest in any of them. I also really appreciated how the author gives each character a backstory so that we're informed a bit on why and how they rationalize their actions, even though we may not agree with them, and this really helped me to understand and connect with even the most corrupt characters. Schwab's exploration of the fine line between good and evil, what makes a good guy and a bad guy, was executed so well and fascinated me no end.
As well as being a story that's driven by its insane but lovable characters, the plot itself was crammed with action and moments of really high intensity. I thought the pacing was done very well and at times it read just like a movie (if there isn't an actual movie adaptation then I will die) and then the addition of the time jumps made the whole thing feel like a giant puzzle that slotted together so well (even though the ending had me SHOOK and I need the sequel immediately).
So, all this praise but only 4 stars. Why? To be honest, I'm really not sure myself. It just wasn't enough for me to give it a 4.5 or a 5. As I mentioned earlier, I did find some of the scheming and the action quite confusing at times which did take away a lot of my enjoyment, plus the story was pretty much devoid of any romance which for me automatically means it's not my ideal book. But I will 100% be picking up Vengeful as soon as it's released in September and am very excited to read some more of V.E Schwab's books.