Book Review: Vicious by V.E. Schwab

And last round of this week’s book reviews for Victoria Schwab’s books! I’ve since finished This Savage Song but am still digesting that story. So stay tuned for a review in the next few weeks. Without further adieu, here’s Vicious.

Vicious is my favorite V.E. Schwab novel. Yes, I’ve gushed about how much I loved A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows, but now that I’m a few months away from the short span of time where I read all 3 books, my perspective on favorite Schwab novel has solidified: it’s Vicious. And if you love a novel dealing with the superhero myth and questioning our conceptions of who’s the hero and who’s the villain, then Vicious will be your favorite too.

Vicious is a dark, violent tale about Victor Vale and Eli Cardale (but prefers the surname Ever to complete the alliterative duo),  two college roommates who live in a universe where the possibility of EOs exists. EOs are ExtraOrdinaries, people who have super powers. Eli theorizes that said powers are obtained through near-death experiences. So naturally, the two put his thesis to the test and begin an experiment that goes horribly awry and results in Victor being jailed for a decade. Naturally, once he’s out, it’s time to seek revenge on Eli.

The Thai cover is pretty excellent.


Through this lens of EOs and their decidedly unnatural abilities, Schwab explores the superhero mythos: what exactly makes someone a hero? And in return, who is the villain? Are you a villain simply because someone declares you to be? (Tl;dr: yes.) On top of the hero vs. villain pull, there’s the issue of the ethics of EOs. Are they allowed to exist? Should they exist? You’ll find there’s some differing schools of thought.

What I loved best about Vicious was the style of storytelling. This story of two college roommates-turned-enemies is told through alternating chapters of flashbacks and present day, each time period adding an additional layer of context to the previous chapter. Schwab could have chosen to tell the story straight, but the back-and-forth really, really works and works well.

Aside from all things extraordinary, one of the central themes of Vicious is quite ordinary: family. As Victor’s plot to take revenge against Eli unfolds, more characters make their way into the story. And although Victor may be  estranged from his psychologist parents who write popular self-help books, but he creates a family for himself with a cellmate, Mitch, and a 13yo EO, Sydney, who finds herself abandoned by her sister and ends up staying with Mitch and Victor—it’s actually not as creepy as it initially sounds because of Sydney’s age. Victor’s fatherly-esque tenderness towards Sydney is endearing and honestly, one of my favorite aspects of his character. In the world of Vicious, we’re shown that family is not necessarily your blood relatives, it’s the people who make you feel safe.

Rumor has it a Vicious movie has been in the works. Back in 2013, the rights were purchased by Scott Free, Ridley Scott’s production company. The film industry moves at a glacial pace when it comes to these things, but keeping my fingers crossed that a movie comes to fruition soon. Vicious is the kind of story that would cross mediums well.

If you enjoy a good, dark and unsettling read, Vicious is the book for you.

Find Vicious at your local library

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