Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book
Rate this book
Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Fantasy (2013)
A masterful tale of ambition, jealousy, desire, and superpowers.

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.

366 pages, Kindle Edition

First published September 24, 2013

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

V.E. Schwab

63 books60.5k followers
V.E. Schwab is the author of more than 20 books for children, teens, and adults.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
86,018 (45%)
4 stars
69,227 (36%)
3 stars
26,137 (13%)
2 stars
5,653 (2%)
1 star
1,695 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 29,488 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,921 reviews290k followers
August 4, 2015
"Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human."

I actually received an 100-page preview of Vicious a few months prior to reading the full version and picked it up with absolutely zero expectations. Then, suddenly, I was catapulted into a world that did more than keep the promises of the blurb - A masterful, twisted tale of ambition, jealousy, betrayal, and superpowers, set in a near-future world - but also introduced me to a memorable cast of characters, an exciting plot, and some of the most addictive writing I've ever read.

Schwab's other books never appealed to me but I suddenly find myself wanting to see if all her writing is like this. Some books just have that spark. It's a compulsive readability in the writing style; it demands to be read; it demands that you keep turning pages like a crazy person. You can't really explain or define it, you can only point to examples of where it exists. And it exists here. Everything about this book draws you in: the characters, the plot, the way the book moves fluidly from past to present... everything. I can't tell you how much Vicious surprised me, and I can't find words to explain just how exciting, gripping and beautifully twisted it is. But I shall try.

Vicious falls into the adult/new adult category as opposed to young adult. To break it down simply, this is a story about superheroes and supervillains and how it isn't always so easy to tell which is which. Victor questions at one point:

"The paper called Eli a hero.
The word made Victor laugh. Not just because it was absurd, but because it posed a question. If Eli really was a hero, and Victor meant to stop him, did that make him a villain?"


It's all about the ambitions, the betrayals and the jealousies of people who are far too clever for their own good. People who work together to obtain power but whose friendship is torn apart by said power. The characters - including the protagonist - all have dark sides hiding beneath their calm, collected exteriors. Perhaps this will put some readers off, but I was absolutely fascinated by the exploration of the fine line between the good guys and the bad guys.

The story is split between the present and ten years ago. The present tells of Victor, an escaped convict, who is determined to find his old friend-turned-enemy and deal out the revenge that is burning inside him. Flash back to ten years ago and Victor is a bright, young university student who is practically inseparable from his best friend - Eli. When Eli proposes a plan to discover whether EOs (Extra-Ordinaries) exist, he and Victor become partners in a scheme that will take them to hell and back and maybe, just maybe, grant them supernatural abilities. I adored the complex friendship between the two men that hovered somewhere between admiration and bitter jealousy and how this developed as they grew and became more obsessed with power and their own view of right and wrong.

I loved Vicious, I really did. I'd easily consider it one of my favourite novels of 2013 and probably the one that surprised me most. It's just a wild and addictive story with no throwaway characters. Everyone in the book has their own problems to face, especially when it comes to some of the moral struggles that go with having godlike powers. I can't wait for more people to read it.
Profile Image for Hannah Azerang.
124 reviews90.1k followers
December 18, 2018
You know that feeling of nostalgia you get when you're reading one of your favorite books?

That's how I felt the whole time I was reading this.

It was like I already knew this world and these characters. And that's not to say that they were bland or stereotypical (because they were extremely complex and compelling), but it was as if they were already somehow part of my life.

I don't even have the words to describe how much I loved this. It was perfect, absolutely perfect.
Profile Image for chai ♡.
321 reviews150k followers
May 15, 2022
I know you’re not supposed to humanize characters that are inarguably not human in every non-physical way, but would I die for my asexual fashionista morally fraudulent father, Victor Vale? Hell yeah I would
Profile Image for Anne.
3,787 reviews69k followers
December 9, 2021
A Tale of Two Sociopaths.
One is just ever so slightly more lovable than the other...

description

This was right up my alley with all the Create-A-Superhero stuff!
The reality, of course, is that neither of these guys are heroes.
Victor and Eli were college roommates who experimented with a theory that Eli had about how Extra Ordinary people were created. Turns out he was right.
Ta-da!

description

Due to some unfortunate factors, Victor's transformation doesn't go quite as smoothly as Eli's. And because of that little snafu, Victor ends up spending the better part of a decade in prison.
Where he plots his revahnge revenge!

description

The whole story unfolds in flashbacks, and I think the less I say about that, the more you'll enjoy reading about how it all went down in the past.
I do think you should know that neither of them are sympathetic characters, but you do end up rooting for Victor to win.

description

I gotta say, I thought the ending was a little underwhelming, but that may only be because I thought the rest of the book was so good that it didn't quite meet my expectations.
Still, I ended up tearing through this thing in a few days and thought it was (overall) a pretty fantastic story.
Definitely Recommended!

description

*Edit:
This is one of my oldest son's favorite books. He informed me the other day that he found this review while searching Goodreads at school (OMG! What the hell are they thinking giving these kids access to book sites!?), and he proceeded to tell me that I was wrong.
As children do...
Apparently, the ending was not at all underwhelming. It whelmed just fine, thank you very much.
So there.
Profile Image for Virginia Ronan ♥ Herondale ♥.
515 reviews34.4k followers
August 28, 2019
”Someone could call themselves a hero and still walk around killing dozens. Someone else could be labelled a villain for trying to stop them. Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.”

(Just in case you actually want to read my full review. *lol* You can read it here!)

This is easily one of the best books I’ve read in 2019 and that’s quite something, because I already read so many other awesome books this year. To give “Vicious” 5 stars was a no-brainer though and I’m very glad that my reading buddy saw it the same way. As it seems we were both hooked right from the beginning and the longer we read, the more we immersed ourselves in the story.

I thought long and hard about the many reasons I liked this so much and I think it’s mostly due to the way it was written. V.E. Schwab made her story some sort of puzzle and the longer you read, the more is revealed and every piece eventually falls into place. It wasn’t until I started to write down a few of the quotes that I finally realized why I could relate to her writing style so much. XD It felt like reading one of my forum role-play games. *lol*

Let me explain a little bit more: There are people that will write short posts that cover the basics and then there are people that will write an entire character with its background story and play it out in 900 – 1.000 word posts that stretch over the course of years, sometimes even decades. Yes, you already guessed right, I’m the latter one. ;-P And so it’s no surprise I was intrigued by V.E. Schwab’s handiwork.

There’s a certain depth to her characters you never actually see on the pages, but it’s all there, in their actions, the way they behave. In the way they talk and interact with each other. There’s an entire background story and we get it piece by piece, little by little, but never all of it and to say I was captivated by this would be the understatement of the century. XD I lived and breathed for it, I tasted blood and I crave for more!!! <3

Next time I’m at the library I’m going to pre-order “Vengeful” and if it’s only half as good as “Vicious” I shall be more than just fine! ;-) This said, I’ll go right into my character’s section because damn, there’s a lot to discuss! XD

The characters:

Welcome to my spoilery spoiler section! Take a seat, make yourself comfortable and enjoy the show! Be warned though, I’m at least as fierce as Victor when it comes to book characters and just like him I won’t sugar-coat things and spoil you not only thoroughly but also relentlessly! ;-P

Eli Cardale (Ever):

”Well, when you wonder something,” said Eli, “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.”

I didn’t like Eli which actually made him the perfect villain. *lol* The funny thing is that I’m pretty certain he’s more human and compassionate than Victor, yet this also seems to be the main reason why he’s worse than him. Am I already confusing you? XD Okay, let me put it this way, whilst Victor’s analytical mind controls his actions the same can’t be said about Eli. When the shit hits the fan Eli is following his gut feeling and because he believes he’s doing the right thing he goes through with it and never second guesses his decisions. I’d even go as far as to say that Eli is some sort of religious fanatic and that he sanctions his actions by his belief. And what is more human and more powerful than people’s beliefs? There are centuries of history that prove how many bad things have been done in the name of religion and Eli’s character is some kind of embodiment of it. He lives by his principles and this doesn’t only make him a very dangerous man, it also makes him very human. Eli is on a mission and everyone who interferes with it will be the next victim on his Ever-growing list. ;-) (see what I did there?! *lol*)

”On the surface, Eli seemed perfectly normal, but now and then Victor would catch a crack, a sideways glance, a moment when his roommate’s face and his words, his look and his meaning, would not line up. Those fleeting slices fascinated Victor. It was like watching two people, one hiding in the other’s skin. And their skin was always too dry, on the verge of cracking and showing the color of the thing beneath.”

”A hero. Wasn’t he? Heroes saved the world from villains, from evil. Heroes sacrificed themselves to do it. Was he not bloodying his hands and his soul to set the world right? Did he not sacrifice himself every time he stripped away an EO’s stolen life?”

”I died begging for the strength to survive, and it was granted. But it’s a trade, Professor, with God or the devil, and I’ve paid for my gift with the lives of my friends. Every EO has sold a part of themselves they can never have back. Don’t you see?” He knelt beside Lyne, whose fingers twitched. “I can’t let anyone else sin so heinously against nature.”

Victor Vale:

”She watched him as he worked, his touch impossibly light, as if he was afraid of breaking her. Everything about him was light – his skin, his hair, his eyes, his hands as they danced through the air above her skin, touching her only when absolutely necessary.”

I absolutely ADORED AND LOVED Victor Vale!!! <333 What an intriguing and morally grey character! I just loved the way he thought! His analytical and cunning mind was everything I ever craved for and even more and I just couldn’t get enough of his character. I loved that he was so unapologetic and that he knew exactly who he was. Yes, he tried to blend in with the others, but he never claimed to be something that he wasn’t. If you ask me I’d say Victor is a psychopath, at least if you consider all the typical signs of it. Then again Eli certainly was one too. He might have been more empathic than Victor but whilst Vic knew what was expected of him, Eli ultimately seemed more inclined to ignore human morals than to follow them. I loved how Victor questioned his actions, how he paused to think if what he did was right or wrong, how he weighted both sides against each other and then eventually decided to do what his logic told him. He was vicious and brutal, but he could also be gentle and caring and boy, did I live for that moral ambiguity. *lol*

”The paper called Eli a hero.
The word made Victor laugh. Not just because it was absurd, but because it posed a question. If Eli really was a hero, and Victor meant to stop him, did that make him a villain?
He took a sip of his drink, tipped his head back against the couch, and decided he could live with that.”


”Victor watched his friend, mesmerized by the transformation. He himself could mimic most emotions and pass them off as his, but mimicking only went so far, and he knew he could never match this … fervor.”

”You can’t kill me, Victor,” said Eli. “You know that.”
Victor’s smile widened as he buried his knife between Eli’s ribs.
“I know,” he said loudly. He had to speak up over the screams. “But you’ll have to indulge me. I’ve waited so long to try.”


Sydney:

”That’s what Sydney was giving these people. A second chance.
Her fingers hovered over the dead man’s chest for a moment as she wondered if he deserved a second chance, then chided herself. Who was she to judge or decide or grant or deny? Simply because she could, did that mean she should?”


Poor little Sydney! I felt so sorry for her! She didn’t choose to have a power like that but she was hunted for it nevertheless. I found it interesting that she was so young but already asked herself the right questions. In some way that made her a good counterweight to Victor and Eli. I mean there is this powerful girl and she has no idea what she can do with her abilities or what she’s capable of. She was a very strong character though and I loved her for her defiance. <3 It takes guts to live with a man like Victor and she might have questioned his actions but she was never afraid of him. XD

Serena:

”She looked at Victor’s profile one last time, and tried to picture the man who had once been Eli’s friend, who had brought him back, made him what he was, saved her sister … and for a moment, as she finished dialing Eli’s number, she almost wished he stood a fighting chance.”

Now Serena was a character that caused me to think long and hard as well. On the one hand I liked her for standing up to Eli by charming him to do her will, and on the other hand I disliked her for helping him to find and eliminate his targets. If she was so good at compelling people why didn’t she try to stop Eli for good? She played him, yet at the same time she did what he wanted her to do. Why? Did she really think that this was the only way to save her own skin? Did she truly believe that EO’s are dangerous and that they deserve to die? Her character posed so many questions and to my chagrin none of them were answered. >_< She definitely had one of the best scenes in this book though. The moment Victor killed her and quoted Ulysses was priceless!! <3

The relationships & ships:

Victor & Eli:

”You asked me if I ever wanted to believe in something. I do. I want to believe in this. I want to believe that there’s more.” Victor sloshed a touch of whiskey over the edge of his glass. “That we could be more. Hell, we could be heroes.”
“We could be dead,” said Eli.
“That’s a risk everyone takes by living.”


Ohh those two gave me a lot to wonder about. I’m convinced Victor was in love with Eli and that this was the reason why he wanted his revenge so badly. I mean he was betrayed by the person he loved and to make it even worse Eli didn’t even bother to hear him out. He didn’t give him the benefit of the doubt, no, he ratted him out to the police the moment he knew his girlfriend had died. It was like Eli always expected Victor to go off the rails and only waited for an opportunity to turn on him. Funnily enough it turned out that Eli was the one that actually went off the rails in the end. After all Eli’s girlfriend was the only person Victor killed and this was by accident and not intentional. The same certainly couldn’t be said for Eli though. He killed his victims on purpose and went after them with a vengeance. Sure, once Victor got out of prison his death tally went up as well, he never killed without a purpose or reason though. Which is the main difference between those two. Victor always considered the pros and cons while Eli acted as judge and executioner and didn’t even give his victims a chance to defend themselves, let alone to speak. Now that Eli is in prison I can’t help but wonder what’s going to happen next. I guess I’ll find out once I get my hands on a copy of “Vengeful”. ;-P

”He and Eli were bonded, by blood and death and science. They were alike, more so now than ever. And he had missed Eli. He wanted to see him. And he wanted to see him suffer. He wanted to see the look in Eli’s eyes when he lit them up with pain. He wanted his attention. Eli was like a thorn beneath Victor’s skin, and it hurt. He could turn off every nerve in his body, but Victor couldn’t do a damned thing about the twinge he felt when he thought of Cardale.”

”I don’t want to see Serena,” said Sydney.
“I know,” said Victor. “But I want to see Eli.”
“Why?” she asked. “You can’t kill him.”
“That may be.” His fingers curled around the shovel. “But half the fun is trying.”


Sydney & Victor:

”I’m cold,” she said.
“I’m Victor,” he said, and she offered him a small, exhausted flicker of a smile.


Their relationship was so precious! <3 Victor became some sort of father figure for Sydney and even though she knew that he had a bad moral compass she still trusted him and felt safe with Victor. I loved that he was always so honest with her and didn’t even try to sugar-coat things. He gave her room to come to her own conclusions and he provided a safe environment to live in. In some way that made him an amazing father even though he certainly wasn’t the best choice to raise a kid like her. *lol* Still, those two worked because Sydney acted as some sort of conscience for him and that ultimately made him a better person. XD I wonder if their relationship is going to change after she brought him back from the dead and if yes in which direction it’s going to head. Oh and I just realized that Vic joined Eli in not being able to age. ;-)

”Sydney, look at me.” He rested his hands on the car roof and leaned in. “No one is going to hurt you. Do you know why?” She shook her head, and Victor smiled. “Because I’ll hurt them first.”

”Serena hadn’t told Sydney to go home. She hadn’t told her to run away. She’d told her to go somewhere safe. And over the course of the last week, safe had ceased to be a place for Sydney, and had become a person.
Specifically, safe had become Victor.”


Serena & Eli:

”She pulled away enough to hold him with her cold blue eyes. He could see the devil in them, silver-tongued and cunning, and Eli thought, not for the first time, that he should have killed her when he had the chance.”

Serena and Eli had one of the most abusive relationships I ever witnessed. They both abused each other in equal measure and this was weirdly fascinating. Their dynamic was crazy and they both didn’t hesitate to use their powers in order to get what they wanted. I think in some way they even loved each other, yet they both couldn’t change the way they were. Eli craved to kill Serena but was fascinated by her and Serena wanted to stay alive but couldn’t seem to be able to turn away from Eli. What a stalemate. XD Wicked faerie tongues (like mine) would say Victor relieved them from the trouble of killing each other and they might be right. *lol*

Conclusion:

I loved this and I could kick myself for not reading it sooner! “Vicious” was the amazing start of a compelling story and I can’t wait to read its sequel “Vengeful”. Morally grey characters, a captivating storyline and the omnipresent question of what is right and what is wrong made this a truly thrilling journey! I don’t know about you, but I want more! ;-)

Last but not least I want to thank Mr. Babygreys for another great buddy read! It’s always a pleasure to read books with you and I’m glad our reading habits and preferences are so similar. *lol* We seem to be on a roll, let’s keep those books coming! ;-P
Profile Image for  Teodora .
279 reviews1,537 followers
January 25, 2023
5/5 ⭐
Buckle up, there's a rant ahead.

You know a book is going to obsess the hell out of me when I fall in love with the main character from the first chapters and the main character happens to be a villain.
*Whoopsie*
It’s true.

I was barely three chapters in, the time was 1 in the morning and I already decided that I am definitely going to love this. And big surprise, I did.

You know why? Lemme tell you.
Because there is something completely mesmerising about the way V.E. Schwab writes. If you are not completely hooked from the first pages then there must have happened something (wrong) with either you or V.E. (maybe something ExtraOrdinary, who knows!).

There is madness in this woman’s mind and I think I might go mad out of my own mind if I were to have a glimpse on what’s going on in V.E. Schwab Circus of Freaks – her brain edition.

description

The atmosphere is heavy, you can feel it from the beginning and it just persists through the whole book. It is macabre and dark and evil and a bit psycho but that’s the whole point of it.

I love the way the world is built to look like our real world, but it is completely twisted and reinvented so that we live in something we think we know but we actually don’t because it is completely new and strange – a possible near-future, if you will. There is some sort of fake-security about this world.

The storyline tends to jump from one time to another – in present, two days earlier, one week earlier, ten years earlier etc. etc. The chapters and the time switches alternates and it feels like they are having a conversation that you must pay attention to in order to discover all the little puzzle pieces and put them together to form the whole picture.
It also breaks the writing style routine a bit, makes it funkier.

The funny thing about this book is that there are no good guys, basically.

“Some could call themselves a hero and still walk around killing dozens. Someone else could be labelled a villain for trying to stop them.”

It is all about perspective. Good and bad are always subjective aspects of one’s life and they always need a determinative factor to keep them going around in circles. Good is never good enough for some, or too good for others. Good can be twisted and turned into bad. Good could be worse than bad. Bad might not be as bad as it seems. Bad could be terrible.

At some point, those two notions could be interchangeable. It’s all about semantics, really. And that little fact just adds to the whole story some spice.

description

The way the characters are being shaped in this book is fabulous.
The characters themselves are some sort of stereotypes, but there is something about them that makes them feel different, unique. And that something might be the skilful character building.

I don’t know how my obsession with Victor Vale could get any deeper, but I honestly think it’ll find a way.

I love Victor Vale, my perfect beautiful villain.

Victor is a morally degraded, morally grey, morally detached evil genius, constructed with such a character depth that I honestly do not meet very often. Inside of him, there is a battle between the cruelty and coldness of a predator and the ache to do the right thing. Not good, but right.

He is complex and fascinating. On the inside, Victor has doubts, struggles, tries his best to meet the ultimate outcome of his plans. Everything that comes out of his erosive thoughts though seems calculated, perfect, mischievous, sexy. Yes, you read correctly. Sexy.

I find Victor Vale extremely hot when he is playing predator. It’s absolutely mesmerising and I am not going to apologise for it. That’s a twisted kind of magnetism that no one could resist.

description

On the other hand, Eli Ever repels me. He is supposed to be a hero. Well, I think he is not. And I sort of disliked him from the beginning.
He is a hypocrite and even though I find him bad, he is not good at being bad. He is just bad.

The problem is that Eli wasn’t made to be evil and becoming the way he is now ruined him for good. Eli was made to be the all-American charming-smile guy, but when he pushes his luck further than he can control it, then the frustration is greater than anticipated. An inner struggle like Eli’s could break down one’s morals forever, turning them into actual monsters.

“Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.”

With great power comes great responsibility and not everyone can handle either of those. The outcome could be destroying. And everyone is vicious when it comes to power.

Betrayal? Revenge? Hatred?
Yes. All of those come in the same package with viciousness. Power makes us hungry and degrades us. It dehumanises.

The proof? Two friends like Victor and Eli wanted to kill each other because of the incredible power they both possess. There’s no friendship when it comes to power. Only hunger.

On a more positive note, this book comes with a big friendly chocolate milk lover giant with beefy arms, shaved head and tattoos, a cute little girl with a morbid power and a giant black doggo named Dol (more like Doll, if you ask me). Also, in an abnormal way, I find Serena kind of a baddie.

To hell with it, this is so complex and good and bad and smart and everything you need in life.
New favourite book with new favourite characters for my lists? You bet your cute bums. V.E. Schwab did it again.

description
Profile Image for Caz (littlebookowl).
301 reviews40.3k followers
November 8, 2018
*EDIT*
I re-read Vicious for another book club 4 years on and I still really enjoyed it! This time it was closer to a 4 star read - I wanted a little more development with some of the charcters.

First-read rating: 5
Wow.
I absolutely loved Vicious, it kept me hooked right from the get-go and as things got more and more intense, I could not put it down!
I plan on filming a full review soon alongside the #LittleBookClub liveshow, so I will be back with more detailed thoughts!
Verdict: READ IT YO :)
Profile Image for Sofia.
294 reviews5,926 followers
July 26, 2021
When I finished the very last page of Vicious, I felt a breathless exhilaration course through my body in a stream of anxious energy. I had an urge to get up and pace with impatience. I started this book in the morning and finished it that same evening when I finally looked up from my book, shocked by the dark sky. It was like exiting a movie theater after watching a film. Those hours you spent in the blackness of the theater are not actually part of time. They feel like a slice of an alternate world.


And that's how I felt after finishing Vicious. Drained, but full of impatient adrenaline.


This book follows a man named Victor Vale, who is obsessed with revenge. Eli, his old best friend and classmate, is now his rival. They are both EOs - ExtraOrdinaries - with shocking capabilities that could doom or save them both.


What makes a villain? If Eli is evil and Victor is opposing him, does that make Victor a hero? Does his intention excuse his actions?


All the characters are villains in their own way. Eli because he betrayed his own kind. Victor because he's a cold-blooded murderer. They may have started out with good intentions, but in the end, they are both terrible people. The grey morality is stunning. It's not what you might expect and it creeps up on you.


The atmosphere - haunting, eerie, dark - is helped by the writing, which is vividly malicious and clever. Aided by the alternating timeline, which builds mystery, the careful crafting of Vicious is apparent.


And oh, how I love the characters. Eli is a crafty, unpredictable megalomaniac. Victor is a calculating, merciless killer. They are my cinnamon rolls and I must protect them.
That sounds wrong.


I love how Schwab kept us guessing. I loved how she made me feel sympathy for both sides and both situations. In the end, I wasn't sure whose side I was on.


Vicious stayed with me for long after I finished. It haunts me.


Some recent commissions for Fox & Wit! Featuring Victor Vale and Sydney Clarke from the books Vicious and Veng… | A darker shade of magic, Fan book, Book characters


79 Vicious-VE Schwab ideas in 2021 | vicious ve schwab, a darker shade of magic, book fandoms


310 Vicious and Savage London ideas in 2021 | a darker shade of magic, dark shades, a gathering of shadows

~credit for all images~


4.5 stars
Profile Image for jessica.
2,478 reviews29.7k followers
October 15, 2018
on the scale of black to white, this book falls right down the middle. i have never read something so morally grey, so ethically ambiguous, so downright dark and absolutely pleasant at the same time. goodness me, this book was a trip in the best way possible.

i absolutely love the idea of anti-heroes. i love taking characters that we are meant to despise, but end up empathising and somewhat admiring them instead. maybe that makes me personally questionable, but wow. i loved how messed up and arrogant and broken both eli and victor were. their relationship was everything to me. from friends and confidants, to conspiratorial partners, to enemies. their relationship was just so demented and deranged, i couldnt look away. i love how the lines were blurred when it came to them. it was such a unique experience as a reader to see them at their worst and unravel the complex events which led them to that point.

this book in its entirety is honestly something else. the concept, the plot, the characters, the writing, the conclusion. i couldnt put this down. and thank the book gods schwab decided to bless us with a sequel that our boys eli and victor so undoubtedly deserve. <3

4.5 stars
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,068 reviews38.1k followers
October 5, 2022
BAMMM!!! BAMMM!!BAMMM!! Nope this sound is not coming from my husband who repeatedly hits the axe to the kitchen door to save from cooking another disastrous, poisonous dish!

BAAAMMM!!! And again this sound doesn’t belong to my crazy neighbor who sings all day and parties at night, finally younger version of Robert Downey Jr. runs into his house with his car but sorry this is not also the voice of a car’s crushing into wall.

BAMM!! Yes, you got it right! I’m hitting my thick head against the wall as a punishment not to read this series before. ( I firstly did it when I start “Bear and Nightingale” trilogy which turned into my all time favorite series. So yes, life is too short to procrastinate to read the best written books! Stop scrolling your phone or surfing through the channels air the shows for dumbs. Just read and read and read! I think this might be my quote or motto!)

This is my upgraded review: And here we go: Victor and Eli’s competition to eliminate each other might be reminded you; Charles Xavier and Erik Lehsherr’s never ending rivalry ( personally I always had a hard time to choose between two hot man, with his sexy Scottish charisma McAvoy already stole my heart years ago but don’t forget Fassbender’s amazing Irish and German heritage, we saw the big parts of it at his movie “Shame”)

So this book is a quite mash-up of X-Men – Boys ( because they are not originally super humans, they’re created at the labs as like Boys’ notorious super humans who are also bad guys like these two on this book!) –Flatliners ( if you skip Oliver Platt’s character, this reminds me of Bacon- Sutherland and Roberts trio. Two guys and a smart girl triangle)

Story-telling is fast paced, stunning, entertaining. There are too many details seem like unimportant but you have to pay attention when you read some of Schwab’s books because every detail means something at the end to complete the entire puzzle and see the whole picture.

All the characters have too many dark sides, complex, suffering from jealousy, hatred, narcissism and having sociopathic tendencies make most of the readers detest them and skip this book but I actually find this realistic and sensible because this book is not the heroes’ story who want to do the right thing. This is a battle between the pure evil and lighter evil: They both do whatever it takes to defeat the other.

I also loved the sisters’ complex, deadly, love-hate relationship and cliffhanger at the end was the fantastic touch. So time to move on the next book! This author is evil master of dark thrilling, enjoyable books!
Profile Image for Katerina.
420 reviews16.7k followers
September 27, 2018
Vicious (adj.):
1) Having the nature or quality of vice or immorality.
2) Dangerously aggressive, marked by violence or ferocity.
3) Victor Vale.
“Victor was out. Victor was free.
And Victor was coming for Eli - just as he'd promised he would.”

Eli and Victor used to be best friends. Smarter than the rest of the students of Lockland University, they tried to play God. Fascinated by the rumors about EOs, ExtraOrdinary people with supernatural abilities, they studied them at first, but later, they decided to create them. But the sacrifices they hade to make in order to achieve this transformation took something away. Their fear. Their conscience. Victor went to jail because of Eli, but he escaped with one goal in mind. Destroy his nemesis. His best friend. While Eli dedicated his life to the eradication of EOs, since he considered them as something unholy, Victor dedicated his life to revenge. The ultimate fight is inevitable. The question is, who will survive?
“But it's a trade, Professor, with God or the devil...”

Wow.



Vicious was a delicious surprise, the perfect way to start 2017. While I did not enjoy A Darker Shade of Magic as much as I expected, after some coaxing and a mix of curiosity and hope, I decided to give V.E. Schwab another try, and I am so glad I did. I dived into a gripping and wicked tale of revenge and superpowers, with characters who were, well, psychopaths but extremely fascinating, and while the concept reminded me of X-Men and the rivalry between Magneto and Professor X, V.E. Schwab followed a different path. Eli wanted the extermination of his kind. He fancied himself as a hero, a crusader blessed by God to rid the world of these unnatural beings and protect the innocents who were endangered by this lack of balance. Victor, on the other hand, could not care less. He was fixated on his desire to make Eli pay, using his cunning and devious mind, and a young girl with an ability that rattled Eli. A girl also hunted and betrayed.
“There are no good men in this game.”

In A Darker Shade of Magic, what bothered me was the lack of connection with the characters. In Vicious, I relished this detachment. Victor and Eli were morally grey (borderline black), so I could not actually empathize with them. They were victims of their ambitions and the circumstances, villainous masterminds who, instead of being repulsed, they embraced all the ugly things that had to be done. Even Sydney, the young EO girl, lost her innocence. And so, I savored every time they outmaneuvered each other, every plan and move that led to the final confrontation, mesmerized by the twists and turns, the action, the suspense. And I have to admit that Victor intrigued me in an I-know-you-are-a-bad-person-but-still-I-root-for-you way.


“Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.”

Vicious is an ingenious story I absolutely recommend to all those readers who crave paranormal with a dash of twisted.
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,079 reviews17.2k followers
May 31, 2019
Vicious is the story of a villain and a hero. Or, that's what it disguises itself as. It's really the story of five different morally grey characters, all out for themselves, battling it out. This is a book that explores the hero / villain dichotomy and promptly shatters it to pieces.
Someone could call themselves a hero and still walk around killing dozens. Someone could be labeled a villain for trying to stop that person. Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.

I love books that subvert and explore tropes.

Vicious sets itself apart from Schwab's other adult releases with a far faster pace. My main complaint about Darker Shade of Magic was the lack of character-driven plot; events happened to the characters rather than because of them. That's not true here. Every single plot twist is due to an action by a main character.

In terms of characters, this book absolutely rocks. Schwab's characters have such clear motivation for everything they do. Not a single character here is particularly good; everyone is a solid chaotic neutral except for Eli, who's one of the best lawful evil antagonists I've ever read.

Interlude: Me Ranting About How Much I Love These Characters
“they're evil you shouldn't love them” we all have problematic faves

Victor is the technical villain, but he's far easier to root for and empathize with. Eli is a believable, well-developed character, but his cruel fanaticism isn't a well-sold brand. Maybe Eli has a moral code and Victor doesn't, but Eli is lying to himself about his motives. Victor is evil, but he's absolutely aware of his place in the narrative, which made him easy to root for.

Schwab's development of these characters makes the book's main conflict even more high-stakes. She also shows off her talent for relationship building here; the conflict between Victor and Eli is so dynamic and interesting.
The difference between Victor and Eli, he suspected, wasn't their opinion on EOs. It was their reaction to them. Eli seemed intent to slaughter them, but Victor didn't see why a useful skill should be destroyed, just because of its origin.

I'm always ready to read about friends-to-enemies relationships, and Victor and Eli's is especially cool. Even more so because they have genuinely touching moments.
“Tell you what,” said Victor. “You remember me, and I'll remember you, and that way we won't be forgotten.”


But they're not the only interesting, 3-D characters here. Serena and Sydney are two incredibly compelling characters, and their sisterly conflict makes them ever more interesting. Sydney is a 13-year-old girl who can raise the dead. Serena can make everyone around her follow her suggestions. Despite being on “evil” sides, these two girls are so believable and their motivations so clear that it's hard not to root for their respective sides. I hated Eli, yet I rooted for Serena, despite her being on his side. The other side characters are equally as developed. I especially loved Mitch; he's a criminal down on his luck.

Possibly my favorite thing was the odd familial dynamic between Mitch, Victor, Sydney, and Dol the dog. The dynamic between Victor and Sydney is totally awesome.
Safe had ceased to be a place for Sydney. It had become a person.
Specifically, safe had become Victor.

(Tell me you didn't cry reading that. You're LYING.)
Mitch and Sydney and Mitch and Victor's relationships both stand out as well.
“I don't need a bodyguard,” said Victor.
“I noticed that,” said Mitch.
Victor let out a cough of a laugh. “Yes, well. I don't want everyone else to notice too.”
“So what do you want?” he asked.
Victor's lips curled into that same dangerous smile. “A friend.”

I don't know if I can pick a favorite character here! They're all so interesting and memorable.

Definitely recommended for any fans of morally ambiguous antiheroes, and thanks to everyone who wouldn't stop recommending this.

Blog | Goodreads | Twitter | Youtube
Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
525 reviews56.7k followers
January 7, 2019
Two friends in college find a way to develop super powers.

Instead of becoming super heroes, they become super villains.

Interesting concept and well executed!
Profile Image for Bentley ★ Bookbastion.net.
242 reviews549 followers
August 6, 2017
A week or so ago I asked my feed for reading suggestions featuring strong villainous characters, and this book received nearly unanimous acclaim from the majority of my friends who saw the post and responded. Now, normally I kind of hesitate going into anything with high expectations, but I immediately ran out and bought it and now I just have to take a moment to tip my hat to to all my friends who suggested that I read it.

This book was EVERYTHING!

I was so engaged by the story I was dreaded the moments when I had to set the book down and go experience that awful thing called a social life. Really, who has time for the real world when there is a totally compelling story just waiting to be finished at home?!

Victor and Eli are absolute treasures. They are so wonderfully written. Seriously. They're layered and diverse, while also being infuriatingly mad and deviously cunning at the same time. As far as anti-heros go: Victor was an absolute joy to experience the narrative journey through. Even when he's at his worst you can't help but root for him. Even Eli's decisions were so well crafted. I truly believed the way he rationalizes his behavior. This is characterization done right!



Even the supporting cast of characters, Mitch, Syndney, Serena and Dominic are all wonderfully fleshed out. No one's backstory gets skimped out on in favor of pushing events in a certain direction. They're all given compelling backstories that inform on why they rationalize certain things they way they do. We may not always agree with their decisions, but we're given reasons to understand them, which is so important.


The pacing of this book is so engaging. I was lost for the first 2 chapters, but once I got used to the narrative device Schwab employs, it got so compelling so quickly! I couldn't get through this book fast enough. I'm a busy dude right now thanks to numerous real life commitments, but I put my other current reads on hold for a few days just so I could carve my way though this book first.

I've read some great books already this year, but this book just sort of blew them all out of the water. I actually started this year off by reading my first book ever by Schwab, The Archived and I think it's safe to say that I'm becoming a HUGE fan. I'm definitely moving her Shades of Magic series up my tbr list soon!

5/5 stars & a new favorite for me!

Buddy read with the wonderful Inge
October 17, 2013
Actual rating: 3.5

This is a book about superheroes---or rather, antiheroes, that started off wonderfully, but gradually wandered into genericville territory. It was still very good, but I'm still left with a sense of disappointment. The characters in this book didn't live up to my expectations, or to their own potential. It was the equivalent of a movie-based comic book adaptation, and granted, there have been pretty amazing ones...but still, this is a book. A book has so much more potential for plot twists, for character development, and ultimately, this book didn't live up to my high expectations of it. The quality of the writing is excellent, the character portrayals very well done, but the narrative style didn't work for me, and I had a lot of issues with how cookie-cutter some things eventually became.

If you had asked me how many stars I would give this book, based on the first 5 or so chapters, I would have said five, no questions about it. The beginning was amazing, the first chapter had hook that pulled me in right from the start. We have people digging up a corpse in the middle of a frigid night. We have a talking, walking girl who just might be dead.

This is the present, and we are rapidly brought back to the past...to Lockland University, 10 years ago, where two young men named Victor Vale and Eli Cardale were best friends. Lockland University is the destination of the best and the brightest, and Victor and Eli are the elite among the elites. They share the same intensity for learning, the same sharp brilliance, and a quiet, unspoken rivalry when it comes to life, education, and love. They are like-minded with their fierce ambition, but of the two, Eli seems to be the more sinister, despite his charming, carefree façade.
...something about Eli was decidedly wrong. He was like one of those pictures full of small errors, the kind you could only pick out by searching the image from every angle, and even then, a few always slipped by. On the surface, Eli seemed perfectly normal, but now and then Victor would catch a crack, a sideways glance, a moment when his roommate’s face and his words, his look and his meaning, would not line up. Those fleeting slices fascinated Victor. It was like watching two people, one hiding in the other’s skin. And their skin was always too dry, on the verge of cracking and showing the color of the thing beneath.
For their Comprehensive Science Seminar thesis, Eli unexpectedly chooses the topics of EO: ExtraOrdinary people. People with special abilities, specifically, how science...biology, chemistry, psychology...could explain their existence.

An ambitious topic, a creative topic...one that instills a bitter jealousy within Victor. He feels compelled to push Eli further, as they think of ways in which they can trigger these special abilities and become EOs themselves. Victor and Eli become the guinea pigs in their own science experiments, and their hubris goes too far. It works, albeit disastrously.

10 years later, Victor has broken out of prison. Accompanying him is "a hacker, a half-dead dog, and a child". And he is out for revenge. He slowly tracks Eli down and draws him out, thanks to the help from his ragtag crew, the aforementioned child and a hulking gentle giant of a hacker. Like all superhero movies, everything leads up to a final, grand confrontation.
Victor was out. Victor was free.
And Victor was coming for Eli—just as he’d promised he would.
He sunk the shovel into the cold earth with a satisfying thud.
It took me awhile to realize that this book took place in a pseudo-alternative universe. It's still the current world, as we know it, but it's more like a comic book world, because these EOs are not just theoretical. They're not exactly famous, but it is known that these people exist. It confused me a bit until I realized this fact, because this world seems so similar to our own that it is a little bit of a shock to the system to hear people---specifically, science professors, who are accepting and actually receptive to the idea of a thesis involving people with special powers.

What I loved about this book was the writing and the character portrayals. There are no clear cut, no clear message of goodness versus evil here. Both characters can be termed "bad," respectively, even our main narrator, whom we are presumably expected to root for. Victor is not a good man, he has some redeemable qualities, but throughout the novels, his good deeds are tempered with sparks of inhumanity, of violence. He shoots a man, he inflicts pain, he tortures people when it suits his purposes.

I had a problem with Eli's character development. He is a good "villain," if you can call him that, but I felt like his development was out of character and inconsistent from what we know of him. It felt like a bit of a cop-out, an easy way to pin the donkey's tail on a character designed to be bad, if you will. Eli's evolution was unbelievable, nonsensical. He turned from a brilliant boy, a normal boy with a crack beneath surface into a madman overnight.
“What gives you the right to play judge and jury and executioner?”
“God.”
Eli has always been somewhat religious, it's a contradictory fact about him that Victor finds fascinating, but it is as if he becomes a hypocritical fundamentalist Christian in his rock-solid belief of fulfilling his God-given duty out of nowhere. He did suffer through some traumatic events in the beginning of the novel, but I felt that it was insufficient in explaining his personality changes. It's not enough. It turns Eli from a villain with a potentially complex inner darkness into just another fanatically religious, self-righteous trope.

I had a problem with the constant flashbacks in the narrative. It fluctuates a lot. It goes from the present to 10 years past, to last night, to 2 hours ago, to 2 days ago. The chapters are labeled, so that you know where that particular chapter is taken place, during what time, but honestly, it got to be a little too much. The narrative is from a third-person perspective, and we get it from many characters, Victor, Eli, Sydney, Serena, Mitch. It wasn't so bad, because most of the narrative focused around Sydney, Eli, and Victor, but it didn't mesh together well when combined with all the constant flashbacks.

Overall, I still would highly recommend this. The writing is spectacular, and the characters are mostly well-done, with the exception of Eli. My complaints with this book are subjective, and I still enjoyed the book despite what I felt to be its faults.
Profile Image for Kai Spellmeier.
Author 5 books13.5k followers
December 2, 2020
“There are no good men in this game.”

I'm in a Victoria Schwab fever. Can't really blame her though, her novels are amazing!

The most interesting thing about Vicious were its characters with their extraordinary abilities and the fact that there is no "good" main character. Both, protagonist and antagonist do ruthless things and leave a trail of violence and death, one more than the other. But I ended up rooting for some of the side characters and - of course - the dog.
Eli however really disgusted me. He was ignorant, self-righteous and fanatic. I hate people like him, they make me angry and mad. They remind me of Dolores Umbridge and there is no one in the world of fiction I hate more than her.
It also helps that Victoria Schwab is an incredible writer. A master of atmosphere and originality. Someone who creates characters so intiguing and compelling that it's impossible to lose interest in them. Just add some superpowers and you have the perfect story.
I'm in love.

13/03/2016

Aaand we're getting a sequel! Whoop whoop! I'm really happy, since there was so much room left for a follow-up. Can't wait for Vengeful

Find more of my books on Instagram
Profile Image for Melanie.
1,154 reviews97.7k followers
October 12, 2018


“Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.”

Friends, this is my fifth book by VE Schwab, and I’ve three starred every single one of them. At this point, it is glaringly obvious that you should take my review(s) of her work with a grain of salt, because it is obviously a “me” thing. I will say that I adore the author, and I want so desperately to fall in love with a book of hers. And even though I thought Vicious would be the one, it sadly wasn’t.

But this is a book about two college roommates who are literally experimenting with life and death and that tiny, minuscule, grey area in-between. Ten years later, a story of revenge, heartbreak, and anger is born. Yet, we still get glimpses into what happened at college ten years ago to bring these current ramifications into fruition.

“I want to believe that there's more. That we could be more. Hell, we could be heroes.”

This book does raise the fascinating question, both in literature and in real life: what makes a hero and what makes a villain? Is it just the light the story is told in? Is the difference that monumental? Is it only a matter of perspective? Victor and Eli really challenge this question, and I adored it.

Victor - Fresh out of jail and will stop at nothing to exact his revenge; the slower the better.

Sydney - My favorite character, who needs to be protected at all costs, and is just trying to find her place in a world that has constantly made her feel like she doesn’t belong.

Mitch - I highkey loved this hacker and Victor’s soft friend.

Eli - I actually hated Eli, and I think that’s the point of this book, truly, but his crisis of faith was just too much for me.

Serena - To me, Serena and Sydney were truly the bright, shining stars of this story. And Serena has the coolest power of all the EOs, in my opinion.

And these five people’s paths all cross; some because of tangled pasts, but some because of brand new beginnings. And these characters quickly prove that developing superpowers could be pretty damn frightening. Especially when the powers you develop are rooted in who you are and what you need.

One thing I do want to briefly mention that I adored was Victor’s love for blackout poetry. I’ve actually never seen a book character have a passion for it, and it really warmed my heart. Every time he would create something, it really would take my breath away. It was such a bright light in the story for me.

I read this with a few friends, and the reading was broken down over the course of five days. Day one and day five were both, easily, five star reading days. I loved the start and end of this book more than words. Again, Victoria Schwab is so intelligent, and her ideas are truly a tier above the rest. Sadly, the middle three days I just felt a bit bored, and it only got worse by day four. But the ending? God, I know I shouldn’t, but I desperately want to read Vengeful now.

I also really truly loved how the first and last chapter began. I’m always a sucker when authors mirror events and phrases throughout their book(s) and I feel like VE Schwab always successfully does this. And I get goosebumps each and every time.

Overall, I get that there is some kind of disconnect between me and this author’s books. And nothing is changing that because, believe me, I truly want to love her work so badly. Like I said above, take this review with a grain of salt because so many of my friends adore this book, and I really implore you to check out some of their amazing reviews: Em, Adriana, CW, Hari, & Mari!

Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Youtube | Twitch

Content and trigger warnings for talk of suicide, attempted suicide, overdosing, self-harm, drug use, murder, animal death, abandonment, and depiction of panic attacks.

Buddy read with Mo, Paloma, Julie, & Amber! ❤
Profile Image for Chelsea *Slowly Catching Up* Humphrey.
1,388 reviews77.2k followers
October 4, 2022
"If no one else agrees with you, chances are you're wrong."

If it's wrong to be in love with Victor Vale then I don't want to be right.

Seriously guys, how did you all read this years ago and wait patiently for Vengeful to be published? In all honesty, I never put this one off because of the delayed sequel; in fact, I put it off for so long because hyped books + me typically don't end well. This is one of the VERY few cases where the hype actually is understated. It is precisely the type of book I want to shove into everyone's hands and scream "READ THIS!", because how could you not love it? Obviously I understand that not every book is for everyone so please don't @ me.

I don't want to ramble on, because I'm just about the last person to read this book for the first time, but I definitely could fangirl for eternity over this one. Folks, Vicious had everything I could want and need plus more. The characters were outstanding, the premise and plot execution were exquisite, and that final chapter was incredibly satisfying. I can totally see why Queen Schwab expanded Eli and Victor's feud into a sequel; these villains were simply to complex and substantial to confine to a single installment.

If you haven't read the book yet, or are looking to do a reread because you haven't gotten to part two, I highly recommend giving the audio version a go. I had a blast listening to the audible version; the narrator had a clean and clear reading voice and did various characters with a talented distinction-no cheeseball accents here! Highly recommended and feel this is in my top 3 audible reads (listens?) of the year!
Profile Image for Ashley Nuckles.
190 reviews7,299 followers
August 20, 2017
I was supposed to be reading Six of Crows but left it at work and started this in the meantime and FINISHED IT BECAUSE HOLY MOTHER OF GOD THIS WAS GREAT. I legitimately could not put it down. VE Schwab struck again! The complexity of the characters and the bouncing back and forth on the timeline and oh my goodness, if you're okay with reading about some college kids intentionally trying to kill themselves to get superpowers and maybe becoming accidental villains in the process PLEASE READ THIS (and if not that's totally okay too, it was just really good and thought provoking).
Profile Image for ❄️BooksofRadiance❄️.
600 reviews711 followers
February 20, 2018


Reading about messed up lunatics had never felt better, full satisfaction guaranteed.

A twisted tale of friendships, bitter jealousy, betrayal, loss and ultimately of revenge, Vicious is about Victor and Eli, former friends turned foes who also happen to be deviously cunning in (almost) equal measures.

Neither one can be categorised as simply good or evil and unlike many stories of similar kinds, this is in no way a tale of good vs. evil as there are no good guys in this scenario.
They’re both borderline psychopaths and narcissistic as shit. Tell me you're not in love already...

As far as anti-heroes go, Victor is an absolute delight. Even when most of his actions leave you astounded and amazed, you can’t help but love and fear him all at once, whilst rooting for him to come out on top. He really messes with your sense of logic. It’s a ‘lesser of two evils’ kind of a thing.

Eli is a whole other story. Though he is brilliant with frighteningly well-crafted plans, he’s incredibly ignorant, fanatic and his lack of empathy and self-righteousness make Victor seem like an angelic hero. He seriously takes the cake on the whole MESSED UP front.



What more could you ask for in your characters than when they’re so delightfully grey and blur the lines between good and evil?

Each of the supporting characters is also intricately narrated and as their compelling backstories are slowly revealed, we’re made to understand their actions and decisions. Seriously, everybody’s messed up and it couldn’t be more delightful.

The entire concept and deliberation is just brilliant.

Go, Schwab! ✊ Just go read it... simple as that.
Profile Image for Layla.
316 reviews347 followers
May 25, 2022
Victor Vale is such an icon. He's really doing it all. Commiting murder, dying, undying, breaking out of jail, enacting revenge, being the father of some random child he adopted from the side of the street, having amazing hair, managing to piss of everyone and anyone, being smug 24/7, diabolically plotting to kill his unkillable archnemisis, vandalizing self-help books, and you know what? I completely support him and his endeavors.
Profile Image for ✨ Helena ✨.
364 reviews946 followers
February 3, 2019
BRILLIANT. ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT. I BLOODY LOVED THIS.

“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 labelled a villain for trying to stop them. Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.”

I thought this would be a lot more X-Men-ish with tonnes of fight scenes and action sequences, but this was more of a psychological debate over good vs evil. Rather than supervillains, we were following the paths of sociopathic serial killers, which was fascinating, albeit unexpected. I began the novel preferring Eli, and ended it rooting for Victor. I still can’t say which is the hero and which is the villain, considering that neither of them have any qualms about killing other people. They’re both equally evil psychopaths.

“Hate was too simple a word. He and Eli were bonded, by blood and death and science. They were alike, more so now than ever. And he had missed Eli. He wanted to see him. And he wanted to see him suffer. He wanted to see the look in Eli’s eyes when he lit them up with pain. He wanted his attention. Eli was like a thorn beneath Victor’s skin, and it hurt. He could turn off every nerve in his body, but Victor couldn’t do a damned thing about the twinge he felt when he thought of Cardale.”

description

Victor Vale was definitely my favourite character. He was, by no means a good person, considering that he convinced his roommate, Eli, that conducting an experiment which requires them to scientifically die in order to be reborn as EO’s (Extra Ordinaries) was a good idea, and the fact that he got the aforementioned roommate’s girlfriend, Angie, killed as a result of the experiment. BUT, I still loved him??? I don’t know what that says about me, haha.

“You don’t think I’m a bad person. I don’t want to prove you wrong.”

description

While, Victor was pretty much the King of Bad Decisions, whether it be murder or torture, he was also caring when he wanted to be. Although he initially had ulterior motives when he invited Sydney and Mitch into the fold, he did come to genuinely be fond of them and the little group that they had formed. Dol was also an adorable addition to this newfound criminal family.

“The paper called Eli a hero. The word made Victor laugh. Not just because it was absurd, but because it posed a question. If Eli really was a hero, and Victor meant to stop him, did that make him a villain?”

description

Eliot Cardale, later known as Eli Ever, on the other hand, I wasn’t as fond of. I didn’t like his holier than thou attitude, thinking that he was chosen by God to essentially play God, by acting as judge, jury, and executioner, where he decided who was worthy to live or die. What makes him so special that he thinks it’s his duty to exterminate everyone with abilities? Having supernatural abilities shouldn’t be a crime, as what matters is what you DO with the abilities. The ability itself isn’t bad. If you have the power of hydrokinesis, the power could be used for good if you’re creating water for someone who’s thirsty, or the power could be used for evil if you’re creating water to fill someone’s lungs and kill them. It depends on HOW it’s used. Also, it’s so hypocritical of Eli, considering that he has abilities, as well. It’s such a Hitler-esque thing to do. Hitler only wanted Aryan Germans, despite not being Aryan himself.

In addition, Eli refused to LISTEN to Victor, assuming the worst of his friend, which was the catalyst for everything to come in the novel. Everything that occurred could have been averted, if Eli had stopped to listen. Instead, he was responsible for betraying Victor, which set Victor on the path for revenge against Eli.

This was such an engaging novel that I nearly devoured in one sitting (Why does uni exist? Honestly, why?!). I was glued to the edge of my seat, as I was SO INVESTED in these characters and SO DESPERATE to see how everything would unfold. I didn’t think that I’d like this as much as I ended up liking it. The Shades of Magic trilogy is still my favourite work of Schwab’s, but this is more of what I wanted from the Monsters of Verity duology. THIS was the dark and gritty story that I desired. It was so twisted, being centred on ambition for power, betrayal among friends, and hunger for revenge. And I LOVED IT. I can’t wait to see them all again in Vengeful!
Profile Image for Era ➴.
212 reviews494 followers
May 20, 2022
Okay. I really don’t know what to say about this book.

My base opinion is that I loved it. I really, really loved it. The premise drew me in, the setting was gritty and harsh, the atmosphere was intriguing, and the characters lived up to the promise of a “morally-grey psychological thriller.” Bonus points for lack of romance, which is extremely rare in books.

This book calls into question the differences between heroes and villains. It questions morality and the things that we think are right. The prose, the questions, and the characters pushed my two brain cells to function so much better than they do in biology class.

“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.”

The plot was something that I was not expecting. I didn’t know what to expect from the book synopsis. What I got was that there was a friends-to-enemies vengeance theme, plus superpowers and some mystery. That was enough for me. And when I started reading, I was shook.

Essentially, Vicious follows Victor Vale and Eli Ever (formerly Eliot Cardale) as they search for each other - hunt each other down, more like. It promises answers to questions that we’re handed straight from the introduction: what are EOs, and how did these two become them? What happened ten years ago to turn them against each other? Who is the hero and who is the villain? And finally...what happens when they finally meet?

The pacing of this book jumped from “ten years ago” to following Victor and Eli in the present. It was a little bit confusing at first, since I’m not a fan of time jumps, but once I got used to it I could see how it made the story that much richer and added that much more suspense.

“This isn’t divinity, Eli. It’s science and chance.”

The characters were pretty much all morally-grey. I loved that. I loved how depending whose side of the story we were getting (which POV was being narrated), we could see who thought what about themselves and the others. Victor was the protagonist of his own narrative, but the villain of Eli’s. And I loved how we weren’t given a concrete good-or-bad situation because...well, how boring would this be if it were?

Victor was technically a villain. We all know he’s what you would consider a “bad guy”. He caused pain, killed people, and did things for his own good - a natural Slytherin. But his side of the story also seemed more...justified. Like he could have been the hero.

Victor was snarky, harsh and cold, and I loved him for it. He schemed and refused to sugarcoat things. I loved his straightforward, cold, blunt attitude.

“Victor wondered about lots of things. He wondered about himself (whether he was broken, or special, or better, or worse) and about other people (whether they were all really as stupid as they seemed). He wondered about Angie - what would happen if he told her how he felt, what it would be like if she chose him. He wondered about life, and people, and science, and magic, and God, and whether he believed in any of them.”

Eli, on the other hand, viewed himself as a hero. He had this cocky attitude and natural charm that he turned on to people he wanted something from. He did whatever he did while believing it was for the “greater good”. If I had to describe Eli, it would be as a Slytherin pretending to be a Gryffindor.

He had this personality that was...slippery, like you didn’t know what he was planning unless he told you - and if he told you, that could still be a lie. That was Eli’s character.

“Well, when you wonder something,” said Eli, “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.”

Sydney has been described as a sweet cinnamon roll, but in my opinion she really wasn’t. She was quiet, sure, and a bit dependent, but just because she was young and small doesn’t mean she was automatically a baby. She had this quiet strength and intelligence that didn’t really match with the little-girl image that everyone seems to match with her.

Her ability and her personality just drew me in.

“Who was she to judge or decide or grant or deny? Simply because she could, did that mean that she should?”

Mitch was an amazing example of the ways we judge people and the things that people don’t know about us. Physically, he was this huge tattooed guy, which made everyone think he was some gang member or just overall a huge threat. In reality, Mitch was more of a cinnamon roll than Sydney was, and he was actually this really smart empathetic person.

“He might be mentally cut out for a desk job, but he doubted he’d fit behind most desks. And everything was going smoothly—shitty apartment and shitty pay but all legally valid—until a man was beaten to death a few blocks from where his crew was unloading peaches. The cops took one look at Mitch and booked him. No bloody knuckles, and two coworkers to swear he had his arms full of fruit the whole time, and none of it mattered. Mitch went straight back to prison.”

Oh, and speaking of how we look at characters - you cannot tell me I’m the only one who shipped Victor and Eli. Hello? I know I said there was no romance in this book, but the chemistry here is…more than friendly in my opinion.

“On the surface, Eli seemed perfectly normal, but now and then Victor would catch a crack, a sideways glance, a moment when his roommate's face and his words, his look and his meaning, would not line up. Those fleeting slices fascinated Victor. It was like watching two people, one hiding in the other's skin. And their skin was always too dry, on the verge of cracking and showing the color of the thing beneath.”

Is this a hateful retake of the “I see all of you, and I like it” trope?

“You make cheating death sound so simple.”
“We do seem awfully good at it,” said Victor cheerfully. He lifted his glass. “To never dying.”
Eli lifted his. “To being remembered.”
Their glasses clinked as Eli added, “Forever.”


This is the enemies version of “always”, change my mind

“Victor had never been good, or sweet—he’d always had a sharp edge; Eli had been drawn to the metallic glint of it.”

undeniable allure

“Hate was too simple a word. He and Eli were bonded, by blood and death and science. They were alike, more so now than ever. And he had missed Eli. He wanted to see him. And he wanted to see him suffer. He wanted to see the look in Eli‘s eyes when he lit them up with pain. He wanted his attention. Eli was like a thorn beneath Victor‘s skin, and it hurt. He could turn off every nerve in his body, but Victor couldn‘t do a damned thing about the twinge he felt when he thought of Cardale.”

I am all for platonic relationships, and God fucking knows we could use a few more, but I personally think this goes a bit too far beyond platonic.

Evale stan for life

To sum up my feelings about these two and their dynamic:


The atmosphere of this book was gritty, nostalgic, and rough - like bittersweet memories plus crime. It went into morals, media distortion, and government cover-ups. It went into power and what people can do with it.

“There were some people you had to stay away from, people who poisoned everything in reach. Then there were people you wanted to stick with, the ones with silver tongues and golden touches. And then, there were people you stood beside, because it meant you weren’t in their way.”

The moral questions that VE Schwab posed made my head hurt and made me question my entire view of the world, which was confusing as fuck because I’m already questioning my sexuality and I don’t have much room up there for anything else.

“If Eli really was a hero, and Victor meant to stop him, did that make him a villain?
He took a long sip of his drink, tipped his head back against the couch, and decided he could live with that.”


Each character’s personal perspective and the way they viewed things, from conscience to religion to science, was so unique and so deep in such an interesting way.

“The steps to solving a problem, from elementary math to breaking out of a police station, remained the same.”

“Vicious” is a book about how two mens’ lives changed, ended, and restarted. It’s about power and ambition. It’s about ethics and beliefs, religion vs. science, and what you do with what you’ve been given. It’s deep and rough, but beautiful and thrilling in a weirdly psychological way.

“The moments that define lives aren’t always obvious. They don’t always scream LEDGE, and nine times out of ten there’s no rope to duck under, no line to cross, no blood pact, no official letter on fancy paper. They aren’t always protracted, heavy with meaning.”

Why did I give this four stars instead of five, when this is obviously a rave review? I don’t fucking know. And I don’t have a good reason. Maybe because I haven’t read this book in over a year and I rated it this before? I’ll reread this when I can and then I’ll come back to see whether or not I should change that I guess.

“When no one understands, that's usually a good sign that you're wrong.”

also am I the only one who thought the cover was a dress for like a year because that fucking looks like a dress
Displaying 1 - 30 of 29,488 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.