Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Review || Vicious by VE Schwab

Vicious by VE Schwab ★★★★★
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?

I don't even know what to say about this book. It was just so good.

I mentioned shades of grey in my recent review of Prodigy, but that ain't got nothing on this. You're rooting for Victor while completely aware of the fact that he is the farthest thing from "the good guy". In fact, everyone in this book is so messed up. It's part of what makes the book so wonderful. There are no good guys or bad guys and this isn't your typical superhero fare. Everyone is twisted and ruthless and terrible.

I loved this book from the first page. The writing is evocative and atmospheric. Schwab gives you breadcrumbs with her out of chronological order narrative in the first half of the book. She reveals the world and its characters slowly and masterfully. So much so that it's a genuine pleasure when things start to slot together.

Books with ensemble casts tend to be my favourite, and there is quite the cast of characters in Vicious. Each one has their own story, which you learn slowly. And each one has their own motivations. Thrust together by chance and circumstance (and occasionally piss poor decision making) Schwab blends their backstories together effortlessly. You get to peer into their heads and it's difficult not to get attached.

The world Schwab has built feels alive and real. The explanations she gives behind EOs (ExtraOrdinarys) and how exactly their powers manifest is really cool. But more than that, there are little ticks and traits that she gives her characters that make them feel real. She turns tropes on their heads. (Can we talk about how much I adored Mitch as the big, burly and super intelligent one? UGH. YES.)

One thing I wish we'd seen more of was Victor's "poetry". This might not make much sense unless you've read the book, but when you actually get to see his blacked out work... I nearly threw the book across the room, it was so good.

I won't really give away any more than that, except to leave you with his quote:
“Be lost. Give up. Give In. in the end It would be better to surrender before you begin. be lost. Be lost And then you will not care if you are ever found.”   
Read this book. You won't regret it.