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Victor and Eli, once college room mates who recognized a certain ambition in each other, shared similar topics for their senior thesis projects: adrenaline, near-death experiences, and the superhuman abilities that are seemingly connected to the two. In short, they're interested in the science behind ExtraOrdinary humans (EOs), aka superheros. As they begin to realize that a person could gain EO abilities under the right conditions, their project begins to move from purely academic to experimental and as a result they face horrible consequences. Ten years later, Victor has escaped from a federal penitentiary and he plans to find his old friend, now enemy, Eli, and make him suffer. On his side Victor has Mitch, a huge hacker, and Sydney, a young girl with a stunning ability. They realize Eli is much closer than they expected and he has a disturbing mission. Eli has been locating and killing EOs, except for the mysterious woman with an unbreakable will at his side. Just because these two old friends now have superhuman abilities, doesn't mean they're heroes.
Vicious by Victoria Schwab has been the best novel I've read of the new year and it's just what I needed to help tide me over until the release of A Gathering of Shadows. The characters, world-building, plotting, and writing are absolutely stunning. If you like reading about complex villains and what lead them down the path of becoming each other's arch-nemesis, this book is definitely for you.
Just because Victor and Eli have gained superpowers, doesn't mean they're the heroes, not at all. Then again, they're not exactly villains. Yes, they are very, very twisted, but both occupy an interesting gray area, especially Victor. While neither are good guys in any sense of the word, I quickly found myself on Victor's side. I couldn't help, but be drawn in by his cleverness, ambition, and calm demeanor - you know, when he's not turning the pain up to eleven on his enemies. Then, there's Eli, who is incredibly charismatic and likable - when he's not murdering people right and left and taking the credit for being a hero. While I was reading, I also had James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender from the new X-Men films in the back of my mind as Victor and Eli, except they would have to be more evilly villainous.
As much as I liked Victor, I also enjoyed Mitch and Sydney, his new found associates, who easily steal whatever scenes they're in. Mitch, Victor's old cellmate, looks like he could tear someone's arm off and beat them to death with it, but he's actually a hacker. However, he's not exactly above acting the part. Sydney, the little girl the two find on their way to Eli, has one of the more fascinating powers. I don't want to spoil it, but Victor knows he can use it to great effect. As for Eli's partner, Serena, she has quite a bit of power herself considering what she's able to do to her "boyfriend". Each character in this novel is a equally fascinating and horrible, in their own way.
The structure of the novel is very compelling. It uses a series of flashbacks to catch us up to the present - moving incrementally from ten years ago to now. It requires that you pay attention to the chapter headings so you know when you are in Victor's and Eli's story - before they gain EO abilites, or afterward. I particularly enjoyed this style - it really increases the tension rather than if the story would have been told chronologically.
Vicious is exactly my kind of story and I would love to have the forthcoming sequel in my hands right now. I would also like a movie and a tv adaptation. That would be wonderful. If you haven't read anything by V.E. Schwab yet, you're really missing out.
I read this book from January 13 - 19, 2016 and my review is also on Goodreads.