Book Review: “Vicious” by V.E. Schwab

Warning: This book review contains spoilers for “Vicious” by V.E. Schwab. If you’re looking for a spoiler-free review, this isn’t the one for you!

Cover of "Vicious" by V.E. Schwab
Cover of “Vicious” by V.E. Schwab

I’m back with another book review, and this time I’m reviewing “Vicious” by V.E. Schwab! I’ve read some of this author’s books before, and I’m interested in picking up both “Vicious” and “Vengeance” to read. I plan to cover “Vengeance” in a future review, since that is the sequel to today’s book that I’m covering, “Vicious.” Here’s a summary so we know what it’s about:

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.” 

Content Warning:

This book contains actual suicide, attempted suicide, drug use and overdosing, murder, animal deaths, and depicted panic attacks. If you are sensitive to these types of content, I advise that you read this book with caution.

Plot Development: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Each chapter either jumps forward to the future, or jumps back to the past, and it’s up to the reader to piece things together as they go. I actually enjoyed this aspect of the plot. This is because the way the timejumps work actually helps the plot develop and build throughout the book. Each jump forward or back in time provides insight to what is really going on with all of the characters, both major and minor. I found the timejumps easy to track because each chapter clearly stated at what point at time that the events of each chapter happened.

The downfall of the main plot draws from these same timejumps. It gets a bit confusing in the first quarter of the book because I, as a reader, was only starting to put the pieces together. However, it came together much better by the latter half of the book. If you’re not patient enough to put the pieces together while reading, this book won’t be as easy to enjoy reading as opposed to something with a strict chronological order.

Character Development: 4 out of 5 stars

Victor and Eli were very alike in some ways with their cold and brilliant minds, especially during the flashbacks taking place ten years ago. The timejumps in the book help illustrate the clear changes they have by the present time. It’s interesting to see how a project they worked on together has devastating consequences on their friendship and breaks it apart by the end.

I also enjoyed reading Serena and Sydney’s individual development and their bond as sisters. It was fascinating reading how they acted towards each other with knowledge of each other’s powers. I also enjoyed reading how their powers affected a lot of the events that happen in this book. I was surprised that Serena got killed off by the end of the book. Then again, it would be too dangerous to let Serena live, given how she constantly manipulates people to bend to her will without question. I wonder if Sydney will ever find out in the next book that Victor actually Serena and not Eli, especially given that Sydney sees Victor as her “safe” person to be around. I know Mitch and Dominic were not as major in this book compared tot he first four characters I just discussed, but I do think that they could have used a little more development. I hope they get an opportunity to shine more in the next book, “Vengeful,” and give them further development.

Worldbuilding Development: 4 out of 5 stars

The worldbuilding in this book is easy to understand overall. It can be a little tricky to make sense of a few aspects, like why some people have supernatural powers and such in the beginning of the book due to the constant timejumps, but it makes a lot more sense after getting about twenty-percent through the book. I like how the book expanded on the idea of having supernatural powers meaning that you’re not necessarily a hero, or in the position to be a hero figure. I also enjoyed reading some of the moral aspects and issues of characters having powers like manipulating others with words alone, or the ability to revive the dead. It’s clear that these powers are beneficial to an extent, but can also be a detriment in other ways.

Overall, I’m rating this book 4 out of 5 stars!

This was a very interesting book overall. I recommend this book for those interested in superpowers gone wrong, as well as those that like to piece together the situation as it goes. For those that don’t like navigating massive timejumps, however, this might not be the book for you. You may want to be careful reading this book if you choose to, for those that may be sensitive to the content described in the warnings, you may want to be careful reading this book. I look forward to reading and reviewing the sequel “Vengeful!”


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