Author: V.E. Schwab
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: 24th September 2013
Rating: 5/5 stars
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 seriously enjoyed Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic – I loved the intricate world-building, the awesome magic set-up and the many twists and turns. However, Vicious absolutely blew that one out of the water! I didn’t get my hands on it until December, but I couldn’t put it down.
For me, this book was a creepier, more realistic X-Men. And I absolutely loved that the two characters were determined to make themselves superheroes IN THE NAME OF SCIENCE! I adore books which question the ethics of certain fields of scientific enquiry, ESPECIALLY when the story borders fantasy and reality like this one!
ExtraOrdinary, or EO, was the term given to those people with superpowers. Eli and Victor, the two main characters, theorised people needed to die completely and could then be revived as EOs.
The story followed two storylines – the present day, where Eli and Victor are bitter enemies, and ten years ago, where the two are best friends and brilliant college students. It takes a while to understand where it all went wrong, but the climactic scene is definitely worth the wait. I definitely preferred reading about their college years, but there was more action in the present day storyline – plus we met some more interesting EOs.
Schwab’s characters are absolutely brilliant. There is not one instance where I considered any character flat or dull. Eli was absolutely fascinating – it was so intriguing to get into the mind of this character who is convinced that his power is a gift from God, and all other EOs are an affront to his divine work. His religious fervour really added to his character, and raised intriguing points about religion versus science.
Schwab has not only written a compelling story, but has used her novel to question the ethics of science. I LOVED EVERY SINGLE MOMENT! All of the characters are heavily flawed, and their motives always border right and wrong. It is almost impossible to read this book without thinking about the big questions of ethics and morality.
I haven’t mentioned much about the specific superpowers in the book, because I really enjoyed coming across them without any prior knowledge. However, I will say, that they aren’t cliched in any way. This is a wholly original and absolutely fascinating take on the superhero story, and it comes highly recommended from me. Also, check out the fantastic UK cover below. I like that it matches the Darker Shade of Magic cover!
Which cover do you prefer?
What do you think of the superhero trope? Do you like seeing it mixed up?