It’s been just over a year now since I started reading books by V.E Schwab, and every single one has been absolute gold. I’m slowly building up my collection and working my way through her novels. So far, I’ve read the Shades of Magic trilogy, The Near Witch, and City of Ghosts, as well as the Steel Prince graphic novel more recently. Even this small selection of Schwab’s books shows her ability to write in different genres and settings.
Vicious is the story of Victor and Eli, two young men, roommates who embark on a journey to discover if they can induce superpowers in one another. But their success comes at a price. Victor ends up in prison, while Eli establishes himself as a hero, setting out to eradicate other superpowered humans.
The most interesting thing for me in Vicious is how Schwab challenges the notions of what makes a hero, and what makes a villain. For the reader, it’s clear who we are rooting for, but in another story, the tables would be turned, with the reader/viewer rooting for the typical All American Hero, and eagerly awaiting the villain’s downfall. To everyone else, Eli is a protector, just looking out for people and ensuring they are safe.
The themes here are those that have run through stories of superpowered humans since they first graced the pages of comic books. Essentially, the question here – who watches the Watchmen? But Schwab brings her own talent to these themes, giving us characters we completely care about, with their own individual quirks and concerns. She presents us with a plot that is intriguing and gripping, spending part of the novel switching back and forth between Victor and Eli’s college days, and the present, as the two men come closer to seeing each other once again.
Schwab handles prose masterfully, conveying a lot – themes, character, plot – in a way that is easy to read, flows really well, and keeps the reader utterly gripped. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Vicious, and it introduced a set of characters I would be all too keen to follow in further books. Hopefully I’ll get to read Vengeful someday soon.