ARC Review: Vicious by V.E. Schwab

A masterful, twisted tale of ambition, jealousy, betrayal, and
superpowers, set in a near-future world.

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?

My Rating:  5 cupcakes

As a huge fan of The Archived, I was incredibly excited to read Vicious. I quickly found that the only similarity between the two is the excellent, engaging writing that makes them unputdownable.

Vicious is very much a new adult/adult story told through alternating time frames. The present tells of Victor, an escaped convict, who is determined to get his revenge on his former best friend. In the past, Victor is a promising university student and his friendship with Eli is firmly intact. Their relationship is real and complicated, fluctuating between love, admiration, bitterness, and jealousy.

I loved the detailed biological explanation of how one can go about obtaining Extra-Ordinary abilities. The method of obtaining these abilities and the ways that Victor and Eli implement it makes getting bitten by a radioactive spider seem like a welcome alternative.

Ultimately, Vicious is a story about how the lines between superhero and supervillain aren’t as black and white as comic books would like us to believe. It’s about ambition and power, and how easily those can drive apart friendships. Beneath their smooth exterior the characters all have a hidden dark side, though these impulses are stronger for some than they are for others. It’s a truly fascinating look at human nature that will make you look at “good guys” and “bad guys” much differently.

Hopefully the rest of the novel is as compelling as the first 100 pages. Whether it is or not, though, one thing is for sure: I can’t wait to get my hands on a finished copy.

**I received an advanced copy of this book from Netgalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge.

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