Mini Book Review: Vicious by V.E.Schwab

Jayna Rohslau, ‘22

Superpowers, murder and mayhem abound in this series opener

It is a truth universally acknowledged that books are pretty great.  But as a choosy (read: ridiculously selective) reader, it’s often difficult for me to find one that feels right.   Eleven times out of ten, if someone recommends YA to me, I’ll discreetly wrinkle my nose and offer a polite but firm “no thanks.”  Either a book is too hard and gritty for my tastes, or it’s sickeningly sweet. There is no middle ground-- I’m like the literary equivalent of a picky eater.  But the good news is that when I like a book, and find one that bridges the gap between too gritty and too sweet- well, let’s just say I really like the book.

Such is the case with V.E.Schwab’s Vicious.  Vicious, as the name entails, is about people who maybe aren’t the nicest to one another.  Their names are Victor Vale and Eli Cardale, and they are roommates in college together. Victor is brilliant, lonely and cynical--he enjoys nothing more than an evening of quiet brooding.  Eli is brilliant, lonely and good at masking it--he enjoys nothing more than going to a party, before an evening of quiet brooding. They are both a tad bit sociopathic, and occasionally have good senses of humor.  But mostly high functioning sociopaths, those two. Anyways, during their senior year, Victor and Eli find out a way to gain supernatural abilities via near-death experiences. But things don’t go according to plan(big surprise there), landing Victor in prison and Eli… to some interesting conclusions, to say the least.  As you can imagine, the story only escalates from there: ten years later, Victor is seeking revenge on Eli. And Eli just happens to be a mass-murderer.

While this vague dosage of plot may seem alarming, I think it aptly conveys all this story has to offer.  Which is: morally gray characters, superpowers, and a whole lot of malicious fun. Over the course of the book, Victor and Eli progress from friends/academic rivals, to archenemies.  Yet, as it is so aptly conveyed in an early chapter, there are no good men in this game. Both Victor and Eli are imperfect, and both are willing to go a long way to achieve their goals.  This adds a level of intrigue to the storyline which makes it differ from books with similar “superhero” plots. Neither protagonist is a hero, so the outcome of a typically good-versus-bad situation is unclear.  This, combined with a great cast of other characters (including a partially undead dog), makes for a thrilling read.The best books create a fantastical reality, providing a little shelter from the real world, while making relative sense (or as much sense as superpowers can, I guess).  In my opinion, Vicious does this is the best way possible.  Drop everything and read it. It might not be your cup of tea, but you won’t know until you try it.  As for me, I think I could drink the whole kettle.

Vicious is part of a three book series. The second, Vengeful, was released in September. The third’s release date is a mystery, shrouded in heavy fog.