Review: Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Ten years ago, Victor and Eli were brilliant, clever, dangerous friends.

Ten years later, Victor and Eli are brilliant, clever, dangerous enemies.

It all comes down to midnight.


Anybody getting X-men vibes?

I saw the lovely review on Jess’s blog a few months back and I knew that this would be a great foray into the NA genre. So, thanks very much Jess!

Victor and Eli’s relationship is toxic. Like good toxic in that it makes for fabulous reading, but bad toxic because well…look how they turned out. They’re a dangerous combination of cleverness, risk, determination, revenge and viciousness. And they bring a new meaning to the word vicious. And I loved how they are pretty much not exactly black/white characters. Victor is focused and driven. His entire life has revolved around Eli even before he turned into an EO. He notices Eli before Eli ever (ha!) reveals himself and that subtle foreshadowing was done wonderfully.

Eli is obsessed with eradicating the ExtraOrdinaries. It’s what his whole life has culminated to. And his obsession with faith, belief and God has wiped out any rationale or human inhibitions. Like taking a life. What’s interesting is that Eli is aware that he’s murdering people but he sweeps it aside. He’s not ignorant. Far from it. In fact, he’s hyperaware of what he’s doing but he chooses not to look too hard because he believes what he is doing is just and right and has been approved by God.

Or in other words, approved by himself.

What has become a task that he has taken up on behalf of God has transformed into Eli becoming his own version of God. Someone who sees something wrong with his order of the universe and must therefore stop it.

But can I just say that for some strange reason, I couldn’t bring myself to hate Eli? His actions are terrible, yes, but he’s being guided by his own truth. Not the universal truth but then is there such a thing? We see him as a villain but he sees himself as a hero and…aren’t those two sentiments true at the same time? There’s this quality to Eli that makes him hero and villain and makes those two sides indistinguishable. He’s a hero in his own right and a villain in his/our own right as well.

Since this story was primarily focused on Victor, readers can’t know what’s going on in Eli’s head. Does he feel guilty? Maybe. To an extent. But remember, he thinks that he’s saving the EOs from themselves: they aren’t human so it is up to him to put them out of their misery.

You won’t find any clearly-defined heroes or villains in this book. You have the protagonist and the antagonist. Someone to fight back against someone who acts as the opposition.

A morally ambiguous character, Victor is no saint. He is not good. But he’s not bad either. In a way, he’s like Eli: a hero and not a hero at the same time. He’s trying to defeat Eli who is slaughtering EOs because they’re ‘unnatural’. But he is not all gung-ho for the rights of EOs either. He’s only saving EOs for his own purposes, as a means to his own end. If they are useful, he doesn’t see a reason why they can’t live.

It’s what makes him so interesting. Is he a villain? He’s not exactly a saviour in the traditional sense. He’s rather selfish if you think about it: trying to take revenge on Eli. But he’s not all bad. Is Victor a hero? He did save Mitch and Sidney. He is trying to stop Eli from wiping out innocent human beings, perhaps inadvertently. But you can’t say for certain that he is a hero or that he is a villain. It’s impossible to slice Victor into a clearly defined category.

Layers. This is a brilliant example of what human beings are like. We are all layers upon layers upon layers of black, white and every other colour imaginable.

Sidney and Mitch were…can I even call them supports? Technically, Victor doesn’t need any emotional support and you could even call them a burden because he has to be so careful around them and he is somewhat using them for his own means but I think they give back what Victor is missing after being revived as an EO. Some semblance of friendship. True loyalty. Connection. Family. Both Sidney and Mitch are missing some form of those traits in their past lives. The three, in a way, belong to each other.

Ah, Serena. How I hated her, felt sorry for her and wanted to smack her in the face all at the same time. How much of your actions define you as a person? What she did to her sister months ago…does it compare to what she did for her sister when she last saw her? Does that make her forgivable?

The plot was a slooooow burn which I loved. This was written in a series of flashbacks when Victor and Eli were friends in college to the present which is also not exactly the present. The present is a ticking time bomb to the final showdown.

What I also found intriguing was Victor’s powers. Because that really embodied who he is as a person. He can give pain and amplify it. But he can take it away and give peace. Good power vs. Bad power. Choices. Two sides of the same coin. While the powers that are bestowed upon the EOs are based on their last thoughts, I think they also speak to the very core of who they are.

This book is unbelievably compelling to read. And difficult. You really can’t split Victor and Eli as being good or bad just as you can’t split the reasoning of whose fault it is for their demise (for one of them, anyway). If you didn’t have Eli, you’d never have planted the seed. If you didn’t have Victor, you wouldn’t have nurtured and watered that seed until it grew up into a beautiful but perhaps poisonous thing.


5 thoughts on “Review: Vicious by V.E. Schwab

  1. I’m so glad that you loved this one, Hilary! I’ve heard excellent things about VE Schwab’s books and I definitely wanna buy this one when I get off my book buying ban.

    Excellent review, hun <33


      1. Hey Hilary, where’ve you been lately? Just wanted to let you know that you are missed <33


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