Book Review: Vicious – V. E. Schwab


Title: Vicious (2013)
Series: Vicious – Book 1
Author: V. E. Schwab
Genre: Science Fiction
Extent: 364 pages
Release Date: September 24, 2013
Rating: ★★★★★

Goodreads Description

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?


Guys. Guys. I think I’m in love with V. E. Schwab. After a full month without any five-star read, it was just so good to tuck into a book that was super fun, super addictive, and super gripping from the start to the end. I didn’t put Vicious down even once and pretty much finished it in one sitting. In a way, this book kind of reminds me of X-Men (which I love) in book form.

Vicious is about two young men who, ten years ago, experimented with death and gained extraordinary abilities, making them ExtraOrdinary (EO). One of them, Victor, is our protagonist, who just spent the last decade in jail, while the other is Eli, his college roommate and current arch-nemesis. The story alternates between the past and the present, delving deep into their relationship then as well as what it is now.

“I want to believe that there’s more. That we could be more. Hell, we could be heroes.”

What carries this book is definitely the characters. Victor was ambitious, arrogant, and the bone he wanted to pick with Eli was highly personal. Eli, on the other hand, had taken kind of a ‘hero’ role in society, killing other EOs he could find because he deemed them unnatural and dangerous to humans. Both of them have a support team with them: Victor has Sydney, a thirteen-year-old EO who can raise the dead, and Mitch, his cellmate from the jail, whereas Eli has Serena, another EO whose ability can be rivalled by no other.

The unique history between these two characters lends for some very interesting themes to be explored. Victor might be our protagonist, but he’s really more of an anti-hero: cold, calculating, and utterly unconcerned by the thought of inflicting violence on others when it suits his purpose. Eli fancied himself a hero, but though his intentions might be good, he was clearly misguided in his beliefs and didn’t even flinch when committing evil.

“Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.”

Vicious is a great demonstration of Schwab’s masterful, efficient storytelling. Everything had a purpose — no character was a throwaway, no single moment was filler, no setting was left unutilised to the full. Pacing-wise it was also simply wonderful: the opening of  caught my attention, kept it fully engaged until the end, and I constantly found myself skipping a few pages forward just because I couldn’t wait any second longer to know what would happen and the tension was simply killing me.

I’m actually still not sure what it was about this book that I loved so much — I even looked up negative reviews on Goodreads, just to see if I’d been on too much an emotional high to look at it more objectively (it sometimes happens)! The characters are flawed and complex, yes, and the story was super fun, but many books are like that too. What about this one made it special to me?

“Everything starts with belief. With faith.”

The best way I could think of putting it right now is that the story feels alive. It was a bit like my very own Vicious movie was happening inside my head, and I just had to sit back and let myself be taken for a wild, wonderful ride — and I just really, really, really loved that. Highly recommended. 🙂

49 thoughts on “Book Review: Vicious – V. E. Schwab

  1. I get so happy every time I see a positive review of Vicious 😀 It’s been a year since I read it now and it’s still on the top of my list of all-time favorite books. I know I’m going to end up re-reading it eventually, it was just that good. I agree with you that it felt alive, and all the characters really get to you.


    • I’m glad that it still remains your favourite! I read my review now and I wonder if I’m going to regret being so praise-y of it, haha. What if I like it less in a couple of months? But yeah, this is one of those books I think I’ll reread as well — it just has that quality. 🙂


  2. I get so happy every time I see a positive review of Vicious 😀 It’s been a year since I read it now and it’s still on the top of my list of all-time favorite books. I know I’m going to end up re-reading it eventually, it was just that good.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What really amazes me about this book is the way V.E. Schwab gets us to love characters that are so flawed. I was rooting for Victor the entire way through, even though he definitely made some questionable decisions along the way. I’m so glad you loved it! 🙂


  4. Schwab is an excellent writer, isn’t she? I mean The Shade of Magic and Vicious couldn’t be more different and yet they are both so good!
    I think the character that scared me the most is Serena. The others have physical abilities, but her power of suggestion gives me chill.


    • She is SO amazing. I haven’t read any of her books under ‘Victoria Schwab’ but I’m curious to see if they’re similarly wonderful — or if it’s so different I can no longer tell it’s her writing.

      OMG, absolutely. Have you watched Jessica Jones? The villain in that TV series has the same power and he actually uses it for evil. Serena could’ve been so much worse, but I’m so glad we get to see inside her brain kind of and explore how bored she feels or how resentful she is that no one can break her will. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  5. wow! awesome review! I love it when I come across other reviewers who are so enthusiastic and passionate about books they love!

    I haven’t read anything by V.E. Schwab, but I keep seeing that name pop up all over the place. So . . . . time to add this one to my TBR. 😀


    • Thank you! This book kind of just called it out of me, to be honest. 😛

      I highly recommend Schwab if you like fantasy and grey characters! I’ve only read three of her books, but each one was just so great. Hope you enjoy it. ❤


  6. I’ve heard such great things about this book. I really should read this soon 🙂 Great review! I think when a book manages to capture everything in an almost cinematic way, it’s testament to the author’s great writing skills.


    • Thanks, Fatima! I highly recommend it, but admittedly I wrote this review when I was still delirious with happiness after finishing it, haha. And for sure – there’s just something so easy to read yet so great about Schwab’s writing skills. I hope you get to pick up this book soon and enjoy it as much as I have. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m (finally) reading A Darker Shade of Magic and really enjoying it. I’ll definitely be picking this one up as well. Great review!


  8. I only read ADSOM so far, but I feel like Schwab knows how to make a book unique, and from that review, well… I feel like I need to add that one to my TBR. A book that feels alive? I think you pretty much sold that book to every single human being right now. *runs to add it to TBR*


  9. Yes! I am so glad you loved this book and I really really enjoyed reading your review 😀 I didn’t make the X-Men connection until you mentioned it but now it’s all I can see when I think back to the story because it completely fits the characters and the situation Victor and Eli find themselves in.
    I think V.E. Schwab is such an amazing author because she manages to create characters you feel a connection to despite them being flawed, and the same goes with the plot as well! I think from now on anything she writes is going to go to the top of my favourites list just because she’s yet to release anything I haven’t loved! 😀


    • I was SO GIDDY when I finished this book and immediately wrote the review, and I think it shows! I’m glad you enjoyed it. 😛

      X-Men was the first thing I thought of when I read the blurb, because EOs = mutants. Neither Victor nor Eli is ‘good’, though, and Charles definitely (kind of?) is.

      Have you read her books under ‘Victoria Schwab’? I haven’t yet and I wonder if they’re equally amazing. I’m super excited for This Savage Song – reviews have been great so far. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I was the same, as soon as I finished I started writing my review and I posted it the same day too! I made the connection to the superhero thing, and Vicious definitely reminded me of some superhero elements, but for some reason I didn’t think of X-Men which is strange because now it’s been pointed out to me it’s so obvious! 🙂
        I have, I think the only ones of hers I hadn’t gotten around to was Vicious (which I have now) and This Savage Song (which hasn’t been released yet). I think they are just as good but honestly I read them so long ago I can’t remember much of what happened. I think a re-read is in order! 😀


        • To be fair though lots of books have ‘superheroes’ or superhero-related themes, so it makes sense that you didn’t think of X-Men when you first read it – there are so many others out there!

          Ohh, that’s good to know. ADSOM is my first book from her and I’m excited to see what the others are like. This Savage Song also sounds so unique – I guess I love her ideas, and they’re always executed so well. 😛

          Liked by 1 person

          • They seem to be a very hot topic at the moment! And I think Vicious was the more darker side to the superhero theme, (I mean, say what you will about Erik at least he isn’t killing other mutants on a mission from God!)
            I do think ADSOM is the best, but I remember her others were quite good as well. They definitely made me want to pick up the rest of her books which is what led me to ADSOM! I’m really excited for This Savage Song, hopefully my pre-order will be dispatched soon and I can get started on it!


            • Vicious was quite dark! Erik might not kill mutants, but he sure killed lots and lots of humans, haha. I guess the whole X-Men franchise was more about the mutants though so we never really get to see that part. 😛

              Ooh, you’re fast! I haven’t even looked This Savage Song up yet – I know it’s released pretty soon though so I’m gonna be living vicariously through you when that time comes. Fingers crossed it arrives soon! ❤

              Liked by 1 person

              • Well, there’s that I suppose! I think it’s the same in Vicious, it’s more about the EO’s so seeing Eli kill them just seems so shocking, especially because he’s an EO as well you know!
                I actually think it was released today! I can’t be too sure but I have my copy pre-ordered so I’m pretty much just waiting for an email from Amazon telling me it’s been dispatched! I’m keeping my fingers crossed as well, and I’ll definitely let you know what I think when I’m finished, I’ll probably post a review pretty quickly, it’s V.E. Schwab after all 😀


  10. I completely agree with everything you’ve said here! I loved this one too. The characters were so complex and the story itself was so thought-provoking. Glad you enjoyed it as much as I did! ❤


  11. AHHH, I need to pick up V. E. Schwab! I have A Darker Shade of Magic and I need to get onto it soon because she seems so great! Vicious has definitely moved up my TBR and I can’t wait to read it. I’m so glad you enjoyed it, great review!


  12. Ahh yes!! This is one of my favorites books ever, it’s seriously Schwab’s best work IMO! I could also picture this book as a movie, I’m so glad they are actually making it 😍


  13. You know Victoria is one of my all time favorite authors and I’m so glad you loved Vicious! It’s the first book I ever read from her and it’s absolutely amazing. I can’t wait until the sequel comes out. I feel like I should be on a mission to transform everyone into Schwab Lovers and you are my first. Mission accomplished! Haha


  14. I find it funny that I havent read any of this authors books and yet she gets so much praise. Vicious in particular seems to be a fan favorite and something that I look forward to reading holefully in the near future


    • I definitely love Schwab’s writing, and I can see why she gets a lot of praise. Her writing’s very well-suited to her books, and her characters are usually very interesting. I hope you get to read one of hers soon – I highly recommend this one to start with! 😛

      Liked by 1 person

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