Vicious by Victoria Schwab

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?

There are superheroes and there are superheroes and then you have Victoria Schwab's take on superheroes. Whenever I hear or find a story that has story has superheroes in it, it immediately skipss to the top of my list, I like these kind of stories, who doesn't!? (I wish I had superpowers :-)). Victoria Schwab is well known from some her earlier books that have been well received and with this in the back of my mind I was really looking forward to Vicious. All the praise that Vicious has received so far has been well deserved. It's one of those books that you don't want to miss out on. Victoria Schwab both literally and figuratively shows what extra ordinary is all about!

I think you can't wish a better better to a book than what Victoria Schwab shows in Vicious. A scene digging a cemetery featuring the main protagonist Victor. This immediately set the mood straight: a dark and gritty kind of setting that radiated all though-out the book, you can directly feel the hatred of Victor through the pages. Not only did it set the mood straight, it also raises a lot of questions for the remainder of the story. Because how does one find oneself digging in a cemetery? But let me start with the concept of Vicious

Like I mentioned above this is and isn't your ordinary story featuring superheroes. The first thing that falls to note is whether you can really talk about the super infront of the heroes. It is more a take with anti-heroes. This really made the story that more interesting considering that I haven't read a story that featured this in quite some time. It gets even better when you learn just how the heroes are "made" in Vicious, it's not with a spiders bite let me tell you that upfront. Instead Victoria Schwab creates something quite new that you have to experience to unlock your own potential. NDE or Near Death Experience, recovering from an NDE will cause you to unlock your power, this might sound easy and with a bit like "Hey let's do this" but it far from this... The resulting heroes are called ExtraOrdinaries or EO's. The powers gained is based pure on the persons nature and range from regeneration, mind control. But the focus isn't necessarily on the power of the EO's, it does play an important part in the storyline but where the focus lies in Vicious is how does one go about becoming and being a hero, it is far from the straightforwardness of running in your tights and saving the world. Victoria Schwab uses a set of well developed characters to show and explore several themes like: jealousy, doing what is right in your opinion, revenge, Good vs. Bad and personal ambitions, all throughout the book.  

The story of Vicious is divided into several time frames all centering around one final showdown. The time frames first alternate between 10 years back and a few days before the showdown to eventually hours leading up to the final confrontation. This way of dividing the story was done in a superb manner and gave a solid grip on the whole story. As in the parts that dated back 10 years ago you learned much more about how and why everything went down and why Victor is mad at Eli, well that is kindly understated though (the mad part). The time of the days and hours leading up to that one final encounter showed the real time events and as you see the days nearing to the final confrontation the story is each time thrown in to a nice pacing, especially when you have the follow-up/explanations of the past linking with the current events. And where it gets even more complete is with the addictive writing style that Victoria Schwab uses. All of this combined the usage of the book, settings of world and characters and writing style make it hard to part with, like it's superglued to your hand.

The two most important characters that you follow are Victor and Eli. The story is mostly told from the perspective of Victor but there is also the occasional highlight of the other characters. Victor and Eli were roommates back in college (10 years back) and they wanted to prove if there was something like an ExtraOrdinary. In their search they went far and perhaps gotten into deep... When you first see the relation between Victor and Eli it might seem that everything was ok back in the days but there was also this slight edge given to it. For me it seemed that Victor was always in the background and always lived a bit in the shadows. Victor's and Eli's whole stories are being told in quite the detail in the 10 years flashback scenes and if you look closely at both of them it is quite hard to say who is the villian and who is the superhero. Yes they both went to extremes and got powers but they also both changed. Victoria Schwab played a mindgame with Victor but also put one on me mainly the scene when Victor is questioning if he is villian if the people love Eli so much... It's hard to interpret at that time since you really see Victor planning Eli's demise. But come to think of it, Eli isn't all guts and glory when you look at his character and compare it to Victor it just seems that Eli was just that bit smarter (in the beginning!). All in all I was more than pleased with how both Victor and Eli were shown throughout the time frames and nearing the ending, the story get much more excited than I first hoped showing several nice twists in some important characters. 

Besides both Victor and Eli there are still a few other secondary characters that you get to learn about in Vicious, some of them Sidney and Serena (sisters) add a lot of depth to the story that is told around Eli and Victor, on the first I wasn't expecting much of both of them to be honest but when you continue in the story several things do become clear and it comes to show that they both have much more important roles to play. Sidney, Victor's companion, has a great gift that proves to be up for his particular plan, but when you take Sidney as a young girl alone, she is fragile and even fears her own power. She is hesitant to use it and feels just like a teenage girl young and confused and not a clear direction on where to go. She finds this direction with Victor and grows confident, even though this was shown in a small scope, this was something that I wanted to read. Even more so is Serena, Eli's companion, Serena also has an important power for Eli and come to think of it. Eli couldn't have been Eli without Serena. The ending of Serena left me without words. Her power final caught up with her and the way that is was told was hauntingly beautiful. There are a few more character that you get to meet along the way but I will leave those for you to discover. They are just as well fleshed out as the main protagonists Victor and Eli and Sidney and Serena.

So there you have it, might have turned into a fanboy review but Vicious is Really. Good. Stuff. (I know I have been saying this about a few books lately but then again I have been reading some great books at that). From the start of the book Victoria Schwab managed to grab and never let the go. The story doesn't falter one bit and the action is kept pretty tight and a plenty. The idea behind Vicious is brilliant and resulted in a story like I haven't encountered before. The one element of the book that I really liked is that you know there are superpower at play and that makes several characters quite dangers, the focus isn't necessarily on showing how flashy these power are (most ExtraOrdinaries can be killed with a bullet as well) but that it revolves more around everything that is accompanied with it. How do you deal with powers, especially gained in such a circumstance AND when relations seem to falter and when jealousy, envy, revenge comes looking around the corner. Vicious is a book that will cause you to abandon everything you are doing just to finish it. It's highly addictive and must read material!

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