Series: Villains #1.
Writer(s): V.E. Schwab.
Publisher: Tor / Tom Doherty Associates.
Release Date: May 29th 2018.
My Overall Rating: ★★★★☆.
How far would you go for superpowers? It’s in everybody’s deepest desire to unlock one that would change their life in unimaginable ways. Whether it would be to freeze time or to fly among the creatures of the sky, there’s something very enticing about being extraordinary. But first you have to believe in this realm of gifted people, which is a fine line that splits our comprehension of the world between reality and science fiction. The real question isn’t however just about finding out if and how these powers would fit into the real world, but what you would do with them. That’s where V.E. Schwab comes in and offers us a thorough course on beliefs and powers, but both in excess. Vicious is a revenge thriller that ultimately explores the benefits and disadvantages of superpowers in the name of science, and maybe also God.
The story follows the perils of Victor and Eli in their pursuit of the extraordinary. Within the context of a research thesis, Eli goes against the odds and looks into identifying the necessary ingredients to unleash the superpowers within a person. With shared interests in adrenaline, near-death experience and everything supernatural, these two wildly ambitious college roommates enable each other into exploring dangerous fields and to go to great lengths to achieve what they want the most. The story unfolds into a spiral of competitive greed and outright selfishness that drives these gentlemen into scientific madness. While theoretical implications are all pretty on paper, Victor and Eli fervently seek empirical evidence to support their claims. What comes next is the birth of a rivalry like none other.
If you thought this story would be linear, think again. Vicious is a bag filled with extremely short chapters, constant changes in point of views and a rotation between flashback sequences and real-time events. This particular structure plays on your addiction by keeping you hooked to the mystery until the climax finally arrives at your doorstep. In fact, the story is written in a way that you continuously wonder what exactly happened for their rivalry to come to life and take on such a deadly twist. There’s in fact no denying that this is a revenge thriller at its finest. Schwab also knows how to build tension and doesn’t shy away from giving all her characters an authentic personality with their own set of flaws in order to always keep the story intriguing. With a gap of almost a decade between the past and present story lines, you are sure to always be kept at the tip of your chair, anxious for answers and explanations.
What shines the most of this story is Schwab’s portrayal of superpowers and the plague that is our strongest beliefs. Through Victor and Eli, she was able to draw upon their flaws, desires and beliefs in order to turn superpowers into something toxic and deadly. Nothing about the development of this theme is far-fetched at all as you can imagine that the very idea of superpowers breaks away from everything deemed conventional and offers you a whole new level of freedom compared to the mundane lifestyle of the common mortal. With that, everything you believe in takes a different and grander form, everything is seen through new glasses and your perception of the world is adapted, renewed and relative to your newfound powers. That is how Eli’s religious beliefs and self-rightneousness fuels his purpose later on, while Victor’s grudge burns relentlessly as he waits patiently for the he can finally serve his vengeance cold and raw. In Vicious, what you end up getting is pretty simple: pure darkness.
Vicious is a wonderfully written revenge thriller that gives the spotlight to villains. While I asked myself a bunch of questions that quickly turned into plot holes and was slightly underwhelmed by the big predictable finale, I still had an addictive and fun time with this crimson beauty. I honestly don’t expect anything short of beautiful from Madame Schwab. May the wait for Vengeful begin.