Book Review: Vicious (Villains #1) – V.E. Schwab

Book Rating : 4 stars

VILLAINS #1: VICIOUS

Vicious is a superhero-supervillain twist where you can’t quite tell who’s a hero and who’s a villain.

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

Experimenting with human lives, Eli Cardale and Victor Vale try to create EOs – ExtraOrdinaries – who have superpowers. To create an EO, they’ve realized, you need a near-death experience (NDE).

They set about doing just that.

Victor tries first under Eli’s watch, but nothing happens. With some tweaking to their procedure, Eli tries. This time, they’re successful – Eli now has superpowers.

Victor wants in. Eli refuses to help, so Victor has someone else do the watching as he tries to kill himself – but not quite.

When Victor awakes, he finds his new superpower. But it’s not quite what he expected.

Ever the one to take advantage of a situation, though, Victor finds ways to use his new abilities, and does so with great success – at least, success in terms of getting him what he wants some of the time.

―We could be dead- said Eli.
―That‘s a risk everyone takes by living.”

Eli and Victor, though, once best friends, are now best enemies. Eli wants Victor dead for being an EO, which he considers to be unnatural. Eli also begins hunting down other EOs – hypocritical, since he is one, too. Meanwhile, Victor gets thrown into jail for ten years until he breaks out. With blood and revenge in mind, he hunts down the EO-hunter Eli.

This retelling of the superhero/villain dynamics was believable and readable. Vicious is almost as good as V.E.Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic series (which is one my favorite fantasy series recently).

This book is about monsters and their creators, who, really, could be monsters themselves. It’s about heroes – the ones who think they’re doing the hero-ing for a higher purpose, and the ones who realize they’re doing it for their own devices. If you like exploring how people tick and what triggers them, this will be a good fantasy-read of that exploration. Schwab makes insightful remarks throughout the book on what makes people, well, people. And what separates the darker ones from the gray ones.

“The absence of pain led to an absence of fear, and the absence of fear led to a disregard for consequence.”

The lines between hero and villain are blurred in Vicious, which is what I think makes it work well. They’re no cut-and-dry character you can pinpoint that doesn’t have some darkness to them, even if it’s the beginning of that darkness growing within them.

I can’t wait to devour Villains #2: Vengeful.

Update: I devoured Villains #2: Vengeful. See here for my review.

Favorite quotes from Vicious:

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

“When no one understands, that’s usually a good sign that you’re wrong.”

“But these words people threw around – humans, monsters, heroes, villains – to Victor it was all just a matter of semantics. Someone could call themselves a hero and still walk around killing dozens. Someone else could be labeled a villain for trying to stop them. Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.”

“The absence of pain led to an absence of fear, and the absence of fear led to a disregard for consequence.”

“The world resists, when you break its rules.”

3 thoughts on “Book Review: Vicious (Villains #1) – V.E. Schwab

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