Vicious by V.E. Schwab
Series: Vicious #1
Rating: 4.5 stars
Release Date: September 24th 2013
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?
Victoria Schwab's Vicious is quite... vicious indeed. This is not the bloodless, black-and-white, stereotypical superhero story for the faint of heart.
Eliot Cardale (later Eli Ever) and Victor Vale are arrogant and ambitious pre-med students who test the limits of life by testing out the theories of EO's, otherwise known as ExtraOrdinary people. To become an EO requires a NDE (near death experience) that is propelled by the will to live. But by becoming EOs, they destroy their friendship, and turn into enemies, playing a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse ten years later.
Before going off on why I enjoyed this book, having premed students for the main characters fit the bill perfectly! There are not many books with pre-medical students, and the multiple concepts were tied in to it well. The fanaticism surrounding EOs juxtaposed religion and Eli's beliefs of God. But Eli's zealousness contrasted the whole idea of science and medicine. This is a book that makes you think.
What I love about Victoria's books has to be how morally grey and complex her characters are, as well as their relationships with each other. Eli and Victor have different opinions on EOs, and neither is right nor wrong, although Eli's hatred and elimination of these supernatural people is almost akin to a prophetic mission. He believes them to be unnatural, against God. But to Victor, EOs can be used, can be manipulated for gain. I was rooting for Victor here, but I did not see Eli completely as the villain. They're initially best friends, but rivals too, and the fact that Victor envied Eli at times made their friendship volatile.
Even our side characters, Sidney and Serena, were not simply regulated to the sidelines and played active roles. Sidney developed over the course of the story to be her own person, not Serena's "younger" twin. It is unclear what Serena's motives are for staying with Eli, but I believe that she played a game of wits in order to stay alive. Their relationship is vague and complex, and readers are left wondering through most of the story how Serena really feels about her sister.
In their own ways, all the characters were likable, because no one was really the villain, nor the hero, as Victor surmises
"If Eli really was a hero, and Victor meant to stop him, did that make him a villain?"
My only qualm with the book is the lack of backstory surrounding Eli's religious fanaticism. This obsessive religiousness seems to have been brought on by something, but this something was only faintly explained.
"There are no good men in this game."
Other than that, I'm excited and looking forward to Vengeful!