I really liked V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic (check out my review here). The moment I finished it I went to my local library and put everything else by her on hold. That’s how I got my hands on Vicious, a book that was basically written for me. Seriously, it had everything that I love:
- Really weird super powers (*cough* necromancy *cough*)
- The dichotomy between good and evil
- Anti heroes
- Really messed up relationships/friendships
And SO MUCH MORE!
Okay, lets break this down even more. Vicious is a story about two friends, Eli and Victor. They’re pre-med college roommates. When Eli decides to look into ExtraOrdinaries for his Science Thesis, Victor convinces him that instead of just studying them, they should try and create one themselves. Fast forward ten years. Victor has escaped from prison and is hell bent on destroying his former friend.
The centre of the novel is the relationship between Victor and Eli. On the surface Eli is perfect. He’s good looking, friendly, smart, funny. The type of person you want to be friends with.
He was born for the sports teams and clubs, but he surprised everyone, especially Victor, by showing no inclination of joining either. This small defiance of social norm earned him several notches in Victors’s estimation… (pg 19)
Victor recognizes a certain aspect of himself in perfect Eli, because underneath Eli’s goodness there is a monster. Just like Victor. As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews I’m a sucker for the whole best friends turned enemies plot. Vicious plays it beautifully. There are so many unexplored emotions between the two characters. I never felt like their fight could just end and the story could be resolved. There is only one real outcome and that’s their eventual ultimate showdown.
Schwab keeps you invested in their relationship by jumping around their timeline. You get to explore all the different levels of their relationship side to side and wow is it complicated. You could write pages and pages about the two of them. Are they really just friends, because their relationship feels almost deeper. An amalgamation of everything friends, lovers, siblings and enemies. I love how complicated it was, it made them feel real.
Finally, I really loved the different super powers in this book. Each power reflects the character who possesses it. Eli can heal, Victor can control pain and Sydney can raise the dead. The powers also reflect the world of the novel. This isn’t 1960s Batman or the Christopher Reeve style superhero story. This book is gritty and dark. Is Eli really a hero? Is Victor really the villain? It’s all about perspective. I love that.
If you loved Jonathan L. Howard’s Johannes Cabal books, then you will probably like Vicious. Check it out. I really hope Schwab writes more novels following these characters or at least that take place in the same world.
Also, check out these really awesome character cards from Schwab’s website!
UPDATE: It turns out that there is a short story that takes place in the same universe. Which I now own on my Kobo.