Vicious by V.E. Schwab – The addictive and fast-paced read that you need


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?

Vicious is a few things:

  • A story about college roommates who discover that near-death experiences are the key to obtaining superpowers.
  • Bloody amazing.
  • Probably that book that will get you out of your reading slump.

There are some books that require time to really invest in a book, but Vicious is not one of those books. Schwab’s incredible writing pulls you immediately into a near-future world where ExtraOrdinaries – EO’s, or people with superpowers – exist. It begins as an intellectual quest: two college roommates, both arrogant, ambitious, and intelligent, who pursue a thesis on EO’s (‘an argument for the theoretical feasibility of the existence of ExtraOrdinary people, deriving from laws of biology, chemistry, and psychology’). But when their experiments prove them disastrously right, the story spirals into an amazing dark tale of revenge, deception, wit, betrayal, and power.

“There are no good men in this game.”

Vicious spends a great deal of time exploring the intimate but competitive relationship between Victor and Eli. Though their friendship is tinged with jealousy and bitterness, both possess an unspeakable, visceral need for the other. As their lives, irrevocably intertwined, are about to collide once more after ten years, the energy and dynamic between Victor and Eli spur an intoxicating and gripping narrative. Both are immensely interesting characters; Victor for his unflinching quest for revenge and Eli for his holy, proclaimed righteous mission. Their enigmatic personalities and unapologetic flaws lend them great depth, making them fantastic characters to pick apart and understand.

Victor and Eli are flanked by a cast of fantastic secondary characters that are powerful and incredible on their own. Serena, Mitch, and Sydney were amazing characters; enough that I would be genuinely interested to read their own stories. Not only did Serena and Sydney’s personalities weave perfectly with Eli and Victor’s respectively, but their unique extraordinary abilities heightened the stakes, the tension, and the thrill. Not to mention, the unlikely friendships and dependencies that form created an atmosphere of suspense and foreboding.

If Eli really was a hero, and Victor meant to stop him, did that make him a villain?

He took a long sip of his drink, tipped his head back against the couch, and decided he could live with that.

But what really shines in Vicious is its thought-provoking themes of righteousness, good versus bad, and what constitutes as humanness. Utilizing the idea of a hero versus villain, the narrative – and characters in extension – explore the essence of heroism and villainism. Although the dichotomy is popularly used in media and politics, Vicious blurs the distinction and thereby throws the ideas and constructs we have of heroes and villains into question. And I loved it. I loved that the story subverted the idea that a hero and villain in a story are necessary to make sense of what is right and wrong.

Vicious is addictive, intense, and utterly enjoyable from start to finish. Its story is excellently, expertly told – but you would expect nothing less from Schwab! – with its alternating timelines, each chapter giving more depth and more momentum to its mindblowingly perfect end. With a sequel to Vicious on the way, I have a feeling that Vicious is parts origin story, parts buildup to something even more amazing. Perfect if you are craving a fast-paced read or want something refreshing, Vicious is, easily, one of my favourite books of 2016.

Rating: 4.5/5

Book Information
Book Name: Vicious
Book Series: Vicious #1
Author: V.E. Schwab
Publisher: Titan Books
Format: Paperback

Vicious in:
Goodreads | Book Depository | FoylesMy review on Goodreads

Vicious is one of my favourite books of 2016, and I’m so happy to share my review with all of you. It’s pretty much my go-to recommendation if my friends ask me what’s good. And Vicious is definitely good.

  • Have you read Vicious? What did you think?
  • Are you excited for the sequel? What are your thoughts? Excited, apprehensive – or both? (Spoiler-free thoughts, please!)
  • Did you like how heroes and villains were portrayed in Vicious?

43 thoughts on “Vicious by V.E. Schwab – The addictive and fast-paced read that you need

  1. CW– you really nailed this review. It’s articulate, catchy, engaging, and on point. I love every sentence. I haven’t read Vicious before, but I’ve read many reviews. This is the first one I’ve read which made me think I might actually want to read this book! “Probably *that* book that will get you out of your reading slump.” BRING IT ON

  2. Oh wow! 5 stars is so amazing. I’ve seen a lot of reviews for vicious but yours is really amazing. I’m actually in a bit of a reading slump right now so I think this is going to be the perfect book to pull me out of it! Thank you for the great review!

    • Hiya Kirsty!
      Oh gosh, thank you so much! That means a lot to me. :D
      Vicious is definitely the perfect book to get you off that slump! The action starts very early on, so you won’t be waiting too long for things to get interesting. I hope you enjoy it!

  3. I’ve been seeing this around for a while but I never thought of picking it up until I read this review tbh! Coincidentally I’m in a reading slump, so I’m going to definitely give this book a try. The whole blurring the lines between good and bad is something right up my alley too, since I’ve always loved books like that!

    • Hi Chiqui!

      Oooh please do! It’s a great book and the action starts pretty early on in the novel! Plus, the beginning is SO compelling.

      I hope you enjoy it! I really loved it so I hope it gets you off that reading slump. <3

  4. I’m so excited for the sequel I can’t even stand it. I read Vicious back in 2015, but it’s still one of my all-time favorite books. It’s so good but it happens to be the only V.E. Schwab book I’ve really liked this far :/ Hopefully the sequel will be just as great. I’m glad you loved it too!

    • Hey Anette!

      Right?! I’m so, so, so excited too. I can’t wait to see what it’s about and read more about Victor and Sydney!!

      I know what you mean – I liked ADSOM, but I’m not head over heels about it. Vicious is defs my favourite of hers so far!

  5. I’ve never read Vicious, but I read ADSOM, and I really loved it! I think a 2017 resolution of mine should be to read more Schwab books heheh.
    I love how reviews are always so thoughtful, analytical and yet passionate – keep going, girl! <3

    • Hi Gerri!
      Ooooh I’m not sure if it means much, but I really liked Vicious more than ADSOM? But it could be because the themes of Vicious were more interesting to me. :D
      Awwww, thank you so much! Your kind words come at a perfect time. :’)

  6. Ohh CW I loved this book SO MUCH! Probably my fave of all Schwab’s books hahaha I agree that the theme is the best thing of this book. I love how it explores the darkest part of human minds and all the morally gray characters. I also love how fast paced it is compared to other books by Schwab which are generally slower. I also agree that all the characters are incredibly complex, even the side characters. The only character who happened to be boring was Eli’s girlfriend from college hahaha :P

    I also love the way the story was told, alternating between present and past and managed to cover a 10-year worth of story without info dumping. The descriptions are also vivid and I could imagine each scene clearly. I can’t wait for Vengeful but I’m also a bit skeptical of the plot. I mean, Vicious was a solid stand alone and I’m afraid the sequel would have pretty much the same plot but with role reversal between Victor and Eli. But well, it’s Schwab and I’m sure whatever it is is gonna be AWESOME! Great review :D

    • Hi Puput! (Oh gosh, I love long comments! Thank you so much for leaving a long comment!)

      AHH me too! Vicious is my favourite Schwab book as well. I liked ADSOM, but this one just hit all the right spots.

      Oh gosh yes. The storytelling was phenomenal – I just HAD to know what’s going on (and I’m the sort of person that doesn’t mind waiting after reading/watching cliffhangers usually)!

      I can’t wait until Vengeful too, though I really liked how Vicious ended so I’m with you there re: your apprehension.

      Thank you so much!! <3

  7. One of my all-time favorites! I found the characterization to be so compelling, and of course I adore V. E. Schwab’s writing. I heard her say at a panel that she has a background in poetry, which makes perfect sense when you consider how well her prose flows. It has a certain rhythm to it, you know? Great review, CW! (Also, I love your graphic for this book!)

    • Hi Madalyn!

      Right?! I completely agree with you.
      Ooh I had no idea that she had a background in poetry, but that makes soooo much sense. No wonder her writing is so soothing and readable. :D

      Ahhh thank you so so much for your kind words!

  8. This review basically sums up everything I love about this book. The cat and mouse chase between Eli and Victor is addictive but more than that I love how blurred the line are. Nothing is black and white and I love how she toyed with the hero/villain dynamic.

  9. I feel like the ONLY person who didn’t like this one :’) But it’s so easy to see V E Schwab’s brilliance – her writing is absolutely incredible. And I do love moral grey areas. I guess some books can be objectively brilliant but just don’t sit right.

    • Hi Emily!

      Haha, that’s totally okay about not liking Vicious!! I have to agree with you though – her writing is spectacular, and I really liked the themes of Vicious, esp the grey areas!

      I completely know what you mean. I felt that way about ADSOM and The Summer of Chasing Mermaids — though I ended up giving that a higher rating anyway. X’D

  10. LOVE LOVE LOVE your artwork for this! I haven’t read this one, but I have read A Darker Shade of Magic, and hope to get to A Gathering of Shadows soon. Actually, I just found out that V.E. Schwab is going to be in my area the first weekend in March to promote the final book in her Shades of Magic trilogy… I’m geeking out about it :)

    • Hi Amanda!

      Ooh, thank you so much! I wasn’t very sure with this one, but am happy to hear you liked it. <3

      ADSOM is great, but I liked Vicious more. I haven't read AGoS either, but I'm looking forward to reading it!

      Oooh if you go to her event, enjoy it for me!! I hope you have lots of fun. :D

  11. I completely agree! This was such a fantastic book and I’m glad you enjoyed it as much as I did. Victor and Eli were such morally gray and complex characters and I love how much the book made you think. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! <3

    • Hi Zoe!
      Ahhh I remember Vicious as one of my most exciting reading experiences! I completely agree- love how complex they were and how they straddled the line between ‘good’ and ‘bad’.

      Thank you so much for the kind words!

  12. Victoria Schwab is a beast. I absolutely love her writing. She’s pretty much an auto-buy for me. Vicious is such a great fast paced read. I’m hoping book 2 comes out soon. I need in my life. Or is Victoria not going to write book 2?

    • Hi Sanovia!

      RIGHT? I really loved the writing in Vicious. I’ve yet to read AGOS, so am looking forward to reading it. Have you read her older books?

      She is! It’s scheduled to release in 2018 – soooooo far away!

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