Book Review: Vicious


As students, Victor and Eli delve into research concerning EOs (or superheroes).  They hypothesize that EOs are not born or caused by radiation or mutations but rather created through Near Death Experiences.  The friends, intent on proving their thesis, decide to induce their own NDEs.  The experiment is successful.  Eli and Victor become EOs, but the question remains as to whether or not they become superheroes.

Vicious is V. E. Schwab’s first adult novel.


  1. Amazing Characters: Wow.  Just wow.  Victor, Sydney, Serena, Mitch, and Eli were all incredibly nuanced characters.  They all had depth and emotional viability and personality.  What’s great is that most of them weren’t even remotely likeable and it didn’t matter because Schwab characterized them so well and made them so fascinating.  (Sydney and Mitch were the only truly likeable characters.)  Schwab even managed to make a bunch minor characters like Dominic and Professor Lyne feel real.  Vicious’ characters were very well done.
  2. Origin Stories: No radiation dousing, spider bites, or mutations here.  Super powers are acquired by Near Death Experiences in Vicious’ world.   Eli and Victor’s experiments are horrible and yet the fact that they’re basically willing to kill themselves for science is very interesting.  It’s kind of like Frankenstein in the way that it deals with death, morality, and God.
  3. Gray Morality: It’s difficult to pick the “Good Guy” in Vicious.   While some stories make you question who’s really bad and who’s really good, Schwab’s story has you question whether you should be rooting for any of these people.  You don’t want the little girl to die, of course, but the rest of the characters are so shady that it makes you think twice about cheering for any of them to achieve their goal.  It’s nice to be conflicted in literature from time to time and Schwab keeps you on your moral toes.


  1. Iffy Structure: More than once the author spoiled her own shocking twists by referring to things that happened in the past in the modern day chapters.  One instance in particular had me groaning because I would have been shocked by a certain event if I hadn’t already known it was coming.  Also, the way the story jumped back and forth got on my nerves.  Some authors can make hopping back and forth in time work, but with Vicious, it was just awkward and frequently annoying (especially in the latter part of first half).
  2. The Ending: The ending was very obvious, and I wish the author had had some twists and turns to pull out at the end.  Of course, Vicious’ ending was much better than that of many books I’ve read so it’s not a deal-breaker con or anything.   Still, the ending just had me wishing for something a bit less run of the mill.

Weirdly, Vicious reminded quite a bit of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog.  It’s darker, obviously, but some of the same themes are present here.  If you’re a fan of superheroes or books where morality isn’t black and white, then this book is for you.  It’s not your traditional superhero pastiche, but that’s part of what makes it so good.  I did like the book over all (in spite of the cons listed) because the characters and the musings on morality make Vicious.  I’d highly recommend checking it out.


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