Vicious: V. E. Schwab’s debut adult novel

Stephanie Canto, Crier staff

What if you had the ability to gain extraordinary abilities?

That is the question which Eli and Victor ask themselves when trying to brainstorm ideas for a thesis in their senior year of college. However, this query took place ten years ago. When their academic curiosity turns into two near-death experiences, things changed for the both of them.

The narrative jumps between past and present, as well as perspective. For a while, that looseness is what put me off from reading this book. That sort of set up discouraged me, as I found that it was sometimes executed incorrectly. Boy was I wrong.

Vicious was published in 2013 as V.E. Schwab’s first adult sci-fi/fantasy novel. From there, she went on to write the New York Times bestselling series A Darker Shade of Magic, in which the third and last novel of the series was published in 2017. After five years, Schwab’s sequel to Vicious, titled Vengeful, was released on September 24.

Let’s talk about the novel. This was, for certain, the best book which I read this year. I could not put this book down, and even when I had to, it was all I could think about.

When I found out this was Schwab’s first adult novel, I was absolutely blown away. Her characters, chapter set-up, themes, and all-around writing kept me engaged the entire time. There was not one dull moment that I found in this book.

The character dynamics were interesting from the start. Schwab took your standard character archetypes and threw them out the window, then proceeded to pick them back up and mix and match what was left.

The hero: a formal college student fresh out of prison and ready for revenge. The villain: also a former college student who plans to eradicate everyone like himself. The innocent: a girl who can bring people back to life with a single touch and whose sister tried to kill her.

There was enough information about each individual in the story to make me deeply care about them, but there was also an element of ambiguity which kept me guessing.

They were all vague enough that the story left me filling in the blanks, although I’m hoping that some of those blanks will be filled in for me in Vengeful.

Whether the time was in the past or present, the characters kept me immersed in the book.

That thought leads to my next point, which is also the aspect that almost kept me from reading the book in the first place. The chapters are not sequential in time, and they often jump back and forth from the present to ten years previous.

I was hesitant, because often times in other books I’ve read, I would be more engaged with one setting over the other, which made me dread when there was a time skip. For Vicious, the past and present are blended together so nicely that I was excited to read either one.

The success of this feature in the novel is entirely attributed to Schwab’s writing. Her sentences are powerful, elegant, and meaningful every time.

She wrapped the themes together with the prose so well that it simply cannot be explained. I only urge you to pick up the book and read for yourself.

If you’re looking for an adult sci-fi/fantasy novel that deals with arrogance, revenge, unpredictability, anti-heroes, jealously, betrayal, and much, much more, then this book is perfect for you.

Schwab captivated me with every word and had me preordering Vengeful the moment I was done.