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4.0 out of 5 stars What makes a hero and what make a villain?
See my review of this book, and many more, at TalesfromtheGreatEastRoad.wordpress.com

(Mild spoilers)

Victor Vale and Eli Ever. They were friends once, years ago. Two collage boy who found a similar keen intellect and a thirst for knowledge in each other. They had heard the rumours of people who were ExtraOrdinary, somehow more than human. Whilst...
Published 8 days ago by Ginny

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Meh.
My grandmother was a very wise woman. ‘Never judge a book by its cover’ she would intone. Of course, she was being metaphorical and using a metaphor one can apply to a variety of situations; as grandmothers are wont to do. However, she was right.

Vicious looked the part; snappy, menacing title and hero-shot blacked out characters against a...
Published 2 days ago by Procrastinators rule in a minute


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3.0 out of 5 stars Meh., 29 Aug 2014
This review is from: Vicious (Paperback)
My grandmother was a very wise woman. ‘Never judge a book by its cover’ she would intone. Of course, she was being metaphorical and using a metaphor one can apply to a variety of situations; as grandmothers are wont to do. However, she was right.

Vicious looked the part; snappy, menacing title and hero-shot blacked out characters against a shattered red background. And it was written by a woman, which, in a field dominated by men, was cheering. The subject matter – people who gain extraordinary powers and the way in which they use them, is a well-worn trope, so I expected the novel to take it somewhere different. Sadly, this seemed to be a re-working of the main ideas from the TV series Heroes, but without the darkness: two people get supernatural powers, by dint of dying/being revived. Their powers are linked in some way to their deaths, which was quite a nice touch; but then we move into familiar territory as one of the men decides to get rid of anyone else with superpowers as his (although wrong in his eyes), are god-given and other people are just unnatural.

The author, it appears, has recently made the move from YA into adult fiction and to be honest, I felt it showed. Victor is an attempt, I would guess, to create a grown up, ambiguous character with whom it’s difficult to empathise. Trouble was, I didn’t really care enough to worry about not empathising with him – especially after encountering many other characters in novels with much more depth. Victor’s (and most of the other characters actually) main issue appeared to be over-privilege and absent parents (pretty much like many of Tartt or Fitzgerald’s characters) and we seemed to be invited to dislike him because he killed people. I still failed to see just what it was that was supposed to make the reader ambivalent. I also wondered whether anything was going to made of the alliterative names etc, or whether they were just there as a nod to superhero conventions.

So, three stars, because I didn't actually dislike it, it occupied three evenings and because there were some nice touches – like Eli not being as powerful as he thought, but ultimately because this was a predictable and disappointing novel which failed to really exploit its subject matter. The novel was left open ended, which makes me suspect a trilogy, but unless it takes a very unexpected turn, I don’t think I’ll be coming back for more.
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4.0 out of 5 stars What makes a hero and what make a villain?, 23 Aug 2014
By 
Ginny (London, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Vicious (Hardcover)
See my review of this book, and many more, at TalesfromtheGreatEastRoad.wordpress.com

(Mild spoilers)

Victor Vale and Eli Ever. They were friends once, years ago. Two collage boy who found a similar keen intellect and a thirst for knowledge in each other. They had heard the rumours of people who were ExtraOrdinary, somehow more than human. Whilst researching how one can become an EO, Eli thinks he has found the key to gaining super human abilities. But then in one night, everything fell apart – and two friends became bitter rivals.

Everyone is the hero of their own story. What they don’t tell you is there is a thin line between being a hero and a villain. But Eli knows, he knows he is the good guy. His mission is nobel, and he is the only one who can be trusted to do it. That was, until he discovers that Victor, his now nemesis, has somehow escaped from prison. This can only end in pain…

I’m a big fan of Victoria Schwab’s YA novels, which include The Near Witch, and The Archived series, and I also enjoy following her on social media so this, her first adult novel, has been high on my reading list for a long time. I also have a soft spot for X-Men style superheroes, so needless to say my expectations and hope for Vicious were very high. I am pleased to report that this book is one damn good read. I loved the process of having a near-death experience to become an EO, and found it clever how each person’s powers are linked to that experience and how they handled it/what they did to survive. This made each power unique and lead to an interesting dynamic between Eli and Victor’s powers: Eli can heal him self from any wound and Victor can cause pain. At first glance it would seem that super healing powers would mean that you couldn’t lose (or at least not easily), but how long would it take for your mind to break if would were tortured with pain for long enough? The characters were the other excellent part of this novel, my personally favourite being Victor (but I’ll admit I do love me a fictional bad boy). Despite being about superheroes, I don’t actually believe there are any heroes in Vicious, though Sydney’s story was quite sad, especially since she was only a child. I found Eli to be one of the most complex characters – he is the most terrifying type of villain, the one who unflinchingly believes himself to be a hero and who is dedicated to his own twisted set of ethics.

There were, however, a couple of things I didn’t enjoy as much. I didn’t really believe in the friendship between Eli and Victor, which was shown in flashback chapters throughout the first half of the book. I think because so little time was spent showing them as friends, most spent showing how they each became EO, the reader is told rather than shown this friendship. But then again, I think in some ways this was the point – that they had never truly been friends, but believed they had been. My main problem was the character of Angie, Eli’s girlfriend and Victor’s unrequited love. I felt that she wasn’t much of a character and before the read could get to know her she is killed off, simply to begin the feud between the two men. This is a widely used plot device within comic books and superhero stores, known colloquially as ‘women in fridges’, and I was very sad to see it appear in the works of a woman whom I admire.

Overall, this was a very good book, and with the somewhat open ending, I can only hope for a sequel.

4 stars.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The subtle balance between right and wrong, 22 Jan 2014
By 
Max V. (Noord-Holland, The Netherlands) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Vicious (Paperback)
One sentence in this book pretty much sums up all of the characters in it: "there are no good men in this game". That is not to say that they are evil, quite the contrary, they all have their own, sensible reasons for what they are doing. None of them are so black-and-white that you could call them good or evil. These aren't superheroes or villains, they are people trying to act the way they believe to be best. And just like all humans, the make mistakes as well. It is a story about morality, faith and choice.

The story switches back and forth between the present and the past, so that on the hand you slowly begin to understand the actions in the present and on the other hand learn the repercussions of their choices made in the past. All the while Ms. Schwab is careful not to make any character into the hero or the villain, leaving it up to the reader as to whom to side with.

The world created by Ms. Schwab is dark, yet believable. It is a world where alongside the normal populace there is also a small secret group of people with special powers, called ExtraOrdinaries. Victor and Eli's research in this group leads to Victor's imprisonment and to Eli's quest to eradicate every last one of them. Once Victor gets out he is determined to stop him.

It is not a pleasant place, yet draws you in. The story is filled with unusual situations and even more unusual relationships, making it an interesting read. The dialogues are well-written and thought-provoking. It never felt like anything that was written down was unnecessary or out of place. And it also poses some interesting ethical questions. With "what makes a person good or evil?" being the main one.

The book is definitely worthy of your time and it is probably only a matter of time before we get a film adaptation.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and unique1, 1 Feb 2014
This review is from: Vicious (Kindle Edition)
I’ve not read much sci-fi or superhero-themed fiction, but the premise of Victoria Schwab’s latest novel, Vicious, grabbed me from the start. It sounded utterly unique and, having read both of Schwab’s previous novels – The Near Witch and The Archived – I was already in love with her writing style. So I couldn’t wait to pick up Vicious. This is a story of two former college friends whose attempts to awaken extraordinary powers in themselves turned them into bitter enemies. The novel moves between past and present as the inevitable showdown between the two rivals approaches, and the short chapters and gripping prose kept me glued to the pages.

The characters are all flawed, complex and yet also sympathetic, especially Victor, who is, in a word, a sociopath. Through his and Eli’s experiences, the author explores the definitions of ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’ in a way that makes the concept of superpowers seem almost scarily realistic. All the characters have definable motives, be it revenge, obsession or the belief that they are in the morally right. Dark, twisty and compelling, this is a fantastic book and a great start to my 2014 reading list!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very human superheroes, 20 Jan 2014
By 
D. Harris (Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Vicious (Paperback)
VE Schwab's book introduces a universe where individuals endowed with superpowers - "EOs" or "ExtraOrdinaries" - are more common than you'd expect (common enough for the police to have protocols for dealing with them) and a natural subject for medical student Eli to study. With his friend Victor, he therefore devises a way to create such beings, and puts it to the test.

But the process necessary to become an EO leaves something missing, something different. Lives and personalities are disrupted as a result. There is a cost. Schwab's super-women and -men don't, in general, see themselves as heroes or villains, fight crime or seek power, instead they turn inwards and even become self destructive. There are no blacks or whites in this book: the plot very much turns on haunted, shocked people playing out their hurt and puzzlement - but on a grand scale, since they have godlike abilities.

So Eli and Victor's meddling sets off a series of events that puts Victor in prison, shatters their friendship and sets up an inevitable confrontation between the two. As the time gets closer and closer to midnight, the feud gathers pace and both gather allies - EO and non EO.

Schwab creates a realistic world that is also very strange and convincing protagonists (who are also very strange).
Many seem to have problems with their parents. Victor's whose mother and father write self-help books which he then defaces. Serena and Sydney, sisters who become entangled in the ex-friends' struggle, seem on their own. Eli, who becomes increasingly unstable, seeing himself as having a divine mission to destroy EOs, has his own scars.

It's a mark of just how good Schwab's writing that - while most of the characters are, objectively, pretty unpleasant people (except perhaps Sydney) - one comes to sympathise with them all, and while I desperately wanted to see how the story turned out, I didn't want it to end and I didn't want to see either Eli or Vic defeated - or to see any of the others suffering any more than they already had.

A fine and original book.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, 27 April 2014
This review is from: Vicious (Paperback)
Based purely on the plot description - two arrogant geniuses, best friends, learn how to give themselves super powers and end up locked in a deadly feud - VICIOUS doesn't look at all like my kind of book, as a reader. That's why I didn't pick it up for a long time after it was first published. But then I saw it in a bookstore, looked at the opening just out of curiosity...

…and yeah. Not only did I buy the book, but I got completely hooked. This was the most un-put-downable novel I've read in ages. The characters and story are so compelling, I was just completely dragged in, and I loved it! The ending was perfect, too.

I already know several people I'm going to be gifting copies to, and I'll definitely be re-reading my own copy!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A thrill-ride, 12 April 2014
By 
C. Miller (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: Vicious (Kindle Edition)
Vicious is a cracking read that tackles big themes - good vs evil, the nature of power and the darkness lurking within each human soul. With a laser-sharp structure, the book grabs hold from the opening and doesn't let go until its electrifying climax. The concept itself (grounding super powers in science) will be familiar to anyone who saw 'Heroes', 'Misfits' or indeed any of the other 'new wave' superhero franchises of recent years - Vicious also draws heavily on classics such as Frankenstein. However, this shouldn't put you off. A great read.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple ExtraOrdinary, 9 Feb 2014
This review is from: Vicious (Kindle Edition)
This book was a phenomenal way to start off my reading year. Vicious, the debut adult novel from V.E. Schwab, lived up to all my expectations and more. It was a masterclass in pace, plotting and best of all, characters.

The story was wonderful—darkly funny, grim at times and with just the right amount of villainy. It starts off with a night at a graveyard and the book shifts back and forth between roommates Victor Vale and Eli Ever’s time at college and present day. As students fueled by alcohol, testosterone and scientific curiosity, Victor and Eli test and discover the catalyst for making someone ExtraOrdinary—a person with a gift. And yes, they have tested on themselves.

I loved the variety of the switching narrative and points in time. It highlights the book’s concept, that nothing is black and white—heroes and villains are labels that just depend on your point of view. The boys were wonderful examples of this. Victor has the misfortune of being labelled a criminal, and while his motives may be driven by revenge and selfishness, his goal is for the greater good. Eli is seen a public hero, a deliverer of justice and God’s will, but truly his acts and purpose are pure criminal.

In fact, all of the Schwab’s characters are absolutely brilliant. It’s perhaps the most well-crafted character-driven story I’ve had the pleasure of reading. No one was superfluous. I loved the care the author took in ensuring we would get to see the story through each point of view to understand motives, personalities, and history. Each character was interesting and important to the plot. Standouts for me were sisters Sydney and Serena, who got caught up in Victor and Eli’s respective quests, but made themselves integral to their success (and frankly, stole the show).

A friend I lent the book to almost immediately after I finished it said it best—she was in a dilemma about whether to read as quickly as she could to find out more, or to slow down and savour it. I felt the exact same way. Schwab’s writing has a way of immersing you completely in the story and hooking you in so you can’t bear to pull away from the book, but during the whole time I was reading I was checking to see how much of the book was left and found myself disappointed when I got closer to the end as I wanted to spend more time with this book.

The ending was phenomenally good and wrapped everything up perfectly. As glad as I am to read a standalone book however, I think what Schwab has created has so much potential that I would love to see more stories set in this ExtraOrdinary world. I am extremely satisfied with Eli and Victor’s story, but I’m sure Schwab would have no trouble dreaming up more wonderful, interesting characters for us to read about.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favourite books of 2014, 15 April 2014
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This review is from: Vicious (Paperback)
This book was just amazing! So happy I decided to pick it up! It never failed to surprise me and the characters were so complex.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 9 May 2014
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This review is from: Vicious (Kindle Edition)
A very good well written story. Great complex characters that grow well with the progression of the plot. Hope there is more.
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Vicious by V. E. Schwab (Paperback - 10 Jan 2014)
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