Review: Vicious by V.E. Schwab

5 stars. Oh man, that was a fun, twisted ride. 

Vicious is the story of a villain and a hero. Or, that's what it disguises itself as. It's really the story of five different morally grey characters, all out for themselves, battling it out. 

This book explores the hero / villain dichotomy and promptly shatters it to pieces. 
Someone could call themselves a hero and still walk around killing dozens. Someone could be labeled a villain for trying to stop that person. Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.

I love books that subvert and explore tropes.

Vicious sets itself apart from Schwab's other adult releases with a far faster pace. My main complaint about Darker Shade of Magic was the lack of character-driven plot; events happened to the characters rather than because of them. That's not true here. Every single plot twist is due to an action by a main character.

In terms of characters, this book absolutely rocks. Schwab's characters have such clear motivation for everything they do. Not a single character here is particularly good; everyone is a solid chaotic neutral except for Eli, who's one of the best lawful evil antagonists I've ever read. 

Interlude: Me Ranting About How Much I Love These Characters
“they're evil you shouldn't love them” we all have problematic faves

Victor is the technical villain, but he's far easier to root for and empathize with. Eli is a believable, well-developed character, but his cruel fanaticism isn't a well-sold brand. Maybe Eli has a moral code and Victor doesn't, but Eli is lying to himself about his motives. Victor is evil, but he's absolutely aware of his place in the narrative, which made him easy to root for. 

Schwab's development of these characters makes the book's main conflict even more high-stakes. She also shows off her talent for relationship building here; the conflict between Victor and Eli is so dynamic and interesting. 
The difference between Victor and Eli, he suspected, wasn't their opinion on EOs. It was their reaction to them. Eli seemed intent to slaughter them, but Victor didn't see why a useful skill should be destroyed, just because of its origin.

I'm always ready to read about friends-to-enemies relationships, and Victor and Eli's is especially cool. Even more so because they have genuinely touching moments. 
“Tell you what,” said Victor. “You remember me, and I'll remember you, and that way we won't be forgotten.”
But they're not the only interesting, 3-D characters here. Serena and Sydney are two incredibly compelling characters, and their sisterly conflict makes them ever more interesting. Sydney is a 13-year-old girl who can raise the dead. Serena can make everyone around her follow her suggestions. Despite being on “evil” sides, these two girls are so believable and their motivations so clear that it's hard not to root for their respective sides. I hated Eli, yet I rooted for Serena, despite her being on his side. The other side characters are equally as developed. I especially loved Mitch; he's a criminal down on his luck. 

Possibly my favorite thing was the odd familial dynamic between Mitch, Victor, Sydney, and Dol the dog. The dynamic between Victor and Sydney is totally awesome. 
Safe had ceased to be a place for Sydney. It had become a person.
Specifically, safe had become Victor.

(Tell me you didn't cry reading that. You're LYING.)
Mitch and Sydney and Mitch and Victor's relationships both stand out as well. 
“I don't need a bodyguard,” said Victor.
“I noticed that,” said Mitch.
Victor let out a cough of a laugh. “Yes, well. I don't want everyone else to notice too.”
“So what do you want?” he asked.
Victor's lips curled into that same dangerous smile. “A friend.”

I don't know if I can pick a favorite character here! They're all so interesting and memorable. 

Definitely recommended for any fans of morally ambiguous antiheroes, and thanks to everyone who wouldn't stop recommending this. 


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