Book Review: Vicious by V. E. Schwab

I recently finished reading Vicious by V.E. Schwab and I have to say, it completely sucked me in. This book was such a captivating and intense read from start to finish. Schwab crafts a twisted supervillain origin story that explores complex themes of morality, revenge, and the fine line between good and evil.

Vicious by V. E. Schwab

AuthorV. E. Schwab
GenreFantasy, Fiction
Publication DateSeptember 24, 2013
Length400 pages

Where to Purchase

An Introduction to Vicious

Vicious is classified as an adult fantasy novel and was first published in 2013. It follows two former college roommates, Victor Vale and Eli Ever, who share a fascination with near-death experiences and their ability to unlock supernatural abilities. Ten years after a falling out, Victor escapes prison and seeks out Eli to enact his revenge. The story alternates between past and present timelines, slowly revealing dark secrets from their complicated history together.

A Dark and Gritty Tone

One of the standout aspects of Vicious is its incredibly gritty tone. Schwab does not shy away from graphic violence and dark subject matter. The story delves deep into the psyches of villains and what motivates someone down an evil path. It explores challenging philosophical questions about morality and blurs the lines between good and bad.

The writing itself also contributes to the dark atmosphere. Schwab has a blunt, impactful sentence structure and vocabulary that packs a punch. She is not afraid to take the story into violent, disturbing territory. Some moments genuinely shocked me with their brutality. Overall, the tone felt reminiscent of a Tarantino or R-rated comic film. This is not a book for the faint of heart!

Complex and Compelling Main Characters

At the core of Vicious lies its two main characters, Victor and Eli. Schwab excels at developing multi-faceted villains with understandable motivations. We get insight into their traumatic childhoods and personal philosophies on morality. Their murderous actions feel almost justified from their skewed perspectives. Yet, they still retain some humanity and flashes of good intentions.

In particular, I found Victor’s venomous drive for revenge gripping. He has less outright violence than Eli, but is much more calculating and unhinged. The deterioration of his mental state throughout the novel is disturbing yet captivating. Both main characters subvert the typical tropes of “hero” and “villain” in very clever ways. They exist in a moral gray area that had me constantly questioning who to root for.

An Exploration of Morality and Revenge

One of my favorite aspects of Vicious is how it tackles philosophical themes. Victor and Eli view morality as a matter of perspective. For them, there is fundamentally no difference between good and evil acts apart from societal constructs. They believe extraordinary individuals like themselves transcend these simplistic labels.

The novel also examines how far someone will go for revenge when they believe the world has wronged them. Years of resentment and vengeful thoughts poison Victor’s mind past the point of redemption. His warped sense of vigilante justice feels eerily realistic and frightening. The book did an excellent job highlighting the dangers of unresolved anger and bitterness twisting someone’s humanity.

An Ending That Demands a Sequel

My only criticism of Vicious is that the ending feels quite abrupt! Schwab wraps up the central villainous plot in an exciting and violent climax. But the conclusion raises new questions and hints that Victor and Eli’s stories are far from over. I was left wanting more time with the complex characters and morally gray world.

Thankfully a sequel titled Vengeful was released in 2018, which I will definitely be checking out. The first book lays exceptional groundwork that leaves you eager to dive back in. Schwab has crafted a compelling and unique villain-focused series that subverts superhero and comic tropes in the best way.

Overall, I highly recommend Vicious to adult fans of gritty antihero stories and complex character studies. Just be prepared for some very dark moments and brutal violence as you unravel this intricately-plotted tale of revenge. It will leave you questioning the concepts of good and evil long after turning the final pages. Victor and Eli are fascinating protagonists that break the mold of typical hero/villain archetypes. If you want a character-driven book that explores the minds of villains, look no further than this masterfully-executed origin story.


  • Paula Davis

    Paula Davis is a dedicated and seasoned content writer for Dreaming and Reading, where she brings her extensive knowledge and passion for literature to a wide audience of fellow book enthusiasts. With the heart of a true bookworm, Paula has immersed herself in the literary world, devouring approximately 50 books annually for the last 15 years. This impressive reading habit has not only provided her with immense joy but has also significantly honed her expertise, experience, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness in the realm of book reviews. Her insightful and well-crafted reviews reflect her deep understanding and appreciation of various genres, offering valuable guidance to readers in search of their next great read. With a finger always on the pulse of the latest literary releases, Paula Davis is a trusted voice and a go-to source for book recommendations and reviews.

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