“Men look at anyone with power and see only a threat, an obstacle in their path. They never have the sense to see power for what it really is. Potential.” ― V.E. Schwab, Vengeful.
The first book I ever read from Victoria Elizabeth Schwab was “Vicious,” one of her adult books. I remember how awestruck I was with the way she would write scenes – a serene flow with each sentence. Just reading the first page I could tell that Schwab has a great way with words, a way that is just simply made to catch the attention of the audience.
“Vicious” is a phenomenal story about two college roommates, Eli and Victor, who in their senior year share the same ambition in researching the supernatural belief that a near-death experience can physically change a human into ExtraOrdinary, a person with some type of power or ability. The real adventure starts when they try to prove their thesis with an experiment that goes horribly wrong and ends up destroying their friendship. After being jailed for ten years due to the failed experiment, Victor breaks out with his former cellmate, Mitch, and his ten-year-old ward, Sydney to get revenge on Eli for blaming him for the experiment accident. Eli has set his mind on destroying every ExtraOrdinary (minus his partner who has a strong will) since he believes that EOs should not exist for going against the laws of nature and God. In this story, each of the characters is introduced to us after tragedy has happened due to their destructive nature. Additionally, “Vicious” is set in the modern world, but some of the city and town names are fictitious and the idea of superpowers is a reality.
When it came to “Vengeful,” Schwab’s most anticipated release since 2013, I was ecstatic. In this “Vicious” sequel, we are introduced to many new characters, one of them being Marcella Riggins who just happens to be murdered by her ex-mafia husband. After surviving a near-death experience that grants her the power that she has always desired, Marcella uses this to her advantage to bring the City of Merits to her feet. Next, we meet the main character, Victor, who is struggling with his powers while looking for a cure that might help him keep his dangerous powers in control around his companions. The idea of Victor not being in control was jaw-dropping since in my mind he has always found a way to look invincible. Just knowing that, I did not care about anything else; I was simply trying to figure out what the future would bring for my favorite character. Then we have Eli who is Victor’s ex-friend and rival. He has become powerless after being locked away due to Victor exposing him to the police. At times, I felt bad for Eli because of the hardships he went through. Yet, at the same time, he did many horrible things that led him to his imprisonment. In this continuation of “Vicious,” the main characters will have to face a new beginning of chaos with Marcella and the new organization after EOs or people with extraordinary abilities.
While reading “Vengeful,” I was spellbound to each page. The book was very hard to put down. Every action scene, decision, or plot-twist that rises up will catch the readers off-guard. This duology of villains, “Vicious” and “Vengeful” were the most engrossing, gruesome, and fascinating tales that had me on the edge of my seat. Every mind-game that the characters play and every death with its perfect flow of details and continuity make these books so enjoyable.
An enjoyable detail in Schwab’s books, apart from the characters, is how gritty and realistic they can be, always trying to solve a real-life problem with a touch of supernatural elements and always showing how people would actually react if they were to gain such power. I mean, who would want to read a book based only on a sappy, happy ending? If a book makes you cry, sweat, and laugh at the same time, that’s how you know you have found a well-written tale, which “Vengeful” does astonishingly.
Despite the recommendation, there were a few drawbacks. For example, learning about the characters´ past is interesting but the length can be a little distracting for the readers. However, sometimes I would prefer in certain parts of the book to continue in the present time instead of one chapter in the present and the next in the past. I do understand that it was meant to add more understanding to the situation that each character was in and how they connected with one another, but that was just my preference. At a book signing at the Strand bookstore in Manhattan, Schwab mentioned that “Vicious” was a book about males gaining control, while in “Vengeful,” women are getting the power they deserve while the same males experience loss of control. The themes portrayed in the series are very enjoyable. This can be seen through the story; it was clear that the first book had a great sense of male power with its main characters being Victor and Eli. However, in “Vengeful,” it was mostly the women’s turn to get control, even if it meant hurting someone. An example would be the line, “perhaps she was glass. But glass is only brittle until it breaks. Then it’s sharp.” This symbolic quote refers to both the fragility and the hidden power of women.
I will forever love the way Schwab develops her characters, not missing a single detail. She also shows how no one is really a hero or villain, that a hero might do good things with bad intentions and a villain might do awful things with good intentions. In this series, the characters are not perfectly sane, since power has driven some mad or they were insane from the start. However, it’s hard not to get attached to them, even if the way they think isn’t morally right. For example, Victor, a sociopath, does not really care for others and is extremely calculative and observant, yet he kills only if necessary. On the other hand, Eli, who from the start is always odd, always has a facade to charm others into trusting him. He is apathetic with everything and manipulative. The way Eli was presented always had me thinking that he was very peculiar. The world to him was a puzzle waiting to be solved. As for Victor, he is very difficult to describe. His thought processes were blase and cold while his actions were openly caring and kind with certain people, which was contradicting at times. This is the reason why I love the character of Victor Vale more than the others due to his calculative thoughts and intriguing way of planning.
The cunning and sly quotes such as, “ignorance is only bliss if you want to get caught,” represent Schwab’s quirky and sarcastic way of storytelling. Any fan of supernatural powers would love Schwab’s writing, action scenes, and plot twists. The above quote is a clear message that is easily understood. The loyalty between Victor and his companions makes for a compelling read. In fact, both novels are highly recommended.