Vicious (Villains #1) by V.E. Schwab

(Last Updated On: June 19, 2019)

If you enjoy morally gray characters and anti-heroes like I do, this definitely is a book for you.

About the Book

Publisher: Tor Books  |  Release Date: September 24, 2013  |  Pages: 366
Genre: Adult, Science Fiction  |  Format: eBook  |  Source: Publisher via Newsletter

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?

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My Review

Friends, Vicious is a book that totally surprised me in the best of ways. I’ve owned this book for months but was kind of afraid to read because of the hype and my lukewarm/conflicted feelings about the Shades of Magic trilogy, but when I impulse bought the Limited Special Edition OwlCrate for Vengeful and decided that it was about time that I give this book a try… and I am so glad that I did because I loved it! If you enjoy morally gray characters and anti-heroes like I do, this definitely is a book for you.

Life—the way it really is—is a battle not between Bad and Good, but between Bad and Worse. —Joseph Brodsky

Vicious is told in the perspectives of Eli and Victor, who are former college roommates turned enemies, I really enjoyed the storytelling overall: the narrative shifts between present-day and ten years prior, meaning that the reader is thrust into the present with little context and slowly discovers what happened to turn friends into foes. I found this to be incredibly engaging and I was more invested in uncovering how the friendship broke down and led to the events of present day for our characters. One of my notes from 19% says “I so want to know how the friendship fell apart. This is written so well” and I loved how full the characters are… and how I understood the motives for each of them. one of my favorite literary devices is being thrust into the present day and see what happened to get us there through flashbacks, and it is executed so well here. I also really love the friends-to-enemies trope, but then again, I like my characters to essentially go through rough situations and grow from them.

This is a world where no one is innocent, yet they each feel justified in their actions. Morally speaking it’s a choice of Bad and Worse, and the reader is left to decide whose actions are most justified. Jealousy, self-righteousness, self-preservation, loyalty, betrayal… each character has a driving force that motivates them in Vicious, and they are all very well crafted.

Our main characters:

🔪 Victor Vale is not a fucking sidekick”; his belief in probability, science, and chance guide him and he has difficulty with religious faith.
🔪 Eli Cardale/Ever “was precocious, and frighteningly charming, the kind of guy who got away with everything, thanks to good genes and quick wits”; his belief and faith in God guide his life and his actions.
🔪 We also have Mitch Turner and Sydney Clarke, both of whom are absolute cinnamon rolls and I adore them wholeheartedly. And let’s honest here: the banter between Mitch, Sydney, and Victor cracked me up and I lived for it.
🔪 Lastly, we have Serena Clarke, Sydney’s older sister and most certainly not a cinnamon roll.

This is definitely a character-driven story with a very interesting world that kind of reminds me of the tv series Heroes. I do wish that there were more world-building and an explanation of EOs in the context of the world Victor and Eli live in. When Eli presented his thesis topic it almost appeared like a joke; however, as the plot progressed it is hinted that EOs were a thing even before the thesis. How long had the term been coined? How much did the public know in that ten-years ago period?

The crux of the battle is the whole “us versus them” mentality and the dehumanizing the “enemy” to justify your own actions. But who is the enemy? Who is in the wrong? In this story – and in life – it depends on the side that you are on.

“You don’t understand,” he said. “I’m trying to protect people.”
She smiled behind her coffee. It wasn’t a happy smile. “Which people?”

Serena plays an interesting foil to Eli in this way and brings out an interesting philosophical argument for the reader to consider if they choose.

Overall I found Vicious to be a fast-paced and engaging fantasy story with amazingly deep and flawed characters. While my little world-building heart wish that more information had been presented on the history of the EOs in the context of the world, it didn’t really hinder my enjoyment of this story at all. I honestly cannot recommend this book enough and am looking forward to reading Vengeful if my reading slump ever ends.

content warnings: overdose, suicide, death, revenge, murder

🤝 Buddy read with Jen from Pinot and Pages!

spacer_wLet’s go on another adventure together!


  1. thebookprescription

    October 17, 2018 at 10:05 AM

    Finally a 5 stars read <3333!!!

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      October 24, 2018 at 8:31 AM

      I KNOW I am so happy to finally love a book! I hope you have a 5 star read in your future, too!

  2. Tammy

    October 17, 2018 at 11:03 AM

    I adore this book and I’m so glad you loved it! I hope to start Vengeful very soon:-) Awesome review!

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      October 24, 2018 at 8:42 AM

      Thank you so much, Tammy! This book is honestly so magical and wonderful. I wish I hadn’t waited so long to read it!!! I am currently kind of reading Vengeful but it’s slow going for me.

  3. veeshee

    October 17, 2018 at 11:09 AM

    I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while but I’ve kept putting it off because of my huge list of other books and my worries that it will be like the Shades of Magic trilogy, which wasn’t my favourite. Your review has convinced me to move it higher up on my list. Hopefully, I’ll be writing a review of it soon!

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      October 24, 2018 at 8:43 AM

      I was in the EXACT SAME BOAT! I didn’t really enjoy the second book in Shades of Magic (I haven’t even read book 3 because I was so mad at the book, UGH). I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did, and I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

  4. pinotandpages247

    October 17, 2018 at 1:51 PM

    Great review!! Now if we could ever finish Vengefuk… 😂😘

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      October 24, 2018 at 8:45 AM

      Thank you and I KNOW! I am still like 190 pages in but I am determined to finish it eventually!

  5. meltotheany

    October 17, 2018 at 1:52 PM

    Amazing review, love! 💖xx

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      October 24, 2018 at 8:45 AM

      Thank you so much, sweets!

  6. fictionnochaser

    October 17, 2018 at 5:27 PM

    I have so many heart eyes for this book. If my characters aren’t just a little bit evil then i’m not sure i’m feeling them. (Lazlo excluded obviously)
    So glad you enjoyed this one too. I’m ready for Vengeful now!

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      October 24, 2018 at 8:54 AM

      I love my characters like I love my coffee…. dark with a hint of anti-matter. Erm, maybe not the anti-matter but you get the drift (and hopefully The Good Place ref). I am like a third into Vengeful but haven’t felt compelled to pick it up in a week. SOBBING

      1. fictionnochaser

        October 24, 2018 at 3:10 PM

        Hahaha Internet Five! 🙌🏻

  7. Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky

    October 17, 2018 at 7:40 PM

    Fantastic review, Kaleena! I’ve also been a bit wary about the book because of all the hype, but this kinda puts my mind at ease. And I love that yo compared it to Heroes!! That was one of my favourite shows when I was younger!

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      October 24, 2018 at 9:00 AM

      Thank you so much, Kathy! Heroes was SUCH A GOOD SHOW! I want to binge it again now, actually. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did if you pick it up!

  8. Sophie Li

    October 17, 2018 at 8:23 PM

    Hello Kaleena!
    Wonderful review! You’ve captured my sentiments about this novel as well. I love how Victor is a deeply flawed character yet I still wanted to cheer him on. As you know, though I think Eli is ingenious and brilliant in his own way, I do find him a bit more hard to relate to haha. You bring up a good point about the world building which I agree with 🙂

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      October 24, 2018 at 9:01 AM

      Thanks so much, Sophie! I just couldn’t help but to root for Victor… but damn he wasn’t a good guy. Haha.

      1. Sophie Li

        October 25, 2018 at 8:58 PM

        Good or bad- it’s all up for interpretation I’d say 🙂
        I know what you mean in that I was rooting for Victor for the most part in the novel! Did you get a chance to read Vengeful yet?

        1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

          October 26, 2018 at 8:06 AM

          Definitely less bad in my book! I started Vengeful earlier this month but it is slow going. I brought it with me to work today though and am hoping that the timing is right for me to finish the book!

          1. Sophie Li

            October 28, 2018 at 5:47 PM

            Vengeful was a slower read for me too. Hope you will enjoy the ending and looking forward to hearing your thoughts 🙂

  9. Kelly Brigid

    October 18, 2018 at 12:22 AM

    Ah Kaleena, you’re making me want to read this one more and more! I need to pick it up VERY soon!

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      October 24, 2018 at 9:11 AM

      You really do, it is such a great book!

  10. Meaghan @ Words Gremlin

    October 18, 2018 at 5:10 AM

    I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed Vicious!! It really is incredible, and definitely a different flavor from the Shades of Magic series. It feels almost like comic book installments in a way, which is perfect for the series.

    And I know most folks rave about Eli and Victor, but MITCH. AND SYDNEY. AND DOL. I love that weird little family that pretends they haven’t gone all soft and domestic. ❤

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      October 24, 2018 at 9:17 AM

      MITCH AND SYDNEY! They are so pure and lovely and honestly I adore them. And DOL.

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    November 1, 2018 at 9:35 AM

    […] Vicious by V.E. Schwab: I just finished reading this book like ten minutes ago and all I can say is holy shit. This book is incredibly and I am so glad I impulse bought the second book before even reading this. [Full Review] […]

  13. thuranightingale

    November 21, 2018 at 2:31 PM

    Really enjoyed your review 🙂 I might actually read this one now…

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      November 22, 2018 at 10:52 AM

      Awww that is the best compliment a reviewer can receive, thank you! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did if/when you pick it up!

  14. Bookish Banter: Sophomore Novel Fear – Reader Voracious Blog

    December 12, 2018 at 9:37 AM

    […] love with the book. It was perfect for me and landed a spot on my favorites shelf for all of time. My review of Vicious was essentially me trying to not scream incoherently and I happily scheduled a Vengeful buddy […]

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