Westminster High School

Review: ‘Vicious’ is as ambitious as it is absorbing

There is something about V.E. Schwab’s “Vicious” that strikes as both mysteriously fascinating as well as terrifying.


Vicious is a masterful novel beautifully crafted by the magician herself, V.E. Schwab, and describes a tale of betrayal, ambition, morals, and power. Eli Cardale and Victor Vale started as simple roommates, showing respect for one another and ultimately being genuine friends. For Eli’s thesis project, Eli decides to research how near-death experiences can lead to the development of supernatural powers. Being curious university students, Eli and Victor decide to test the thesis project by going into a near-death experience. Surprisingly, the two gain supernatural powers and become extraordinaries, but things start to go wrong.

Ten years later, Victor Vale is released from prison, and the only thing on his mind is getting revenge on Eli. Meanwhile, Eli has a goal in his mind: to eradicate all the extraordinaries in the world. The two, driven by malevolence and treachery, aim to eliminate each other due to the past. Who is correct? Who is corrupt? Moreover, who will survive at the very end?


You know when you are just astonished by the book, when you come to write a book review, you do not know what to say because you have so many things you want to say? Yeah, that is me right now.

Reading this book destroyed me physically and emotionally. From the start, we are thrown into an intense premise from the main character digging up a grave with a strong sense of revenge to a lovely friendship between two who respect one another. As I said before, V.E. Schwab is a magician pulling at the strings, playing with the threads of our hearts like marionette dolls until we start feeling a sense of nothingness after wasting all our emotions in the first few scenes.

One of my favorite aspects of this book is how V.E. Schwab crafts complex and compelling morally grey and questionable characters that may confuse your ethics as well. Vicious is a tale about superheroes and villains. However, it is not your typical conventional “good guy beats evil guy story,” but rather it questions who is the superhero and what makes someone suitable even if they have to do terrible things? None of the characters are just throwaway characters, and they all have their part to contribute to this addictive story.

Victor Vale is so morally fraudulent, and he does things that would be considered terrible. Although Victor has done horrible things with no remorse, he still realizes his actions and can even do nice things. I love the relationship between Mitch, a friend Victor made while in prison, and Sydney, a 12-year-old girl who is also an EO (extraordinary).

One of my favorite tropes is found family. Although these three are complete opposites from their backgrounds to their personalities, they fit so well with each other that I would not be able to see the story written differently without their relationships. Eli is complicated: from his religious views, Eli wants to murder all the EOs because they go against God’s will. It makes readers wonder, though: what is God’s will? Although the EOs didn’t do anything remotely wrong, should they be killed because they should not exist? Complexity and the thought of being morally righteous are what describe Eli. In the novel, the papers describe him as a hero but is he a hero for murdering innocent people who have accidentally gained superpowers? There is no “good” and no “bad,” and you have to decide who is right and wrong. The story does not explicitly tell you who the hero and the villain is, and one has to understand and read the whole story to understand the deeper meaning.

From a tale of ambition, betrayal, and jealousy, I would recommend this book to anyone in a heartbeat. I would honestly consider this book to be one of my favorites or, if not at my all-time favorites. Anyone interested in morally fraudulent characters and complex crafted books would greatly appreciate and love this book! If you have already read Vicious, I would recommend “The Invisible Life of Addie la Rue” by V.E. Schwab and “Vengeful”, the sequel to Vicious that was released in 2018!