I must admit I am ashamed I have never read any of Schwab's work before. In fact my first exposure to her was only recent, via a preview of her upcoming novel A Darker Shade of Magic. I scouted around online and found that she had published a few other works, most notably Vicious. One quick purchase later and I was ready to jump into a world of ExtraOrdinaries, and boy, am I glad I did.
Vicious tells the tale of two friends turned enemies after they develop superhero powers via experimentation gone wrong. The main storyline opens ten years after these initial events, as both friends attempt to finish what they started in the past by killing the other.
I loved this book. Schwab has crafted an incredibly thoughtful and thrilling tale that bucks the normal stereotypes of a superhero novel. Victor and Eli are masterful protagonists, delightfully (and scarily) human superheroes who are not burdened by the ideals of your Superman's or Captain America's. They experience rage, jealously, anger, and depression. They are broken psychologically in many ways, and this in turn makes them believable and addictive. Their portrayal sucked me in and refused to let go, and I experienced many 'what the f***' moments as the story unravelled before my eyes.
I also loved the pacing and structure of Vicious. Schwab employs a technique whereby the reader's questions (Why is Victor in jail? Why is Eli on a killing spree of EO's) are answered via recollection and memories. I thought this worked extremely well, as the reader jumps back and forth between the past and present in order to fill in the dots. This added to the intense mystery and tension that was woven throughout the book. The plot moved along at a fast pace, and the action and narrative are top notch (even more incredible given Schwab has only been around for a few years I think). I literally was on the edge of my seat as I read, waiting to see the final fates of Victor and Eli play out.
Vicious is arguably one of the best superhero books I have ever read. I adored how Schwab turned the common tropes of the genre on their head, weaving a dark and epic tale that is terrifyingly human. I look forward to more masterful works from her! Incredible... absolutely incredible!
You must read this novel!
5 out of 5 Stars.