After finishing ACOL, I was struggling with a massive book hangover – I just didn’t want to believe that all my favorite Shades of Magic characters’ stories were over. (Side note, I will likely post full reviews of that trilogy in the near future, but for now, if you’re interested, you can check out my general thoughts on Goodreads – A Darker Shade of Magic, A Gathering of Shadows, A Conjuring of Light.) Although there is definitely no way to really fix that kind of thing, especially for such a kick ass saga, I did have a fairly inspired idea to try and take the edge off a little. I picked up Vicious, another book by Schwab that has also gotten rave reviews. Plus, it’s been on TBR list for awhile. And while it didn’t (I don’t think anything ever will) fill the hole left by Kell, Lila, Holland, Rhy and Alucard, it was fantastic in its own right.
“This book is one of the most aptly titled pieces of literature I’ve ever read. It was, straight up, vicious. In the best way. After the fame, and possible over-doing, of the X-men stories, I’ve been hesitant to pick up any books about supernatural or special abilities. But there was so much praise for this novel, plus I do love Schwab, so I went for it. The basic plotline is covered in the blurb about the book…Victor and Eli are college friends, their theories about extraordinary abilities that are picked up post “NDE” (near death experience) are turned into real life experiments (on themselves of course), and naturally it doesn’t turn out as expected. In fact, things get pretty ugly. Their once close friendship turns into more of a nemesis type situation. Along the way, we meet some really unique, lovable, sidekick characters, both human and canine. And things conclude with a final confrontation between these two alliterative main characters. What’s not to love there?
But beyond that, this book explores some incredibly interesting points and really questions the typical “villian” vs. “hero” stereotype. Everything is in the perspective. And how is it decided whose perspective is right? (There’s a Serena in every story, if you take the time to look for them.) Along with this, we see both Victor and Eli struggle with not coming back from their respective NDEs quite whole. And while one turns to God and a higher mission, the other works to “recreate” a normal set of rules to interaction with others. But really, when you have such a special power and have lost certain governing feelings (your full conscience) and are essentially an incredibly smart, powerful sociopath, how to you handle that? The way all the EOs (ExtraOrdinaries) are in some way feeling like they are missing something they used to have – it was such an interesting way to study people and character. In fact, probably my favorite part of this whole story was the exploration of how people ended up with the “abilities” that they did. Their power’s relationship to who they were as a person, what they experienced, how they died, and what they were thinking of when they died was one of the best, most creative pieces of the entire story. And Schwab’s ability to produce powers that perfectly matched the people was uncanny. Then, too, the reactions the people had to their powers after they discovered them was fascinating. How they lived with the power afterwards, how they used it and how it made them feel. I mean the handle she has on how people think and act is just…wow. And it was all written so matter of fact, so clearly, with no extra embellishment and no softening of the motives or actions. Like I said earlier, Vicious was the perfect title.
In addition to all that, the structure of the novel was fantastic. We jump around in time and in viewpoint – from Victor and Eli in college 10 years ago, to Syndey and Serena’s story a just few years ago, to Sydney’s encounter with Eli 2 days ago, to present day, present hour. And these were all identified with awesome chapter titles like “10 Years Ago,” “Two Days Ago,” “Around Noon,” and “3 and a Half Hours til Midnight.” So fun! Also, props to Scwab to managing that type of story-telling in a clear, totally not confusing way. And the ending – I didn’t see it coming! Maybe I should have – once I got there it was the best, and possibly only realistic, way out, but it was so well paced and developed that I just didn’t guess until I was in the midst of it. And that was so exciting! And just beautifully satisfying. This is one of those books that just makes you give a huge sigh of contentment at the end. I love that and I loved this book.”