I read Vicious, the first book in what is now the Villians series, over a year ago. In fact, it was one of the very first books I ever officially published a review for on my blog. And it was an all-the-way 5-star review situation. Amazeballs. Anyways, I felt good about where it ended. I mean, there definitely was an opening for more, of course, but it was more or less wrapped up with a nice “ending” bow that allowed me to enjoy it without being on the edge of my seat due to a ridiculous cliffhanger (I can’t lie – cliffhangers are one of my most hated book tropes ever). So yes, I loved the shit out of the book, but was also ok with it being a standalone. However, when Schwab announced that she would be publishing Vengeful, a follow-up up, you can bet I was counting down the days to its publication. And, pay attention right here everyone: IT. DID. NOT. DISAPPOINT.
*FYI, this review will likely contain spoilers for Vicious, at least in part because I think I’ll need to, in order to fully express my feels for this second installation. Plus, I feel like I can include them, since the book has been out for so long. But I will make sure that nothing key is given away relating to the Vengeful plot. In any case, that’s my warning to you to be wary in reading this whole review, if you have not yet read the first book.
Vengeful picks up approximately five years after the end of Vicious. Though I do say approximately because, although that’s when the “main events” are happening, there are flashbacks all along the way that elucidate the story of the intervening years, as well as even farther into the past. In fact, the story-telling style is exactly the same as it is in Vicious, jumping between years and characters in a fluid, but un-patterned, way. And then about 2/3 of the way through, all the story’s individual threads catch up to each other, leaving us just jumping between present day perspectives and locations. It’s a very dynamic style – one that I remember and was glad to see returned. But it does necessitate really paying attention on the part of the reader so you don’t confuse where/when you are. However, with the nonstop action/intrigue and incredibly dynamic characters, I can definitively say that paying enough attention did NOT present an issue.
Ok, I got distracted, back to the synopsis. Syndey, Victor, Mitch, Dominic and Dol are all still working together, as we left them at the end of Vicious. But they have a new goal this book, one that involves trying to fix whatever went slightly…off…when Sydney brought him back. At the same time, Eli is languishing, sort of, in custody, after Stell arrested him for killing Victor (again, where the end of Vicious leaves him). Of course, we know, that such star-crossed foes will not be kept from a second face off. But that knowledge is given extra drama by the introduction of some awesomely fierce, brutal, badass women. Marcella was a mob wife before her death (well, NDE – near death experience), but with her new power, she is determined to take over where she was only a “pretty thing” before. And June is on her own mission of revenge, but as she creates a new relationship with Sydney, perhaps her post-revenge goals are changing? Then again…perhaps not.
“She was done playing by other people’s rules. Done hiding. If you lived in the dark, you died in the dark. But stand in the light, and it was that much harder to make you disappear.”
I have to start by saying that, yet again, Schwab brings to life such a phenomenal cast of characters. Not a single one of which can be considered good (I mean, the name of the series is Villians, after all), but all of whom worm their way into your feelings and become indelibly printed there. You find yourself cheering for them, all of them (for me anyway), even though you know some (most) of their actions are misguided, dangerous, and flat out wrong. You just fall in love with their bad selves. We get even more background into Eli and Victor, both separate and together, which only makes them both more compelling. They really are up there with some of the world’s best “partners” (like the inside cover says, the parallels between them and Magneto/Professor X cannot be ignored).
And then there are the women. OH THE WOMEN. Sydney’s development into her own person, taking ownership of her life and actions, even when others are continuing to treat her as naïve/breakable. Marcella’s development into a powerful figure, taking said power in her own right, and not just through someone else, proving that looks do not (should not) define how one is treated. June’s development, which we have the least details about, but at which very educated guesses can be made, avenging her past pain and working to create something, a new life, that she can be happy with. Honestly, I cannot get over how wonderfully, and differently, strong all these female characters were.
“‘You look like Snow White killed the queen and stole the mirror.’ Marcella flashed a cool smile. ‘I’ll take that as a compliment.’”
The same as with Vicious, I would like to point out how much I was impressed by the ingenuity in the powers each person comes back with. The way that it ties into both how they died and their final thoughts/wishes is so damn inspired. Every time. I also liked how, now that the concept had been introduced, this book could delve deeper into an exploration of testing the limits of those powers. It’s very philosophical, in a way (though not overly so) – I really liked that new theme. And on a very personal note, I loved June’s power so so so much and, with a similar type ending to the first one (wrapped up, but not closed by a long shot) I SO want more of her in the *fingers crossed* next book.
There were some “ExtraOrdinary” type story tropes in this book that I am a little over, in particular the government agency creation/involvement (and the hubris of those in charge thinking they can control everything). I realize that it’s unfair to set a story like this in our “normal” world and expect anything different, that would be unrealistic. It’s just…repetitive…sometimes. That didn’t change the page-turning speed of this book or make me love the story any less. It’s just an observation on the sub-genre. I wonder where else it could go? Also, I felt like the ending with Dr. Haverty was a little rushed/easy, considering how little we see of him throughout the rest of the novel. I understand that he was consistently working in the background (horrible, weaselly little bastard), but a couple more short chapters flashing to him would like have made his (re)appearance seem more reasonable/expected.
Regardless, in substance, I would not have changed anything about the way the story develops, even the sad parts, or the parts that, while I wasn’t sad about necessarily, I was hoping would turn out differently (especially for Marcella – no spoilers, just that I was really invested in her character and what she wanted…I have a thing for ruthless female characters). I just love this writing about villains and from villains’ perspectives. I love both the shades of grey and the way I found myself totally accepting of things that were totally black-and-white wrong. I love Schwab’s creative vision in the sci-fi aspects and her resourcefulness and deft pacing in plot development. I could not put this book down. It sucked me in and the almost 500 pages passed in what seemed like the blink of an eye. Basically, this is just a damn good book. Even if you aren’t usually a sci-fi person, and definitely if you usually are, GO READ THESE BOOKS!