From the Publisher
“Schwab's characters feel vital and real, never reduced to simple archetypes... In a genre that tends toward the flippant or pretentious, this is a rare superhero novel as epic and gripping as any classic comic. Schwab's tale of betrayal, self-hatred, and survival will resonate with superhero fans as well as readers who have never heard of Charles Xavier or Victor von Doom.” Publishers Weekly, starred review
“A fun, morally-flexible revenge tale...Vicious methodically ratchets up the tension as Victor and Eli circle each other for the inevitable kill.” Daniel H. Wilson, NYT bestselling author of Robopocalypse
“Schwab gathers all the superhero/supervillain tropes and turns them on their sundry heads.... I could not put it down.” F. Paul Wilson, New York Times bestselling author of the Repairman Jack series
“Vicious is dark and intricate and daring, twisting back and forth through time and morality and life and death until you can't turn the pages fast enough. I loved it.” Dan Wells, author of I Am Not a Serial Killer
“An epic collision of super-powered nemeses. The writing and storycraft is Schwab's own superpower as this tale leaps off the page in all its dark, four-color comic-book glory.” Chuck Wendig, author of Blackbirds
“Utterly brilliant. Schwab takes the notion of superhero fiction and bashes it on its head...prepare to be thoroughly entertained.” Jackie Kessler, coauthor of Black and White
“A noirish cross between the X-Men and 'The Count of Monte Cristo.' You won't be able to stop turning the pages.” Alex Bledsoe, author of The Hum and the Shiver
“V.E. Schwab writes with the fiendish ingenuity, sardonic wit, and twisted imagination of a true supervillian.” Greg Cox, New York Times bestselling author
New York Times bestselling author of the Repairman F. Paul Wilson
Schwab gathers all the superhero/supervillain tropes and turns them on their sundry heads.... I could not put it down.
Victor Vale and Eliot Cardale, both brilliant and driven, were friends and college roommates who figured out how to give themselves superpowers. Victor went to jail and Eli began working with the cops. But “villain” Victor is innocent of the charges against him, while “hero” Eli has been killing people whose powers he considers more “unnatural” than his own. When he targets Sydney, a 12-year-old girl who can raise the dead, he gets more trouble than he bargained for. Schwab’s characters feel vital and real, never reduced to simple archetypes; for example, Victor isn’t a particularly nice man, but he has enough conscience left to know that Eli needs to stopped. In a genre that tends toward the flippant or pretentious, this is a rare superhero novel as epic and gripping as any classic comic. Schwab’s tale of betrayal, self-hatred, and survival will resonate with superhero fans as well as readers who have never heard of Charles Xavier or Victor von Doom. Agent: Holly Root, Waxman Leavell Literary Agency. (Sept.)
Read an Excerpt
VICTOR readjusted the shovels on his shoulder and stepped gingerly over an old, half-sunken grave. His trench billowed faintly, brushing the tops of tombstones as he made his way through Merit Cemetery, humming as he went. The sound carried like wind through the dark. It made Sydney shiver in her too big coat and her rainbow leggings and her winter boots as she trudged along behind him. The two looked like ghosts as they wove through the graveyard, both blond and fair enough to pass for siblings, or perhaps father and daughter. They were neither, but the resemblance certainly came in handy since Victor couldn’t very well tell people he’d picked up the girl on the side of a rain-soaked road a few days before. He’d just broken out of jail. She’d just been shot. A crossing of fates, or so it seemed. In fact, Sydney was the only reason Victor was beginning to believe in fate at all.
He stopped humming, rested his shoe lightly on a tombstone, and scanned the dark. Not with his eyes so much as with his skin, or rather with the thing that crept beneath it, tangled in his pulse. He might have stopped humming, but the sensation never did, keeping on with a faint electrical buzz that only he could hear and feel and read. A buzz that told him when someone was near.
Sydney watched him frown slightly.
“Are we alone?” she asked.
Victor blinked, and the frown was gone, replaced by the even calm he always wore. His shoe slid from the gravestone. “Just us and the dead.”
They made their way into the heart of the cemetery, the shovels tapping softly on Victor’s shoulder as they went. Sydney kicked a loose rock that had broken off from one of the older graves. She could see that there were letters, parts of words, etched into one side. She wanted to know what they said, but the rock had already tumbled into the weeds, and Victor was still moving briskly between the graves. She ran to catch up, nearly tripping several times over the frozen ground before she reached him. He’d come to a stop, and was staring down at a grave. It was fresh, the earth turned over and a temporary marker driven into the soil until a stone one could be cut.
Sydney made a noise, a small groan of discomfort that had nothing to do with the biting cold. Victor glanced back and offered her the edge of a smile.
“Buck up, Syd,” he said casually. “It’ll be fun.”
Truth be told, Victor didn’t care for graveyards, either. He didn’t like dead people, mostly because he had no effect on them. Sydney, conversely, didn’t like dead people because she had such a marked effect on them. She kept her arms crossed tightly over her chest, one gloved thumb rubbing the spot on her upper arm where she’d been shot. It was becoming a tic.
Victor turned and sunk one of the spades into the earth. He then tossed the other one to Sydney, who unfolded her arms just in time to catch it. The shovel was almost as tall as she was. A few days shy of her thirteenth birthday, and even for twelve and eleven twelfths, Sydney Clarke was small. She had always been on the short side, but it certainly didn’t help that she had barely grown an inch since the day she’d died.
Now she hefted the shovel, grimacing at the weight.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” she said.
“The faster we dig, the faster we get to go home.”
Home wasn’t home so much as a hotel room stocked only with Sydney’s stolen clothes, Mitch’s chocolate milk, and Victor’s files, but that wasn’t the point. At this moment, home would have been any place that wasn’t Merit Cemetery. Sydney eyed the grave, tightening her fingers on the wooden grip. Victor had already begun to dig.
“What if…,” she said, swallowing, “… what if the other people accidentally wake up?”
“They won’t,” cooed Victor. “Just focus on this grave. Besides…” He looked up from his work. “Since when are you afraid of bodies?”
“I’m not,” she snapped back, too fast and with all the force of someone used to being the younger sibling. Which she was. Just not Victor’s.
“Look at it this way,” he teased, dumping a pile of dirt onto the grass. “If you do wake them up, they can’t go anywhere. Now dig.”
Sydney leaned forward, her short blond hair falling into her eyes, and began to dig. The two worked in the dark, only Victor’s occasional humming and the thud of the shovels filling the air.
Copyright © 2013 by Victoria Schwab