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4.9 32
by V. E. Schwab

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A masterful tale of ambition, jealousy, desire, and superpowers.

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing


A masterful tale of ambition, jealousy, desire, and superpowers.

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?

In Vicious, V. E. Schwab brings to life a gritty comic-book-style world in vivid prose: a world where gaining superpowers doesn't automatically lead to heroism, and a time when allegiances are called into question.

"A dynamic and original twist on what it means to be a hero and a villain. A killer from page one…highly recommended!" —Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of Marvel Universe vs The Avengers and Patient Zero

One of Publishers Weekly's Best Fantasy Books of 2013

Editorial Reviews

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.
Publishers Weekly
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.)

Product Details

Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
Villains Series , #1
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)

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

Meet the Author

V. E. SCHWAB's first adult novel, Vicious, debuted to critical praise and reader accolades. Schwab is the author of YA novels The Near Witch, The Archived, The Unbound, and a fantasy middle-grade series, Everyday Angel.

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Vicious 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
And I loved it. I like heroes that are only heroes because the other guy is way more terrifying than him. Complicated. Not all goodness and sunshine. And you don't actually like them...but you are rooting for them anyway. This book had all that..and it won my love because of it.
TheBookshelfRev More than 1 year ago
I hugged this book after I finished it, this is how good it was. Victoria Schwab is one of the best writers I have ever read. I can not wait for more from her. The story is about near death experiences, super powers, friendship, rivals and overall awesomeness. You need to read this book if you even remotely like the synopsis or have read Schwab's other books in the past. Schwab's writing just gets better and better. I really loved how the story takes place both in the present and the past and switches back and forth seamlessly. It was really well done. I loved all 5 of the main characters. You really get invested in there lives and everything that they have to go through. Schwab really questions the concepts of morality, mortality, and faith in a new eye opening way. This is Schwab's first adult book and if this is her first attempt at an adult audience, she did a superb job. It is like she honed her craft and nailed every sentence into perfection. I love, love, loved this novel. It has made it into my all time top favorites. I can not say enough about this novel. It gave me so many feels. Go out and buy it to see for yourself. :)
bookittyblog More than 1 year ago
I bought Vicious just for the simple fact that people were raving about it. Before I got it in the mail, I wanted to have a taste of Victoria’s writing, so I read her YA book The Archived, and I felt in love with her writing style. Victoria’s writing is borderline overwhelming, but it never gets to that point. It keeps you on your toes. It makes you think and feel. I expected to get lost at some point in Vicious, and it never happened. It was beautifully written. One word that comes to my mind when I think about Vicious is organized. The book jumps timelines, and I usually don’t do well with these kinds of books, but wow, I’m so impressed that she pulled it off. Like, I’m blown away. Seriously. The characters in Vicious are so complicated and dark. Some of them are neither good nor bad, well, they are mostly bad with some good in them I guess. But with all their flaws you can’t help but to love them. My heart broke for them. I see where they went wrong, and because of those mistakes they are what they are in the present. Even though they are not real, Victoria gave them quirks that made them human like. Just little things here and there that made a difference. Little things that were big enough to make me feel a connection towards them. Sometimes when I’m reading a book, I think about ways to make them, in a way, better. I know I’m not an author, but sometimes I can’t help but nitpick books (I know that's a bad habit and I'm not proud of it). But Vicious was meant to be written by Victoria just they way she wrote it. That’s it. I totally enjoyed this book. I lost sleep because I could not pry myself away from its pages. I know this review doesn't do Vicious any justice but trust me you need this book in your life.
Anonymous 4 months ago
I've always been a sucker for a well done Villain Protagonist and Victor and Eli certainly fit the bill. Victor still manages to be likeable despite of (or perhaps because of) his ruthless and manipulative nature while Eli manages to be terrifying with his apparent immortality and believably delusional mantra. And the side characters are just as interesting and human as the protagonist/antagonist so it's never a disappointment when the point of view switches. Schwab shows that she is capable weaving a tale that will bring to the edge of your seat and keep you guessing til the very end. Overall a highly recommend read from me. Bravo V.E. Schwab, bravo.
ruthsic More than 1 year ago
I am still a bit astounded that for a standalone book, Vicious developed a canon universe, gave plenty of time to secondary characters and has a unique twist on the superhero genre, all in the span of around 350 pages. The story opens to the present, with Victor escaped from prison and out to get his revenge on his friend-turned-foe Eli. Taking us back through flashbacks and progressing through different POV, the picture starts to piece itself together – of two sociopathic young men with a talent for making the almost impossible within mortal reach. Through experiments, they determine that extraordinary abilities can be developed. The consequences of their powers, however, surprise and scare them, and leads to a vicious (ha!) showdown between the two. This is not a story of a hero versus villain. As much as you like to pretend that Victor is (because he gets the first POV) doing it out of jealousy and malice, and that maybe Eli’s characterization is just viewed through the lens of an unreliable narrator, when it comes to Eli’s POV, all doubts are dispelled. It becomes a story of antihero versus antihero – the question only being who committed more crimes against humanity. Eli has a God complex, and Victor is apart from his humanity, but now the latter is showing signs of holding on to his friends and well, his intentions are not as bad. The plot also posits an interesting discussion of what it would mean to come back to life, but broken – it can affect a person in many ways, least of all the fact that you met death and came away alive. But besides the showdown between the two main focal points of the story, you also have these amazing well-rounded secondary characters that mirror them. Serena and Sydney, sisters who were once so close, now torn apart because of betrayal, mistrust and their deaths. Serena was infinitely more interesting than Eli, because she had his attitude without the pesky god complex, and was definitely a more formidable foe. Sydney – gifted with her unwanted power, having to grow up so quickly was heartbreaking to watch. Mitch was also amazing, and I liked that he was basically a giant teddy bear, able to hold his own in between all these super-powered individuals. Finally, the plot, while quite simplistic if you look at it from a distance, weaves beautifully between the characters and delivers good twists at a heart-pounding pace. Towards the end, the cliffhanger scenes were getting too much for me, and I was so scared of how things would turn out. It ended very well, in my opinion, even though it leaves an open-ended question to the existence and knowledge of the EOs. In conclusion, this is a book I would probably read more than once.
sheltisebastian More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
booksncalm More than 1 year ago
Review also found on Books N' Calm First and foremost I absolutely love this book (this was a reread). It’s so different from other kinds of books I’ve read. This was my first book that was about a villain rather than the hero. V.E. Schwab has some amazing and beautiful writing. This was probably the first book that I ‘highlighted’ a lot in (I first read this book as an ebook). The characters are very well built and the plot is so different. This is a dark yet a sort of thought provoking book. There’s so much to say yet I don’t really know what to say. It’s a beautiful and brilliant book. This book is in one of my top all time favorite reads. Since I don’t really know what to say I’ll just share some of my favorite quotes (that are hopefully spoiler free). “Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.” “He wanted to care, he wanted to care so badly, but there was this gap between what he felt and what he wanted to feel, a space where something important had been carved out.” “The absence of pain led to an absence of fear, and the absence of fear led to a disregard for consequence.” “The moments that define lives aren’t always obvious. They don’t always scream LEDGE, and nine times out of ten there’s no rope to duck under, no line to cross, no blood pact, no official letter on fancy paper. They aren’t always protracted, heavy with meaning.” “You must make time for that which matters, for that which defines you: your passion, your progress, your pen. Take it up, and write your own story.” “There are no good men in this game.” I’ve heard there’s a book two in progress but I could be wrong. If I’m not I can’t wait for it to come out. Quick warning, as it’s genre is adult, the book is dark and there is some swearing.
CherylTegan More than 1 year ago
I LOVED this book. Schwab found a way to write characters who smack in the middle of superheroes and ordinary people. It was almost believable, like I might look around at other and wonder if they're secretly like Victor or Eli. The relationship between these two is fraught with tension even from the start. It goes from competitiveness and slight jealously with a hint of understanding and a sense of seeing something familiar in one another, to complete jealousy and a difference of opinion and beliefs that destroys their friendship. The rift between them is strong and for reasons that they can never overcome. The sense of something missing, love how she described it for each character, as well as the explanation for how each person got their powers. The end... I'm still wondering why Victor didn't use his powers. I get what happened to Eli and I'm glad at the 'very' end (no spoiler here, though you'll probably see it coming), but I wonder why the fight was purely physical. At any rate, if there's a sequel, I will preorder it NOW!
NatCuddy More than 1 year ago
OH. MY. GOD. I. LOVED. THIS. BOOK. I loved the story, the characters, the way it was told, the atmosphere, everything!!! So many feels! I LOVE VICTOR! If you want to see a video review with more detail you can watch it here: http://youtu.be/AyMgi98GatQ
Adriyanna More than 1 year ago
Vicious by V.E. Schwab is a fresh take on the superhero subgenre. I loved trying to figure who was the villain and who was the hero. Victor Vale and Eli Cardale meet at university and it’s when Eli’s theoretical research into ExtraOrdinary (EO’s) people catches Victor’s interest that things go wrong. This is a case of an unreliable narrator because villains don’t believe they’re villains. Vicious is a new original classic that carries suspense to the very last page. Time is an interesting concept here. Every other chapter would take place in the past, namely 10 years before the novel begins, but near the end, the ‘past’ could also be 10 hours before the present timeline. This present then past then present format helped carry the suspense of what exactly went down between Victor and Eli. The reader knows something really bad happened between the two, but Schwab leaves that valuable information right out of our reach. It’s up to us to follow the breadcrumbs. Schwab’s take on the superhero genre is well done because I went into the novel trying to figure out who’s the bad guy, who’s the good guy and there’s really no ‘good guy’. In the beginning, I was confident that Victor himself was the villain. He somewhat admits this and the way his mind works just screams ‘super villain’, but then Schwab switches up the POV and BAM! self doubt settles in. The author is also good at creating these grey characters and you end up rooting for this villain to win, or that villain to lose. Her characters are cunning and manipulative, and the reader is not immune to that power. You learn to love it haha ;) Vicious is made up of morally complex characters, but it’s up to the reader to decide which ones are ‘good’. A very hard task to do! This is a story of one great super villain versus another great super villain, but both wouldn’t be anywhere without their allies. I loved reading about Mitch, Sydney and Serena, and how they became involved with EO’s. Mitch is the only non-EO, but he’s very good with hacking computer systems, a talent that stood out to Victor. Science plays a large and important role in Vicious. Schwab has a story to tell because two very intelligent students use science to achieve superhuman powers. This made the storyline all the more realistic to me. I enjoy superhero-type novels, but I love them even more when science plays a significant part in the plot. When you take the time to show how a person’s power exists, it helps the reader envision it in the real world. Schwab invents the term ‘ExtraOrdinary’ and I’d say in the world of Vicious, it’s a noun that carries the same meaning as superhero. Having the science there gives it added weight. I wouldn’t mind being an EO myself – hopefully I’d have some cool powers! The writing is phenomenal! I was never bored with the dialogue or the plot. I somewhat expected the ending because of a certain character’s power, but it was still a page stopper. Vicious is a very entertaining read and I loved being in the heads of Schwab’s fantastically, dark characters. This is one super villain story you don’t want to miss out on!
TeaParties_in_Converse More than 1 year ago
Michelle_Palmer More than 1 year ago
FANTASTIC!!!! V. E. Schwab imagines a world in which superpowers exist, are they heroes or villains. They are humans, much like us some are good and some are not so good. I absolutely loved the characters. They seemed to very real. I am not sure I can say any more without spoiling anything but READ IT!!! I wanted to continue to be with these characters when the last page was turned. I NEED MORE BOOKS IN THIS SERIES!!!
CMLloyd More than 1 year ago
V.E. Schwab has a way of crafting characters who are so utterly likable even when they are doing things that aren't so likable, and she really blurs the line between villain and hero in Vicious. The book ultimately reinforces the idea that every villain is the hero of their own story. So who is the hero and who is the villain in this story of former college roommates gifted with EO powers after experimenting with life and death? That's up to the reader to decide. Every single character in Vicious is amazing and adds to the story. Victor and Eli are the main characters who oppose each other, but neither of them could have had their final confrontation without the help of other characters with EO powers. For a book where everyone talked up the male characters so much, I was surprised (but glad) to find Sydney and Serena were incredible people on their own. The sisters are on opposing sides, but they never stop caring for each other. And gosh, who couldn't love Mitch, the hacker with a weakness for chocolate milk? The story jumps in time a lot, but it is never confusing. It adds to the suspense - starting from "Last Night" and slowly working its way to the present. Cannot wait for the next book!
JtheBookworm More than 1 year ago
I cannot rave enough about this exquisite book. The characters are some of the most memorable and delightfully flawed I've ever read. The story respects the conventions of the superhero genre while also upending them in the cleverest ways, while intelligently and entertainingly exploring moral ambiguities. I could say it's X-Men meets Oryx & Crake, but it's also its own beautiful, twisted, unique creation. The prose is stunning (it's Schwab after all) and the pacing is suspenseful, so I was constantly torn between slowly savoring the story and devouring it all in one go. The latter won because I just couldn't stop reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Absolutely awesome. Eli Ever is no hero.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book. Great story, awesome characters. VE Schwab is now one of my favorite authors.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An excellent premice and gorgeous writing technique make this a must read!
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